When it comes time to plan that next family reunion, most members of the family pray the burden of planning doesn’t fall on them. It’s not that they don’t want to have a reunion, but the amount of time, effort and organization it takes to put together is daunting. It’s enough to make anyone decide to forgo the annual reunion. However, if you have the right destination, that can make all the difference. Chicago Southland provides family reunions with a diverse array of activities, convenient accommodations, delicious dining options, and world-class attractions, making it easier than ever to plan the ultimate family gathering.
What Kind of Family-Friendly Activities are in Chicago Southland?
No matter what kind of family dynamic you have, Chicago Southland has something to please everyone. The region is made up of 62 south and southwest Chicago suburbs and consists of nearly 400 square miles of urban and open areas. Families can get some fresh air exploring one of the many forest preserves in Chicago Southland. These are the perfect places for a morning hike, some cycling or a nice picnic. Families can also hit the links at one of 35 public and semi-private golf courses in the region, testing their skills at some top venues.
Chicago Southland is also welcoming some new attractions to its repertoire of family-friendly activities. Fans of horse shows and races don’t need to go to Churchill Downs. You can catch the action at the first show jumping facility in the Midwest, HITS Balmoral Park. A premier equestrian facility, it features 12 competition rings and events that run from May to September. HITS also offers Show Hunting, where competitors show their skills in the fox hunting field, and are tested on manners, fluid movement and correct jumping style.
Another new addition is the Big Marsh Bike Park, also known as a playground for cycling. It’s Chicago’s first eco-recreation park, creating a new legacy of outdoor recreation. This world-class bike park benefits families, local youth and experienced athletes. With 278 acres, it features family friendly bike trails, as well as elite venues for mountain biking, cyclocross racing and trail riding.
The first phase of this project is complete and includes multi-purpose trails for biking, walking and running. There are tracks for all skill levels. The youngest riders can play around on the tot track, while more experienced riders can test their skills on the large pump track. The next phase of the bike park will include a second hill with gravity features. There are also plans to add a Chunk Trail as a unique obstacle. The third phase will bring in environmental remediation and a multi-use trail that will run around the entire park.
History buffs in the family can stroll through some of Chicago Southland’s iconic neighborhoods, including the Pullman Historic District, now a National Monument, filled with buildings and houses that were once part of a company town created by the famous rail car manufacturer. If you have young kids in your group, head over to Odyssey Fun World. Youngsters will be entertained for hours at the 45,000-square-foot indoor facility, which features rides, a laser trek arena, gaming lounge and exploration adventure.
Where can our family grab some grub?
There’s no better place to relive the memories of the day than at the dinner table. Food brings everyone together—literally—as you gather around the table to dine on delicious food, reminisce about how you spent the day and what you’ll do tomorrow. Chicago Southland has no shortage of great places to grab a bite.
The location of the best pizza is hotly debated, but you won’t find a better slice than in the Chicago Southland favorite. Aurelio’s Pizza in Homewood has been specializing in thin crust since 1959 and is the oldest Chicago franchise. The restaurant prides itself on its signature sauce, brick pizza ovens and family-oriented atmosphere. After taking a bite of one of Aurelio’s pizzas, your family will be hooked.
For something a little more upscale, make a reservation at LaVoute Bistro. The restaurant features French-inspired cuisine from chef Dominique Tougne, who cooks up classics like grilled steak frites and oven-baked escargot. Dive into a dish of authentic Southern comfort food at Porkchop, a restaurant and bar known for its unpretentious atmosphere and fall-off-the-bone barbecue. There’s no shortage of room—or food—at Buca di Beppo. They serve their dishes family-style, which means there is plenty of great Italian fare to go around and around and around.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to Andy’s Frozen Custard, which offers two locations in Chicago Southland, one in Burbank and one in Oak Lawn.
For an adults-only outing, a craft brewery comes highly recommended. There are dozens of wonderful local breweries creating new and exciting beers. Enjoy a pint of porter and a basket of beer nuggets at 350 Brewing Company in Tinley Park, or sample a flight of the constantly rotating taps at Hailstorm Brewing Company, also in Tinley Park. Other noteworthy breweries to check out include Evil Horse Brewing Company in Crete, Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery in Flossmoor and Granite City Food & Brewery in Orland Park.
Where can we rest our heads after a long day?
When the day has come to an end and it’s time to recharge for the next day, your family will need a comfortable place to rest. Chicago Southland features a number of full- and select-service hotels, all of which can accommodate family reunions. For small family reunions, you can opt for a boutique hotel, like LaBanque, which offers only 17 rooms—so book it up quickly if you’re a fan of smaller venues. Many larger chains can be found in Chicago Southland if that’s more your style. With the many options available, you’re sure to find a place that suits your needs and fits your budget.
How do we get to Chicago Southland?
The Chicago Southland is served by Midway International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport, both of which have flights from most major airlines. The region is also traversed by many major interstates, making it super convenient to reach from pretty much anywhere in the country.
Planning a family reunion should no longer be something to dread. Pick Chicago Southland for your reunion, and you’ll feel confident in your choice. With the many attractions, outdoor activities and dining establishments, there’s literally something for everyone in this family-friendly destination.