Chicago Summer 2012: Five Summer Must Do's Before it is Too Late...especially for kids and families.

Chicago Summer 2012: Five Summer Must Do's Before it is Too Late...especially for kids and families.
A thumbs up for the Seadog Extreme Thrill Ride from this seven-year-old giiving it the ultimate compliment, "even better than the Lego Store." Photo credit: Show Me Chicago.

CHICAGO, Friday, August 17, 2012. The mid-August to Labor Day void offers a special opportunity for that last summer fling. For most, summer camp is over and school hasn't started yet--begging the age-old question, "What are we doing today?"

Lucky for anyone coming to Chi-town because there is so much to do. Here are five "Summer Outdoor Flings" that are sure to please both children and adults and bring them warm fuzzy memories during the cold winter months ahead.  Just as summer is drawing to a conclusion, many of these events have a limited time-span, so hurry before they are going, going, gone.

1. SEADOG EXTREME THRILL RIDE...through October, weather permitting.

At speeds topping out at 45mph with 180-360° spins, full throttle slalom runs, sharp twists and turns to the beat of rock-n-roll music, the raw power of the Seadog Extreme's two 1400 HP engines can't help but get your inner-engine in motion. Pure fun and thrills, the Seadog Extreme Thrill Ride has been compared to a roller-coaster on the lake and is the most horse-powered commercial passenger vessel of its kind currently cruising the Great Lakes.

Although most of the 30-minute adventure is hands-in-the-air excitement and knuckle crunching hanging on, there are two short breaks to point out some notable Chicago landmarks both north and south of Navy Pier...and to catch your breath.  Be forewarned, you will get wet--that's part of the fun. Depending upon the day--windy and high waves--wetter--calm seas not as wet. Also where you sit makes a difference. The back and sides of the boat get the biggest dousings, so sit toward the middle if you want to stay drier. Note: You must be 48" tall to ride the Seadog Extreme. FYI, there are seat belts on the boat, which are mandatory.  Hourly departures 11:45 until sunset. Chicago's Navy Pier

2. CIRQUE SHANGHAI: YEAR OF THE DRAGON...only three more weeks.

“Cirque Shanghai: Year of the Dragon” is a fast-paced not-to-miss extravaganza.  The show features performers direct from China who are leaders in their craft of tumbling, juggling, balancing and more. This year’s production brings an incredible line up of awe-inspiring acts, including favorites such as Bike Balances and Hoop Diving, as well as an all-new Group Chair Stack, Teeterboard act and the Wheel of Destiny.

China’s finest daredevil motorcycle troupe, “Imperial Thunder,” thrills with not two, not four, but five motorcyclists riding at breakneck speed within a steel globe – more than ever before in this death-defying feat, called the Globe of Death.

The 70-minute show is perfect for both kids and adults, with 15 different acts that will hold your attention as you hold your breath watching the amazing feats before your eyes. The show is performed on the Skyline Stage at Navy Pier--a huge white tent with colorful red seats that gives the feel of an indoor/outdoor venue.  Shows are offered both during the day and in the evening. To take full advantage of the spectacular lighting, go in the evening.

Tickets are $15.50 - $29.50 and are available by calling (800) 745-3000 or visiting www.ticketmaster.com/shanghai. Discounted tickets for groups of 10 or more are available by calling GroupTix at 773.327.3778 or visiting www.grouptix.net.

3. XTREME BUGS...must leave September 7.

Brookfield Zoo's Xtreme Bugs exhibition showcases creepy, crawly and gigantic bugs...the perfect antidote for bored little boys and girls looking for some excitement before the school year begins.  The fun and educational exhibition features more than 20 animatronic bugs, including a Japanese hornet measuring 32 feet long and 16 feet high that is displayed in the zoo’s Roosevelt Fountain, as well as approximately 150 non-moving bugs. Additionally, zoogoers can see live bugs in Harry's Big Adventure: My Bug World which is housed in a 5,000-square-foot tent.

Bug World guests are treated to a multisensory experience that immerses them in the world of bugs as they journey through a variety of habitats, sights, sounds, and social structures of some of the ecosystem’s smallest yet most important creatures.  Special activities include: bug cooking demonstrations, cockroach races, a spider web climber, the “Bug Dig Box,”  and other bug-themed entertainment. For more information visit www.CZS.org/Events or call (708) 688-8000.

4. MILLENNIUM PARK...Family Fun Zone closes September 2.

What better fun than a day at the park. Although Millennium Park is open year around, summer is the best time to visit as there is a full slate of activities. For kids, the Family Fun Zone offers dance, sing-alongs, art activities, a reading circle, games, live entertainment and more everyday from 10a.m. to 3p.m...all free. The Fun Zone is located on the Park’s Chase Promenade North.

The park, itself, offers a number of other attractions. The popular Crown Fountain is a big hit with kids and adults, especially on hot days when they gather between the twin 50-foot-high, glass-block towers to wade in the water that cascades over videotaped images projected on a screen of famous Chicagoans which every 10 minutes provide a stream of water that gushes out from the photographed person's lips.

Also in the park: the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a concert venue with billowing steel ribbons resembling the outstretched tentacles of a monster from a 1950s Japanese horror movie; and Cloud Gate, a stainless steel structure that to us resembles a jelly bean, and is popularly referred to as "The Bean"--great for picture ops that reflect both people and the city's wonderful skyline.  The Lurie Garden at the southeast corner of the park provides a prairie landscape and walking trails. (312) 742-1168.  Millennium Park, Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Monroe Streets.

5. KAYAK CHICAGO...through October.

Kayak Chicago offers lessons and urban aquatic adventures. Any age child can be in a tandem kayak with an adult, but kids need to be at least 12 to paddle a single kayak. Participants are fitted with life jackets and get a beginner's lesson in maneuvering the boat before they begin their paddle.

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