2018 Summer Bucket List for Kids in the Chicagoland Suburbs

Every summer, parents all over start with the notion of giving their kids the best summer of their lives… but soon enough, life takes over and plans fall by the wayside. A summer bucket list for kids helps give you the momentum you need to keep the summer excitement flowing all the way until August! Use our list to find local events and places. Pick and choose the bucket list ideas that fit your family’s needs, then write up your own list! This bucket list is sponsored by Glen Ellyn Park District.

Watch cleverly-crafted cardboard (yes, cardboard) boats try to make their way across Lake Ellyn at the 25th anniversary of the Lake Ellyn Cardboard Regatta on June 30th. Seasoned boat builders and first-timers will compete for awards including Quickest, Best Looking, and Most Spectacular Sinking. The event, which is free to attend, draws hundreds to the park each year to watch the races and enjoy the Food Truck Picnic in the Park. Ready to take on the challenge? The Park District is accepting registrations, which include 20 sheets of cardboard to get you started, until Friday, June 29th at 12pm. Enter one of three categories (Youth, Family or Adult) for just $50 per boat at www.gepark.org/regatta. If competing in this event isn’t already on your bucket list, it should be!

2018 Chicagoland Summer Bucket List for Kids

Below are different types of summer bucket lists for outdoor fun, indoor activities, and day trips, as well as lists broken down by age. If you are ambitious, try to complete all of them! If your time is more limited, or your kids are younger, pick and choose items that you can use to create the summer bucket list of your kids’ dreams.

Outdoor Summer Bucket List for Kids

  1. Watch the cardboard boats race at Glen Ellyn’s Cardboard Regatta. Annie and her family are building a boat this year. Go cheer them on and enjoy the park and food trucks!
  2. Go on a troll hunt at the Morton Arboretum! These giant wooden sculptures are incredible.
  3. Plan separate dates with each of your kids with our kid-parent date ideas.
  4. Bring your kids to one of the numerous nature centers in the Chicagoland area to explore and hike, or try the forest preserve for more trails.
  5. Go out for ice cream!
  6. Pick out fruits and vegetables at a local farmers market (check out offerings in the Southwest Suburbs and West Suburbs).
  7. Color your heart out with chalk.
  8. Blow bubbles on top of bubbles.
  9. Pick berries. U-Pick strawberries is a very popular activity for the month of June. Blueberries are in July.
  10. Splash around at a splash pad; check out splash pads in the southwest suburbs and splash pads in the west suburbs.
  11. Watch a sunset on your patio.
  12. Attend a parade and then watch the fireworks.
  13. Set up a picnic. No need to get fancy, it can be in the backyard!
  14. Visit a new-to-you park or a new in 2018 park. (Click here for specialized lists of playgrounds in the western suburbs, such as parks for different age groups, parks with sand, parks without mulch, parks with fences…)
  15. If you are brave, camp in your backyard. For younger kids, camp out in your family room.
  16. Check out an outdoor movie! There are tons of options, but this year, CocoDespicable Me 3, Moana, Paddington 2, Wonder, and Beauty and the Beast (including some with sing-a-longs!) are popular options.
  17. Run through the sprinklers—or have the kids build their own PVC sprinkler.
  18. Catch a minor league or major league baseball game. There is a new minor league team in Rosemont called the Chicago Dogs!
  19. Go miniature golfing!
  20. Catch fireflies.
  21. Teach the kids to wash the car.
  22. Head to the city and go to Maggie Daley Park, where you’ll find some of the most epic outdoor playgrounds you’ll ever see.
  23. Swim at a local pool.
  24. Get festive at a summer festival! (There are tons of options in both the Southwest Suburbs and West Suburbs)
  25. Listen to some tunes at one of the outdoor concerts at your local town center. Click here to get our lists of live music in the western suburbs and southwest suburbs.
  26. Walk along the Naperville Riverwalk, then stop for fro-yo, gelato, ice cream, or even scoops of edible cookie dough (at Cookie Dough Creations).

Indoor Summer Bucket List for Kids

  1. Bring your kids back to a nature center on a rainy or extra-hot day to enjoy the indoor amenities.
  2. Visit a library in southwest suburbs or library in the western suburbs to try out a story time or enjoy the indoor play area.
  3. Try bumper bowling at a kid-friendly bowling alley in the southwest suburbs or the west suburbs.
  4. Let your kids help you make dinner.
  5. Take the kids to a $1 kids movie.
  6. Escape the heat and visit a new local indoor play area; there are great indoor play areas in the southwest suburbs and indoor play areas in the west suburbs.
  7. Make your own ice cream; this recipe from PBS is great for kids to do with just a bit of help from you, and they can watch the video to see how.
  8. Watch a new movie, or pull out a favorite movie from your own childhood and introduce it to your kids.
  9. Go to a local childen’s museum.
  10. Write some good old-fashioned letters to family members. Include drawings for extra sweetness.

Day Trip Summer Bucket List for Kids

  1. Explore the Indiana Dunes. Pack a picnic or hit the concessions, and spend the day in and out of the water, and running up and down the huge hills of sand.
  2. Glencoe Beach is also a great destination for different age groups.
  3. Hike at Waterfall Glen. It’s a beautiful place for a scenic hike or bike ride that is best taken days after a big rain, but is lovely anytime of year.
  4. Visit Lake Katherine for an easy day-trip of butterflies, hikes, and kayaking.
  5. Have you been to Taltree Arboretum? It has an impressive model railroad village and you can stop by the Albanese Candy Factory afterwards for a quick tour and treat.
  6. Do a zoo day. If you have done Brookfield or Lincoln Park Zoo, try the Cosley Zoo in Wheaton.
  7. One last hike at Starved Rock. You really cannot spend too much time in the great outdoors during the short summer months of Chicago!
  8. Go camping together and share s’mores under the stars. Be sure to use our printable checklist of what to pack for camping to make sure you don’t forget anything!
  9. Go to the many museums around Chicago on a free day, or any day. The city has so many options that you can do multiple day trips!

Summer Bucket List for Babies and Toddlers

  1. Do a tour of toddler-friendly parks or fenced-in parks
  2. Take a break from the sun at indoor play spaces, which are less crowded with big kids on nice days
  3. Play at a park with sand features
  4. Check out our list of summer activities for babies and toddlers or places to go with a baby or toddler for even more ideas!

Summer Bucket List for Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

  1. Visit a local farm
  2. Have a picnic and watch the ducks at a forest preserve
  3. Dance to the music at a Ravinia kid’s concert
  4. Make your own faux Play-Doh with our recipe
  5. Visit a train restaurant
  6. Take a day trip Pirate’s Cove, a small outdoor amusement park specially designed for kids 1–9
  7. Hop on the Metra and take a trip! We have ideas for kid-friendly destinations on the BNSF and Southwest Service Metra lines.
  8. Visit the Bison’s Bluff Nature Park in Schaumburg
  9. Bounce around indoors at a trampoline or inflatables venue

Summer Bucket List for Elementary School Kids

  1. Take a day trip to Six Flags (or another outdoor amusement park)
  2. Take the Naperville trolley tour
  3. Take the train to the city, check out the Skydeck at the Sears/Willis Tower, and catch a water taxi to Navy Pier
  4. Hunt for treasure with geocaching
  5. Go camping, fishing, or horseback riding
  6. Go zip-lining
  7. Sign up for your local library’s summer reading club
  8. Go on a family bike ride
  9. Do a fun run as a family—or brave a kid-friendly mud run
  10. Spend a Sunday afternoon at the Arlington Park race track
  11. Sign up for a Vacation Bible School program

If you’re looking for more ideas, we have a ton of resources for families you can check out—and we’re adding more all the time!

About the Author

Jill Kowalski
Jill is the mom of two energetic little girls, ages two and four, who keep her seriously busy. She and her husband grew up in Orland Park and are now raising their family there as well. When Jill and her family have free time, they love to check out local parks or drop-in at fests where their girls can take over a dance floor. She is always looking for cheap, yet entertaining and worthwhile things to do. When she is not wrangling her kids, Jill has a passion for starting, and sometimes finishing, do-it-yourself home improvement projects, trying out random recipes she finds on Pinterest, and organizing every nook and cranny of her life.

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