Seeing a concert at Ravinia Festival has been on my Chicago bucket list for years. Listening to live music on the lawn with a spread of food, a glass of wine and some close friends is an ideal way to spend an evening – and a few weeks ago, we finally made it happen!
Ravinia Festival offers over 100 concerts each summer from jazz to classical to rock to kids concerts. There’s definitely something for everyone! We chose to see the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the Chick Corea Trio over the Fourth of July. Ticket prices vary by concert, but lawn tickets for our show started at $15 and student tickets were free!
You have two options to get to Ravinia – 1) drive or 2) take the Metra. The drive takes 30-40 minutes from downtown (depending on traffic), and parking can be anywhere from free to $20 depending on the show. The main lot often fills up before shows, but there is a nearby lot that offers a shuttle to the entrance.
For busy concerts, the Metra is the preferred option. The Union Pacific North Line leaves from Ogilvie Transportation Center and stops right in front of the venue at the Ravinia Park stop. Round trip tickets start at $8, and extra trains run for concerts. The ride takes about 35 minutes.
After parking and making it through a quick security check and the ticket entrance, we were greeted by the Martin Theater (above). Our program provided a history of the venue, and we discovered that this theater is the only building that dates back to Ravinia’s original construction in 1904! Ravinia was originally created as an amusement park. It held a baseball diamond, electric fountain and casino building with dining rooms and a dance floor.
The music pavilion and lawn are located on the other side of the theater. The lawn is a large grassy expanse, scattered with trees to provide shade. You can’t see the stage or band from most areas of the lawn, but there are speakers throughout to ensure the sound quality is great regardless of where you sit. The lawn is the perfect area to spread out a blanket, unpack a picnic and open a bottle of wine – and that’s exactly what we did!
If you don’t want to bring your own food and drinks, both are available for purchase. There’s also art scattered throughout the park. The entrance contains a water and light show called Chorus (below), and there are several sculptures.
Our jazz concert lasted almost 4 hours and was such a fun way to spend an evening. There’s something special about being able to listen to live music, sprawled across a blanket in the grass. We’ll definitely try to make another trip to Ravinia soon!
If you love outdoor concerts, also check out the Millennium Park Summer Concert Series. There are free concerts every Monday and Thursday downtown at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Like Ravinia, bring your own picnic and beverages to enjoy while you listen to live music against the Chicago skyline.
Have you been to either venue? What other concert venues do you love?
Slider photo courtesy of Ravinia Festival