December 04, 2021
Family Fun

Family Fun

Thrills, chills and no sitting still

Northern Illinois theme parks offer escape from the everyday

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If you’re a fan of thrill rides or just looking for a family-friendly place to spend the day, you’ll find no shortage of options available in northern Illinois. The area is home to a variety of theme parks, large and small. Ready to start planning your day of fun? Check out the list of favorites:

Santa's Village AZoosment Park
601 Dundee Ave., East Dundee
Admission: $24.75 per person, plus tax with special discounts for military families and seniors along with special packages.

It’s Christmas all year round at this theme park. The family-friendly venue offers rides for both kids and adults, themed areas, games, and is home to more than 200 animals, birds and fish. One of the park’s newest rides, the Super Cyclone Roller Coaster, opened in 2017. The nearly four story tall structure has a track length of 1,100 feet and a ride time of one minute and 20 seconds. Another popular attraction is Parakeet's Paradise, where guests can interact with the  birds who call the aviary their home. Santa’s Tree House Slide is a favorite among kids, as well as the spinning Snowball Ride. Stop for a bite to eat in one of the many dining venues, including Santa’s Snack Shop or the Gingerbread House. The venue also hosts magic shows, strolling entertainment, educational exotic shows.

Donley's Wild West Town
8512 South Union Road, Union
Admission: $19 per person ages 3 and up; children 2 and under are free. Active duty military receives $5 off with a valid military ID. Season passes also available.

Geared toward children ages 3 to 12, families will have a blast at this Wild West-themed amusement park. During your visit be sure to explore the onsite museum full of Old West artifacts, inventions and technology from the late 1800s, go panning for gold pyrite, shoot some slingshots, take in a live action Wild West stunt show, and hop a ride in the Runaway Mine Car Roller Coaster. And don’t forget to take a stroll down the Streets of Yesteryear, complete with a barbershop, doctor's office, pawn shop and more. All rides and attractions are included in one admission price. Round out your trip with a snack at Clayton’s Saloon, the Ice Cream Parlor, or the Fudge Shop.

Six Flags Great America
1 Great America Parkway, Gurnee
Admission: $74.99; $54.99 for kids under 4 feet tall; free for kids under age 3. Season passes also available.

Dubbed the Thrill Capital of the Midwest, visitors will find more than 80 rides, including more than a dozen roller coasters. This summer, the Mardi Gras Hangover is set to make its debut, which park officials say will be the world’s largest loop coaster. The 100-foot-tall coaster will take riders forward and backward on a giant loop. Six Flags Great America is also home to the 20-acre Hurricane Harbor water park featuring dozens of water slides, a wave pool and lazy river. In between rides, take in a show, do some shopping, and enjoy a meal or snack at one of the theme park’s many dining establishments. Children will have fun visiting with the Looney Tune characters who roam the park’s grounds. Six Flags Great America is considered one of the 20 most popular amusement parks in North America.

Blackberry Farm
100 S. Barnes Road, Aurora
Admission: $9 for adults, seniors and children ages 3 and older; discount for residents. All children under the age of 2 are free.

This Fox Valley Park District destination lets visitors take a step back in time. Blackberry Farm is a living history museum which recreates pioneer life through educational demonstrations and hands-on activities. Guests can enjoy rides on the train, hay wagon, pedal tractors, paddle boats, ponies, and a carousel. Visits should also include stops to the one-room schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, and the spinning and weaving cabin. The Adventure Playground features an extensive network of climbing decks, slides, ropes and catwalk-style bridges connecting an array of playhouses on multiple levels with zip line. Animal enthusiasts can visit with the chickens, sheep, piglets, baby goats in the Discovery Barn. Picnic areas and park concessions are available. Don’t forget to pay a visit to Blackberry’s General Store Gift Shop on your way out for souvenirs such as local honey, pumpkin butter or a stuffed toy.

Navy Pier
600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
Admission: Free to enter. Attractions and public shows within Navy Pier may have admission prices.

One of Chicago’s most popular destinations, Navy Pier offers a variety of rides, games, amusement, live entertainment and dining options. A ride on the Centennial Wheel gives visitors 360-degree views of Chicago and Lake Michigan. The Centennial Wheel is open year-round, weather permitting, thanks to the enclosed gondolas. Other rides include a carousel, Wave Swinger lift-and-twirl ride, miniature golf course, remote control boats, and more. Navy Pier is also home to Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze, where visitors can navigate through 4,000 square feet of tunnels and mazes. And don’t miss Navy Pier’s popular fireworks shows, held Wednesdays and Sundays throughout the summer. Navy Pier is also home to The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Want to see even more of the Windy City? Explore Chicago with a cruise on Lake Michigan or the Chicago River, which departs from Navy Pier.

Pirates' Cove Children's Theme Park
901 Leicester Road, Elk Grove Village
Admission: $12 for children; $9 for Elk Grove resident children; adults are free.

Recommended for children ages 1 to 9, Pirates' Cove Children's Theme Park is designed to stimulate and encourage creative exploration and imagination. While most rides at Pirates' Cove are for children only, adults may ride the Safari Express train and the Pirate Plunge Slide. Kids will enjoy taking on the 20-feet tall PJ's Perch climbing wall. The wall and expanded climbing area is designed for all skills levels. After you’ve worked up an appetite, visit the Buccaneer Bites concession house to purchase snacks such as pizza, chicken tenders, corn dogs and fries, or bring in a picnic lunch and head to the Cannonball Falls Picnic area.

Indiana Beach Boardwalk Resort
5224 E. Indiana Beach Road, Monticello, Indiana
Admission: $39.99 front gate tickets for those 4 feet tall and over; $24.99 for those under 4 feet tall; $19.99 for seniors.

Just a short drive from Chicago, Indiana Beach offers amusement and water park attractions for the whole family. The park is home to a variety of roller coasters, six waterslides, kids rides, classic amusement rides, arcade games, a lazy river, sand beach, and the famous Indiana Beach Boardwalk Funway. The Shafer Queen double decker paddlewheel, a signature attraction, operates daily. A variety of dining and snack options are available at the theme park, ranging from gourmet burgers, hot dogs, pizza, chicken strips, corn dogs, and tacos, among others. Those with a sweet tooth can nosh on funnel cakes, fried Oreos, elephant ears, as well as ice cream and shakes. Indiana Beach is also a complete vacation destination with a variety of accommodation options, including campgrounds for RVs, tents, or cabin camping, hotels, waterfront chalets, cabins, cottages, and condos. A variety of events are held throughout the summer, as well as firework shows.