At Ravinia Park, in the northern suburb of Highland Park, the hustle of Chicago is far away, and people settle in for a night of music under the stars. It’s a summer tradition for generations of Illinois residents near and far.
Originally built as an amusement park to lure riders on the new Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad more than a century ago, Ravinia Park has lost its baseball diamond and casino and is now a blissful setting for concerts. It is the oldest outdoor music venue in North America and the summer home of the famed Chicago Symphony. During the summer season, which runs from mid-June to September, visitors can hear a wide range of performances, from classical music to jazz to musical theater, and including top names in the genres. Oh, and you can still hop the train from downtown Chicago and get out right at the entrance. (If you prefer to stay close to the park, check out the Ravinia Guest House, just two blocks away.)
A sprawling lawn invites picnickers to arrive early—some folks pull out all the stops with candelabra and fine china! But there is also indoor dining pavillion with two full-service restaurants and the Ravinia Market where you can get delicious take-out food. Be sure to check out the delightful little gift shop there too.
Performers are located in the large Pavillion or smaller Martin Theater, which provide more traditional concert settings with a limited number of seats. A state-of-the-art sound system broadcasts the music throughout the lawn area for the multitude of listeners who are scattered about.
A full listing of the Chicago Symphony concerts, as well as the many other performances are listed on the Ravinia website. A few upcoming highlights include:
John Legend, June 10
Willie Nelson & Family, June 16
Aretha Franklin, June 17
LaLa Land Experience (the movie with live music track), June 18
Ravel & Mozart/Chicago Symphony, July 5
Tchaikovsky Spectacular/Chicago Symphony, July 18
418 Sheridan Road, Highland Park, IL
Tickets available online or at the in-park box office
For convenience to and from the park, you can’t do better than the Ravinia Guest House. Located in a private neighborhood near Lake Michigan, it offers three guest rooms and an extensive full breakfast.
Ravinia Guest House is a member of the Illinois Bed and Breakfast Association … a unique lodging experience!
PHOTOS COURTESY OF RAVINIA/PATRICK GIBSON AND RUSSELL JENKINS.