Summer is starting to look a little bit more normal this year. If you’re like my family and I and are making up for lost time, then you may be eager to make the most out of this summer. Not sure what to do? Believe me, there is so much out there! If you need a little help, look no further. Here are some ideas of what to do in the Chicago area this summer. The hard part this year will be deciding how to fit in all the fun! So what are you waiting for – get out and start enjoying the summer!

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

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). Last year, we had fun strawberry picking at Tom’s Farm Market. (Huntley) Here’s a roundup of our favorite strawberry picking spots.
  • 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. Try Julie Ann’s Custard (Crystal Lake) or Rusty’s Malt Shop (Richmond) or Milk House Ice Cream (Pingree Grove) or Cary Dairy (Cary).
  • Celebrate National Donut Day on June 3rd and grab donuts from a new spot
  • 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!
  • 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 a Dole Whip battle. Disney has 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.
  • 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)
  • Roar! Say hi to the dinosaurs at Dinosaur Gardens at Volo Auto Museum. While you’re here, you need to see all the cool cars! (Volo)
  • Hike at a state park. A couple of our favorites in Illinois include Matthiessen State Park and Starved Rock.
  • 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 AND water park! Santa’s Village Azoosment is the best of ALL worlds! (East Dundee)
  • Rainy day? No worries. Play retro arcade games at Underground Retrocade. (West Dundee)
  • Tee up! Mini golf spots are slowly opening up. Some include Lippold Family Golf Center (Crystal Lake) or River View Miniature Golf (St. Charles)
  • Go on a playground crawl to find the best new playground.  Some favorites include Deicke Park and South Ridge Park.
  • 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.
  • Farmers Markets are happening again this summer. Time to go pick fresh produce at a farmer’s market. One of our favorites is Woodstock Farmer’s Market on the historic square. (Woodstock)
  • Find the “secret” waterfall in South Elgin.
  • Waterparks are now open. Splash around at Raging Waves. (Yorkville)
  • Celebrate National Donut Day with a self-guided donut crawl!
  • 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.
  • Sip on bubble tea! Some of our favorite spots include Umbrella Tea House (Schaumburg), Presotea (Crystal Lake), Tours de Jour (Schaumburg)
  • 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) or Randall Oaks Park (West Dundee)
  • Find your favorite sculpture at International Sculpture Park (Schaumburg), Mount St. Mary’s Sculpture Park (St. Charles), or Nathan Manilow Park.
  • Spend half a day explore Randall Oaks Park where they have a zoo, a playground, and a “hidden playground.” (West Dundee) Make sure to pack a picnic!
  • Become an Outdoor Explorer! Sign up through McHenry County Conservation District and receive a booklet of fun ideas for the outdoors. Complete 10 of the pages and receive a prize!
  • See Elk at Busse Woods. Review here(Elk Grove Village)
  • Go on a unique animal encounter. How about goat yoga or a chance to walk goats? Or meet and feed alpacas? Here are more animal encounters for you to try.
  • 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 and Goebbert’s. Stay tuned for the newest sunflower fest at Richardson’s Adventure Farm.

Here is your ultimate 2021 Chicago Area Summer Bucket List. Find things to do, places to eat, and fun activities to keep the kids busy.

What’s on your 2021 summer bucket list? Do you have any ideas for a fun summer that I forgot to include?