What To Do in Chicago’s North Shore

By Melanie Radzicki Mcmanus

After a smashing debut last year, the second annual Illinois-based Evanston Plein Air Festival is coming to town July 9-16. Plein air painting is the practice of painting outside instead of in a studio. Popularized by 19th- century luminaries such as Claude Monet, artists typically set up their easels in the outdoors and quickly sketch a scene to capture the changing, ephemeral light.

During the festival, participating artists will be scattered across Evanston, recreating the city’s most beautiful natural areas, favorite landmarks and built environments on their canvases. Visitors can grab a map highlighting the painters’ locales or follow the event on Instagram, then find a few artists to observe in action. The painters enjoy answering questions about their specific creations and the plein air style. Many also carry small works with them to sell off the easel.

Visitors can also take part in artist-run workshops about the plein air style, while teens can sign up for a teen art competition. The competition consists of an initial plein air workshop, followed by a timed painting event. The event’s grand finale on July 16 involves each artist submitting a painting for judging. There are awards for Best of Show, Honorable Mention (four awards) and Festival Favorite, which is determined by the fans. There will also be an open- air exhibit of the artists’ additional works, which will be available for purchase.


Two North Shore treasures are Ravinia and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Ravinia, opened in 1904, is North America’s oldest, most diverse music festival. The months-long annual event is held in a picturesque, 36-acre setting in Highland Park. Bring a picnic, or purchase a meal at one of the park’s restaurants, then settle in to listen to some exceptional music. Featured artists run the gamut, including Brandi Carlisle, Carrie Underwood, John Legend, Kenny Loggins and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

The Chicago Botanic Garden showcases 27 diverse garden types and four natural areas, which are surrounded by nine islands. Tour on foot or by a tram, making sure to stop at the Butterflies and Blooms exhibit and the Model Train Garden, where 18 model G-scale trains on 18 tracks click and clack their way over 26 bridges, while passing 50 miniature American landmarks.


Mark your calendar for these prime North Shore events.

  • Northbrook Art in the Park: May 20-21
  • Skokie Festival of Cultures: May 20-21
  • Winnetka Music Festival: June 16-17
  • Glenview Summer Fest: June 24
  • Run the Runway (Wheeling): June 24
  • Vintage Garage Evanston: July 16
  • Glencoe Festival of Art: July 22-23
  • Northbrook Grand Prix: July 27
  • Art at the Glen Town Center (Glenview): July 29-30

Plan your visit at visitchicagonorthshore.com

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