My family loves going to Ravinia. However, with the cost of tickets rising, the long-distance walk to and from parking, and the crowds, it is just not something that my family can do on a weekly basis. Last year we heard about the Independence Grove Summer Concert Series that occurs in the plaza once a week. Now it is our family’s Tuesday night tradition in the summertime.
This year the first concert they had was held June 13th, and the season runs every Tuesday (except on July Fourth) through August 8th. We saw the band the New Invaders which is a 1960’s rock and roll cover band. We arrived at 7:30 p.m., which was exactly the time when the concert was scheduled to start. I was worried that we would have to wait in a long line of cars to pull into the parking lot, but we did not.
The process was easy; after we pulled into the lane to pay the parking fee ($6 per car, after 5:00 p.m., on concert nights), forest preserve rangers directed us to a lot near the Visitor’s Center. We parked very far back in the parking lot, and I was really glad that I had brought my stroller to walk to the plaza. Other families also brought wagons to carry chairs and kids, which I thought was smart. I would suggest arriving a bit earlier than we did in order to snag a better parking spot. While it has never happened to us, if the lot gets too full, cars will be turned away.
The concerts are held in the plaza near the Visitor’s Center. If you have ever been to Independence Grove, your kids have probably run all over this circular stage. When we walked up, the band had already started playing, and most of the grassy area near the plaza was full. I did not mind, as I wanted to be farther back, since I had my newborn in tow. While the music was probably too loud for the baby, it wasn’t too loud for the average person to enjoy. We had forgotten to bring chairs or a blanket (which I definitely suggest that you bring), so we just walked around and enjoyed the atmosphere, and even found a few benches open to sit upon. The band did a nice job of rotating around the circular stage so everyone could see the performance.
Independence Grove concerts are great for both a date night out or a family night with kids of all ages. My four-year-old just wanted to climb on the rocks near the Visitor’s Center, and he really enjoyed the music while older kids whizzed by on scooters and skateboards with their friends. Many couples strolled by, too, enjoying the performance. To make the evening extra special, there are 8-person pontoon boats available for rent during the concerts. However, the night we were there, no one had done this.
We definitely noticed the great food that concert-goers brought to eat, along with cute little picnic tables. Independence Grove allows you to bring in whatever food you desire. We saw everything from extravagant dinners with wine and faux candlelights, while others had Taco Bell 12-pack cases and pop. There is also a walk-up cafe on the other side of the Visitor’s Center (which can be kind of pricey, but sells decent food) or a food stand near the plaza . The food stand sells items such as water bottles, chips, and pizza, as well as snow cones for both adults and children. We opted for the snow cones. My four-year-old was told he could pick two different flavors, and he chose grape and orange. He thought it was delicious before he dropped it on the sidewalk. My boyfriend and I ordered one of the boozy “adult” snow cones in a flavor called “Hurricane,” that tasted very similar to something we had at a resort in Jamaica. I would definitely recommend these adult treats if you are looking for a perfect summer night drink.
As the sun set, my four-year-old realized we would soon be leaving. He made it very clear he did not want to leave without playing at the park. So we ventured over to the park where mostly older kids (probably eight years old and older) were playing while their parents listened to the concert. You could still clearly hear the music in the park. When it got too dark and we were fighting off the mosquitoes (note to self: bring bug spray!) we decided to pack up the kids and go home. Before we left, we made sure to visit the bathrooms inside of the Visitor’s Center before walking back to the car. When we got in the car, my son announced, “I liked that concert,”and then promptly fell asleep on the ride home. It was the perfect Tuesday summer night.
Independence Grove Summer Concert Series
16400 Buckley Rd, Libertyville | (847) 968-3499
**For concert reminders, weather updates or to learn if a concert has been canceled, call (847) 968-3497 or get updates via Twitter. There is no rescheduling if a concert is cancelled.**