15 Best Things to Do in North Chicago, IL

North Chicago, IL
Daniel J Eccles / shutterstock.com

North Chicago is excellent for blending the convenience of the city with the delight of the outdoors.

The area began as a village known as South Waukegan, then renamed North Chicago in 1901.

The area's temperance laws, including a ban on saloons, pushed away manufacturers.

Consequently, employees were almost always sober.

Don't worry, though.

Today, you are more than welcome to enjoy a drink or two in the city.

One notable feature of North Chicago and its neighbors is the preserved and protected wildlife areas.

So, you can still do activities typically associated with rural areas, such as fishing, hiking, canoeing, and camping.

Whatever your recreational speed, this area has something to offer you.

Now let's look at the 15 best things to do in North Chicago, IL!

Take a Tour at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science

Welcome sign and exterior of Rosalind Franklin University
Jefe317 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFU) is a private postgraduate institution.

Attendees at RFU include healthcare professionals and scientists from a wide range of disciplines, all working together to shape the future of medicine and research.

Campus visits are the best way to determine whether a college is a perfect place to go for you.

For families, it's an excellent opportunity to expose their children to medical science.

During the autumn and spring, open homes are held.

Attending an open house is a terrific way to meet instructors and students from the program you're interested in and learn more about the application process.

Ski at the Greenbelt Forest Preserve

Chicago isn’t known for white-capped mountains, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any skiing.

Greenbelt Forest Preserve offers a year-round outdoor experience, including hitting the trails on your cross-country skis.

It is a 600-acre outdoor oasis surrounded by urban North Chicago, created in 2003.

When the snow is scarce, its trails are perfect for biking or taking your leashed four-legged best friend for a walk.

Dog lovers can also obtain a permit to access the off-leash dog parks.

There is a playground and plenty of picnic tables and picnic shelters for those looking to relax with the family.

Camp in Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park

Camping might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “Chicago,” but Illinois Beach State Park has 244 Class A sites.

The 4,160-acre park is less than 15 minutes north of North Chicago and is the only beach ridge shoreline left in Illinois.

However, the 6.5 miles of beach has no lifeguards, so swimmers must exercise caution.

It is also an excellent place for hiking, fishing, boating, and having a picnic.

The park is known for its remarkable dunes, boasting over 650 plant varieties.

But it is also a wonderful place to explore the marshes’ diverse vegetation and animal life.

The park has a deep history, a sacred region for the Algonquin Nation.

Later, it began attracting trappers; it became a prisoner of war camp during the Civil War.

In 1888 efforts began to preserve the unique area, but it took until 1948 for the State to acquire the land.

Master Mindboggling Putts at Par-King Skill Golf Course

Par-King Skill Golf Course is the “world’s most unusual golf course” and one of the most challenging mini-golf courses in the United States.

The park has two 18-hole courses featuring 18 moving obstacles and seven water challenges.

Par-King began in Morton Grove back in 1950, moving to its current Lincolnshire location in 1977.

The park is seasonal, open from April to October.

Give Your Peloton a Day off on the Robert McClory Bike Path

The Robert McClory Bike Path is a 25-mile trail following the old Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad line.

Stretching through the North Shore communities, it starts in Highland Park and ends in the Lake Forest.

Those wishing to continue to Wisconsin can join the Kenosha Country Bike Trail for an additional 18.6 miles.

The mostly flat trail surface contains stretches of asphalt, concrete, or crushed stone, making for easy riding.

Parking at the southern end at Braeside Metra station can be expensive, so many visitors travel with their bikes on the train.

Have a Picnic at Foss Park

Located in North Chicago is a lakefront park that is less popular than others on the North Shore.

Because Foss Park does not have a beach, it is less popular than other nearby parks.

However, this might benefit those searching for a peaceful spot to relax.

This is still a pleasant and relaxing location where you can go down to the water's edge, listen to the waves, and watch sailboats go by.

With a bandshell and a concession stand in the summer, Foss Park has a skate park for youngsters, baseball/softball fields, picnic areas, and a playground for the little ones.

Catch Performances at Greenbelt Cultural Center

Welcome sign of Greenbelt Cultural Center
Tony Savino / Shutterstock.com

The Cultural Center in the Greenbelt Forest Preserve provides panoramic vistas.

It is easily accessible from Green Bay Road between North Chicago and Waukegan.

Its 18,500-square-foot property has indoor and outdoor areas, making it ideal for any event.

Rear exterior of Greenbelt Cultural Center
Tony Savino / Shutterstock.com

There are various entertainment options at the center, including children's storytimes, summer concerts, outdoor activities, artist receptions, etc.

You may use the cultural center to organize various events, including corporate retreats, meetings, weddings, Quinceaneras, Bat Mitzvah parties, and family reunions.

Customize Your Dessert at CYOC Create Your Own Cheesecake and Cheesesteak

Thanks to CYOC Create Your Own Cheesecake and Cheesesteak, you may now enjoy cheesecake and cheesesteaks in a new way!

Serving by the scoop takes the traditional slice of cheesecake to a new level.

It provides a wide variety of ready-made cheesecake tastes, but it also allows customers to customize their own cheesecake by selecting from a variety of toppings.

A military wall has been devoted to the personnel, and they're all quite pleasant.

For active-duty military members, they will ask you to sign the wall as a monument to the men and women who have given their lives to protect the country.

Grab Your Supplies at Dollar General

With more than 18,000 easy-to-shop locations in 46 states, Dollar Store aims to make shopping a breeze while keeping costs low.

Everyday cheap prices on food, health, essential clothing, cleaning supplies, housewares, seasonal goods, paper products, and much more from America's most recognized brands and products and high-quality private brands can be found here.

Throughout the company's history, Dollar General has been devoted to its objective to serve others, which includes everything from supporting our customers and employees with value and convenience to serving the communities we call home through literacy and education.

You can grab a lot of good finds at the North Chicago location.

It's usually crowded, but the low prices make the wait worthwhile.

Experience Retro Dining at 5 Points Restaurant

5 Points Restaurant is a must-visit if you're in the neighborhood because of the high quality of the cuisine and the pleasant ambiance.

Maxwell Street Polish and Chicago Dog are among their finest offerings.

Salads and soups are created daily from scratch, as are the chili and other entrees.

The quality of each order is ensured by using only fresh batter and pressure frying.

Ice cream delights such as fresh strawberry shakes, sundaes, flurries, banana splits, ice cream cones, and slush are also popular.

5 Points is a great place to eat old-fashioned favorites and comfort meals in a clean and welcoming setting.

Chill at Toby's Tavern

This pub serves succulent beef fillet, breaded fish, and steaks.

Honeybuns made with quality ingredients are so delicious that they are likely to become a staple in your diet.

Toby's Tavern also offers a variety of French beers.

This establishment is known for its excellent customer service and courteous employees. Low costs are something you'll enjoy.

Those who have visited this location say that it is a pleasant place to be.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Visit the Shops and Restaurants in Lake Bluff

View of a pathway in uptown Lake Bluff
Teemu08 at en.Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lake Bluff is a picturesque village in Lake County that was once home to the Potawatomi tribe.

During World War I, the village won American hearts after raising money to purchase an ambulance for the Red Cross and sending it to France.

It was called the “most patriotic small town in America” for its act of generosity.

These days, Lake Bluff is an affluent community that hosts an excellent mix of quality restaurants, wine bars, and boutiques.

It also has a microbrewery.

Visitors flock to their Lake Bluff Farmer’s Market, located on the Village Green, every Friday from June to October.

Try Ax-Throwing at Lumberjaxe Axe Lounge

Some people go bowling, others play darts, and then there are the unique souls who toss axes.

If you want to try your hand at throwing sharp and large handled objects, check out Lumberjaxe Axe Lounge in Libertyville.

Sessions last an hour, and each participant receives training from trained staff before stepping into the throwing lanes.

It’s a new way to celebrate every occasion or blow off some steam.

But if you decide ax-throwing isn’t for you, throw darts on the available dartboards.

Plunge into History at the National Museum of the American Sailor

The National Museum of the American Sailor is North Chicago’s most well-known attraction.

It is one of only ten museums under the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The museum’s mission is to “collect, preserve, and interpret the history of the United States Navy’s Enlisted Sailor.”

The museum is located on the Naval Station Great Lakes, the site of the US Navy’s only “Boot Camp.”

Founded in 1991, the museum currently boasts over 40,000 artifacts and records, along with uniforms dating from 1900 to the present.

The vast photograph collection provides insight into the naval training, including Boot Camp.

Visitors learn about the Naval Station’s history and the life of a sailor.

Get an Adrenaline Rush at Six Flags Great America

Aerial view of Six Flags Great America's rollercoaster
https://www.flickr.com/photos/hendricksphotos/, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It takes less than 20 minutes from North Chicago to reach the adrenalin-pumping thrills at Six Flags Great America.

Those wanting great heights or epic twists can enjoy several rides, such as Superman, The Joker Free-Fly Coaster, Batman the Ride, and Demon.

If the traditional wooden roller coasters are your thing, try The Viper.

This ride takes inspiration from the Coney Island Cyclone, constructed out of 700,00 board feet of southern pine.

The park also provides family rides, kids’ rides, lives shows, and special events.

The best time to visit this part is in October, when the park becomes the ultimate Halloween-themed destination.

A carousel near the waters at Six Flags Great America
Jeremy Thompson from Los Angeles, California, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They put on unique Fright Fests with haunted houses and street performances, and they add delightfully creepy elements to their standard rides.

Unfortunately, Six Flags has now made Hurricane Harbor Chicago a separate establishment.

Beat the heat by visiting the water-filled park.

Buy an additional admission ticket and gain access via its separate entrance gate.

The park contains many wet and wild adventures, including the world’s tallest water coaster, Tsunami Surge.

Parents of little ones, never fear.

There are tamer adventures for the park’s “pirates in training,” too.

Balloon games and prizes at Six Flags Great America
E Fehrenbacher / Shutterstock.com

See Fossils at the Bess Bower Dunn Museum

Check out over 20,000 artifacts at The Bess Bower Dunn Museum, located less than 20 minutes east of North Chicago.

It gets its name from groundbreaking historian Bess Bower Dunn, and it opened in 1976.

The Dunn Museum celebrates Lake Country’s local history, including the Native Americans who called the area home for 12,000 years.

This interactive museum takes visitors from prehistoric times to the 20th century, exploring history, culture, and innovation.

They offer quality temporary and virtual exhibitions in addition to the permanent collections: Prehistoric Lake Country, The First People, An American Frontier, Innovations and Preservation, and The Woodland Theater.

Relax at Waukegan Municipal Beach

Waukegan Municipal Beach is a three-minute train ride from North Chicago.

The beach is accessible to the public and is open from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. from Labor Day to the week before Memorial Day.

However, non-Waukegan residents will need to pay for parking during the summer season.

People in the military, first responders, cyclists, and pedestrians don't need to pay the fee.

The beach features a mile of sand, popular for swimming, volleyball, soccer, kiteboarding, and sunbathing.

Slightly south, you’ll find the marina with 1,000 slips.

It’s an excellent spot to admire various boats of all sizes.

Support Disabled Workers by Visiting Lambs Farm

Lambs Farm is a non-profit that believes in enabling people with developmental disabilities to lead a self-sufficient life.

Since 1961,  Lambs Farm has operated in Libertyville.

It is a community of 250 people that runs and operates a farmyard, dogwood garden and pet center, a thrift store, and two bakeries.

Visitors can enjoy the various activities, including mini-golf, miniature train rides, a petting zoo, and amusement rides.

Its surroundings provide a fantastic family day out while supporting a wonderful community.

Residents of Lambs Farm live in residences according to their individual needs, from nearly fully independent to those needing group home support.

Enjoy Art Outdoors at Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park

A woman jogging along Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park
John Ruberry / Shutterstock.com

Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park blends getting your vitamin D with admiring culture.

The two-mile-long park in Skokie, Illinois, less than 40 minutes from North Chicago, has positioned large artworks along the trails.

Greater Chicago's Metropolitan Water Reclamation District owns the land where the park sits.

Its owners approached the public for ideas to rejuvenate the derelict space.

The Village of Skokie, the landowners, and a group of private citizens collaborated to transform the land into an outdoor sculpture exhibition that would provide paths and benches.

Visitors can explore the place and learn about sculpture and art, generally.

The magnificent project became a reality in 1988, now featuring over 60 sculptures from local artists and talent worldwide.

Pick Fresh and Delicious Apples at Heinz Orchard

Heinz Orchard is a 70-year-old family-run farm in Green Oaks, next to Libertyville.

Every September, the orchard opens itself to the public for the U-Pick season.

It is a no-frills place, offering visitors the joy of their orchards, an opportunity to pick delicious and quality apples, and relax.

Heinz keeps visitors updated via their website regarding the varieties ready for harvesting, including McIntosh, Empire, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, and Red Delicious.

The family appreciates you not asking them about hayrides, corn mazes, or food.

But you are always welcome to chat to them about all things apple.

Go Fishing on Lake Carina

Lake Carina is on the Des Plaines River Trail and has an accessible fishing pier.

It is also a free launch site for canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and other cartop boats.

The next pick-up spot is 5.1 miles downstream at Independence Grove Canoe Launch.

The fishing spot is open year-round, but you need to be hardy enough for ice fishing during winter.

The lake contains a large largemouth bass population; it also has good bluegill.

You can only catch a single bass per day, and it must be at least 15 inches.

Make Memories at the People’s Choice Family Fun Center

The People’s Choice Family Fun Center provides good old family fun, combining the joy of a carnival and arcades.

The 81,000-square-foot facility in Waukegan houses bumper cars, kiddie rides, train rides, a pizzeria, and vintage bowling.

Meanwhile, the adults can explore a “Vegas strip” and try their luck at the slot machines.

They have over 150 redemption and arcade games where you win tokens.

There is a Redemption Counter where kids (and bigger kids) can swap their tokens for various prizes, including toys, candy, and books.

It’s the perfect place to take kids when the weather makes playing outside impossible.

Final Thoughts

Tourists often overlook North Chicago, but it is home to its treasures and adventures.

The area provides excellent opportunities to clear your head amid the urban environment, including camping, fishing, and picking apples.

You can also discover local history and culture by visiting the National Museum of the American Sailor and the Dunn Museum.

If you want more thrill in their adventures, the city and nearby areas offer roller coasters and ax-throwing.

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