Last Blasts! 21 Things to Do Before Summer is Over

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The words “summer” and “over” should never be put together. Yet the time has almost come. So make the most of it. Here’s our ultimate list of what to do and where to go before you hear school bells.


1. Ride the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier
Up and away you go on one of the Pier’s coolest attractions. The view from 150 feet in the sky is incredible and the ride moves just slow enough for you to take it all in. Fun fact: It was modeled after the very first Ferris wheel, which was built for Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. 600 E. Grand Ave. (312-595-7437 or

2. Eat s’mores … and fast
Didn’t go camping this summer? You can at least get a taste of it at Silver Cloud in Wicker Park. The retro restaurant’s take on the treat is pure ooey-gooey goodness. 1700 N. Damen Ave. (773-489-6213 or

3. Go on a scavenger hunt
Put on your thinking cap for Watson Adventures’ Mad Science Scramble Family Scavenger Hunt. As a family, you’ll answer tricky, humorous questions while exploring the Museum of Science and Industry in a whole new way. Held Saturday, August 17, at 10:30 am. For info, call 877-946-4868 or go to


4. Get creative at a drop-in art class
Budding Monets can paint, draw and create their hearts out at Easel Art Studio during open studio time Monday-Thursday from 11:30 am-2:30 pm, Fridays from 11:30 am-5:00 pm and Saturdays from 10:00 am-2:00 pm (if there are no private parties scheduled). 1911 N. Milwaukee Ave. (773-360-1720 or

5. Instead of fro-yo, try fro-cu
Frozen custard, that is. One of our favorites, Andy’s Frozen Custard, offers the cold creamy treat blended with strawberries, peanut butter and even a whole piece of key lime pie. 710 Church St., Evanston (847-864-8009) & 9507 S. Cicero Ave., Oak Lawn (708-499-1400) & 260 S. Weber Rd., Bolingbrook (630-378-9590). Online at

6. Learn and play in Bronzeville
Think outside the box on the South Side, where Bronzeville Children’s Museum offers something different and all-out engaging. Families get a choice of three one-hour interactive guided tours, each with a different theme (nutrition, science, etc.). Tours are geared toward kids ages 3-9. 9301 S. Stoney Island Ave. (773-721-9301 or


7. Book one last staycation
You don’t have much time left to jump in a plane, so take the easy road and stay close to home. A splurge proves well worth it at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago. The hotel’s new Kids Clubroom has a movie viewing area, video games, foosball, board games, arts and crafts, and more — all of which can be enjoyed at no extra charge during your stay. They’ll even throw in complimentary use of Radio Flyer wagons to explore the nearby beach and parks. 120 E. Delaware Pl. (312-280-8800 or

8. Hit an iconic hot dog stand
Hot diggity — check out these dogs. We’ve yet to meet a kid that doesn’t like Wolfy’s, a no-frills (yet totally delicious) hot dog joint that also makes perfectly crispy fries and shakes you can get lost in. 2734 W. Peterson Ave. (773-743-0207) & 300 W. Roosevelt Rd., Lombard (630-792-1500). Online at

9. See a piece of history
Did you know that Comiskey Park (now U.S. Cellular Field) hosted the first Major League Baseball All-Star game in 1933? Swing by Chicago History Museum’s “Unexpected Chicago” exhibit before the end of August to see a signed baseball from that game. Babe Ruth himself put his John Hancock on it. 1601 N. Clark St. (312-642-4600 or


10. Check out Batman’s ride
Ka-pow! The masked superhero has let Volo Auto Museum display his very own Batmobile and Batcycle. They’re just part of the Hollywood cars collection on display at this Lake County destination. General Lee from Dukes of Hazard and Grease Lightning from Grease are here, too. 27582 Volo Village Rd., Volo (815-835-3644 or online at

11. Be a beach bum
On the South Side, 31st Street Beach is has it all: clean sand, incredible views of downtown, a harbor with 1,000 boats and even some fishing. 3100 S. Lake Shore Dr. (312-742-5121or

12. Befriend a butterfly
Quick — what’s the Illinois state insect? It’s the Monarch butterfly. (You learn something new every day.) Kohl Children’s Museum’s “Watch Us Grow” exhibit explores this gorgeous creature and teaches kids about its life cycle and the impact it has on nature. 2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview (847-832-6600 or


13. Root for a Minor League team
The Cubs and Sox aren’t the only ones that know their way around a bat. Minor League teams — the Schaumburg Boomers, Kane County Cougars, DuPage Hounds, and Windy City Thunderbolts — do, too. And they have family nights, live music and fireworks, to boot. Some of these teams have wrapped up their seasons, so be sure to get the most updated schedule on their websites:
Schaumburg Boomers: 1999 Springinsguth Rd., Schaumburg. Online at
Kane County Cougars:  34W002 Cherry Ln., Geneva. Online at
DuPage Hounds: 5400 College Rd., Lisle. Online at
Windy City Thunderbolts: 14011 S. Kenton Ave., Crestwood. Online at

14. Bowl a strike
Send that ball cruising down the lane for Pinstripes’ Mom & Tots bowling. After a few games, fill up on pizza and sandwiches, or try your hand at bocce ball. 1150 Willow Rd., Northbrook (847-480-2323) & 100 W. Higgins Rd., South Barrington (847-844-9300) & 7 Oakbrook Center Mall, Oakbrook (630-575-8700). Online at

15. Cruise up to the drive-in
Drive-in theaters might be dinosaurs, but they’re not extinct. West Chicago’s Cascade Drive-In Movie Theater is one example. Watch a flick under the stars (wear your PJs, if you want) and bring plenty of blankets and snacks. Heck, even bring your pet. 1100 E. North Ave., West Chicago (630-231-3150 or


16. Play with Dorothy and Toto
Click your heels together and head to Oz Park’s Dorothy’s Playlot, a fun zone geared toward preschoolers. The Wizard of Oz-themed paradise features brass statues of Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Dorothy. Run, climb and take time to smell the flowers in the Emerald Garden. 2021 N. Burling St. (312-742-7898 or

17. Party at Downtown Palatine Fest
It’s one of the last festivals before school starts and goes all-out with a top-notch Kids Zone. We’re talking a bubble show, reptiles, a skate park, performances by Ralph Covert of Ralph’s World and the Jessie White Tumblers. Held at Palatine Rd. & Plum Grove Rd. in Palatine. Online at

18. Swing over to Naperville Last Fling
With a Family Fun Land that has pony rides and Radio Disney, a carnival with tons of rides, a parade and even a big wheel race, Naperville’s annual wingding sends summer out with a bang. Held Aug. 30-Sept. 2 at 440 W. Aurora Ave. (630-961-4143 or


19. Frolic at a sprayground
There are lots of splash pads around town, but if you haven’t tried River Park, wade on over. There’s plenty of splishing-splashing action, and parents can relax knowing the soft surface cushions any falls. A playground, pool, soccer fields and canoe rides make your trip a daylong adventure. 5100 N. Francisco St., (312-742-7516 or online at

20. Dig into barbecued food
Take a break from the grill and dig into someone else’s ‘cue. We love Smoke Daddy’s ribs and brisket with a side of creamy mac ‘n’ cheese. Bonus: Kids can show off their dance moves during the nightly live music. 1804 W. Division St. (773-772-6656 or

21. Pick berries … and eat them
Berry-stained fingers are a summer rite of passage. At Garden Patch Farms, located less than an hour southwest of Chicago, you can grab a red wagon and set out on 30 acres dappled with more than 4,000 apple, pear, peach and plum trees, as well as raspberry, strawberry and blackberry vines. 14154 W. 159th St., Homer Glen (708-301-7720 or

What is the one thing you absolutely have to do before summer is gone? Let us know in the Comments section below.

— Jen Peterson

Photos: Courtesy of Navy Pier, Easel Art Studio, Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, Volo Auto Museum, Kane County Cougars, Chicago Park District