Get OUT! Fresh Air Activities to Enjoy an Oak Park Summer

PhotobyMDS200971By Julie Chyna

The sun is out, school is out, and it’s time to play outside. Fortunately, Oak Park provides a wealth of programs, events, and activities so people of all ages can soak up some rays before winter comes back around. Here are just a few to keep in mind as you fill up your summer calendar.

Run for Diversity 5K and 10K: New this year, this August 9 race hosted by the Oak Park Regional Housing Center offers routes not found in other local races. All ages and levels of ability are not only welcome, but encouraged! Registration is open now!

Garden Walk, June 28: This popular event is a self-guided tour through nine gardens in Oak Park and River Forest. Participants are also invited to lunch at Cheney Mansion—you may buy lunch there or bring your own. The Garden Walk often sells out, so get your tickets soon: Garden Club of Oak Park and River Forest or Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory.

Summer concerts in Scoville Park: These free, family-friendly concerts will be held Sundays from June 14 to August 9, 5:30 pm-7 pm. Bring your blanket and a picnic dinner and make an evening out of it! Click here for a list of bands and musical genres.

Oak Park Festival Theatre: The Midwest’s oldest professional theatre is presenting To Kill a Mockingbird and The Two Gentlemen of Verona this summer in Austin Gardens. It’s a gorgeous location to see a play on a summer evening. Visit their website for dates or to buy tickets.

Al fresco dining: When the weather is warm, Lake Street, Marion Street, and Oak Park Avenue are lined with tables for patrons who want to dine al fresco. But also be sure to explore the restaurants and cafes without outdoor seating in other parts of town, such as the Harrison Arts District (Trattoria 225, Buzz Café, Eastgate Café), Southtown (Avenue Ale House, Taste of Brasil, and Kinderhook Tap), and Madison Street. Also, keep in mind that some spots like Maya del Sol and the New Rebozo have outdoor eating areas that are tucked away in back, away from the hustle and bustle of the street.

Movies in the parks: Bring a blanket and your popcorn and watch a movie for free in the park! This summer, the movies will be shown on 6/6, 7/7, 8/8, and 9/9 (easy to remember!) and are all sci-fi themed, including Lilo & Stitch and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Visit the Park District calendar for locations.

41st Oak Park Ave-Lake Arts & Crafts Show: Hosted by the American Society of Artists, this juried show will take place August 15-16 in Scoville Park. It features original artwork from artists throughout the region. Come to buy some pieces for your home, or just look at the beautiful work (but don’t be surprised if you find something that you just can’t pass up!).

July 4 Parade and Fireworks: The parade kicks off at 10 am at Longfellow Park, then moves down Ridgeland to August and ends around the corner by the Dole branch of the library. Groups in the parade include a wide variety of community organizations, businesses, sports teams, and marching bands. (The OPRF Huskies marching band is a can’t-miss!) In the evening, the fireworks start at dusk—usually around 9 pm—in the OPRF stadium on Lake Street. Seating is available in the stadium or in many of the fields and parks nearby. Parking close to the stadium is close to impossible that evening, so if you can walk or ride your bike there, you’ll be glad you did.

Wednesday Morning Movie Series: While this activity isn’t outdoors, it’s a great (and inexpensive) summer activity for young children: See kid-friendly movies at the historic Lake Theater for just $1! The movie starts at 10 am, but the doors open at 9 am for activities, costumed characters, and more. It’s a great opportunity for little ones to see a movie in a real theater along with other kids. These movies are very well-attended, so get there early to make sure you get good seats—and the boosters tend to run out quickly. This summer’s schedule can be found here.

Third Friday Gallery Walk: This event takes place in the Harrison Arts District every third Friday all year, but it’s especially nice in the summer when you can take your time walking between the galleries, shops, boutiques, and restaurants. Details about the special events each third Friday are available here.

Oak Park Micro Brew and Food Review: A great way to start winding down the summer, this August 15 event will feature samples of over 200 brews, from more than 70 breweries from across Illinois and beyond. There will also be food from some of your favorite local restaurants and four stages featuring local bands and other entertainment. This zero-waste event benefits Seven Generations Ahead. Tickets are on sale now.

Wright Ride: Bike off those beer calories the next day at the Wright Ride, August 16. The Oak Park Cycle Club, Oak Park Regional Housing Center, and Visit Oak Park offer a variety of routes that allow riders to take in the scenery and charm of as many as 10 communities, including Oak Park, River Forest, Riverside, and Western Springs, with more than 25 intriguing landmarks – including a dozen designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. All routes begin and end on Marion Street in Downtown Oak Park. It’s not a race—it’s a leisurely ride that the whole family can enjoy.

Have any other great Oak Park summer events to share? Post the link to The Oak Parker’s Facebook page so we can share it with our readers!

Photo: Michael D. Stuart