Summer ’12: Must-see destinations in the Southland
BY DONNA VICKROY email@example.com June 1, 2012 10:24PM
Christina Molenstra, of Oak Lawn, walks her dog, Chloe, at Lake Katherine in Palos Heights. | Donna Vickroy~Sun-Times Media
You tell us
Don’t see your favorite Southland summer destination on our list? Drop us an address, with a few lines about what makes your favorite site so special. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated: July 6, 2012 8:38AM
New York has its Statue of Liberty. London has Big Ben. And Rome has, well, just about everything.
But an area doesn’t have to be a tourist mecca to offer people a good time. The Southland is a prime example that you don’t have to travel great distances or spend big bucks to find fun. There’s plenty to do right here, close to home. Here’s proof.
This being the summer of 2012, we’re offering a starter list of 12 must-see Southland destinations that scream “Summer!”
As always, feel free to chime in and tell us what’s missing. We’d love to revisit this topic.
1. Old Plank Road Trail. Bike it. Hike it. Jog it. The paved trail winds for 22 miles through Park Forest, Richton Park, Matteson, Frankfort, Mokena, New Lenox and Joliet. Along the way, you’ll pass forests, parks and some of the loveliest back yards these parts have to offer. We like to bike it on Sunday mornings and then hit the Frankfort farmers market at Breidert Village Green.
2. The Original Rainbow Cone, 9233 S. Western Ave., Chicago; (773) 238-7075. Ah, the taste of summer. Perfect for the indecisive. Five flavors on a single cone: Pistachio, Palmer House, chocolate, strawberry and orange sherbet. A Southland treasure.
3. Lake Katherine, 7402 Lake Katherine Drive, Palos Heights; (708) 361-1873; lakekatherine.org. The egrets and herons know a good thing when they see it. Lovely Lake Katherine is a perfect place to stroll bucolic trails or set for a spell in the shade. Be sure to check out the waterfalls and visit the butterfly garden and the herb garden, where you’ll find stevia, rosemary and sage, to name a few. Christina Molenstra, of Oak Lawn, likes to walk her dog along the trails. “It’s so peaceful,” she said.
4. Saganashkee Slough, 104th Avenue, just north of Route 83, Palos Township. This locally famous fishing spot is abuzz in the early hours, as anglers set up in hopes of reeling in some striped bass, bluegill or crappie. Every now and then, someone hooks a turtle and, yes, throws it back. Dick Derks, Alvin Bulaon and John Bulaon, all of Crestwood, admit it can get a little boring sitting there watching ripples go by. So they haul out the bags and toss a few games.
5. The Plush Horse, 12301 S. 86th Ave., Palos Park; (708) 448-0550; and 7903 W. 171st St., Tinley Park; (708) 444-1800; theplushhorse.com. Hand-dipped scoops almost as big as your head. And, oh, so good. Try the new cookie monster flavor or black cow, a seasonal treat, or stick with longtime favorites. And don’t let the long lines on a hot summer’s night deter you — it’s definitely worth the wait.
6. Centennial Pool, 15600 West Ave., Orland Park; (708) 349-4386; orland-park.il.us/index.aspx?NID=114. A drop slide, tube slide, lazy river and lap lanes are just some of the fun that awaits the overheated at this 192-acre water park. Open to the public. Orland Park residents get a break on admission.
7. Haunted Trails, 7759 S. Harlem Ave., Burbank; (708) 598-3555; enchanted.com. Maybe you prefer your fun with a gang of monsters on the side. Eighteen holes of mini-golf, go-karts and carnival rides outside, video games galore inside.
8. Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center, 9800 Willow Springs Road, Willow Springs; (708) 839-6897; fpdcc.com/nature-centers/little-red-schoolhouse-nature-center/. Giant oak trees, gentle wildflowers, winding pathways. The center is a mecca for nature lovers. Inside the new visitors center there are interactive displays that let kids, and adults, touch and marvel at Mother Nature’s works. Outside, the original schoolhouse, built in 1886, greets visitors as they arrive. Don’t forget to check out the turtles.
9. Tampier Lake, 131st Street and Wolf Road, Palos Township. Bring your boat and load it into the lake. Or rent a canoe or rowboat and paddle the many inlets, taking in the lush forest surroundings. If you’re lucky, you may get a glimpse of newly discovered eagles nesting nearby. Anthony Kizlauskas, of Darien, recently brought his new kayak out to the lake. “It’s beautiful here. There are all kinds of wildlife, egrets, blue herons, bullfrogs,” he said.
10. Standard Bank Stadium, home of the Windy City ThunderBolts, 14011 S. Kenton, Crestwood; (708) 489-2255; wcthunderbolts.com. The independent Frontier League may be minor league baseball but it’s majorly fun. And inexpensive, with tickets costing less than $10. For some heated rivalry, consider heading to Joliet in mid-July, when the Crestwood team takes on the Slammers. What’s better than South Side bragging rights?
11. First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, 19100 S. Ridgeland Ave., Tinley Park; (312) 540-2000; livenation.com. Whether you’re a Jimmy Buffett crooner or an Iron Maiden rocker, “the bank” offers shows for all tastes — without the hassle of having to drive long distances. Sit comfy-cozy in a pavilion seat, or jam with the wild bunch on the expansive lawn.
12. The Children’s Farm, at The Center, 12700 Southwest Highway, Palos Park; (708) 361-3650; thecenterpalos.org. Family tours are offered during the summer. Kids can learn about pigs, sheep and goats. More important, they can pet them. Complimentary pony rides also are available. Giddy up.