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Chicago's North Shore offers a wide variety of family based activities everyone will enjoy! Explore parks and nature areas, entertainment centers and even family-friendly shopping centers…kids of all ages will find something to explore. Most of the below attractions are also free or require only a minimal admission charge, so you'll want to take advantage of them all!
Smiles in Skokie
Emily Oaks Nature Center
4650 Brummel Street, Skokie
847-674-1500, ext. 2500
This thirteen-acre savanna and nature center is full of natural wonders. Explore native wildflowers, grasses, oak trees, a three-acre pond and trails. Programs in earth education and outdoor recreation for children, adults, scouts and family groups, as well as entertaining nature activities are offered year-round. Young nature enthusiasts might catch a glimpse of Great Blue Herons, Coyotes, Flying Squirrels, Northern Water Snakes, Red Foxes and Cooper's Hawks or one of the other animals that call Emily Oaks Nature Center its home.
KidOOdles Kids Club at Westfield Old Orchard
Old Orchard Road off I-94, Skokie
Westfield Old Orchard is a top shopping destination with over 140 specialty shops and four high end department stores including Nordstrom, Marshall Field's, Lord & Taylor and Bloomingdale's nestled in a beautifully landscaped outdoor mall setting. It's also a great place for kids! The first Saturday of every month, kids are invited to The Orchard Food Court from 11am to 1pm for storytelling, arts & crafts, and activities galore. Don't miss the play areas including the Children's Serpent near Marshall Field's and the Children's Maze near Bloomingdale's. Both are open for year round playtime! Younger kids can take a ride in a Kiddie Kruzzer and receive a complimentary red balloon and a free treat at the Concierge Services Center! Parents can shop unique, specialty shops geared for the younger set such as Gymboree or The Children's Place or sneak into one of their own favorite specialty stores such as Forth & Towne or NikeWomen. Hungry? Visit The Orchard Food Court for a quick delicious meal or one of the mall's food specialty shops featuring chocolate (Ethel's Chocolate Lounge) or ice cream (Cold Stone Creamery).
Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park
McCormick Boulevard between Touhy & Dempster Street, Skokie
Take the family for a walk, bike or jog along two-miles of scenic trails that combine recreational features with a wonderful exhibition of large-scale contemporary sculptures. The 72 statues were created by artists of local, national and international fame; the picturesque park is free and open throughout the year.
Sculpture on the Move - a Children and Family Guide is available on the park's website and includes games, information and activities to enhance your family's visit.
The Skatium Ice Arena and Weber Park Golf Course
9300 Weber Park Place, Skokie
Ice skating is exciting in the winter; it's a special blast of cool fun in the summer! The newly renovated Skatium is the birthplace of the first Chicago Blackhawk Alumni game. Individual skaters or groups of all abilities are welcome year-round. Adjacent to the Skatium, the Weber Park Golf Course is a 9-hole, par-3 golf course featuring bent grass greens, beautiful landscaping, a gazebo, and a snack shop. Take a swing anytime April 1 through the end of November.
Skokie Sports Park
3459 Oakton Street, Skokie
847-674-1500, ext. 3100
Want to practice your swing before hitting the links? The Skokie Sports Park features one of the top 100 rated ranges in America complete with a two-tier, 40 station range with an automatic tee-up system. Instead of buying a bucket of balls, golfers purchase and insert a debit card and just swing away! The driving range features a Fiberbuilt Hitting System, lights for evening practice and eleven heated stalls for cold-weather practice. New target greens provide a landing area for precise accuracy and distance control. For the less competitive golfers who prefer windmills as obstacles, a nine-hole and an 18-hole miniature golf course are sure to be a hit with the kids or the young at heart! If golfing is not your sport, try one of the park's batting cages and perfect your baseball swing.
Skokie Water Playground
3459 Oakton St., Skokie
847-674-1500, ext. 3200
Just next door to the Skokie Sports Park is a warm-weather family paradise. The Skokie Water Playground boasts a zero depth pool, three slides, a water play structure, pool lanes for lap swims, locker and shower areas as well as concessions stands. Summer time welcomes individuals and groups for one of the best pools on Chicago's North Shore.
4701 Oakton St., Skokie
Rated as the "Best Rainy Day Activity Site" by Chicago Magazine in 2002, the Exploritorium is much more than an indoor playground. The Exploritorium is a place where children and adults can come and explore together through interactive play. Create a project in the arts area or make-believe in the costumed dress-up area; build with all sizes of blocks and run your fingers through the water play area; log on to the fun at the computer stations and experience new heights in the two and a half story tubes and tunnels.
Evanston's Beacon of Light
Grosse Point Lighthouse
2600 Sheridan Rd., Evanston
Grosse Point is one of the finest lighthouse structures on the Great Lakes. Built in 1873 following 28 shipwrecks near its location, the 113 ft. tower is one of the tallest on the lakes, and its Second Order lens is the strongest on the American side of the lakes. The most renown shipwrecks was the 'Lady Elgin' in 1860, which was a vessel headed from Milwaukee to Chicago that killed over 300 people.
While the grounds around the lighthouse are open on a daily basis, tours of the keepers' quarters museum are held June through September on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2, 3, and 4 p.m. As part of the tour, visitors get a chance to climb the 141-steps to the top of the light tower. Grosse Point Lighthouse is not open on holiday weekends and by order of the Evanston Fire Marshall, for reasons of safety, children under age 8 are not permitted. In addition, each tour group is limited to 12 people.
Evanston and Wilmette Beaches
In walking distance from city center and downtown hotels, Evanston's gorgeous lakefront offer beaches that are accessible and unique to a city with such a vibrant urban feel. The lakefront's walking and bike paths are open year-round. The five public swimming beaches are open from early June through Labor Day. An admission fee is charged. Sailboats, kayaks and canoes are available for rent by the hour or by the day at Evanston's Dempster St. Spend a day building sand castles, eating ice cream or tacking a new water sport.
Just north of Evanston, Wilmette’s Gillson Park offers nearly 60 acres of beautiful lakefront property, ideal for picnics, bicycling, volleyball, soccer, tennis, outdoor ice skating and many other year-round activities. Public swimming and wading are allowed in the lifeguarded swimming area of Gillson Beach in the summer. Admission to Gillson Beach is by daily fee or season pass. The Gillson Sailing Beach is a separate area where boats are stored and lessons are offered. Dogs are welcome at the Dog Beach.
Garden of Delights!
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe
With over 23 beautifully manicured gardens, and 385 acres of rolling hills and calming lakes, the Botanic Garden is one of the areas most popular tourist destinations. This natural beauty is a must for families with seasonally-themed kid events and activities, storytelling, a family nature walk, and discovery-based programs for the whole family. Every summer through the end of October, marvel at 15 garden-scale model trains as they journey coast to coast at "Model Railroad Garden: Landmarks of America". Watch them chug across bridges, through tunnels and past miniature scenes of America's favorite landmarks, from Wrigley Field to Yellowstone to a quaint Main Street. All in an amazing garden setting.
Want to see all the splendor and learn all the facts? The Garden offers two types of 35-minute tram tours. Both the Grand Tram Tour and the Bright Encounters Tour are open to visitors with no advance arrangements needed, no minimum numbers. Just drop by and buy your ticket when you arrive at the Garden. Tour packages are available for groups of 15 or more.
Tired yet? Overnight at one of the North Shore hotels featuring indoor pools, free parking and complimentary breakfast. Visit our lodging page for your overnight options.
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