Jean Lemke, co-founder of kidwinks.com, has several suggestions for a few things that should be on your "Must Do" list this summer. For many more ideas, visit kidwinks.com, a terrific website that gathers Chicago area family-friendly events, activities and more into one easily searchable database.
The excitement and charm of the Old West come alive at Donley's Wild West Town. Experience life in the style of the Wild West where gunslingers have showdowns, and a train whistles past the Blacksmith's Shop, Print Shop, Jail, Saloon and Sweet Phyllis Gold Mine. Activities include: gold panning, pony rides, wild west shows, train rides, cowboy roping lessons, tomahawk throw, kiddie hand cars, archery range, pop gun gallery, canoe ride, Huck Finn's slingshots, petting zoo and museum displays.
Where: Union, IL
When: Memorial Day – Labor Day open every day 10am – 6pm
Cost: $15 per person; children 2 and under free
Ages: All ages welcome; probably most relevant for kids up to age 12
For a fun and affordable weekend outing, take the kids to Arlington Park! Bring your own food and drinks and let the kids watch the horses! Every Sunday is Family Day, with a special theme each week that the entire family can enjoy. Family Days include FREE Pony Rides and a Petting Zoo in the park area from 12:00 PM until 4:00 PM.
Where: Arlington Heights, IL
When: Every Sunday through September 5th
Cost: General admission on Sundays is $8 per adult. Children 17 and under are free when accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Ages: All ages
Summer means it's time to get wet – at the pool, water park or spray park. The spray park at West Side Community Park has many interactive water play features for children of all ages to enjoy. All water play features have been constructed on top of a safety surface.
Find many more outdoor activities on kidwinks, including splash pads, swimming pools, and water parks at kidwinks.com
Where: St. Charles
When: June 4 - Aug. 24 - Open Daily 11am-7pm
Aug. 25 - Sept. 6 - Weekdays: 11am - 3pm; Weekends/Holidays: 11am-7pm
Cost: Children (age 1-15) Resident $3, Non-Resident $6;
Adults (age 16+) Resident $3 or Free with paid child admission
Non-Resident $6 or Free with paid child admission
Ages: all ages
Minor League baseball is an affordable and fun way to introduce children to professional baseball. The Kane County Cougars are based in Geneva and are the Class A Affiliate of the Oakland A's. They host autograph sessions before weekend and holiday games, running the bases after every game, fireworks after many evening games, fun promotions and giveaways, and a special area just for kids. The KidZone is an interactive playground area located behind the decks in right-centerfield. Inflatable attractions available at the KidZone include an obstacle course, bounce/moon walk, giant climb-n-slide and speed pitch.
The KidZone opens when the gates open, 2 hours prior to game time on weekends, holidays and weekday games; 1 hour prior to game time on weeknight games, weather permitting.
Where: Geneva, IL
When: See website for schedule of home games
Cost: $8 - $14 per ticket
Ages: All ages
In Elk Grove Village you will find a buried treasure known as Pirate's Cove Children Theme Park. Part of the Elk Grove Village Park District, the Park is designed to stimulate and encourage the creative exploration and imagination of children between the ages of two and nine. Guests may purchase snacks at the concession stand or bring in their own picnic lunch.
Where: Elk Grove Village, IL
When: June 12 - August 22; 10am – 4pm except on Sundays the hours are noon – 4pm
Post season hours found on website
Cost: Resident: $7; Nonresidents: $9. Adults are always free at Pirates' Cove! Season and family passes available.
Summer wouldn't be summer without a trip to an ice cream parlor. We found one with a very unique twist – you design your own ice cream, frozen yogurt or sorbet by choosing the flavor, add-ins and color, and they freeze it on the spot using liquid nitrogen.
Where: Chicago (Wicker Park)
When: Open daily 1pm – 11pm (1am on Fridays & Saturdays)
Cost: varies by menu item
Ages: All ages
Summer conjures up visions of beautiful, healthy, delicious, berries. A good way to entertain your kids while also educating them about how berries are grown is by taking them to a pick-your-own berry farm. Kidwinks lists many other u-pick farms throughout the Chicago area as well, http://www.kidwinks.com/FamilyFun/OutdoorKidsActivities/UPick/ .
The Blue Sky Berry Farm featured today is a U-u-Pick and Ready Pick blueberry farm in Indiana that operates during the months of July and August. Customers are welcome to stay all day and enjoy the picnic shelter, playground, and lawn games. Bring your own containers to transport berries.
Where: Wanatah, IN (about 1.5 hours from downtown Chicago)
When: approximately July 1 - mid August
Ages: all ages
The Chicago River is a secret gem - a green and winding playground for wildlife, lined by parkland - right in the heart of the city. You can rent a boat and make your own trip at any of Chicago River Canoe & Kayak's three launches: Chicago, Skokie Lagoons or Skokie Channel.
If you're not up for a canoe or kayak ride, but still want to experience a boat ride of some sort, kidwinks has info on more boating fun in the Chicago area, including paddle boats, kidwinks.com
Where: Chicago, Skokie Lagoons, or Skokie Channel
When: 7 days a week through Labor Day; weekends Labor Day – Oct. 31st. See website for hours and exceptions.
Cost: Rentals for canoes are $15/hr.; tandem kayaks are $20/hr.
Ages: Ages 3 and up may ride in a canoe or tandem kayak with an adult
Kidwinks.com is a boutique website that caters to today's generation of parents who are time-crunched, socially conscious and internet reliant. Kidwinks provides one-stop access to information about kid-friendly events, activities, restaurants, shops and services in the Chicago area. There is no charge to use kidwinks and membership is also free. Members enjoy additional benefits including email reminders and the ability to sort search results by mileage from their home. Developed by two Park Ridge, IL moms, kidwinks has grown to thousands of members. For more information, please visit kidwinks.com.