All about the amazing sunflower maze at Von Bergen's Country Market in Hebron, Illinois

Summer maybe a little bit different this year. Instead of traveling and being on the go, we’ve pivoted and learned to stay closer to home. Although this summer may be a little bit different, here are some safe but fun ideas to keep you busy – in Chicago and beyond.

I’ll be continually adding items so bookmark this page.

So what are you waiting for? Get out and start enjoying the summer!

Summer bucket list: More than 50 ideas to have a safe and fun summer in and around Chicago's suburbs

  • Pick your very own luscious strawberries from the vine. We had a fun time at Heider’s Berry Farm a few years back.  For a laid back experience, Cody’s Farm is one not to miss. One of our favorite places, Stade’s, will also have strawberry picking this year. Check out our adventure a couple years back. (McHenry) Another great place to pick is at Tom’s Farm Market. (Huntley)
  • Bring the movies to you! Hit the Dollar store and load up on candy movie boxes, pop some popcorn. Heck you can even go all out and make your own concession stand! 
  • Grow a caterpillar or frog or ladybug! Both kids and adults will be fascinated with “growing” their own butterfly.
  • Find a new favorite ice cream place. A few places still offer curbside pickup or drive through. Try Julie Ann’s Custard (Crystal Lake) or Rusty’s Malt Shop (Richmond).
  • Celebrate National Donut Day on June 5th and grab donuts from a new spot
  • Decorate your own donuts. You can try Dunkin’ Donuts but try Craft Donuts and Coffee to support local. (West Dundee)
  • Tie dye anything is super trendy right now. Why not commemorate this summer with your own tie dye t-shirt or socks or a hat? Here’s a fun take on a Fourth of July tie dye shirt. We made our own last summer through our library and had a blast!
  • Celebrate Independence Day with sparklers.
  • Have a water balloon fight.
  • Pet animals or go on a pony ride at Tower Hill Stables (Hampshire)
  • Blow bubbles or make your own bubbles. Here’s a quick recipe: 4 cups warm water, 1/2 cup dish soap, 1/2 cup sugar. Mix sugar and water and stir sugar until it dissolves. Add dish soap and stir. If you have the patience, let it sit for a few hours.
  • Have fun in your backyard with over-sized backyard games. 
  • Run through the sprinklers. 
  • Have a Dole Whip battle. Disney’s released their official Dole Whip recipe and so has Holiday World (one of our fav amusement parks in the Midwest.) Try both and see which one the family likes better.
  • July 4th parades may be cancelled but who says you can’t have your own bike parade? Hit up the dollar store and decorate your bikes with streamers, flags, bows, or curling ribbon.
  • Enjoy the outdoors and have a picnic outside. While you’re doing so, find a new park or hiking spot where you can go ahead and enjoy your picnic.

 

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  • Walk through a bog. What’s a bog? Learn all about it at the Volo Bog nature center then walk through yourself. While you there head to their unstructured nature play space. (Volo)
  • State Parks are finally opening up. A couple of our favorites in Illinois include Matthiessen State Park and Starved Rock.
  • Check out your local park districts for virtual programs. A quick browse and I saw they were doing yoga, some Lego classes, magic classes, art classes, and more!
  • Visit the zoo virtually. Here are a few places in the Midwest where you can see and learn about the animals.
  • Ready for a self-guided adventure? Check out McHenry County’s District’s Activities in a Box program. Choose a different theme each week, pick up a kit, and participate.
  • Visit a zoo AND an amusement park. Santa’s Village Azoosment is the best of both worlds! (East Dundee)
  • Make slime.
  • Tee up! Mini golf spots are slowly opening up. Some include Lippold Family Golf Center (Crystal Lake) or River View Miniature Golf (St. Charles)
  • Track your steps and walk a marathon! By the end of the summer, you will be surprised to have walked a “marathon.” Sign up for this free program, then track your progress.
  • You may not be able to visit in person, but you can immerse yourself in the world of LEGOs virtually at Brickworld. 
  • Taste delicious gourmet popcorn at Mama Lee’s Gourmet Popcorn. (Elgin, West Dundee)
  • Read, read, and read. Join your local library reading program or take part in the Scholastic Read-a-Palooza.
  • Bike the Fox River Bike Trail and explore many of the family-friendly stops like Van’s Ice Cream and Dairy Queen.
  • Pick fresh produce at a farmer’s market.
  • Have the kids help you with a car wash or they can give their bike a “car wash.”
  • Have your own summer Olympics. 
  • Pools not open? Get your own inflatable pool or slip n slide to splash around.
  • Get the family ready for a free drive-in movie experience. The Elk Grove Park District is hosting a free showing of Toy Story 4. Make sure to register ahead of time.
  • Have your own outdoor drive-in movie experience with this projector.
  • Have you tried geocaching? We’ll definitely be outside more this summer and we’d like to try this. Sounds fun! Here are great tips from Travel Inspired Living.
  • Go on a neighborhood scavenger hunt. Check out your local park districts to see if they offer anything fun. Ours has a social distancing scavenger hunt. A great way to check out all the parks (and trails!) around the area.
  • Sip on bubble tea! 
  • Try a new sport. How about disc golf? Besides a disc, it’s totally free! Try it at Fel-Pro RRR (Cary) or Lippold Park (Crystal Lake.)
  • Walk amongst art at the International Sculpture Park (Schaumburg) or Mount St. Mary’s Sculpture Park. (St. Charles)
  • Although you can’t physically see the animals at Randall Oaks Barnyard Zoo you can learn more and meet a few of their residents virtually. (West Dundee)
  • See Elk at Busse Woods. Review here(Elk Grove Village)
  • Fly a kite.
  • Go fish! Catch and release fishing is available at Twin Lakes. Rent a boat for more fun! (Palatine)
  • Try foods from a different culture. For Filipino food, try Pinoy Street Grill (Arlington Heights). Asian food at Roll n Donuts Cafe never disappoints. (Algonquin)
  • Get lost in a sunflower maze. We had an absolutely amazing time at Von Bergen’s last year.

    • Pretend you’re Bill Murray from Groundhog Day and take a walking tour around downtown Woodstock.
    • Take s’mores to a different level. Try Stuffed Puffs, different flavors of marshmallow, or include your favorite candy bar.
    • Watch butterflies fly all around you at Crystal Lake Butterfly House at their Nature Center. (Crystal Lake)
    • Plant a fairy garden. We adore this Fairy Garden  Nature Cottage!
    • Discover your favorite Asian foods at Mitsuwa. Grab some noodles for lunch. (Arlington Heights)
    • Pedal a paddleboat on the lake at Twin Lakes Recreation Area (Palatine) or rent a cool dragon paddleboat at Three Oaks Recreation Area. (Crystal Lake)
    • Buy candy at an old-time candy shop like Around the Corner Candy. (West Dundee)
    • Witness how donuts are made at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Call first to see when they have a fresh batch cooking.  (Elk Grove Village)
    • Support small businesses. They need your help more than ever! Try a new restaurant and enjoy outdoor seating.
    • Catch a flick at the drive-in. As the Chicagoland’s only option, The McHenry Outdoor Theater is one you can’t miss, has been opened since 1955. For a bargain, pack the car on Tuesdays for $12 admission per car. Read about our experience here. (McHenry)
    • Take photos at the picturesque Walton Island Park. (Elgin)
    • Discover all that Rosemont has to offer. Review here. (Rosemont)
    • Take an apple blossom tour, then grab some delicious apple cider donuts. Read our review of Royal Oak Farm. (Harvard)
    • Enjoy the beautiful gardens at Friendship Park Conservatory. Read a review by Queen of the Land of Twigs and Berries. (Des Plaines)
    • Explore a nature play space. Try Wahoo Woods (East Dundee), Chipmunk Woods at Volo Bog (Ingleside), Prairie Patch at Lincoln Marsh (Wheaton), Crab Tree Nature Center (Barrington), Lake Katherine (Palos Heights), Heller Nature Center (Highland Park).
    • Make your own ice cream. 
    • Try a new unique treat – rolled ice cream! You can’t go wrong with any of the flavors at Fanny’s Thai Rolled Ice Cream (Elgin) or Coco Rolls (Crystal Lake). 
  • Enjoy nature and read a story on the way. The StoryWalk at Hamilton Reservoir sounds fun! (Palatine)
  • Looking for a quick trip over the border in Wisconsin? Lake Geneva never disappoints or a trip to Kenosha’s downtown and lakefront would be fun. The Racine Zoo offers a walk thru safari.
  • The animals have missed you! Say hi to them at Brookfield Zoo (opens July 8 to the public – reservations here), Lincoln Park Zoo (June 29 – reservations here), and Milwaukee Zoo (open already – reservations here). Make sure to check their websites first as they will require reservations.
  • Get ice cream from the ice cream truck. Nothing says summer like ice cream from the summer truck!
  • Explore Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens. Find waterfalls, an easy picturesque mile hike around the Lake, a nature play area, and gardens! 
  • Looking for more ideas? Check out this spring list that you easily incorporate into your summer fun!

Summer bucket list: More than 50 ideas to have a safe and fun summer in and around Chicago's suburbs

Do you have any ideas for a fun and safe summer that I forgot to include?

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