So often, we complain about having nothing to do. Conversations with our friends usually go like this: “What do you wanna do?”, “I don’t know, what do you wanna do?” Well, here’s a bunch of answers to that question! We composed a list of the coolest places we know in and near Chicago. They’re all fun, safe, and totally available to you!
Cascade Drive In (Summer) 1100 E. North Avenue, West Chicago, IL 60185
Sit under the stars and watch 2 newly released movies for the price of one! Admission for ages 11 and up is $8.50, and the movies start as soon as it gets dark. Bring a blanket!
Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder (Year Round) 2121 N. Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
Test your appetite by trying one of the unique ½ or 1-lb Pizza Pot Pies; these mushroom look-alikes appear in a bowl and resemble upside-down pizzas. Right by Lincoln Park Zoo!
Chicago Lakeview Shopping (Year Round) 3200 block of Clark, near Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL
Eclectic boutiques, ethnic restaurants, and wild thrift stores line the streets for a truly off-the-beaten-path shopping. Ragstock (812 W. Belmont) caries ‘50s style clothing all the way to modern attire. The Alley (3228 N. Clark St) is full of punk and goth clothes as well as funky boots, snazzy jewelry, dresses, incense, and all sorts of knick-knacks. Don’t let the Belmont Army Surplus (855 W. Belmont) fool you: they carry very little actual army gear. Instead, the store is full of cool designs for the most adventurous trendsetter; here, you’ll find nothing you need but everything you want.
Chinatown (Year Round) Near intersection of Cermack Rd and Wentworth Ave
Stroll around the nation’s 2nd largest ethnic-Chinese neighborhood, stop at a restaurant to eat some authentic food, and admire the exquisite architecture. It’s a really cool place to take some pictures and get a little feel for the Far East. Parking is relatively easy on weekdays, but on weekends, consider taking the Red Line and getting off at Cermack/Chinatown, directly in front of the main gate.
Comedy Sportz (Year Round) 929 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL 60657
Laugh out loud at some silly improv performed like a sports match. The comedians interact with the audience, asking for suggestions, and then play games to get points. Cheer on your favorite team… but only if your sides aren’t splitting from laughter! Tickets are usually about $20, but check their website to find discounted days.
First Folio (Summer, Fall) Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W. 31st Street, Oak Brook, IL 60523
Stretch out on a blanket with family and friends and enjoy the hilltop breeze as you watch a performance of one of Shakespeare’s great plays. Adult ticket prices are typically near $25, but if you see the show within the first 3 nights, prices are much lower! If you can’t get out there for the summer, the theater group also puts on special renditions of Edgar Allen Poe’s plays in October. Check out their website for more info. www.firstfolio.org
Glazed Expressions (Year Round) Several locations in Chicago-land area
Feeling crafty? Head over to this “paint-it-yourself pottery place” and decorate a mug, cookie dish, vase, ceramic cat, etc. to your best abilities! This artsy studio provides you with the item to decorate, the paint, and glazes it for you in just one week. All you have to do is work magic with your paintbrush and pay $15-20 for the supplies. It’s a whole lot of fun, makes great gifts, and is something you can hold on to for years to come. Check out their website for the 5 locations near Chicago: www.myglazedexpressions.com
Hinkley Skate Park (Summer) Busse & Morris, Park Ridge, IL 60068
Try out your moves at this skate park! Whether you prefer inline skates or a board, you can practice your cool tricks outdoors. Admission is free, so just bring your kneepads!
Hot Doug’s (Year Round) 3324 N. California, Chicago, IL 60618
Craving a hot dog? This quirky restaurant has lots to offer: The Elvis, The Keira Knightly, The Pete Shelley… they also have duck fat French fries and all kinds of other fun snacks. They are only open for lunch hours, though: Mon-Sat from 10:30AM to 4:00PM. Also, check their website to make sure they aren’t closed; they tend to celebrate random reasons. www.hotdougs.com
Illinois Beach State Park (Year Round) Lake Front, Zion, IL 60099
Want to spend a day at the beach, hike some forested trails, and then camp out in a tent without having to drive to Wisconsin? This park has it all! Make a camping reservation through their website, or just head over to enjoy a friendly day in the great outdoors between sunrise and sunset. dnr.state.il.us
Kafein (Year Round) 1621 Chicago Ave, Evanston, IL 60201
If you’re in the mood to just hang out somewhere and chat with friends, take the Purple Line to Davis and head to Kafein. This funky coffeehouse has the typical boho vibe, complete with comfy couches, well-read books on the shelves, and Trivial Pursuit on the tables. Mondays are open-mic nights, the drinks are scrumptious, and they have tasty croissants and sweet treats. It’s open late, too! 2AM Sun-Thurs and 3AM Fri-Sat.
Kerasotes 12 Showplace (Year Round) 301 Golf Mill Center, Niles, IL 60714
Golf Mill Mall opened a new movie theater a few years ago, and they are now showing 3D movies! Check their website or call for movie times. 3D movies cost $2 more than regular movies, but who wouldn’t pay that to be able to wear goofy glasses in public for 2 hours? www.kerasotes.com
Lake Opeka (Year Round) 2222 Birch St, Des Plaines, IL 60018
Paddle-boating, fishing, picnicking… it’s all right under your nose! This not-too-big lake is just blocks away from Allstate Arena and also hosts plentiful free summer concerts. Whether you want to rent a paddle-boat ($10-14 per ½ hour) or just stroll around feeding the ducks old bread crumbs is up to you.
Lincoln Park Zoo (Year Round) 2001 N. Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
Stroll around the shaded park and check out the animals… for free! Then head down to the little lake and rent a paddleboat for 4 for $12/30 minutes, or sit by the little river and watch kayakers race through it.
Margie’s Candies (Year Round) 1900 N. Western Ave, Chicago, IL
The coolest ice cream place since 1921, even the Beatles snacked here after their show at Comiskey Park. The ice cream is served with a bowl of hot fudge, and they offer over 50 different sundaes. They also have sandwiches, soups, and salads, but people go for the ice cream and their specialty hand-dipped candy. They open early and close late, so you can satisfy that sweet tooth at just about any time of day! If you want to take the El, get off at the Blue line’s Western stop.
May I Have This Dance (Year Round) 5246 N. Elston, 2nd floor, Chicago, IL 60630
Want to learn to Latin, Ballroom, or Swing Dance? This studio offers lessons for all levels and also has social dancing on Fridays for $10-15 (although bring a group of friends; sometimes it’s an older crowd). Check out their website for more info, and get ready to learn to shake that thang! www.mayihavethisdance.com
McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink (Winter) Millennium Park (Washington & Michigan Ave)
Grab your old ice skates or bring a few bucks to rent a pair and glide away in the heart of Chicago on this popular ice skating rink. Don’t want to risk breaking any bones? Walk over to The Bean and watch skaters whizz, twirl, and race on the rink below you.
Midway Plaisance Ice Skating Rink (Winter) 1130 E. Midway Plaisance North, Chicago, IL 60637
Open usually until about 7PM, this 5-year-old ice skating rink provides an active outing for a pleasant winter day. Prices are comparable to other ice skating rinks, and during the warmer seasons, the rink is great for in-line skating.
Millennium Park (Year Round) Washington Ave. & Michigan Ave., Chicago
This Chicago staple is home of The Bean, the Pritzker Pavilion, and the faces fountains, and it’s a great day trip. Walk around the park, bring a picnic, or splash around in the faces fountain in the afternoon and head over to the nearby Grant Park for a summer-night free concert later. There are tons of restaurants and cafes in the immediate area, and the park is just a block away from Lake Shore Drive. If you’re really up for walking, head south to the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum or go north towards Navy Pier. Either way, it’ll be a day well spent in the city.
Mitsuwa Market (Year Round) 100 E. Algonquin Rd, Arlington Hts, IL 60005
Like a mini-mall, Mitsuwa is made up of numerous Japanese stores, including a supermarket, toy shops, and food court. Try some of the authentic, sometimes unheard of, food and buy some to share with family at home. If you’re into Japanese culture, this is a cool place to look into.
Molly’s Cupcakes (Year Round) 2536 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614
You haven’t experienced a phenomenal cupcake until you try one from Molly’s. Their unique fillings, frostings, and toppings can make anyone’s mouth water… and they’re just $2 apiece! They also have drinks and other sweets, so feel free to hang around!
North Branch Trail System (Year Round) Devon & Caldwell to Tower Road & Edens Expy.
Grab a bike/roller skates/ jogging shoes, sunglasses, and get some exercise on a forested trail! The trail has plenty of different starting locations, so check out their website to find one convenient for you. Bring a picnic and Frisbee to enjoy when you’re tired of biking, or head out to the northern end of the trail and relish in the beauty of the Chicago Botanic Gardens (free admission if on foot or bike). www.fpdcc.com
North Park Village Nature Center (Year Round) 5108 N. Pulaski, Chicago, IL 60646
Take a break from city life and get a breath of fresh air on a beautiful walking trail. The relatively flat, paved trail winds through forest-y areas, over a pond, and just near a Chicago park. Bring a Frisbee and enjoy a peaceful walk!
Oakton Driving Range (Spring, Summer, Fall) 2800 Oakton St, Park Ridge, IL 60068
Have you ever golfed before? Either way, practice your swing for a while! Open 8AM-10PM every day, this driving range is a great place to work on your skills… or lack thereof. Buckets of balls cost between $5 and $12.
Pioneer Park (Spring, Summer, Fall) 7135 N Harlem Ave, Niles, IL 60714
In addition to a playground, basketball courts, baseball diamond, and concession stand, this park contains an 18-hole mini golf course and multiple batting cages. Open daily until approximately 10PM.
Putting Edge (Year Round) 4105 N. Harlem Ave, Norridge, IL 60706
Put on some white clothes and get ready to shine while playing some glow-in-the-dark mini-golf. One game costs just over $9, and the center is open from about 11AM to 9 or 10PM throughout the year.
Richardson Farm (Fall) 9407 Richardson Rd, Spring Grove, IL 60081
This fall, make the hour-long drive to enjoy a day or evening on a farm! Get lost trying to find your way out of the largest corn maze in Illinois ($7-10 per person) and then enjoy a free campfire once it’s dark. If you can get a large enough group together, reserve a wagon ride, too! They are only $3.75 per person with a 20 person minimum.
Rogers Park (Summer) Between Lunt and Rogers Ave along the lake
Bring some checkers pieces and learn a thing or two from some of the old, more experienced players outside in the sun! This great park is on the beach, too, so you can wade around in the water afterwards.
Summer Dance (Summer) Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park (601 S. Michigan Ave)
Get your boogie on in the heart of Chicago. Live bands play music for all tastes, ranging from salsa to reggae to polka, and admission is free. Check the website for scheduled bands. There is a cement dance floor to dance on, and plenty of grass surrounding it if you’re more of a watcher. Make sure to bring water – dancing makes you sweat!
Superdawg (Year Round) 6363 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60646
Place your order and relax in your car while you wait for your delish hot dogs to be brought to you at this classic ‘40s drive-in. The food is fantastic, the neon lights set a retro vibe, and it’s a cool new way to eat. Right by the start of the North Branch Trail System & Whealan Pool!
Tea Lula (Year Round) Fairview & Main, Park Ridge, IL 60068
If you’re in the mood for a relaxing time, head over to this quaint café and try one of their 100 flavors of tea! If you like one enough, you can buy a bag to keep. It’s a great place to chat with friends over a cup of tea.
Trails of Terror (Fall) 5801 N Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60646
Not recommended for young children or scaredy-cats… see if you can make it out without screaming your lungs out! The Chicago Park District’s Peterson Park holds an annual event in which “victims” walk down the dark, forested trails. It’s ranked “High” on the scare-factor, costs between $6 and $8 as of 2007, and is open between the hours of 6:30PM and 9PM. Can you handle it?
Uncle Fun (Year Round) 1338 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60657
Like a large garage sale, this shop has tons of gadgets and knick-knacks for everyone! The employees like playing jokes on customers, and the store is full of great gag gifts for just about anyone. Let your inner child have some fun!
Whealan Pool Aquatic Center (Summer) 6200 W. Devon Ave, Chicago (just east of Milwaukee Ave)
For just $5, splash around in a great zero depth pool and slip down 2 twisty slides, catching some sun and goofing off with friends. The pool is located just off of the North Branch Trail System and Superdawg (see above).
Vertical Reality (Year Round) 732 Prairie St, Aurora, IL 60506
Head over to this rock climbing gym to test your strength! See if you can make it to the top of the 32 foot wall, or just scale around the 8,000 square feet of climbing space they offer. Super fun, lots of laughs, and definitely something worth trying. Can’t make it as far as Aurora? Visit the Dick’s Sporting Goods in Niles (5601 Touhy Ave, Niles, IL 60714) for a smaller version but equal fun!
Village Creamery (Year Round) 8000 Waukegan Rd, Niles, IL 60714
In the mood for some yummy ice cream? How about some strange flavored ice cream? Village Creamery has both! From chocolate to Kraft cheese, they let you taste any flavor before you pick your favorite. Open 11AM to 10PM daily.
Viva! (Summer) Grant Park, Chicago
Every August, the Viva! Chicago Latin Music Festival takes place in Grant Park, full of vibrantly colored dresses, spicy music, and breath-taking dance. Best of all: admission is free! So grab a friend and head to Grant Park (August 23-24 this year) between 10:30AM and 9:30PM for some cultural fun!
WhirlyBall (Year Round) 1880 W. Fullerton, Chicago, IL 60614
Mix together basketball, lacrosse, and bumper cars and get ready to play this high-speed game. Anyone over the age of 8 can play, and when sitting in bumper cars, it doesn’t matter if you’re athletic or a couch potato, tall or short, guy or girl; you simply use hand-held scoops to shoot your whiffle balls at your scoring target. It’ll definitely be a night of laughs. Walk-in prices are $12 per person per half hour with a 4 person minimum, and renting a court costs approximately $200 per hour (you can split it with up to 20 friends!)
Wilson Skate Park (Spring, Summer, Fall) 700 W. Wilson, Chicago, IL
This modern skate park is located just off of Lake Shore Drive, providing its patrons with fantastic views as they skate down the ramps, grind on the rails, and whiz through the bowls. The park is mainly for skateboarders, and it is very safe. Now, go get some exercise!
Ziegler’s Apple Orchard (Fall) 32363 N. Bacon Rd, Grayslake, IL 60030
Climb trees and pick off the best looking apples on this great orchard. They have 16 acres with 12 varieties of different apples open Saturdays and Sundays from 9AM – 5PM. Then, go on and bake some great pies! If your family doesn’t have any recipes, look them up online.
If you are aware of any other great places, please share them with us! We’d LOVE to hear your suggestions!