Kids can rock out for free at Kidzapalooza.
When your kids are growing tired of the library-park-beach routine and school's still miles away, it's time to hit up something new. Below, we've listed a range of festivals catering to a variety of ages and tastes. They'll have fun and maybe even - gasp - learn something while they're at it.
Family Fun Festival
June 9-September 3; free
This free Millennium Park festival is the mother of all family fests. Running throughout the summer, daily activities include a Wiggleworms sing-along led by Old Town School of Folk Music instructors, a reading circle, hands-on craft projects and garden, science and environmental activities led by Chicago's top cultural spots. There are daily concerts, too, with an ever-changing lineup, but it's the theater that really takes the cake here. Catalan street-theater company Sarruga brings its gigantic insects to the Chase Promenade in July; Emerald City Theatre presents its comedy "The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs in August"; and the Chinese Fine Arts Society winds its way around the park in site-specific "QiXi: A Chinese Love Story, Two Stars and the Milky Way," which features Chinese lion dancers, opera singers, traditional dancers, martial artists and musicians.
Bristol Renaissance Faire
July 10-September 6 (Saturdays, Sundays & Labor Day Monday); $8.50 in advance, $9.50 at the gate for ages 5-12; free for kids 5 and under
For knights-in-training and ladies-in-waiting, this is the fairest fest of all. You won't find any go-gators here; the rides are all self-powered and true to the Renaissance spirit, they sport names like Da Vinci's Flying Machine, Captain's Cannons and Barrel of Bedlam. Kids can try on armor, wander the maze or attempt archery. There are stage performances, of course, but the Knighting Ceremony, where every child is made a Lord or Lady by the Queen, is the undisputed king of this festival.
August 6-8; free for ages 10 and under with a paying adult
Get them started early at Lolla's Kidzapalooza. Bands like Care Bears on Fire and School of Rock provide the rock 'n' roll (and Perry Farrell makes an appearance, too), and temporary tattoos, mini-mohawks, and skateboarding workshops provide the attitude. Don't let your kids be poseurs, though ó encourage them to try their hands at one of the many workshops. From guitar-playing to breakdancing to hip-hop to stand-up, it's a mecca for the stars of the future.
57th Street Children's Book Fair
September 19; free
Bring your budding bookworms to this free Hyde Park fair. Booksellers will be offering both new and used wares in abundance, of course, but that isn't all. The day kicks off with a parade of storybook characters, and residents are encouraged to dust off that Mother Goose costume and join them. There are performances on three stages, and kids also have the chance to go behind the scenes and meet guest authors.
Chicago International Children's Film Festival
October 21-31; $6 for ages 3-16
The largest festival of films for children in North America, this Facets-produced fest features 250 films from 40 countries spanning genres way beyond cartoons, even including child-produced works. Cinephile kids will enjoy voting on which film deserves the "Best of Fest" award, and thereís a child jury as well as an adult one. If they canít get enough, consider sending them off to Facets Kids Film Camp beforehand (June-July). .