Out & About

Kid-friendly Labor Day escapes

McHenry County Magazine
Chestnut Mountain in Galena
Chestnut Mountain in Galena

Labor Day weekend may unofficially mark summer’s last hurrah in the Midwest, but, for many children, the holiday offers an opportunity to enjoy a last fling before they find themselves immersed in back-to-school activities.

A number of resorts – all an easy drive from the western suburbs – offer an alluring array of amenities geared toward kids and parents alike: water parks, zip line, mountain biking, river cruises and golf, to name a few.

Here are three kid-friendly resorts that would make great Labor Day escapes: 

Chestnut Mountain Resort
About three hours drive from the suburbs, Chestnut Mountain Resort offers stunning panoramic views of the Mississippi River Valley. In the Galena area, the resort ranks among the area’s biggest draws.

“The demographic cuts a wide swath,” says Stewart Stoffregen, a spokesman for Chestnut Mountain Resort. “We attract people of all ages, from families with children to youths and seniors.”

Visitors enjoy the Alpine slide, miniature golf, hiking and biking trails, riverboat cruises, zip lining and 75- to 90-minute Segway tours. 

“One could spend a whole day or longer at the resort and just scratch the surface,” Stoffregen says. 

Among dining options are Sunset Grille, where the fine-dining experience comes with enchanting views. Perched high on a bluff overlooking the Upper Mississippi River Valley, this restaurant offers a little bit of everything: steak, seafood and signature sandwiches. The restaurant also includes a 1,400-square-foot outdoor dining deck. 

Or try The Summit. It’s the resort’s take on a traditional sports bar. With 14 TVs, dad can take in a game while the kids enjoy a pizza pie. 

Timber Ridge
Lodge and Waterpark

Courtney Nobilia, marketing spokeswoman for Timber Ridge Lodge and Waterpark in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, says Labor Day weekend is a “great time to spend [at Timber Ridge].”  

An hour-and-a-half drive from the Chicago area, its spacious indoor/outdoor waterpark is a big attraction. Adventurous guests can give the lodge’s 35-foot-high slides, which follow twists and turns, a try before reaching a heated pool. Lodge guests also have more than eight miles of hiking and biking trails ranging from easy to expert. Other amenities include golf, mini-golf, horseback riding, archery and sand volleyball.

The main lodge has some 350 rooms and it recently added 29 three-bedroom villas, says Nobilia. 

“Guests can sometimes book [villas] for a single night, though the majority of the rooms are reserved based on a two-day stay.”

Those staying at Timber Ridge Lodge receive four free water park passes with a one-bedroom suite, and six passes with a two-bedroom suite.

Grizzly Jack’s
Grand Bear Resort

A roughly one-and-a-half-hour drive from the ’burbs, Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort in Utica is a great spot for families seeking fun and the great outdoors.

Located near Starved Rock and Buffalo Creek state parks, visitors also can enjoy boating and rafting on the Illinois River. Or stick around Grizzly Jack’s for waterpark fun. The resort features a wave pool, tube slide and toddler swim area, plus a 15-person hot tub. 

Two new resort attractions are giving children a hands-on fun experience: a petting zoo and Annie’s Little Pots. The latter allows children to get involved in the process of creating a ceramic piece. All glazes are non-toxic, dishwater safe and microwave-safe.

Other activities include golf and mini-golf. The resort also offers casual dining – pizza, burgers and salads – at family-friendly Jack’s Place Restaurant and Bar.  

If you go

Chestnut Mountain Resort
8700 W. Chestnut Mountain Road

Timber Ridge Lodge and Waterpark
7020 Grand Geneva Way
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort
2643 IL Rte. 178, Utica

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