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Top Things to Do in the Summer on Chicago's North Shore

Chicago’s charming North Shore is full of cozy, tree-lined streets and beautiful Lake Michigan views in some of the city’s most idyllic neighborhoods. Close to downtown and half an hour from O’Hare International Airport, these neighborhoods include Evanston (named one of the nation’s coolest suburbs by Travel + Leisure), Glencoe, Glenview, Northbrook, Prospect Heights, Skokie, Wheeling and Winnetka. On Chicago’s North Shore, restaurants offer local ingredients, ethnic cuisine or Chicago classics, and you can stay in a restored mansion or a European-inspired inn whether you’re planning to travel into the city for entertainment or stay in the North Shore for fun things to do. Here’s a look at some of the top places to go and things to do on the North Shore during the summer, Chicago’s coolest season.

 

Great day at the market yesterday, filled with lovely shoppers!?? #evanstonfarmersmarket #weloveevanston

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Summer-Specific Activities

The truth is, you can visit the North Shore any time of year and feel right at home in one of the area’s picturesque neighborhoods. But during the summer, the area’s location along Lake Michigan becomes one of its best assets. During the summer, you can enjoy water sports at one of Evanston’s beaches or Northwestern University Sailing Beach, a Midwest Living favorite. North Shore arts and cultural festivals abound during summertime, especially between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Summer festivals include the Skokie Festival of Cultures held in late May, Glencoe Grand Prix in early June and Evanston Chamber Artisan Summerfest (formerly Fountain Square Art Festival) in late June. The North Shore Art Market at Westfield Old Orchard in Skokie (July 8-9) and Art at the Glen Town Center in Glenview (August 5-6) showcase additional local and regional art. And all summer longer you can check out the bustling Downtown Evanston Farmers Market, where dozens of vendors sell farm-fresh produce, meat and dairy items, or flower bouquets and homemade baked goods. Find the full list of North Shore festivals and farmers markets here.

 

Somewhere Over the Rainbow ????

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Chicago’s Premier Outdoor Performance Venue

Ravinia is the Chicago area’s most beloved outdoor concert venue, located in Highland Park. It hosts big-name performers and renowned musicians for concerts from early June through late September each year. It’s a place where lawn tickets are more popular than reserved seats, because guests can bring food, drinks, chairs, tables and other picnic items to set up on the lawn to catch a concert. These massive gourmet picnic spreads brought by guests are almost as important as the performances, which include dynamic Chicago Symphony programs, dance and classic pop vocal performances, or romantic piano concerts. This summer’s schedule highlights include John Legend, One Republic, Willie Nelson and Family, Aretha Franklin, The Moody Blues, Sheryl Crow, John Mellencamp, Alanis Morissette and more. Find out why Rolling Stone named Ravinia one of the best amphitheaters in America.
 
Natural Beauty Thrives
 
More than one million people visit Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe on the North Shore annually, with free admission. Summer is the best time to admire 26 gardens and 2.5 million plants in full, gorgeous bloom—from a serene Japanese Garden to hidden rooms inside the English Walled Garden. Set amid nine islands and four natural areas, Chicago Botanic Garden hosts an Art Festival each summer; additional events include Indie Concerts, flower shows and a Garden Chef Series. Kids will have a blast exploring The Model Train Garden and families can take in Music on the Esplanade.

Evanston Beaches
North Shore Beaches

Beach Fun


Evanston beaches draw enthusiastic visitors who enjoy powdery sand and clear, salt-free water. A terrific place to swim, sail or soak up some sun, the beach lies beside shore-hugging trails that travel through Northwestern University’s stunning campus. It’s a great place to jog or bicycle beside the lake, play tennis or savor a beach picnic. At popular Glencoe Beach, kids can cool off in the ‘sprayground’ too. Paddle boards, kayaks and sailboats are available for rent at North Shore beaches, or you can join a sand volleyball tournament.

Northwestern University
Northwestern University, Evanston

Northwestern University Campus


Well-known for its gorgeous grounds, Northwestern University offers 30-minute walking tours that take you past 150+ historically significant buildings such as the Arnold Weber Arch, through which each freshman class enters campus, and The Arts Circle, where you can enjoy world-class arts exhibitions and performances amid repurposed historic buildings and striking modern structures.

A House Full of History

Artifacts and archival materials at the Evanston History Center at the Charles Gates Dawes House tell the story of this community and its people inside this stunning lakeside chateau and National Historic Landmark. It’s full of original art, ornate furnishings, handcrafted rugs and stained glass. Gorgeous carved wood decorates a grand staircase, window casings and ceilings as well. You can also take neighborhood walking tours with themes such as Women’s History or Environmental Evanston: Its Natural Ecology.

 

Swanky little breakie. Loved this hotel. ?????? #SethevievesXCRoadTrip

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Boutique Lodging

North Shore hotels include a family-owned, European-inspired property with a broad portico and 90 rooms. Located only steps away from the beach, the lovely Stone Porch by the Lake B&B features five guest bedrooms inside a Queen Anne Victorian mansion with a library, spa, gym, sunroom and two perennial gardens. A sister property, Stone Terrace, just opened two doors down from Stone Porch, featuring five gorgeous suites. 1927 vintage molding and French doors and a flower-filled roof deck decorate the 42-room Margarita European Inn, near Northwestern University and public transportation. There are also 21 rooms available at The Glen Club in Glenview, a golf-centered Tom Fazio property, named among the Best Courses You Can Play in Illinois (2013-2015), by Golf Magazine.

Westfield Old Orchard
Westfield Old Orchard, Skokie

Gifts and Great Finds 


North Shore shopping includes one of the nation’s most celebrated shopping malls, Westfield Old Orchard, with 140 retail giants from Bloomingdale’s to Lord & Taylor. Multiple department stores and restaurants and 14 movie screens are available at Northbrook Court, a sleek, modern indoor shopping center. Another well-known shopping destination in Chicago’s North Shore is Downtown Evanston, home to local boutiques, spas, home stores, specialty shops and wine merchants. Hubbard Woods Design District is a popular three-block shopping mecca in Winnetka, filled with neighborhood markets, clothing stories, home decor and gift shops, local restaurants and more. It’s located right on the Metra North Line at the Hubbard Woods stop. And Finally, you’ll feel like you’re walking along a European street at The Glen Town Center—a pleasant mix of mom-and-pop businesses, big brand stores and restaurants.

Dine on Chicago's North Shore
Dining on Chicago's North Shore

Local Flavor 


Dozens of North Shore restaurants serve Chicago dogs, legendary stuffed crust pizza, breakfast tacos and much more. Evanston offerings include French Bistro, Middle Eastern and deli fare, a Japanese steak house, or Mexican street food. Evanston also is home to a new Italian Mediterranean restaurant called Terra & Vine, opened by Alpana Singh, long-time host of the PBS television show “Check, Please!” In addition to seating for 115 inside, the restaurant has a generous outdoor patio open during the summer season that seats up to 70 people.

Kid-Focused, Hands-On Fun

Kids will love 17 hands-on experiences at Kohl Children’s Museum that include ‘visits’ to a natural foods market and a veterinarian’s office. They can learn to build a house, do maintenance on a car, or explore water’s properties, through interactive displays. Designed to encourage a love of learning among children, from birth to age 8, this suburban museum draws approximately 330,000 people each year.

Share your summer favorites with us, and, for additional information and a complete list of places to play, stay, dine and shop in Chicago’s North Shore, request our free Visitors Guide.