Picnicking to Pop Bands at Ravinia


lawnYou’ll find no shortage of live music venues in Chicago, but one of the best is Ravinia. Located just a bit north of the city and easy to get to via the Metra Rail, Ravinia is the place to be on warm summer nights. The outdoor performance space has been around since 1904, and every summer it welcomes thousands of people who bring along a picnic and groove to their favorite bands under the stars.

Tickets go on sale April 22 and while some shows sell out quickly, for others you can still snag tickets the day of the show. This summer’s line up includes the Counting Crows, Swell Season, the Moody Blues, Sheryl Crow, and Carrie Underwood, plus a whole host of symphonies and jazz bands. Tickets range from cheap ($10-$15 for lawn seats when purchased in advance) to a bit on the pricey side ($50 or more for reserved seating for bigger names), but the overall experience can still be pretty cheap.

Getting there

The Metra Rail Union Pacific North Line runs from downtown directly to the Ravinia gate. The ride takes about 45 minutes and costs $4.50 each way. Be sure to check when the last train comes and make sure you get on it. While a later train may be added to accommodate large crowds for some shows, usually the last train runs about 11pm.

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What to bring

Perhaps one of the biggest draws of Ravinia is that guests are allowed to bring in their own food and drinks, including alcohol. Though there are several restaurants and a market onsite, most guests seem to take advantage of the “bring your own” policy. Some people go far beyond a plate of cheese and some plastic cups though, and you may be surprised by some of the lavish spreads you see.

Many people bring lawn chairs, blankets, wine, citronella candles, roll-up picnic tables, and coolers – all of which are allowed. If you don’t want to lug so much stuff though, you can purchase picnic items on site, or rent a lawn chair for $7 (or two chairs and side table for $14). Items not allowed include tents, large umbrellas, kegs, grills, pets (other than service animals), bikes, weapons, drugs, and ball games or frisbees. Other than that, it seems nearly anything goes.

One bit of caution though – if it’s a band you truly love and want to see up close, spring for reserved seating. While the vibe on the lawn is lovely and relaxed, you’ll see more of the stars and your companions than you will of the band performing.

Photo by jordanfischer