The Ravinia Festival has been going strong for over 100 years, and this outdoor music venue provides an eclectic schedule of performers from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to current pop singers in nearby Highland Park. The Festival is located at 418 Sheridan Road in Highland Park, Illinois and the season runs from The Ravinia Festival 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.
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.
For those not big fans of picnics (or have Pavilion tickets), Mirabelle offers the best of both worlds with a "Chef's Table" gourmet buffet and alfresco seating (there is indoor seating as well). The menu offerings constantly change, and the dishes make use of what's available at the time during the Midwest growing season.
Park View Restaurant
For Ravinia guests looking to go high end with their dinner and a show experience, Park View offers fine dining atop the second floor of the dining pavilion, which, as the name implies, has a sweeping view of the Ravinia lawn.