Four great ways to celebrate the Fourth of July with your family in Chicago

For many people, this week will be a short one as businesses and camps close for the Fourth of July holiday on Friday, July 4.  With the holiday falling on a Friday this year, we are treated to a three-day weekend, and a perfect opportunity to toast our country, celebrate our freedom, and reflect on what it all means to our families.

In Chicago, there is no shortage of ways to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday – with all of the coveted red, white and blue All-American fixings. That’s why I love to stay in Chicago for the holiday and treat my family to a festive, patriotic holiday all weekend long.

Here are four great ways to celebrate the Fourth of July in Chicago:

1.  Watch fireworks cascade down over Chicago. No Fourth of July holiday celebration is complete without a fireworks display. In the city, the only place to watch one is Navy Pier.

This is what happens when you attempt to drive along the Chicago River during the Navy Pier fireworks show… You watch it from your stopped car!

This is what happens when you attempt to drive along the Chicago River during the Navy Pier fireworks show… You watch it from your stopped car!

In years past, you used to be able to catch fireworks displays across the city’s lakefront. But, in 2011, the city cut down to one official display on Navy Pier. Given this, you can expect huge crowds to turn out at the pier (and the surrounding parks and beaches) for the 15-minute fireworks display, which starts at 9:30 pm.

Navy Pier expects the pier to reach capacity well in advance of the fireworks display, and it will close its gates once that occurs. If you want to get a bird’s-eye view of the fireworks, you should plan to arrive at Navy Pier earlier in the afternoon. You can get real-time updates throughout the day from Navy Pier via Twitter at @NavyPier.

Other local fireworks displays are planned across the Chicago suburbs. The Chicago Tribune has a comprehensive list of local fireworks displays on its website.

2. Enjoy festivals that celebrate what makes America so great. There is no shortage of great summer festivals happening in Chicago over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. You can take your pick of loads of festivals happening across the city and suburbs. To me, each one offers a taste of what makes the US so great – a diverse range of food, traditions and festivities for all to enjoy.

At the Eyes to the Skies Festival in Lisle, you can watch hot-air balloons take to the sky. But, you can do more than just watch them. You also can take a ride on a tethered balloon, which offers an opportunity to experience the joys of a hot-air balloon ride at 50 to 100 feet in the air while still safely tethered to the ground. While at the festival, you also can enjoy a parade, crafts fair, carnival rides, and of course, fireworks.

There’s nothing like a BBQ to make it feel like a summertime holiday. If you’re in the mood for some BBQ ribs, pulled pork, chicken and more, you should head out to Naperville for the Naperville Exchange Club’s annual Ribfest. During the festival, you can sample items from vendors competing for the title of Best Ribs and Best Sauce – and vote for which one you like the best. Ribfest also offers live music, a family area, and fireworks.

In Chicago’s Union Park, you can join in on the 22nd annual International Festival of Life. The festival celebrates the lifestyle, cultures, music and dance of the US, Caribbean, Africa, Mexico, and South and Central America. The “carnival of nations” also features food, arts and crafts, sports, and more.

On Friday, July 4, the Chicago History Museum hosts its 55th annual Fourth of July Celebration. The free event, which runs from 10 am – 12 pm, includes patriotic music, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and a children’s costume parade. Admission to the museum is free that day during its special holiday hours of 12 – 4:30 pm.

You can find my list of other great multicultural festivals happening in Chicago all summer long here.

3. Get a taste of Americana at a suburban Fourth of July parade. To me, it’s worth a trip out to the suburbs to catch a local Fourth of July parade. There’s nothing like watching float after float filled with people waving flags and throwing candy to anxiously awaiting children to make it feel like I can capture a piece of Americana right here in the Chicago area.

My kids got tons of candy at Oak Park's Fourth of July parade last year. It helped that their grandpa was the one with the candy!

My kids got tons of candy at Oak Park’s Fourth of July parade last year. It helped that their grandpa was the one with the candy!

I grew up in Oak Park, and my family has lived in west suburban Glen Ellyn and north suburban Deerfield. So, I can speak from experience in saying that each of those All-American cities go all out when it comes to celebrating the Fourth of July.

In Oak Park, the Fourth of July parade steps off at 10 am from Longfellow Park at Ridgeland Ave. and Adams St. The parade will head north on Ridgeland Ave. to Augusta St., ending near Whittier Elementary School. Oak Park also hosts a fireworks display at dusk at Oak Park River Forest High School.

Glen Ellyn residents take to the town’s streets for the Fourth of July Parade, which begins at noon. The parade steps off just east of Glenbard West High School and then travels west to Main St., north to Linden Ave., and east to Lake Ellyn.  The fun continues at Lake Ellyn from 1 – 5 pm, with inflatables, carnival games, music, face painting, and more. The town hosts its own fireworks display at dusk at Lake Ellyn Park.

In Deerfield, the Fourth of July fun begins with a pancake breakfast from 8 – 10:30 am at Jewett Park. It continues with carnival rides, pony rides, a petting zoo and more at the park from 10 am – 3 pm. The Deerfield Fourth of July parade steps off at noon from Deerspring Pool. From there, it travels to Waukegan Rd., heads to Hazel Rd., and ends at Jewett Park.

4. Catch a baseball game and eat a Chicago-style hot dog in the stands. There’s nothing as American as a baseball game. It is “our national pastime” after all.

This weekend, the Chicago White Sox are in town. You can watch them take on the Seattle Mariners at 6:10 pm. Following the game, you can a fireworks display at US Cellular Field.

The Schaumburg Boomers, who play in the Frontier League, are also in town this weekend. You can catch a game at Schaumburg Boomers Stadium, located at the southeast corner of the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway at Springinsguth Rd. The 6:30 pm game will be followed by a fireworks display.

Want to make a baseball game even more of a quintessential American experience for the Fourth of July? Then, be sure to enjoy a hotdog during the game. As most people will be quick to tell you, a true Chicago-style hot dog has mustard – no ketchup.

Interested in more patriotic inspiration for the upcoming holidays? Lipstick and Lollipops offers a list of 11 ways to celebrate the Fourth of July with your family. And, Social Butterfly Mom has you covered with a list of nine children’s books for the Fourth of July.

How do you plan to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday with your family in Chicago or another part of the globe? What’s your favorite way to instil a sense of national pride in your children? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Have a very happy Fourth of July!

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