Labor Day weekend means heavy travel, last minute fun

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There are plenty of ways to take advantage of the weather this holiday weekend. (WLS)

The upcoming Labor Day weekend is expected to be mostly sunny, and one of the most heavily traveled weekends in Chicago and surrounding areas.

For most, the long Labor Day holiday weekend is a sign that the unofficial end of summer is near, but there's still plenty to do. One event going on is the Festival Boricua in Humboldt Park. In suburban Naperville, the annual Last Fling features a lot of good food and good music.

Sunny skies and a warm breeze meant nearly perfect weather for anyone wanting to enjoy the last few moments of the season.

"We actually went swimming which would never think for September 2, but it's a beautiful day," Alissa Schachter said.

And while Bronzeville resident, Jay Brown, decided conditions were right to a bike to north suburban Gurnee for his grandmother's birthday celebration, others opted to relax at 31st Street Beach.

"It's the perfect bike riding weather," Brown said. "It's not too hot or cold. Get out here and enjoy it before the weather starts to switch up."

This is the last weekend of the year and Monday is the last day swimming is allowed at Chicago beaches.

According to the Chicago Park District website, there are at least a dozen beaches with swimming bans or an advisory.

The holiday weekend's farewell also includes plenty of festivals. The 27th annual African Festival of the Arts opened Friday.

Washington Park has been transformed into a simulated African village where attendees can enjoy food, music, entertainment and crafts. And the quest to get out and enjoy summer's last hurrah is no different in the suburbs.

On a weekend where many get out of town, the only driving George Vazquez wants to do is at the Sugar Creek Golf Course in west suburban Villa Park.

"I work from home. I figured I'd come out for nine holes and then I'd go back," Vazquez said.

More than 1.7 million passengers are expected at O'Hare and Midway between September 1 to September 6. The busiest travel day is projected to be Thursday at Midway with 76,000 passengers and Friday at O'Hare with 251,000 passengers, according to Chicago Department of Aviation.

"This has been one of the busiest summers on record for air travel at Chicago's airports and that trend will continue over the Labor Day holiday weekend," said CDA Commissioner Ginger S. Evans in a statement.

Passengers traveling through Chicago airports on Friday can enjoy live entertainment in the baggage claim area at Midway and in the domestic terminals at O'Hare. Midway ambassadors will offer complimentary lemonade to passengers on Friday and Tuesday as well, according to CDA.

Nearly 55 percent of Americans say they are more likely to take a road trip this year due to lower gas prices, according to AAA. However, heading into Labor Day weekend the national average gas prices are on the rise.

The Illinois Tollway anticipates 7.8 million vehicles will travel the tollway system this holiday weekend, with the heaviest traffic on Friday. To accommodate the increase, most construction and lane closures will be restricted.

A reminder to drive sober this weekend comes from the The Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Police. Last year 13 people were killed in crashes over Labor Day weekend, three of which involved drivers who tested positive for alcohol, according to IDOT.

If you'd rather not drive, Metra is offering additional early departures for nine of its 11 lines from downtown on Friday. The Metra weekend pass will include Labor Day and kids under 11 can ride for free. On Monday, Metra will operate on a Sunday/holiday schedule. However, the SouthWest Service, Heritage Corridor and North Central Service trains will not operate on Monday, according to Metra.

Additionally, this Tuesday the CTA will provide all students and accompanying adults with free bus and train rides on the first day of the CPS school year. While school is in session, the CTA will continue to offer 75 cent fares for elementary and high school students.

The Chicago Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.
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