Oh the Places You’ll Go! All the Things You HAVE to Do in July

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Chicago really shines bright in summer! This month is all about festivals, spending the day with the most famous train of all, Thomas, and . . . Wait, don’t go yet! There’s lots more where that came from. Check out our Editor’s picks for summering in Chicago.

photo: Eyes to the Skies Carnival & Festival

(1) Lisle Eyes to the Skies Carnival & Festival
Here’s your chance to see a hot air balloon up close — or even ride in one! Hot air balloons rise up daily, and tethered balloon rides are available in between. There’s also a carnival and a children’s area with LEGO building, martial arts and dance performances, storytelling, music, games and animal shows. Fireworks that end the festivities every night round out this spectacle. New this year: Skydiving shows 4 times daily!

When: Jun. 28-Jul. 2
Hours: 5:30 a.m. (balloon launch on July 1, 2 & 3) to 10 p.m. (fireworks end)
Where: Lisle Community Park, 1825 Short St., Lisle
Cost: $8 (children under 6 free); purchase tickets to ride carnival rides
Online: eyestotheskies.org

(2) Northwest Fourth-Fest
Don’t miss out on the 5-day fest that also happens to be the largest Fourth of July celebration in the area. The festival will feature over 40 carnival rides, food and drink tents, an arts and crafts fair, diaper derby, face painting, balloon animals, pony rides, a parade and (of course!) fireworks. Live music from the likes of 7th Heaven, Hi Infidelity will keep those toes tappin’.

When: Jun. 30-Jul. 4
Hours: Fri., 6 p.m.-11 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-11 p.m.; Mon., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Tues., 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Where: Sears Centre Arena, 5333 Prairie Stone Parkway, Hoffman Estates
Cost: Free admission; fees for food and beverage & carnival rides
Online: northwestfourthfest.com

photo: Naperville Ribfest

(3) Savor the Food and Fun at Naperville’s Ribfest
There’s a reason why this annual, finger-licking extravaganza of BBQ is so popular: Grillers come from all over the country to dish their ‘cue and compete for the festival title. The family area is a fest unto itself with a petting zoo, magic shows, inflatables and more.

When: Jun. 30-Jul. 3
Hours: noon – 10 p.m.
Where: Knoch Park, 724 S. West St., Naperville
Cost: $15 for a family fun carnival bracelet good for noon-3 p.m. daily
Online: ribfest.net

(4) Go Global on the 4th
Show your pride in America, and other countries, too. This is a globe-trotting adventure that spans the cultures of Africa, the Caribbean, Hispanic Latin American and the U.S.A. — all on the west side of Chicago. It’s big, bright and bold in music, food and dance.

When: Jul. 1-4
Hours: noon-10 p.m.
Where: Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph St., West Loop
Cost: $25 general admission; free ages 12 & under
Online: internationalfestivaloflife.com

(5) Enjoy a Historic Fourth
Spend the 4th parading with the World’s Tallest Uncle Sam at the Chicago History Museum. The outdoor family-friendly festivities include patriotic music, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a children’s costume parade and a Brown Bess musket firing. Museum opens to the public once the program concludes and admission is free to Illinois residents.

When:  Jul. 4
Hours: 10 a.m.-noon
Where: Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St, Lincoln Park
Cost: Free
Online: chicagohistory.org

Kid Fest at West Festphoto: Kid Fest at West Fest

(6) Kid Fest at West Fest
Kid Fest at West Fest, West Town’s signature summer festival, is the ultimate fest-within-a-fest! Kid Fest 2017 will feature train rides, bouncy houses, an inflatable obstacle course, pony rides and carnival games. The Kid Fest Stage will host a fun family friendly lineup from a who’s who of Chicago’s children entertainers. Bonus: 100% of the proceeds raised by Kid Fest benefit Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy.

When: Jul. 7-Jul. 9
Hours: West Fest: Fri., 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Sat. & Sun., noon-10 p.m.; Kid Fest: noon-7 p.m.
Where: Chicago Ave. between Damen & Wood, West Town
Cost: $5 suggested donation
Online: westfestchicago.com

(7) Badass Dash
Badass Dash, the ultimate obstacle course challenge and endurance race for your everyday competitors, last came to the Chicagoland area in 2015. The Sears Centre Arena will host this world class obstacle course challenge and competitors will compete on a 7K (4.4 miles) course using the entire arena space, inside and out! The Kids Dash will include 2 different courses in order to accommodate two age brackets: ages 4-6 (400 yard dash) and ages 7-13 (1-1.5 miles with age-appropriate obstacles).

When: Jul. 8
Hours: 8 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Where: Sears Centre Arena, 5333 Prairie Stone Pkwy., Hoffman Estates
Cost: Varies, check website
Online: badassdash.com

(8) Riverside’s 3rd Annual Folk Fest
The 3rd Annual Riverside Folk Fest at Cantigny is a great family summer picnic with live music, artisans, food, games, children’s activities and more. On the festival grounds, attendees will hear traditional American folk songs, jazz & blues as well as Irish tunes and take part in a good old-fashioned hootenanny.

When: Jul. 8
Hours: 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
Where: Cantigny, 1S151 Winfield Rd., Wheaton
Cost: $5/person, $20/family, $10 Cantigny parking fee
Online: rside.org/folkfest

photo: Origami in the Garden at Morton Arboretum

(9) Japanese Game Day and a Movie Under the Stars 
What a great day to play at Morton Arboretum! Introduce your kids to games and make crafts inspired by Japanese culture. Gather beneath the towering trees of the Morton Arboretum for a big-screen showing of Kubo and the Two Strings, an epic adventure set in Japan. Before the show, be sure to wander through the Children’s Garden, which has a great natural playground, and explore the Origami exhibit.

When: Jul. 8 & 9 (movie Jul. 8 only)
Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; movie starts at 8:30 p.m. on Jul. 8
Where: Morton Arboretum, Children’s Garden, 4100 IL Rte. 53, Lisle
Cost: Free with arboretum admission; $14/adults, $9/ages 2-17, free for ages 1 & under
Online: mortonarb.org

(10) Day Out with Thomas
All aboard for a ride with Thomas & Friends® on a Day Out with Thomas: Friendship Tour 2017. Little engineers are invited to spend a day with Thomas and his bestie Percy when they roll into Illinois Railway Museum. Besides a ride with their train pals, kids get to meet Sir Topham Hatt and enjoy a day of themed activities including arts and crafts, storytelling and more.

When: Jul. 8, 9, 15 & 16
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Illinois Railway Museum, 7000 Olson Rd., Union
Cost: Tickets are $21 for a ride on Thomas; $10 for a ride on Percy; kids under age 2 ride free
Online: irm.org/thomas

photo: Square Roots Fest

(11) Family Fun @ Square Roots Fest
This fest gives you lots of reasons to twist and shout. From singing along with Little Miss Ann to a drum circle, this fest is perfect for families that love tunes. The “instrument petting zoo” is always a hit with curious kids and parents love checking out some of the best craft beers in the area. Bring a bathing suit or a change of clothes so that your kiddo can enjoy the splash pad at nearby Welles Park.

When: Jul. 9 & 10
Hours: noon-5 p.m.
Where: Lincoln Avenue between Montrose & Wilson Avenues, Lincoln Square
Cost: Suggested donation, $10 for adults, $5 for seniors/kids, $20 for families
Online: squareroots.org

(12) Southport Art Festival
A favorite of many families, Southport Art Festival brings old-fashioned fun to the Southport Corridor. When a street boasts about multiple kid-friendly restaurants and two ice cream shops, you know you’re in for a good time. Throughout the day, kids can enjoy interactive games and activities that make for an unforgettable time.

When: Jul. 15 & 16
Hours: Sat., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Southport and Waveland, 3700 N. Southport, Lakeview
Cost: Suggested donation of $5/person
Online: starevents.com

(13) Bucktown Garden Walk
The 13th annual Bucktown Garden Walk brings the community together in celebration of urban gardening and nature. Garden walkers are invited to view urban gardens as Bucktown residents open their personal green spaces and exclusive gardens to the public to showcase the beautiful and unique neighborhood. Explore Bucktown’s hidden gems, enjoy live music, entertain the kids at the Children’s Fest, take a trolley tour and see what makes Bucktown special.

When: Jul. 15 & 16
Hours: Sat. & Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Children’s Fest 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Where: 1825 N. Churchill Street – Churchill Park Playlot, 1825 N. Damen, Bucktown
Cost: $10 donation; includes Garden Walk Brochure with offers from local businesses & restaurants
Online: bucktown.org/gardenwalk

photo: Blue Man Group courtesy of ©Paul Kolnik

(14) Blue Man Group Teams Up with Autism Speaks
Blue Man Group and Autism Speaks have teamed for a collaborative Blue Man Group performance! Slight modifications, such as dim lighting, bean bags, a calm environment and quiet corners, have been made so individuals with autism can relax and enjoy the show. Sound levels will be reduced at select moments and noise isolating headphones also available upon request.

When: Jul. 16
Hours: 4 p.m.
Where: Briar Street Theatre, 3133 N. Halsted, Lakeview
Cost: $49 ($5 of every tickets benefits Autism Speaks)
Online: blueman.com/autismspeaks

photo: Sheffield Musica Festival & Garden Walk

(15) Sheffield Music Festival & Garden Walk
Formerly known as the Sheffield Garden Walk, this fest expanded its focus from garden tours to music stages. The Kids’ Corner combines garden-inspired crafts with kid favorites like a petting zoo and rides. Admission to The Kids’ Corner is free, but each attraction is fee-based.

When: Jul. 21-23
Hours: noon-7 p.m.
Where: Belden Avenue between Sheffield & Seminary Avenues, Lincoln Park
Cost: $7/suggested donation; $10/suggested donation after 3 p.m.
Online: sheffieldgardenwalk.com

photo: Windy City Pet Expo

(16) Windy City Pet Expo
The Windy City Amazing Pet Expo is the ultimate pet event! Check out tons of pet-friendly exhibitors and rescue groups, see live demonstrations in obedience training, pet care & activism, great giveaways and prizes, amazing discounts on your favorite pet products, talent and costume contests, fabulous retailers and much more fun for the whole family! Plus shopping, adoptions, free nail trims, discounted vaccinations and more. Bring your pet!

When: Jul. 23-Jul. 24
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Where: Schaumburg Convention Center, 1551 Thoreau Drive North, Schaumburg
Cost: Free
Online: windycitypetexpo.com

(17) Experience Latino Culture at Fiesta del Sol
Get a taste of Mexico at Fiesta del Sol, the largest Latino Festival in the Midwest, while helping to raise money for scholarships for local youth. Move to the groove of latin music, and discover new foods. The children’s area is packed with carnival rides, face painting, educational games, soccer, art displays (including kids!) and more.

When: Jul. 27-30
Hours: Thurs., 5–10 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m.–11 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Where: Fiesta del Sol, 1400 W. Cermak Rd., Pilsen
Cost: Free
Online: fiestadelsol.org

(18) Taste of Lincoln Avenue
This popular fest sprawls over several city blocks in the heart of Lincoln Park and has so many attractions, including 250-plus vendors, food and more than 35 acts on three music stages. Afternoons include a stand-alone free Kids’ Carnival featuring art activities, pony rides and more.

When: Jul. 29 & 30
Hours: noon-10 p.m.
Where: Lincoln Ave. & Fullerton Ave., Lincoln Park
Cost: $10 suggested donation
Online: cityofchicago.org

What’s on your family agenda for July? We’d love to hear all about it in the Comments below!

— Maria Chambers