With just a week of summer officially left, we enter what many consider to be Chicago’s best weather weeks. Winter is notoriously rough with its bitter winds and frigid temperatures and summer can be just as torturous with oppressive heat and humidity that hugs you like it loves you.
This week’s Bucket List brings you seven ways to squeeze the most out of Chicago’s best weather weeks. Whether you’re clinging to the last remnants of summer or relishing the onset of fall, these activities will show you Chicago at its best.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
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One of Chicago's newest parks, The 606, "brings together arts, history, design, trails for bikers, runners, and walkers, event spaces, alternative transportation avenues, and green, open space for neighbors, Chicagoans, and the world." This formerly-abandoned rail line was recently repurposed into a 2.7-mile trail, park and gathering space home to 1,400 trees and 200 plant species. Whether you prefer to explore it on two wheels or your own two feet, The 606 is a must-visit before winter hits.
Photo by Adam Alexander, Courtesy of the Trust for Public Land
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A favorite local escape, Ravinia Park is located just north of Chicago in the city of Highlignd Park. It's home to the oldest music festival in the country, Ravina Festival, which hosts a wide variety of performances from June to September ranging from symphony orchestras to pop and rock legends. Whether you nab a spot in the 3,400-seat open-air pavilion or pack a picnic dinner to enjoy under the stars, it's one of the best west to enjoy a crips Chicago fall night.
Photo by Ravina Festival
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All summer long, Chicago plays host to a vast calendar of festivals, from Lollapalooza and the Taste of Chicago to Jazz Fest and the Air and Water Show. The onset of fall doesn't mean the end to these events. They continue well into the season and are well worth a spot on your calendar.
One especially noteworthy festival is Chicago's Riot Fest and Carnival. This multi-day event features an eclectic lineup of musicians that Paste readers will recognize and carnival rides. It's happening this weekend (September 16-18) and this year features the Flaming Lips, Weezer, Nas, Morrisey, Death Cab for Cutie and so many more. Oktoberfest Chicago is also worth a nod. It has everything you'd expect from an event with its name--beer, brats, pretzels and likely a few pairs of lederhosen.
For a full list of Chicago events visit Choose Chicago.
Photo by COVERT NINE, CC BY-NC 2.0
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The Chicago Riverwalk, a pedestrian waterfront path that runs along the Chicago River's south bank, has been under major renovation and expansion for more than a decade. In that time, "Chicago's second lakefront" has established itself as a worthy destination within the city and a one-stop spot for enjoying great views of the skyline, the river, as well as a host of activities. The patios of the countless bars and restaurants that line the waterfront make great options for grabbing a meal or a drink, and a variety of live performances and art exhibits draw visitors as well. Even if you don't plan to visit the riverwalk, you might find yourself there regardless. It serves as a jumping-off point for a number of the city's most popular boat tours.
Photo by Sathish J, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Chicago has no shortage of green spaces, but one of its best is actually located north of the city's borders. The Chicago Botanic Garden occupies 385 acres in Glencoe and is a self-described living plant museum. It's open year round, which means its horticultural exhibits change with the seasons. September and early fall bring plenty of fresh blooms while the trees begin to burn with autumn colors. The nine islands, 27 gardens and four natural habitats that comprise the Chicago Botanic Garden are free to enter.
Photo by Yi-Liang (Lucas) Liu, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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There are plenty of ways to enjoy the Chicago River, whether via an architectural boat cruise or along the riverwalk. One of the more unique ways to ride the city's major artery is via kayak. Several operators offer excursions and one of the most popular is Urban Kayaks. Founded by two brothers who are native Chicagoans, Urban Kayaks offers an eclectic variety of options like Paddle and Pints and the Historic Chicago tour.
Photo by John W. Iwanski, CC BY-NC 2.0
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Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. It first opened in 1868 and today is home to more than 1,100 animals. Sitting on 35 acres within Lincoln Park and free to enter, the zoo is equally great as a destination or stop-over on your way through the park or as you head toward other area attractions. Lincoln Park Zoo is open year round, but it's truly at its best in late summer and early fall when temperatures aren't cold enough yet to make you want to hibernate with the bears.
Photo by Lincoln Park Zoo