5 Must Know Tips for Ravinia

Just about every Chicagoan has a trip to Ravinia on their Summer Bucket List (and if yours doesn’t, edit it IMMEDIATELY!). I mean, where else can you relax with friends and family in a lush venue and listen to talented musicians such as Sheryl Crowe, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Santana?!? The Ravinia Festival is such a unique experience which is why it keeps people flocking back to Highland Park summer after summer. The only problem is…it can be overwhelming if it is your first time visiting the open air venue. So before you leave with your picnic basket in hand, check out these 5 tips for making the most out of your Ravinia experience:

Arrive Early

I know, I know…it can be hard to get out of the office or get a babysitter over on a summer afternoon. But it is SO worth it if you are heading to Ravinia. Why? Because you have a better shot at scoring a parking spot in a nearby lot, and you have top pick of the lawn for setting up your picnic. My tip? Head to the right immediately upon entering the gates. It is less congested, the ground is sloped so you have a great view of the pavilion…and the bathrooms are nearby and well lit. Then pop open some wine, take out your snacks, and people watch until the show begins!

Take the Train

The small lot at Ravinia gets very full very fast…and it is EXPENSIVE. If the Ravinia Festival lot is full, you have to take the free shuttle over from the nearby Chicago Botanic Garden, which isn’t a very big hassle on the way over but can take a long time once the concert has finished. Over the years I haven’t been able to figure out why and people get so competitive and crabby when waiting in lines for the shuttle, but they do. Trust me. That’s why we take the Metra. There are two train station options, Ravinia Park (the West gate of the concert venue) or Braeside Station (a short walk to the nearby Ravinia Festival). If you want to avoid the crowds and don’t mind a little walk, Braeside Station is best for you.

Pick a Great Spot

I already shared my tip about staking out a spot on the right side of the front gates, but if that is full, use the strategy of finding a large landmark, such as the beautiful statues arranged throughout the lawn area, and set up near it. That way the rest of your party can easily find you…and you can find your back after you head to the bathroom or to the Pavilion to see the artists up close and personally!


Pack Light

No one likes to cart around massive tables, chairs, and coolers. So take advantage of the Ravinia services and rent chairs and tables from Ravinia. To ensure that they aren’t sold out, order online in advance…you even get a discount! Other simple ways to lighten your load? Freeze water bottles and use them in your cooler to keep food fresh. As the water bottles melt, ice cold water is ready for you to enjoy! Use disposable utensils, cups, and plates to make clean up a breeze and your walk back home a little easier. And even though I told you to pack light, don’t forget the bug spray, candles, and an extra jacket since it always seems to get chilly at night on the North Shore!

Enjoy the Restaurants

I know, I know…most people go to Ravinia for the picnic on the lawn aspect. But did you know that there are three exquisite and delicious restaurants to enjoy if you don’t have the time or energy to prepare a picnic meal yourself. You can also pick up fast, casual food from the numerous food stands located around the Ravinia Festival lawn as well.


And one extra tip…invite ME!

Looking for other summer fun? Here is the Ultimate Summer Bucket List for Chicagoans.

Enjoy the show!
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  1. Alli Smith says

    I wish I lived near Chicago! You have the best tips, especially the one about staking out the right side once you walk through the gates. I really need to add Ravinia to my bucket list.

  2. candy says

    Why haven’t I heard of this before. On our next trip to Chicago this is a spot we are going to have to visit. I know what to do and what to bring now.

  3. Jeanette says

    I have never heard of this before and I’ve been to Chicago quite a number of times. That is just embarrassing to say. I will definitely keep this in mind when I go back out there because I would definitely be checking this out.

  4. Tomi C says

    This is my first time hearing of Ravinia as well. Chicago is a mecca for festivals. Oh, the tip to rent chairs online is the best tip ever. I hate lugging chairs on the train along with our other festival essentials. One less thing to carry.

  5. lisa says

    Ravinia is always a great destination during the summer. I haven’t been in forever so maybe it’s time to find a good concert!

  6. Doria says

    I’ve never heard of the Ravina Festival, but it sounds like an awesome time! I’ll be sure to remember this post if we attend because you have some great tips 🙂

  7. Joline says

    Chicago is one of our favourite cities and we try to go as often as we can. We have not heard of Ravinia though. That bucket list needs editing for sure!! This is right up our alley.

  8. Jenn says

    I have never even heard of this before. Looks like an interesting place to visit. I love to travel, it’s just not in our budget very often.

  9. Kim says

    Great tip to set up near a landmark so friends can find you. I love that you can rent tables and chairs…what a great idea.

  10. Teresa says

    We haven’t been there in forever. We used to go all the time when we lived closer, but now we are further out, so it’s not worth the trip for us. Closer to just head to the city for more amazing music! But you hit all the great tips, that is for sure

    • Amanda says

      Not going to lie, I still prefer Ravinia to any outdoor venue in Chicago. The ambiance just can’t be beat!

  11. My Teen Guide says

    I haven’t been to Chicago! And to think I have family there. I would have to add this to our travel bucket list and check for festivals and/or activities they have so we can appropriately plan for it.

    • Amanda says

      It’s actually a concert venue where you can picnic while you attend the concert. Kinda like the best of both worlds.

    • Amanda says

      It’s even better if you can score a spot on the sloped ground so you can check out the musicians on stage!

  12. Lais Marins says

    Considering in attending a Lenny Kravitz concert next Sep 7th in Ravinia.
    For these concerts, people also stay seated (like picnic) at the lawn area?
    (recently moved to Chicago and really don;t know what to expect!)

    • Amanda says

      How funny–I’m going to that same concert! In the lawn people typically sit and picnic but once the sun goes down and the music gets amped up, people will get up and dance. It’s such a fun time and I’m sure Lenny will put on an amazing show!

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