Top Things to Do in Lake County, Illinois | Midwest Living

Top Things to Do in Lake County, Illinois

Lake County bridges the gap between Chicago’s Cook County and the Wisconsin border with family attractions and nature trails. See our recommendations of what to do in the area.

What to do

For an outdoor adventure, the nature trails at Glencoe’s Chicago Botanic Garden makes up 385 acres of gardens and natural areas, including the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden.

Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo: Illinois Office of Tourism.

Eleven miles west of Gurnee, gearheads appreciate the Volo Auto Museum, a sprawling complex housing one-of-a-kind autos, such as the Batmobile and historic pedal cars, plus various music machines, coin-operated kiddie rides, vignette theaters and a pizza parlor.

Grab a ticket to see troupe of elegant white stallions shows off its ballet-like dressage moves at Tempel Farms in Old Mill Creek. To learn more about the daily care and training of the Lipizzans, go behind the scenes on a one-hour tour.

Tempel Farms

Tempel Farms. Photo: Illinois Office of Tourism.

Animal keepers answer questions and share interesting tidbits about some of the facility’s 85 reptiles and native animals at the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest.

At Lambs Farm in Libertyville, people with developmental disabilities maintain a petting zoo with farm animals, plus an on-site café. End the visit to the Farmyard and attractions, including a carousel ride.

Lambs Farm

Lambs Farm. Photo by Illinois Office of Tourism.

It’s retail therapy and more at Gurnee Mills with outlet stores and restaurants. At Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, native species—including some trophy fish from local anglers—attract mall shoppers at the giant aquarium inside. Families can play laser tag in the middle of the mall at Tilt Studio.

Yesteryear comes alive in Historic Downtown Long Grove, where old-fashioned shops line cobblestone walkways. The village hosts popular family events that include Chocolate Fest and Strawberry Fest.

Daredevil roller coasters, such as the 12-story Joker, superfast Goliath and the new Maxx Force (opening in summer 2019) live in Six Flags Great America in Gurnee. The park maintains 17 coasters and more than 30 milder rides.

Six Flags Great America

Six Flags Great America. Photo: Illinois Office of Tourism.

Next door, families share a raft as they whoosh down water slides or float Castaway Creek at Hurricane Bay, Six Flags’ 500,000 gallon water park.

What to eat

Locally raised ingredients—straight from the family farm—are on the menu at Beelow’s Steakhouse in Lake Zurich and Highland Park.

In nearby Libertyville, Mickey Finn’s Brewery serves pub food with craft ales and lagers while diners enjoy live music.

Head north to Gurnee’s The Chocolate Sanctuary for all things chocolate, including ribs covered in cocoa-infused barbecue sauce and cocoa-candied bacon.

Where to stay

Illinois Beach State Park, with more than 6 miles of sparkling Lake Michigan shoreline for swimming, sunning and hiking, encompasses the breezy Illinois Beach Resort in Zion.

Illinois Beach State Park

Illinois Beach State Park. Photo: Illinois Office of Tourism.

The recently renovated Lincolnshire Marriott Resort includes a spa, golf course, two pools and the acclaimed Marriott Theatre.

Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee offers an indoor water park, ropes course, bowling alley and seven restaurants to keep the family happy.

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