The Five Ws

Appears in the July 2024 issue.

By Jeff Banowetz

A handful of listy-worthy summer adventures

An aerial photo of a water park

Summer goes by way too quickly—and it’s easy to stick to the same spots every year. If you’re looking for a day trip to remember, here are five nearby options that the family will still be talking about when it’s time to go back to school.


Raging Waves WaterPark, Yorkville (above)

The state’s largest water park is a dream for kids (and adults) looking for aquatic thrills. The 58-acre facility features 32 water slides, a wave pool, a lazy river, and 43 private cabanas. Don’t miss the Aussie Mad Dash, a six-lane, mat-racing water slide, which is one of only three of its kind in the world.


A person hiking


White Pines Forest State Park, Mount Morris

About an hour and a half west of Naperville, this beautiful state park should be on more people’s radar. Located along the Rock River, the 385-acre park has some of the best hiking, fishing, and camping around. Those who want the outdoor experience without hassling with camping gear can even rent one of the rustic cabins created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The White Pines Lodge also offers an excellent restaurant to fuel up for a day on the trails.

As for live entertainment, the Pines Dinner Theater, run by the White Pines Lodge, was founded in 1989 and now stages more than 30 shows a year.


FlyOver at Navy Pier


FlyOver at Navy Pier, Chicago

The newest attraction at Navy Pier gives you a view of Chicago unlike you’ve ever seen before. You’re strapped into motion-simulating seats and taken for a “ride” in front of a 65-foot spherical screen, which provides the illusion of soaring all over the city. Special effects include wind, mist, and scents to make the ride even more realistic. While the thrills are great—the whole experience takes a bit over half an hour—the real star of the show is the Windy City, which has never looked better.


Quarry Cable Wakeboard Park


Quarry Cable Wakeboard Park, Crystal Lake

Who needs a boat to go wakeboarding? This unique 32-acre park at the Three Oaks Recreation Area features a cable system that pulls riders across the lake. Both individual lessons and camps are available to get beginners up to speed. Experienced riders can take on jumps, ramps, and other obstacles designed to challenge and exhilarate. After riding, enjoy a meal at the Lakeside Bar & Grill and stick around for live music, a fire pit, and beach volleyball.


The Forge: Lemont Quarries


The Forge: Lemont Quarries, Lemont

This 300-acre venue features an aerial adventure park with a full array of options, including ziplines, rock walls, climbing towers, ropes courses, and other sky-high attractions. But that’s just part of the fun. Bring your bike and test your skill on the five miles of BMX or mountain biking trails. Rent a canoe or kayak and go paddling in the quarry. Try some archery. Or play a game of laser tag. The toughest part may be getting your kids to leave.


Photos: Illinois Office of Tourism (white pines and quarry cable); Raging Waves; FlyOver Chicago; The Forge Lemont Quarries