Happy Fourth of July, suburbanites! If you’re reading this first thing Wednesday morning, we hope we’re not too late to dissuade you from making that awful trek into Chicago for what will be a fun but exhaustingly hot, unbearably crowded and unbelievably expensive day celebrating our nation’s freedom.
You want a huge fireworks display? It comes with a huge headache.
Stay in the ‘burbs, where you’ll find more than enough fun, plenty of variety and some key comforts of home.
Here are seven reasons the suburbs have it all over the city on Independence Day.
1. Time and traffic
Sure, you could drive into the city but, face it, you should probably have made your morning coffee to go and jumped in the car by now.
There’s the getting there, finding a parking spot, getting to Navy Pier for the fireworks or Grant Park for the music festival, scoping out a decent spot to spread out or stand, zeroing in on the closest, cleanest portable toilets. You get the picture. Going into the city on a holiday is an odyssey.
Contrast that with the suburbs, where there are festivals large (Naperville Ribfest) and small (Sleepy Hollow), none of which takes forever to get to and get home from for work the next day.
There are 13 places in Naperville where you can park and take a shuttle to the festival grounds. For an imposingly large festival, they sure do try to make it easy.
At Palatine’s Hometown Fest, you can park for $5 or $10 right next to the festival grounds. Or if you live nearby, you can walk and drag the kids or grandkids there in a wagon. A little exercise helps offset festival food.
In Chicago, you can buy a 12-hour parking pass online for the Millennium Park and Grant Park parking garages for $15. Remember that you can’t see the fireworks very well from Millennium Park, so you’ll need to find your way to Navy Pier.
If there is not a Fourth of July parade in your town, odds are pretty good there will be one in the next town over.
It’s a big juicy slice of Americana.
In Chicago, well, you’re plain out of luck.
4. Sense of community
What better place to meet other people in your community without having to invite them all over to your house for a backyard barbecue? At a festival, all buy their own hot dogs and beer.
In Sleepy Hollow you’ll find the next best thing to Mayberry. In addition to a great fireworks display that explodes right overhead at Sabatino Park, the afternoon’s activities includes an honest-to-goodness pie-eating contest. All that’s missing here is Aunt Bea’s pickles.
5. Fireworks shows
There is nothing like dueling fireworks displays. People on our night copy desk in Arlington Heights can see several of them at once from the third-floor balcony looking south and west.
Sure, you can go to Itasca’s fireworks show, which is enormous, or you can take in a double feature.
At Arlington Park Racecourse you can watch the Arlington Heights show as well as Rolling Meadows’, which is just a short distance away, simultaneously. In Batavia you also can watch Geneva’s. And in the big sky country of western Kane County, you can see several shows from one vantage point.
It’s this way in just about every suburb. It’s fun to watch one town try to outdo the other.
Navy Pier’s show is always spectacular, but that’s all there is.
In Chicago, you can wave your little American flag to the strains of the Grant Park Orchestra performing patriotic tunes at the Pritzker Pavilion.
In Naperville, you can pump your fists and stomp your feet to Melissa Etheridge, the Stray Cats and Pitbull. And that’s just one town and one night.
If country music is your thing, you can see Big & Rich play in Elk Grove Village.
7. Cheap eats
The children in your life will never believe this, but you can manage to attend a festival and not stop at every corn dog, elephant ear and deep-fried Snickers stand. Because you’re closer to home, you can always throw some chicken on the grill and not completely blow your diet.
If you attend the music festival at Grant Park, this is the one night they won’t let you bring your own beer and wine to the concert.
8. Cheap baseball
You can watch the Tigers take on the Cubs at Wrigley. The White Sox are away at Cincy.
But you can catch the Boomers play the River City Rascals in Schaumburg for a whole lot less dough. And, guess what? It’s fireworks night!
Face it, Wednesday is going to be about 90 degrees by noon. The best thing about staying in the ‘burbs and popping out for the festival in the afternoon and the fireworks at night is you can cool off in between and go to bed right after the fireworks to get a comfortable night’s sleep before awaking to work on no one’s favorite day — July 5.
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