The whole Kidlist team gets really excited about our annual summer bucket list. We start talking about it when there’s still snow on the ground (and that’s not even counting April snowstorms this year). The summer bucket list represents everything we’re about: giving local families ideas and tips for making amazing memories with their kids.
This year, we decided to mix things up a bit. Why not share what our own families are most excited about this summer? Our team is spread out across the suburbs with kids of all ages, different interests, and our own favorite go-to spots. We hope you enjoy hearing what we’re up around town to and getting inspired for #kidlistsummer adventures with your own family!
This article is sponsored by DuPage Children’s Museum and Oak Brook Park District, who both provide so much fun for families all year round!
Play More this Summer at DuPage Children’s Museum
Explore, create, build, discover, wonder, think, play, and more! Every visit is an adventure in fun and learning at DuPage Children’s Museum (DCM).
Dive into AWEsome Water, build with real tools in the Construction House, explore the forces of gravity in Make it Move – the possibilities are endless! DCM Express, a mini pop-up experience featuring trains, has rolled into the Museum for the summer, along with Art Is Instrumental Remix. Both back by popular demand!
Practice your problem-solving skills and explore your creativity through a variety of activities at Maker Days on June 28 – 29, don’t miss the Touch-A-Truck at our Transportation Celebration on Saturday, July 27, and hop aboard for Train Day on Saturday, August 10. There’s always something fun going on at DCM. Plan your visit today!
Our 2019 Summer Bucket Lists
Annie’s Summer Bucket List
I have two kids in elementary school and we are always looking for new adventures! We love to mix outdoor exploration and hanging around our hometown of Western Springs.
- Go to the beach: There are so many local beaches that we haven’t been to! I would love to relax and build sandcastles with my kids closer to home.
- Kayak: Bringing a picnic lunch and spending time on the water sounds like a perfect day.
- Cardboard Regatta in Glen Ellyn: This will be the third year I made a boat to race at the regatta, but the first time my daughter can be in the boat! We have a new design in mind and hope it floats. Come cheer us on!!
- Hike at Starved Rock: Going to Starved Rock has been on our list for a while, and we are looking forward to seeing those waterfalls.
- Relax on a lazy river: We are trying to make an effort to take it easy this summer, slow down, and enjoy life so a lazy river sounds like a great idea to me!
Rachel’s Summer Bucket List
I just moved back to my hometown of Naperville and can’t wait to share the summer nostalgia with my two little dudes (3 and 1). Since my husband is a teacher and has the summer off, we’re planning lots of family fun, near and far!
- Children’s Lunch Hour Entertainment on Tuesday afternoons in Naperville: I used to go to these events when I was growing up in Naperville. Now I can take my own kids! It’s the circle of life.
- Bison’s Bluff Nature Playground in Schaumburg: I’ve always thought this nature-themed playground looked amazing.
- Waterlemon in La Grange: Everyone seems to be talking about this new, Instagram-worthy boutique and indoor playroom for kids under 5.
- Centennial Beach in Naperville: This quarry-turned-beach is gigantic and has a zero-depth sand entry that my little ones adore.
- Explore the donut trail map: My whole family is a tiny wee bit totally obsessed with donuts. My standby favorite chocolate sour cream old-fashioned donuts at DeEtta’s Bakery are life-giving, but this summer, we plan to hit the donut trail and try a new spot every week.
Nicole’s Summer Bucket List
This summer, I want to hit the pause button and soak up every second! My kids are 5, 3, and 1. Time is just flying by, while they are little, and I don’t want to blink. We’ll will be soaking up the sunshine and capturing each moment!
- Illinois Railway Museum: We can’t wait to go on a Thomas the Train Engine and Percy ride! My two-year old son is going to be so excited on his third birthday when we take him! (Shh! It’s a surprise!)
- Strawberry picking: Fruit picking with the little ones is such a bucket filler for me. We get to be outside, get dirty, and eat sweet healthy foods! We usually go to Tom’s Market for strawberries and Valley Orchard for blueberries and blackberries. Yum!
- Cosley Zoo: I know you are thinking, “Why not Brookfield?” Don’t get me wrong, we love Brookfield Zoo and are members, but Cosley is small, less travel for us, and more like a farm. My kids love to feed the ducks at 10:00 am and chickens at 11:30 am!
- Cantigny Park: I love taking pictures of my kids! Cantigny has such beautiful gardens, paths, and benches. We usually walk around for an hour, get in a photo shoot, and then head to one of the outdoor family concerts. We bring a picnic lunch, listen to the children’s band, sing and dance!
- Splash pads: We love quick trips to splash pads on hot days. The kids can run around and stay cool!
Speaking of splash pads, Oak Brook Park District has an awesome splash pad and pool called Splash Island! It’s a great one to add to your bucket list.
Splash Island is Oak Brook Park District’s outdoor aquatic playground! Admission fee includes access to Oak Brook Park District’s indoor Family Aquatic Center! Plan a pool outing and schedule some fun in the sun that is perfect for all ages. Splash Island features a zero-depth entry pool, slides, interactive features, dumping buckets, jets, and other spray features.
For little ones, there is a splash pad with bubblers and jets, featuring fun aquatic animals. The sundeck includes overhead shade, firepit, and separate covered picnic area.
Lifeguards on duty. Outdoor food and beverages are allowed (glass and alcohol are strictly prohibited).
Daily Fees: Adult Resident: $10 | Adult Nonresident: $12 | Child & Senior Resident: $6 | Child & Senior Nonresident: $8
Katie’s Summer Bucket List
I have two daughters, 5.5 and 4 years old. We were cooped up all winter with a newborn baby boy, so we are excited to get OUTSIDE this summer.
- Brookfield Zoo: It’s always great to see the animals! Plus, my LEGO-obsessed daughter has been asking to go to Brick Safari since it opened.
- Santa’s Village in East Dundee: I loved this amusement park as a kid, and am excited to experience it as a parent.
- Waterfall Glen in Darien: This was recommended to me by friends, and we’re always looking for more ways to explore nature.
- Outdoor movies: Nothing’s better than a beautiful summer night surrounded by friends and family, eating popcorn, and watching a movie under the stars.
- Family Fun Days at Arlington International Racecourse: We’ve been a few times before having children, and look forward to bringing our horse-loving daughters to enjoy the festivities.
Jill B.’s Summer Bucket List
I live in LaGrange Park, and I’m excited to make fun summer memories at some of these spots with my tween & teen daughters!
- Farmers Markets: I’m looking forward to letting my girls pick simple, fresh ingredients at one of our local farmers markets, and then cook a market-inspired meal together for our family!
- Summer Nights Concerts: Love an evening of outdoor music, and the Brookfield Zoo has some fun, family-friendly bands lined up for the summer. Hoping to check out the new LEGO exhibit there as well!
- Live theater performance: My husband and I both have fond memories of seeing “Cats” the Broadway Musical as kids, so we are excited to take our kids to see it when it comes to Chicago this summer!
- Paint pottery: There’s something so therapeutic about painting, and I’m guessing we will need quiet days doing an activity like this in between all the summer action and pool fun!
- Camping: No summer is complete without heading to our favorite camping spot for a weekend: Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin. It’s just the best to get away, enjoy the lake, truly unplug and spend time together.
Kristen’s Summer Bucket List
I live in New Lenox with my husband and three children, ages 6, 3 and 1. We are beyond thrilled to toss our school schedules aside and check out these places this summer!
- Six Flags Great America: Our older two children are getting to the age where they like to ride amusement park rides. Our eldest daughter is just the right height to check out my childhood favorite: The Whizzer!
- Summerlakes Park in Warrenville: This park looks amazing with the ninja warrior-type obstacles!
- Frankfort Bluegrass Festival: This is always one of our children’s favorites! They have an amazing children’s area with lots of free fun!
- M&M Acres Storytime on the Farm in Lockport: Our eldest daughter claims repeatedly that she wants to be a veterinarian. This looks like such a cute event to learn about the many different animals on a real farm.
- Metra train ride: I am not certain if we will take a trip all the way into the city, or hop off at a local stop, but my children are eager to take a ride on the Metra this summer!
Jill K.’s Summer Bucket List
I have two young daughters, ages 3 and 5. This is our first summer where we don’t have to worry about nap schedules or an overtired toddler. We plan to have a low-key summer with LOTS of outdoor time.
- Visit a new zoo: We have been to Brookfield Zoo a few dozen times, so this summer we want to take an overnight trip to the Milwaukee or Indianapolis Zoo.
- Naperville Riverwalk: We would like to make a half day or more of it; get breakfast, walk the river, play at the park, feed random ducks, and rent a paddleboat. We usually follow all that up with a few packed sandwiches and snacks to tie the kids over. It’s a nice slow and easy day.
- Morton Arboretum: Our cousins have a membership, so we plan on having a fun day walking the trails and checking out the new LEGO exhibit.
- Elwood Children’s Garden: We have never been, so I don’t know what to expect, but I hear it is beautiful and an easy trip.
- Walk more trails: We really love to stroll, scoot, and bike along the local paved trails. We plan to head out as many mornings as possible to get the early morning cool temperatures and get in some exercise.
Sara’s Summer Bucket List
I live in Lemont with my husband, two boys (ages 7 and 5), and two girls (ages 3 and 5 months). Everyone has big ideas about how we should spend our summer (except for our littlest lady — she’s just along for the ride!), but when we made our Summer Bucket List together, a few things rose to the top:
- Pool time: My kids are water babies, so they’d be perfectly content to spend our entire summer splashing around the Lemont Park District pool with friends.
- Maggie Daley Park: We’ve been hearing so much about this incredible park since it opened. We can’t wait to take our out-of-state friends there when they visit this summer and finally experience it for ourselves!
- Brick Safari: My guys (including my husband) are LEGO maniacs, so they are super excited to check out the new Brookfield Zoo exhibit that combines two of their favorite things.
- Forest preserves: We love to explore nature as a family, so this summer we’re making it a priority to bike (or hike!) through as many of our local forest preserves as we can.
- Big Run Wolf Ranch: As a family of animal lovers, we can think of no better way to spend a Summer Saturday than by visiting the Ranch on Family Day. It’s a great opportunity for the kids to get up close and personal with cool creatures in an educational setting.
Looking for Even More Summer Fun?
You will definitely want to look through our huge (and helpful) guide to summer fun in the west and southwest suburbs!
Or you could check out a few of our most popular recent articles for summer activities with kids:
- 2019 Free Summer Fun in the West Suburbs and Free Summer Fun in the Southwest Suburbs
- $1 Summer Movies for Kids
- Summer 2019 Classic Car Shows
- 2019 Summer Festivals
More Amazing Places for Fun with Kids
Check out our giant map of fun things to do with kids in and around the Chicago suburbs!
List of Ideas for Your Summer Bucket List
All of the following locations can be found on the map above with descriptions, addresses, and links, but you can also click on any of the places in the list below to be taken to the full article with photographs and reviews!
- Albanese Candy Factory Tour + Taltree Arboretum
- Art Institute of Chicago
- Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery Center
- Big Run Wolf Ranch in Lockport
- Bird Haven Greenhouse and Pilcher Park Nature Center
- Bison’s Bluff Nature Playground
- Blackberry Farm in Aurora
- Bounce Houses at The Max in McCook
- Bristol Renaissance Faire Cantigny Park
- Chocolate Factory Tour: Long Grove Confectionery
- Cosley Zoo in Wheaton
- Darien Community Park
- Donley’s Wild West Town
- Downers Grove Playground with Wheelchair Swing
- Elwood Children’s Garden
- Forest the Fox’s Playbox in Westchester
- Fun Zone in Downers Grove
- Funtopia Naperville
- Garfield Park Conservatory
- Glencoe Beach
- Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Bolingbrook
- iFLY Indoor Skydiving
- KidsTown in Wheaton
- Kidstreet at Grounds for Hope in Lisle
- Knoch Knolls Nature Center in Naperville
- Kohl Children’s Museum
- La Grange Rec Center Indoor Playground
- Lake Katherine
- LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago
- Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center in Willow Springs
- Maggie Daley Park
- Medieval Times Chicago (Schaumburg)
- My Gym in Wheaton
- Oak Brook Park District Sandlot
- Oak Park Conservatory and Rehm Park
- Owen’s Playground in Downers Grove
- Phillips Park Zoo in Aurora
- PlayZone at Yorktown Shopping Center in Lombard
- Pump It Up in Elmhurst
- Raging Waves Waterpark in Yorkville
- Red Oak Nature Center in Batavia
- Review: Jumps n’ Jiggles in Elk Grove Village
- Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park
- Springbrook Nature Center in Itasca
- Starved Rock
- Summerlakes Park, Warrenville: American Ninja Warrior Park
- Walking Playground Tour in Oak Brook
- Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve
- Westmont Yard
- Willow Pond Park and Splash Pad in Willowbrook
Don’t forget to share your adventures on Instagram with the hashtag #kidlistsummer! We love seeing all the family fun going on in our communities.