Cool Off at Magic Waters Waterpark this Summer!

We may not have warm weather for very long, but when it gets hot in Chicago, it gets HOT! Unbearably hot sometimes. So believe me when I say that one of the best ways to cool down in the Chicagoland area is hitting up a waterpark. My family loves Magic Waters Waterpark near Rockford, IL and we know you will too!

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Find your fun at Magic Waters Waterpark near Rockford, IL. Magic Waters features 10 attractions such as the Typhoon Terror, The Double Dare Drop Speed Slide or Tsunami Bay-Illinois’ largest wave pool.

magicwaters_01Experience the thrill of Splash Blaster Water Coaster Ride or just relax on the Splash Magic River.

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Don’t miss Tiki Island-a water paradise for kids. There’s fun for the entire family!

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So come on out to Magic Waters Waterpark this summer! What’s your favorite way to cool down in the summer?

An Enjoyable Afternoon at the Elgin Public Museum

If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for fun, educational things to do with the kids during summer break. I mean, pools and amusement parks are great, but I also like to mix in my summer free time with a little learning too. If you’re in the Northwest Suburbs, a stop by the Elgin Public Museum. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon.

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We recently spent the day at this museum and my preschooler loved it. We spent a few hours at the museum and loved the surrounding park too. Here are a few reasons why we loved the Elgin Public Museum.

Kids’ Room

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On the first floor of the Elgin Public Museum is the Discovery Room, an educational playroom just for kids. The room features a puppet theater, puzzles, blocks, books, a microscope, musical instruments from around the world, and lots of hands on objects from furs and antlers to starfish and turtle shells. I wasn’t expecting this small museum to have so many educational activities for kids, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Elgin and Illinois History

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Even though it’s summertime, I love finding teachable moments when we visit new places. It’s really easy to do that at the Elgin Public Museum, learning about the Fox River ecosystem, and how plant and animal life has changed over the years. The museum collection includes raccoon, opossum, squirrel, skunk, muskrat, owl, fox, coyote and certain species of hawks. After your visit, you can head to a trail along the Fox River and see if you see any of these animals yourself!

Location

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The Elgin Public Museum is located within Lord’s Park – a 108-acre park that not only holds the museum, but is home to the Lord’s Park Zoo, the Lord’s Park Aquatic Center, a picturesque pavilion, two large playgrounds, tennis courts, and lots more. Pack a lunch and enjoy it under one of the park’s picnic shelters. You can totally make a day of your outing!

The Elgin Public Museum is located at 225 Grand Avenue (on the street that is just off of Grand Avenue at Lord’s Park) in Elgin, and is open Tuesday through Sunday from Noon to 4:00 p.m. There is a suggested donation of $2 for adults and $1 for kids aged 3-11 years old.

How do you pack learning into your summer?

Keepin’ it Old School at Medieval Times in Schaumburg

Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission to Medieval Times in order to facilitate this review. I was not asked to provide a particular point of view, and all opinions are 100% my own.

I have lived in the Chicago area my whole life and can honestly say that it’s been years since I’ve visited Medieval Times Chicago (actually located in Schaumburg, IL). My daughter, now a teenager, was probably no more than 5 or 6 years old the last time I was there so naturally, I wanted to take my 4-year-old to see the show too. And boy, I’m really glad I did!

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If you have never visited one of Medieval Times’ nine North American locations, you really have no idea what you’re missing. Medieval Times is a dinner and tournament show featuring a royal court, knights of the realm, jousting, and the crowning of a Queen of Love and Beauty taken straight from the audience. Definitely a sight to see!

My son couldn’t help but to ask to take a picture with the princess when we arrived. She was so sweet to oblige! Medieval Times_Princess

When you first enter the large arena, you are taken to your seats. Seats are color-coded based on the knight you’ll be supporting. We had the red and yellow knight.

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Before the jousting began, the crowd is treated with a showing of the horses’ skills and the Lord Chancellor introduces the crowd to the knights. The whole crowd is really into it and the arena will be very loud. (Please keep this in mind if bringing kids with special needs or sensory issues.) Then the jousting begins and the crowd cheers for their knight. We were in the lucky section because ours just so happened to win – hurray!

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While the jousting is going on, your food will be served. Just like in medieval times, silverware is not provided. I remembered this from my first visit years ago and brought some from home for my son because I knew he’d have a hard time eating without a fork and spoon. And the food is absolutely fantastic! Full bar service is available during the show, but be aware that the cost of any alcohol is not included in your ticket price and will be billed separately. Also, remember to bring some cash to tip your server!

My crew!

My crew!

Overall, we had a great time at Medieval Times, and I was happy to see that the attraction is still so popular. The place was almost packed on a Sunday afternoon!

Added bonus to head to Medieval Times, now through September 7, 2015, kids under 12 are FREE with the purchase of a full-priced adult admission. See website for full promotional details.

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Free Fun at Phillips Park Zoo in Aurora, IL

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Running a little low on funds, but still want to have a great afternoon with the kids? Then look no further than Phillips Park Zoo in Aurora, IL. I spent an afternoon here with my son and we totally enjoyed ourselves. This zoo is no-frills, but a nearby playground and splash pad are sure to keep the kids entertained for hours – and you don’t have to spend a dime.

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The entrance to the zoo is pretty neat. There’s a board displaying the rules of the zoo, then a totally random, but still cute, painted dinosaur.

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Now, I’ll be the first to admit, that animal sightseeing outdoors was pretty difficult. There are some cages for birds like eagles, hawks, and owls; as well as wolves, goats and llamas, but we had trouble finding the outdoor animals. The elk, however, had a huge, gorgeous setting to call home and we were able to see them just fine chilling under the bridge.

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The large elk statue offers a great place for a photo op though!

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But by far, my son’s favorite exhibit at Phillips Park Zoo was the reptile house! It was very warm in there, but seeing the alligators, snakes and turtles so close was a real treat!

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Once we finished up at the reptile house, sadly we saw the exit – BUT there was a huge playground off in the distance. We high-tailed it over there!

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The playground was so fun and we spent a good chunk of time there. My son loved the giant pirate ship. SO many of the kids there were so into it. Thankfully, there was a large, shaded picnic area nearby for us to have our lunch on.

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As we were making our way back to the car, I noticed that we completely missed the visitor’s center on the way in with the giant mastodon statue in front. Another nice photo op spot, and the visitor’s center is full of information on the animals at the zoo, and lots of educational exhibits and displays. There are also restrooms, vending machines, and drinking fountains at the visitor’s center.

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There’s also a splash pad nearby, but we didn’t stop by on our last visit. Now that most pools and splash pads are open for the season, we’re going to have to make our way back here!

Tell me – what’s your favorite small zoo?

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Now Open! Shedd Aquarium’s Amphibians Exhibit

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The Shedd Aquarium is one of my family’s favorite places to visit, and now we have another awesome reason to go: Amphibians! The new exhibit features more than 40 species of salamanders, frogs, newts and rarely seen worm-like caecilians that will be hopping and swimming at The Shedd. These animals can now be seen for a limited time at Shedd Aquarium’s new special exhibit, Amphibians.

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Custom-built and designed in–house by Shedd animal care staff and design experts, the Shedd Aquarium Amphibians exhibit guides guests through three rooms with immersive visual, audio and hands-on experiences that focus on three themes: amphibians’ changing bodies, how they evolved to survive, and how they are facing challenges in today’s changing world.

Blue Leg Mantella Frog, Mantella expectata

Access to Amphibians is included with the purchase of a Total Experience Pass (Adult $39.95; Child $30.95) or CityPASS. The exhibit is also available as an option with the purchase of a Shedd Pass Plus (Adult $35.95; Child $26.95) for an additional $5. Tickets are on sale now at SheddAquarium.org/Amphibians.

Amphibians will run for a limited time at Shedd through 2017.

Have a Ball Blastin’ Good Time at Under the Big Top!

Over the last few months, my son has been sick, to the doctor, and pretty much miserable. He caught multiple colds and was stuck in the house, and all he really wanted to do was visit Under the Big Top in St. Charles. Seriously. Weekend after weekend he kept asking to go, and weekend after weekend he continued to be sick. Sad smile Finally his sickies left him and we were able to hang out at Under the Big Top recently. I had one very happy little boy.

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Under the Big Top is a family entertainment center with laser tag, indoor go karts, a ball blaster arena, and arcade with party rooms, a bistro, and a prize area for the kids. The main reason my son wanted to go so bad is the Ball Blaster Arena. It’s a 3-story “big top” tent with ball blasting cannons, slides, ramps…and is basically awesome.

Under the Big Top-Ball Blaster

Another highlight of our recent trip to Under the Big Top was the Indoor Go-Karts. In fact, it was my son’s very first time riding in a go-kart. I thought he’d be a little scared, but he totally loved it. He was very chill about it actually. The track itself is a pretty good size, and I liked that the attendant asked us if we wanted to take it a little slow (since my son is only 4). I appreciated her thoughtfulness, for sure!

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The arcade games were really fun too. Under the Big Top uses a card system for game play (no tokens required) and there were games that catered to a variety of ages. Our favorites? The motorcycles!

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If you played any games, don’t forget to pick out some prizes on your way out. We hardly had any tickets (probably just around 100) and he was able to pick out a few candies.

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Overall we had a really great afternoon at Under the Big Top in St. Charles. A few things you should know before you go:

  • The cost to only play in the Ball Blaster Arena is $7.95. The indoor go-karts and a game of laser tag are $6.50 each. You can put as much as you want on your game card.
  • They have a pretty decent snacks menu (appetizers, pizza, burgers, sides and desserts).
  • They offer free WiFi and have 5 or 6 couches near the Ball Blaster Arena. So parents – bring your laptop, or browse Facebook on your phone!
  • Bring socks if you plan to play in the Ball Blaster Arena. They do offer some for sale if you forget to bring a pair.
  • Under the Big Top is located at 731 N. 17th Street in St. Charles, IL, near Randall Road and Dean Street.

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The New Little Beans Café is ALL Fun & Games #LBEvanston

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A new kids’ play space will be opening in Evanston on Friday and the northern suburbs are in for quite a treat! My family had an opportunity to take a sneak peek at the all new Little Beans Café in Evanston, and we were absolutely blown away.

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Located in a former grocery store building, this new play space offers the same great playspace as their Chicago location, the Little Beans Village (a play area for kids 0-6 years), plus SO MUCH MORE! The new Little Beans Café is such an amazing venue, and after 3 full hours of play, my son did not want to leave.

So what is the Little Beans Café?

Little Beans Café and Family Activity Center is an imaginative playspace, recreational center and café targeted to kids 0-12 years. They offer drop-in play for kids 0-6 years in the Little Beans Village, and for kids 5-12 years in the Big Beans play area. There’s also classes, events, camps, birthday parties and more. At the Little Beans Café, kids have the freedom to play, learn, imagine, and create in their custom interactive indoor playgrounds, while parents and caregivers can enjoy an upscale ambiance, delicious coffee, and a large selection of food.

Highlights of the Little Beans Café

Camp-themed imaginative play village.

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Little Beans Village |Photo by: Eva Ho Photography www.evaho.com

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Photo by: Eva Ho Photography www.evaho.com

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Infant Room

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Ninja Warrior-themed obstacle course.

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Ninja Warrior Course | Photo by: Eva Ho Photography www.evaho.com

Half court gym for games.

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A Karaoke room and lots more!

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Photo by: Eva Ho Photography www.evaho.com

Located at 430 Asbury Avenue, the new Evanston location is all set to open to the general public this Friday, February 13th. Drop-in play is $12 per child, with a discount available for siblings. Stop by and take advantage of this wonderful new playspace – your kids will love it!

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Classic Comfort at the Comfort Suites Urbana Champaign #visitchampaign #chambana

Sometimes you just need a vacation. For me, a vacation doesn’t have to be thousands of miles away, only reachable by plane. A vacation is anywhere I can get away with my family, be it a few towns over, or a short road trip away. My family visited the Champaign-Urbana area of Illinois for a weekend in the fall and stayed at the Comfort Suites hotel. The Champaign-Urbana area is located roughly 140 miles from the Chicago area, a little over a two-hour drive. My entire family was along for the trip – my husband and myself, my teenage daughter, my preschooler son, and my mom. Thankfully, the Comfort Suites offers adjoining rooms, making our stay as comfortable as possible.

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Photo By: Comfort Suites Urbana Champaign

Hotel

The Comfort Suites hotel may not look like much from the outside, but I can assure you that we loved this hotel.  The staff at the front desk was very friendly and accommodating.  They were happy to answer all of my questions.  Aside from the front desk, there is a sitting area located near the entrance.

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My favorite part of our stay, honestly, was the complimentary breakfast offered by the hotel.  While coffee is available all day (we LOVED that), breakfast included fruits, yogurt, bagels, donuts, cereal, oatmeal, a waffle-making station, and some hot options like eggs, sausage, etc. (those items varied by day).  This is definitely a great option for families, as dining out for every meal can get expensive.

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Photo By: Comfort Suites Urbana Champaign

My kids loved the pool area at the Comfort Suites.  The pool wasn’t very large, but there weren’t a lot of people in the pool when we visited, so we didn’t feel cramped at all.  There was also a hot tub and complimentary pool towels to use for guests.

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Room

I was most surprised at the size of our rooms at the Comfort Suites.  We were fortunate to secure two adjoining rooms – one with a king bed and the other with 2 queens. Each room had a large sitting area with a couch and a small table, and had a writing desk and television.  A great feature for families is that all rooms come with a small refrigerator and microwave.  The room was also very clean and I did not notice any stains or rips in the upholstery.  I also liked the fact that the hotel offers free WiFi to guests, as we needed it for my son to view content on our tablet.

Overall

We enjoyed our stay at the Comfort Suites Champaign-Urbana. The amenities offered by the hotel is just what my family needed for a comfortable stay.  I would definitely recommend this hotel to any family wishing to visit the Champaign-Urbana area.

Disclosure: My family received complimentary accommodations in order to facilitate this review and I was not required to state a particular point of view. All opinions are 100% my own.

Making Memories at Brookfield Zoo #BZBloggers

I have been going to Brookfield Zoo ever since I was a kid.  I remember watching (& loving) the dolphin show, taking pictures in front of the fountain, watching the ducks splash around in the pond, and taking a ride on a motor safari.  Some of the best memories I have as a kid took place within the walls of the Brookfield Zoo.

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So believe me when I say that I am so thankful to be able to share these memories with my 3-year-old, and make some new ones as well.  My heart swells watching him take in the same dolphin shows and ride the same motor safari that I did as a kid.

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We usually visit Brookfield Zoo every year, but here’s a little taste of what we did on our last visit with cousins!  Spoiler:  The kids had a blast!

We were guests of Brookfield Zoo on our last visit, and they were nice enough to set-up a little Meet & Greet with some of the animals.  We got to pet an adorable wallaby.

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And watch a little tamandua (a member of the anteater species).  I’ll admit that I wanted to take this guy home in my purse.

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And watch an expert handle a hawk – and she was super-friendly too!

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The rest of the day was spent doing all the kiddie activities the zoo has to offer.  We touched some stingrays at Stingray Bay.  They also sell feed (small fish) for an additional $2 to help you attract some stingrays.  They were more active than I’ve ever seen them!

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We watched an energetic dolphin show in Brookfield Zoo’s gorgeous arena.

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We even released some energy at the zoo’s playground.

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We spent most of our time this trip at the Hamill Family Play Zoo.

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The kids had fun setting up a pretend animal cage,…

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petting some more animals,…

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and even “earning their admission” by going behind the scenes in the kids exhibit.  I loved watching them pretend to be zoo keepers and how the Hamill Family Play Zoo allows kids to be “hands-on”.  It’s this kind of creativity that make the play zoo a fun, educational activity for young kids.

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My son’s favorite part of the Hamill Family Play Zoo was the Zoo Greenhouse.

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He loved watering the plants.

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And this one.

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Oh, this one too.

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Can’t forget this guy.

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Wait…still more.  I swear, I think he just might have gotten every single one while we were there!  It was adorable.

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Finally, the kids started to get tired so we spent the end of our day expending some more energy outside. The Hamill Family Play Zoo also has an amazing outdoor play area where you can climb a camel,…

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climb through a tunnel,…

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play in the sand, and so much more!

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Brookfield Zoo is the ideal spot to spend the day with the kids in the Chicago area.  There are so many animals to see, you’re almost guaranteed to make a return trip!

General Information

Brookfield Zoo is located west of Chicago, approximately a 30 minute drive from the city at 8400 31st Street (1st Avenue and 31st Street) in Brookfield, IL.  General admission is $16.95 for adults, $11.65 for seniors 65 and over, and $11.95 for children ages 3 to 11.  Parking is $10.00.  The zoo is open 365 days a year.

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Disclosure:  My family received complimentary admission to Brookfield Zoo to facilitate this post. I was not asked to provide a particular point of view, and all opinions are 100% my own.

Get Your Bounce On at Monkey Joe’s in Wheaton, IL

Bouncing off the walls…seems like kids could, literally, do this all day.  My son could easily spend an entire day bouncing on inflatables.  I have no idea how those tiny little legs don’t give out from bouncing around, but they don’t and my boy loves it.  Monkey Joe’s is one of our go-to spots when my son needs to let out a little bit of pent-up energy.  We enjoy Monkey Joe’s so much, we also visited the Crystal Lake location.

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Monkey Joe’s is just one of those places where, as a parent of an active child, you just can’t go wrong.  Kids jump from attraction to attraction, looking for the thrill of the bounce.  And Monkey Joe’s definitely delivers the thrill.

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The Wheaton location is set-up much like the Crystal Lake Monkey Joe’s.  When you walk in, the party rooms and tables/chairs are in front of the wide-open area where all the inflatables are.  There’s a Mini Monkey Zone for younger kids too.

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The biggest draw at this location for my pirate-loving boy was the huge pirate ship inflatable.

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I enjoyed the comfy chairs and big TV’s in the parents area.

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There’s also a nice arcade area when the kids need a break from all the bouncing around.

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My only gripe with this Monkey Joe’s was the number of broken attractions when I was there. Granted, I’m sure this isn’t an everyday occurrence, but we were bummed seeing all the deflated ones on the ground.

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My son didn’t seem to notice (or care) that a few of the attractions were down.  He was having way too much fun at Monkey Joe’s in Wheaton with all the other amazing inflatables.

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Monkey Joe’s is located at 286 E Geneva Road in Wheaton.  They are open M-Th 10am-5pm; F-Sa 10am-8pm; and Su 11am-6pm.  Admission is $9.99 3 and up; $5.00 2 and under (if playing).  Adults are free.

Where do your kids like to bounce around?

Take a Break from the Summer Heat at Raging Waves Waterpark in Yorkville, IL #WelcomeToSummer

Disclosure: I received complimentary admission to the Raging Waves Waterpark in exchange for this post.  I was not asked to provide a particular point of view, and all opinions are 100% my own.

Most people that know me know that I am rarely at home.  Especially on the weekends, I like to go out with the family and find a new place to explore.  In the colder months I like to visit indoor spots like museums, play spaces, and cafes with the kids.  In the summer, though, I like to spend my time outdoors.  This means lots of parks, hiking, pools, and waterparks.  This past weekend, my family had the opportunity to head to Raging Waves Waterpark in Yorkville and, let me tell you, my son was SO EXCITED!  We had the most amazing time, and figured that you’d want to know what you can expect when you visit Raging Waves (because you totally should visit because you will have an absolutely amazing time…and your kids will think you’re the BEST!).

Raging Waves Waterpark-Overview

Photo Credit: Raging Waves

Located in Yorkville, IL, Raging Waves is Illinois’ largest waterpark, located just 45 minutes west of Chicago.  Sitting on over 40 acres of land, Raging Waves is a privately-owned waterpark that boasts 17 water slides, a wave pool, a lazy river, and multiple play areas.  This year marks its seventh season of operation, so it’s a fairly new park – and it’s oh so pretty!  I had the pleasure of meeting the park’s owner, Randy Witt, while I was there and he had some interesting stories to tell.  For instance, I was happy to learn that the name of the park was actually taken from a Bible verse!  Very cool.

Raging Waves Boomerang

Photo Credit: Raging Waves

My husband and I visited with our three-year-old, so we didn’t get a chance to experience the slides ourselves – which was a bummer because some of them, like the Boomerang, looked SO cool!  I have always enjoyed waterslides and Raging Waves does not disappoint!  But, since we were with the toddler, we spent a lot of our time in Koala Cove.  My son loved splashing around in the wading pool and the small slides were perfect for his size.  One word of caution though – make sure a parent is waiting at the bottom of the slide when your child goes down – the water at the bottom is deeper than you think!

We also spent lots of time in the Great Barrier Reef – the wave pool at Raging Waves.  Experience a few minutes of calm before the waves hit!  We mostly stayed in the shallow end because the waves can get pretty intense for a 3-year-old!  We visited on a busy Saturday and there were plenty of lounge chairs in the shade for when we needed a break.  Also, there’s a HUGE sand area right before you get to the wave pool if your kids are into digging!

Raging Waves Wave Pool

Photo Credit: Raging Waves

Another one of our favorite spots at the park was Kookaburra Kreek, Raging Waves’ lazy river.  I liked the fact that there weren’t as many sprinklers here as I’ve experienced at other parks – just one little waterfall under one of the bridges.  I was surprised, though, that there were lots of kids running through the pool without an inner tube – something I haven’t experienced at other parks.  Usually the lifeguards ask you to get out of the pool if you don’t have a tube – but here the kids running through were A-OK.

Raging Waves Lazy River

Photo Credit: Raging Waves

If your kids are into splash pads and lots of sprinklers, they will love Kangaroo Falls!  My son wasn’t too crazy about water all up in his face, but this was a favorite among kids at Raging Waves.

Raging Waves Kangaroo Falls

Photo Credit: Raging Waves

In addition to a few special events happening at the park over the summer, Raging Waves has added a new show, Sinbad and the Search for the Golden Pineapple, and it’s totally free with your admission.  It’s a fun, high-diving adventure and my son was enthralled with all the action.  It was so cute when he was visibly nervous as he watched one of the high dive jumps.

Raging Waves Sinbad Show

Photo Credit: Raging Waves

And meeting the cast afterwards was really fun too!

Raging Waves Show Cast

A few other things to consider when visiting Raging Waves:

  • Parking is free, however you can pay an extra $7.00 for VIP parking up close.
  • Lockers are $10.00 – $15.00 extra, depending on size, with in and out privileges all day.
  • Tubes to ride the slides are free, but there are inner tubes available for rental for the wave pool for an additional $5.00.
  • General Admission is $29.99 for all those over 48” tall, and $19.99 for those under 48” tall.  Many discounts are available including discounts for food donation, discounted tickets available for purchase at Costco, coupons available at Fifth Third Bank locations, Weekday Specials and much more.  Never pay more than you have to!
  • Cabanas are available for rental in the park if you’re looking for a private area to relax within the park.  This is definitely something I’ll be looking into for my next visit.
  • There is a Fifth Third Bank ATM located in the park for your convenience.
  • Life jackets are available at multiple locations throughout the park and are completely free of charge to use.  I was especially grateful since I forgot my son’s life vest at home.
  • There are 3 restrooms located in the park, 2 restaurants, and various snack carts located throughout the park.
  • The employees at the park are extremely friendly and helpful – if you need something or have a question, just ask!  The lifeguards go through an extensive training and must complete continuing education each year.  The park’s focus on safety is of utmost importance to me and my family!
  • The food available at the park is reasonably priced and they offer typical fast food fare like burgers, hot dogs, pizza, etc.  If you need special arrangements, like gluten-free, just call the park ahead of time to let them know – they can accommodate you!Raging Waves recently hired a new food manager so I anticipate new food options soon.
  • There are height requirements for most of the slides.  You must be over 48” tall to rise all of the large slides, and there are even some height restrictions for the kiddie slides in Kangaroo Falls.  You must be 36″ or taller to ride lower slides, must be 42″ or taller to ride the upper slides.  You can check your child’s height as soon as you walk in the park.
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Not quite tall enough yet…maybe next year!

We had such a blast when we visited Raging Waves.  Even after spending hours at the park, my son didn’t want to leave!  So head on out to Raging Waves with the family this summer.  You’re guaranteed to have a good time!

Raging waves is located at 4000 N. Bridge Street in Yorkville, near the intersection of Route 47 and Galena Road.

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