One of the best parts about living in Evanston is that during the summer we are spoiled with choices for water recreation. And when it comes to taking a dip to cool off, most of us probably first think heading to the lakefront and one of Evanston’s many beaches.
However, there is a variety of reasons why one might want to skip the beach and head to a nearby pool, splash pad, or water park instead, the least of which is that Lake Michigan is pretty much always an ice cube until well after the Fourth of July. And while the lake can be great, sometimes kids need a more interactive environment.
For those looking for a way to beat the heat this summer, we’ve compiled the following list of local pools that are especially great for families.
Most Evanston residents are under the mistaken impression that Northwestern’s Norris Aquatic Center is only for NU staff and students. However, the pool complex is actually often open to the public and provides plenty of programming for the larger Evanston community.
The Norris Center features a 25-yard by 50-meter pool with a depth of up to 15-feet to accommodate diving.
This is the same pool the Northwestern’s Varsity Swimming and Diving teams use and you can even sign your kids up for swim lessons that are often taught by the very same athletes. The pool schedule can be found here.
Though relatively modest in size when compared to larger water parks in the area, the water playground is the nearest and most accessible water park for residents and packs a ton of features within its bounds.
The main pool is over 14,000 square feet and features a beach entry style. The water playground is fully accessible and barrier-free. There are five large water slides and children will love the multi-level play area, the highlight of which is the large water bucket, which tips over and rains down hundreds of gallons of water when full.
Bathrooms and a concession stand are also available for when the little ones need to take a break.
The smaller of Skokie’s two pool complexes, the Devonshire Aquatic Center features a fully accessible splash pad, a lap pool with zero-barrier entry, a diving board, and a drop slide.
There are changing rooms, concessions, and a sunning hill on the premises.
Wilmette, our neighbor to the north, has a pool complex of its own, the Centennial Family Aquatic Center.
Besides the main pool, which is also reserved for lap swimming at certain times of day, there is also a diving well, an activity pool, and a wading pool available.
Non-Wilmette residents will need to purchase a season pass ($240) or a daily pass ($18).
Just south of the Skokie Lagoons you will find Northfield Park District’s Clarkson Park, which underwent an extensive $1.5M renovation and reopened recently in May 2021. Part of the renovation included a rehab of the park’s splash pad, which younger children especially will enjoy.
The splash pad is open from 9 AM to 8 PM and its fountains are activated for three minutes at a time by touching a nearby pole.
Located in Northbrook, the Meadowhill Aquatic Center features a dedicated children’s play area, a diving well, and a water slide. You can find the full pool schedule here.
Daily admission passes for non-residents range in price from $7 to $9 based on age, though there is a family splash pass that allows ten visits $65 or $85 for non-residents.
The concession stand is closed for the 2021 season due to covid restrictions.
Itasca’s Caribbean Water Park is located west of O’Hare and is well worth the trip for its many cool features.
The waterpark has three pools, two water slides, a shallow area play area for little ones, and plenty to do for older kids. Adults will appreciate the dedicated adult swim times.
Located in Des Plaines, Mystic Waters is one of the largest waterparks in Northern Illinois.
The water park has several unique features including a 550-foot-long lazy river, two very tall water slides, and a large main pool called Dolphin’s Cove.
For younger guests, Mystic Rivers also has many fountains, a smaller water slide, and jet sprays as well.
Located about an hour and a half away by car is Rockford’s Hurricane Harbor. The Six Flags property is the premier water park in Illinois.
Hurricane Harbor Rockford has lots of activities for older kids and adults alike, this includes numerous thrilling water slides, a wave pool, and lazy river-tubing. For young children, there are multiple splash pads and shallow areas to enjoy.
There are multiple concessions and shops within the water park. An annual pass starts at $59.99 and includes admission to all three Chicago area Six Flags theme parks.
While a little bit of a trek, the journey is well worth it when you fill-up the car with tired kiddos after a long day of enjoying some sun and splashes and enjoy the silence as everyone naps on the way home.