The Ravinia Festival, the oldest outdoor music festival in America, has been going strong for well over 100 years. You can expect an eclectic schedule of performers from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to current pop singers in nearby Highland Park. The Ravinia Festival is located at 418 Sheridan Road in Highland Park, Illinois and the season runs from early June to early September.
Ravinia's History and Description
The Ravinia Festival was created just after the turn of the 20th century by the A.C. Frost Company to lure riders to Highland Park via the newly created Chicago and Milwaukee Electric Railroad, which ran between Evanston, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Taking its name from the ravines the village is known for, Ravinia began life as an amusement park, with a baseball diamond, casino building, and an electric fountain.
After the railroad failed in 1910, a group of area philanthropists purchased Ravinia, turning it from an amusement park into a well-revered venue for classical music -- it became the summer home for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and remains so today.<br/>Besides the CSO, Ravinia now caters to more modern tastes as well, mixing into the classical schedule pop and country acts from now and the past such as Carrie Underwood, Robert Plant, Jennifer Hudson, Maroon 5 and Hall & Oates. Be sure to check the calendar for a list of performers.
Ravinia offers two different ticket options--either a seat in its 3,200 capacity Pavilion or a general admission ticket for the Lawn. Since visitors can't see the Pavilion stage from the Lawn, it instead turns into one gigantic dinner party as guests set up elaborate picnics with low slung tables and chairs, candles, and full dinner sets. The concerts are broadcast to fans on the Lawn through an excellent sound system, and a video screen is set up for select performances.
Ravinia tickets are available online, or by phone at 847-266-5100. Tickets purchased the same day of performance are charged a $5 fee for each ticket.
Ravinia has a parking lot that can accommodate 1,800 vehicles. Parking cost is $20 for all performances except for classical music concerts, which are $10. If you don't mind arriving a bit early and taking a shuttle, consider parking in one of Ravinia's Park 'N Ride lots.
Getting to Ravinia by Car
From downtown Chicago: I-90/94 west to the Edens Expressway (I-94). Exit at Lake Cook Road east to Green Bay Road. Turn north on Green Bay Road to Ravinia entrance.
Getting to Ravinia by Public Transportation
Metra Rail offers the Union Pacific North Line to Ravinia, along the Chicago to Kenosha, Wisconsin, route. During the Ravinia summer concert season, Metra offers this ride for only $7 round trip, with the train heading back to Chicago often waiting to board at concert's end. The train leaves Chicago from the Ogilvie Transportation Center at 500 West Madison Street.
Packing a Picnic
Almost overshadowing the performances is the large number of people that bring elaborate picnic spreads while sitting in Ravinia's lawn. Guests with Lawn tickets are welcome to bring their own food, beverages, chairs, coolers, and whatever else they need to enjoy their claimed spot on the lawn with the exception of staked items, tents/canopies, large umbrellas, pets, beer kegs, and grills.
For those not wanting to haul all of that gear, Ravinia has various food kiosks and a market that serves picnic items, casual food, and beer, wine, and soft drinks. Ravinia also has the option of advanced ordering a pre-packaged picnic basket, and lawn chairs are available for rent.
Levy Restaurants operate the onsite dining options, recently refurbished, which includes two sit-down restaurants and grab-and-go options. The BMO Club offers rooftop beverage service, with no reservations required. Tree Top is celebrated for its thematic self-service chef's tables. Lawn Bar serves noshes and nibbles via small plates. Park View offers a sit-down elevated dining experience on the second-floor, overlooking green space, with reservations recommended.