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Kid's First Experiences in Lake County
There's a first for everything. Let your children explore Lake County like you did before them...

There are certain milestones in a child’s life that every parent must document, i.e. their first walk, their first words, their first pun (maybe not that).

Kids love the unknown. That’s why you should make some of your kid's first experiences in Lake County. It’s a learning experience for them to learn about historical nuggets at a museum, have their first meeting with a barnyard animal, take a dip in one of over 200 bodys of water that Lake County has to offer, have the ride of their life on their first thrill ride at Six Flags Great America and the list goes on for kid's firsts.

“A child’s laughter could simply be one of the most beautiful sounds in the world.” So let them explore Lake County in all of its glory.

Here’s your guide to your kid’s first experiences in Lake County.

First Beach: Independence Grove 


#independencegrove #beachday #familyday #memories

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Independence Grove is a beautiful Lake County Forest Preserve located in Libertyville. At the Independence Grove beach,  the swim area water isn't very deep, and there are lifeguards available (even during twilight swim hours) so you and the kiddies can bask on the sand, play in the water and be in a safe environment.

Independence Grove Forest Preserve, 16400 W. Buckley Rd., Libertyville. 

First Boatride: Blarney Island/Port of Blarney

Take a shuttle boat ride with your youngster out to Blarney Island on Grass Lake in Antioch. You and your youngster can witness Thursday Thunder on the Chain boat races throughout the summer. Watch the excitement on their faces as they can catch a glimpse of the speediest vessels in the county.

Blarney Island, 27843 West Grass Lake Rd., Antioch.

First Coaster: Whizzer


Off to a great start! #elleandari

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The Whizzer, the oldest roller coaster at Six Flags Great America, almost undoubtedly shares a unique relationship with every guest. For the majority of thrill seekers, the Whizzer is the first step in climbing the ‘intensity-scale’ regarding riding coasters. Join your future coaster junkie for mini twists, turns and drops on the Whizzer.

Six Flags Great America & Hurricane Harbor, 542 N. Route 21, Gurnee.

First Concert: Stiner Pavilion


#disregardedstars #stinerpavilion #wauktown

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The stage located on Waukegan Municipal Beach is a perfect venue to catch a free show on the lawn along the shores of Lake Michigan. Catch any genre of local music ranging from jazz to classical to rock and everything in between in a laid back environment with your mini me.

Stiner Pavilion, 201 E. Sea Horse Dr., Waukegan.

First Experience with Live Animals: Lambs Farm


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Take a day trip with your tiny tot to Libertyville and experience the wonders of Lambs Farm open from April-October. Kids will love their first visit with horses, llamas, goats potbelly pigs, miniature cattle, equine, sheep and more at Lambs Farm Petting Zoo. They can also have a close encounter with a rabbit or chick.

Lambs Farm, 14245 W Rockland Rd., Libertyville.

First Festival: Annual Jubilee Days Festival in Zion (early September) or Long Grove Strawberry Fest in Long Grove(late June)


?? Festival #i?longgrove #strawberryfestival #longgrovestrawberryfest #sundayfunday #momof3

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Experiencing summer with the kiddies in Historic Downtown Long Grove is always a treat. There’s no skimp on the strawberries. This three-day event is a ‘berry-wonderful’ celebration that offers everything from chocolate covered strawberries, strawberry martinis and other desserts. The festival features live music all day on three different stages, great food, unique shopping and kid-tivities all weekend long. The event occurs annually in late June.

Historic Downtown Long Grove, 308 Old McHenry Rd., Long Grove.



Even royalty love peanuts! #zionjubileedays #kiwanispeanutdays #zbkiwanis

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One thing children love is parades, and the one hosted in the City of Zion is the largest in Lake County during Labor Day weekend. Attendees rejoice in unison as Zion hosts the Annual Jubilee Days Festival in Shiloh Park. The festivities kick off with the annual 5K run Saturday morning, and the fun continues until Monday night. This event also includes a Miss Zion pageant, ice cream social, arts & crafts festival, live music, delectable eats, the Mayors Breakfast and fireworks.

Shiloh Park, 25th Street & Emmaus Avenue, Zion.

First Fish Caught: Diamond Lake


7.41 catfish #mtbkeeper

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Diamond Lake is the perfect opportunity for your little ones to reel in the catch of the day for the first time. After the catch and release experience, these first timers can have a play date to celebrate their fishing success on the sand kids’ playground and climber and more.

Diamond Lake, 1016 Diamond Lake Rd., Mundelein.

First Golf Outing: Kristof's Entertainment Center or Tilt Studio

Real golf is a big kids game. Scenic Lake County is known for hosting many PGA golf events like the BMW Championship, the LPGA UL Crown, the KPMG Women's PGA Championship and many more. When your first-timers are trying to learn the core competencies with their putt game, you can mini golf 'tee off' for 18 holes at Kristof's Entertainment Center or Tilt Studio. Kristofs, located in Round Lake Beach has a scenic outdoor course while Tilt Studio in Gurnee offers a dazzling black-light indoor course.  

Kristof's Entertainment Center, 421 W Rollins Rd, Round Lake Beach. Tilt Studio, 6152 Grand Ave, Gurnee.

First Museum: Bess Bower Dunn Museum

The Lake County Forest Preserves are dedicated to sharing the entwined stories of people, events and nature through exhibitions, education and community engagement. A site for eyes is the enormous dryposaurus, which was the first dino to trudge the lands of Lake County, Illinois. Arrive curious. Leave inspired.

Bess Bower Dunn Museum,1899 W. Winchester Rd., Libertyville.

First Park: Paulus Park


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This popular visitors destination is your one-stop shop for your rug rats. This park features a picnic area, playgrounds, a beach, an athletic field and a concert stage in the summertime. The Lake Zurich location also provides winter fun like ice skating and a sled hill.  

Paulus Park, 200 S Rand Rd., Lake Zurich.

First Restaurant: Miller's Dog N Suds Drive-In

The Ingleside 1950s style drive-in restaurant all of your favorite comfort eats like Coney Island Dogs, burgers, shakes, root beer floats and so much more. You and mini-you can catch a classic cruise while munching on some Parisian potatoes as Miller's Dog n Suds features the vehicles of yesteryear throughout the summer and fall.

Millers Dog N Suds Drive-In, 517 Washington St., Ingleside.

First Live Theatre: Marriott Theatre

Before your little ones see the Broadway acts adults know and love, the Marriott Theatre features presentations for young audiences to get their first taste of live theatre. Past shows include "Seussical," "Pinocchio," "the Wizard of Oz," "The Princess and the Pea," "SchoolHouse Rock Live" and many more performances year-round.

Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire. 

First Sled Hill: Century Park

The whippersnappers may be too young to get on a roller coaster (or it just may not be the right season), but sledding and tubing are the next best thing. Century Park Sled Hill has their venue lighted and open until 9 p.m. during the winter. Once your kids get their first experience of that incline on the Vernon Hills slope, they’ll never want to go home.

Century Park, 1001 Lakeview Pkwy, Vernon Hills.

First Tour: Jelly Belly


Jelly Belly tour! #threemonthpass #summerfun

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Lake County is home to many historical venues that offer tours. Until your children are interested in scoping these fantastic relics, you can bring them just over the Wisconsin border to the Jelly Belly Factory tour. On the factory tour, the kids hop on the train and taste over 150 flavors of jelly beans, meet Mr. Jelly Belly, view Jelly Belly Bean Art and a chorus line of dancing Jelly Belly characters.

Jelly Belly Welcome Center, 10100, Jelly Belly Ln., Pleasant Prairie, WI.

First Music Festival: Bitter Jester Music Festival

The Bitter Jester Music Festival (BJMF) is the Midwest’s largest professional music competition for rising-star musicians (bands and solo artists alike). BJMF supports and promotes young and emerging talent from across Northern Illinois & Indiana, all across Wisconsin, and into Southern Michigan. The competition gives participating young adults an opportunity to receive professional feedback from working musicians and, most importantly, meet and connect with dozens of other musicians their own age.  The winner moves on to perform at the Navy Pier and the Taste of Highland Park. The fest runs on Fridays through early July.

Bitter Jester Music Festival, Wolters Field at Highland Park High School, 433 Vine Ave., Highland Park.

For more kid’s first experiences in Lake County, visit our family fun guide.


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No matter which route you take, all roads lead to fun in Lake County, Illinois, which is located halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee. Lake County is home to 170 lakes and rivers, 30,000 acres of lush forest preserves, miles of hiking and biking trails, Six Flags Great America, Naval Station Great Lakes, Ravinia Festival and sandy beaches along Lake Michigan's shoreline. Family adventure is around every turn and awaits you in Lake County.
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