The festival strives to be family-friendly by maintaining low ticket prices and
inviting patrons to pack their own picnics and sit on the lawn. There's even a
series of Kraft Kids Concerts that reach out to the next generation of music
lovers. In the past the series has featured the Ravinia Festival Jazz Mentors with
the Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, Ravinia Festival Orchestra, Chicago
Human Rhythm Project, the Apollo Chorus, River North Dance Chicago, the
Joffrey Ballet and more. Held about eight times each summer, the kids' concerts
usually begin at 11am on Saturday and have a discounted price of $5 to $8 for
reserved seats (in the Pavilion) and $3 for lawn tickets. My advice? Bring a pic-
nic lunch and stake out a spot on the lawn (with the added bonus that your kids
can run and burn off excess energy).
If your kids are a bit older, they would enjoy hanging on the lawn during the
regular season, which runs from mid-June to Labor Day and includes far more
than classical concerts: You can also catch pop acts, dance performances, oper-
atic arias, and blues concerts. Tickets are sold to both the covered pavilion,
where you get a reserved seat and a view of the stage, and the lawn, which is the
real joy of Ravinia: sitting under the stars and a canopy of leafy branches while
listening to music and indulging in an elaborate picnic. (It's a local tradition to
try to outdo everyone else by bringing candelabras and fine china.) Whether it's
Mozart or Lyle Lovett, the setting is magical every time. The wide lawn to the
left of the stage is a popular place for families to spread out.
Dining options available at the park range from the fine-dining restaurant
Mirabelle ( & 847/432-7550 for reservations) to prepacked picnic spreads from
the Gatehouse, featuring gourmet items to go. Lawn catering is also available
for parties of 20 or more. But what most cognoscenti do is pack a picnic of
delectables and eat on the lawn. Do arrive early if you're coming for a pop act
because the lawn can get packed. For about $8, you can rent a pair of lawn chairs
and a table. If you're wondering about the weather conditions at concert time,
dial Ravinia's Weather Line ( & 847/433-5010 ). Green Bay and Lake-Cook roads, High-
land Park. & 847/266-5100 or 312/RAVINIA. www.ravinia.org. Tickets: pavilion $15-$50, lawn
$10. Most concerts are held in the evening. Catch the Ravinia bus at the following locations: Mar-
shall Field's (State and Randolph sts.); the Palmer House Hilton (Monroe St. entrance); Westin River
North, 320 N. Dearborn St. (the Clark St. side); The Drake hotel (Walton St. and Michigan Ave.);
Harbor House (3200 N. Lake Shore Dr.); Sheridan and Hollywood; Sheridan and Devon; or the Davis
St. Station in Evanston. Round-trip tickets are $12. Many of the major hotels also charter buses
during the season. You can also catch the 5:50pm commuter train, which leaves from the North
Western Station near the Loop at Madison and Canal sts. The train stops in Highland Park directly
at the festival; the “Ravinia Special” round-trip fare is $4.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Ages 6 & up. Come one,
come all to this massive circus, which stops in Chicago every fall for several
weeks beginning in November. Three rings of glitzy, over-the-top entertainment
are in store, from trapeze artists to the horses, tigers, elephants, and crocodiles
who make up some of the 200 human and animal performers. There's nothing
subtle about this show—in fact, smaller kids might be overwhelmed by the sheer
size of the United Center, plus the flashing lights and eardrum-blasting music.
Still, at least once in your life, it's worth it to see this darn impressive “greatest
show on earth.” United Center, 1901 W. Madison St. & 312/559-1212. www.ringling.com.
Tickets $11-$75. Bus: 9 or 20.
SummerDance Ages 5 & up. Now entering its sixth year, the annual Chicago
SummerDance Festival usually runs from late June through August in Grant Park.
Presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, the festival features