Suburban Side Trips out of Chicago

Summer’s leisurely, sun-drenched days have finally arrived. Let this suburban sampler kick-start the fun, whether you prefer action-packed days, interactive indoor exhibits or shop-’til-you-drop excursions.

BY JENNIFER OLVERA

Summer’s leisurely, sun-drenched days have finally arrived. Let this suburban sampler kick-start the fun, whether you prefer action-packed days, interactive indoor exhibits or shop-’til-you-drop excursions.

Aurora

Explore 120 shops filled with designer duds, housewares and gifts—without breaking the bank—at Chicago Premium Outlets. 1650 Premium Outlets Blvd., 630.585.2200, www.premiumoutlets.com/chicago

Take a step back in time at the Blackberry Farm, a living history museum with historic agricultural gardens, vintage carriages and vestiges of a one-room schoolhouse. 100 S. Barnes Rd., 630.892.1550, www.foxvalleyparkdistrict.org

Hightail it to the SciTech Hands On Museum, an interactive math and science museum housing more than 200 exhibits, stand-inside tornado included. 18 W. Benton St., 630.859.3434, www.scitechmuseum.org 

Great horned owls, emblematic bald eagles and mammals aplenty preside over the intimate Phillips Park Zoo. 1000 Ray Moses Dr., 630.256.3860, www.phillipsparkaurora.com

Chicago Premium Outlets
Chicago Premium Outlets (Courtesy Premium Outlets)

Highland Park/Highwood

Snag tickets to an orchestral performance or a big act. Then, pack picnic and plant yourself on the lawn at bucolic Ravinia Festival. 200 Ravinia Park Rd., 847.266.5100, www.ravinia.org

Bring a Frisbee to serene beachfront Moraine Park, an open expanse and sculpture park where the 1892 Georgian-style Hotel Moraine once stood. 2501 Sheridan Rd., Sheridan Rd., 847.579.3130, www.pdhp.org

Moraine Park
Moraine Park (Courtesy The Park District of Highland Park)

Gurnee

Get your scream on at Six Flags Great America, site of the historic, wooden American Eagle coaster, spiraling Vertical Velocity and tame, 10-story carousel. 1 Great America Pkwy., 847.249.1776, www.sixflags.com/greatamerica

For splash-tastic Florida-inspired fun, hit Key Lime Cove water park, an indoor playground with a kid’s spa and 12 wild slides and rides—including a heart-thumping hurricane vortex. 1700 Nations Dr., 877.360.0403, www.keylimecove.com

Bargain shop at rambling Gurnee Mills, home to 200-plus stores, family-friendly Rainforest Café and a Build-A-Bear Workshop. 6170 W. Grand Ave., 847.263.7500, www.simon.com/mall/gurnee-mills

Blow off some steam at Jump America, a trampoline park hosting dodge-ball courts a padded foam pit and—on Friday nights—Jump ‘N’ Jam, a DJ-fueled light show. 880 Lakeside Dr., 224.325.5867, www.jumpamerica.com

Oak Park

Take a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, the architect’s former residence and workplace, where his Prairie Style architecture was born. 951 Chicago Ave. 312.994.4000, www.gowright.org

Peer into the life of the late, great author at the Victorian-style Hemingway Museum and his birthplace and childhood home. Museum: 200 N. Oak Park Ave.; Birthplace: 339 N Oak Park Ave., 708.848.2222, www.ehfop.org

Wander amid tropical and dessert plants at the Oak Park Conservatory, pausing to converse with chatty, cheeky birds-in-residence. 615 Garfield St., 708.725.2400, www.oakparkconservatory.org

Ernest Hemingway's birth home
The Birth House of Ernest Hemingway (©EHFOP)

Oak Brook

Entertaining options abound at bowling- and bocce-bent Pinstripes. Celebrate victories over a meal, or grab bench before the roaring outdoor fire pit, set on the outskirts of Oakbrook Center Mall. 7 Oakbrook Center Mall, 630.575.8700, www.pinstripes.com

See the inner workings of the Chicago area’s only active waterwheel gristmill at Graue Mill, a present-day history museum and reportedly a onetime Underground Railroad “station.” 3800 York Rd., 630.655.2090, www.grauemill.org

Attend a docent-led tour (Wednesdays and Saturdays) of the posh, historic Tudor Revival Mayslake Peabody Estate, former home of the Francis Stuyvesant Peabody family and, later, Franciscan friars. A highlight: the hidden staircase. 1717 W. 31st St., 630.206.9566, www.mayslakepeabody.com

Rosemont and Schaumburg

After knocking down pins at retro alley Kings, slip into the red vinyl booth-trimmed lounge for Strawberry Pop Rocktinis and Hawaiian pizza. 5505 Park Pl., Rosemont, 847.233.0099, www.kingsbowlamerica.com/rosemont

For a taste of Bavaria, sip traditional German and seasonal specialty beers in the beer garden at Hofbräuhaus Chicago, where lederhosen are welcome—but not required. 5500 Park Pl., Rosemont, 847.671.2739, www.hofbrauhauschicago.com

Attend a jousting tourney and knight-worthy meal at Medieval Times’ castle-like confines. 2001 N. Roselle Rd., Schaumburg, 888.935.6878, www.medievaltimes.com/chicago

Catch a flick at Muvico, a grand, 18-screen theater with plush seating, a full-service bar and restaurant, teen café and—wait for it—on-site childcare. 9701 Bryn Mawr Ave., Rosemont, 847.447.1040, www.muvico.com

Try your luck at Rivers Casino, where dozens of tables and more than1,000 slots give way to seven food and beverage options, the most notable of which is Chicago’s own seafood-centric Hugo’s Frog Bar and Chop House. 3000 S. River Rd., Des Plaines, 847.795.0777, www.riverscasino.com/desplaines

Rivers Casino
Rivers Casino (Courtesy Rivers Casino)