When I first received an email about Ravinia, I have to confess that I had no idea what it was. I had heard of it, but didn’t think of it beyond being a venue in Chicagoland. I was certainly wrong about that.
Ravinia is actually the longest running outdoor music festival in North America.
Unlike what you would normally expect from a “festival,” this one lasts for four months and has been taking place for over 50 years. It is also non-profit.
Each year, from June-September, Ravinia Festival schedules 140 musical performances, from classical to rock.
Among those for 2018 are Diana Ross, Tony Bennett, and Seal.
My friend and photographer, Brittany, and I went through the schedule to decide which event would work best for us.
We decided on the concert with ZZ Top and John Fogerty, neither of which we had ever seen.
We drove to see the event. I was not feeling my best and was immediately impressed with their complimentary and easy to find handicapped parking, for which I have a permit.
I continued to get even more impressed with the venue. Not only was the parking easy, but there was actually a Highland Park train station right there for those who didn’t want to drive.
Once inside, Ravinia is filled with food and drink – or you can bring your own. That’s something you rarely see at a music festival, but is encouraged here.
The lawn picnic at Ravinia is well-known to those who have been coming here for years with family and friends.
Some bring snacks and sandwiches with wine and soft drinks, while others have elaborate spreads with bar.
From the lawn (which is quite reasonable), you can’t really see the musical acts, but you can certainly hear them as you relax and celebrate.
If you are looking for a more traditional concert setting, there is also the (covered) reserved seats for a little more money (prices vary by concert, see the schedule here). The Pavilion has 3,400 seats. An indoor venue is also available for a few select winter concerts.
You also do not have to bring your own food, drink, or chairs to Ravinia. They rent chairs, the food court has a selection of offerings, and The Lawn Bar (just opened this year), offers cocktails, wine, and beer.
The concert we chose to attend was phenomenal. ZZ Top was playing at Ravinia for an unbelievable fifth decade.
You certainly didn’t feel like you were watching 70-year old’s out there. They were fresh and fun, and the audience sang along to every number.
John Fogerty, though not as anxious to show his age, was also a top-notch performer who has also been around a long time.
He made his support of veterans and those currently serving well-known throughout the show, and it was clear the feeling was mutual.
Highland Park is located about 25 miles from downtown Chicago. Since we are another two hours from there, we decided to stay locally at the Holiday Inn Express in nearby Prospect Heights, IL.
Before we left in the morning, I couldn’t resist the opportunity in Chicagoland to stop at a New York style deli, something I can’t find in Champaign.
I decided on Once Upon A Bagel in Northbrook, and went home with some bagels, a knish, and a corned beef sandwich.
I’m looking forward to seeing at least another concert at Ravinia next year. Even if you don’t live near Chicago, it’s worth making a trip to town to see this one of a kind festival.
Visit the Ravinia website to see the schedule and purchase tickets. Don’t forget to check their special offers.