Situated on the shoreline of Lake Michigan in northern Illinois, Naval Station Great Lakes is home of the United States Navy’s only boot camp. This training facility is the largest in the Navy, with more than 1,000 buildings on the base. Naval Station Great Lakes operates like a small city with its own fire department, police forces and public works department.

If you’ve recently moved to town with your Navy recruit or have called Naval Station Great Lakes your home for a while, but are looking for some fresh ideas for weekend fun, check out our list of 10 things to do.

1. Great Wolf Lodge

Stay and play at Great Wolf Lodge. Great Wolf Lodge is the largest family of indoor waterpark resorts in North America, with world-class attractions and accommodation. Putt around at Howl in One Mini Golf, slip and slide down Coyote Canyon and Otter Run or play to win at Northern Lights Arcade. Whether you’re looking for a vacation venue or a day-trip destination, Great Wolf Lodge is perfect for the whole family. 

2. Date Night in Chicago

Spend a romantic evening in the Windy City. Just an hour-long drive south of Naval Station Great Lakes, Chicago serves as the perfect backdrop for date night with your Servicemember.

Check out one of The Second City’s notorious live comedy shows, catch a musical in the Belmont Theater District, hit up one of Chicago’s secret bars or experience a night at the museum at Adler After Dark!

3. Jump America

Jump America indoor trampoline park has something for kids of all ages. With 16,000 square feet of trampolines, two dodgeball courts and a foam jumping pit, your kids will be entertained for hours on end. Plus, it’s a great venue for birthday parties, school trips and community gatherings. Check out their current promotions, like Jump N Jam Fridays and Tot Time, for the best deals!

4. Museum of the American Sailor

Pay homage to our nation’s naval history. The National Museum of the American Sailor, an official Department of the Navy museum, is dedicated to the preservation of celebration of the history of the United States Navy’s Enlisted Sailor. Not only does the museum connect the public with our Navy’s heritage, but it also plays a role in the training process of Navy recruits, hosting traditions and activities that promote the history of our Naval forces.

Admission to the National Museum of the American Sailor is free and open to the public. If you plan on visiting with a large group, just remember to make a reservation in advance. 

5. Rollins Savanna Nature Preserve

Disconnect from the digital world. Step away from your laptop and spend an afternoon enjoying the best nature has to offer with a calming stroll through the Rollins Savanna Nature Preserve.

Walk through the wetlands and marvel at the groves of large oak trees and prairies of wildflowers. The 5.5 mile trail is open for hiking and biking — even skiing in the winter — so there’s never a shortage of ways to enjoy the natural beauty of the Rollins Savanna preserve. 

6. Weekend Trip to Milwaukee

Plan a staycation in nearby Milwaukee. Located an hour north of Naval Station Great Lakes, Milwaukee is a great weekend getaway for a girls’ trip or family fun! Stop by the Jelly Belly Center with the kids for a sweet treat, catch a ball game at Miller Park or try your luck at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino

7. Chicago Botanic Garden

Explore one of the greatest living museums and conservation centers. With 27 gardens, over six miles of lake shoreline and a renowned Bonsai collection, the Chicago Botanic Garden is a sight you won’t want to miss. More than one million people visit the garden each year to participate in programs, take classes and enjoy the beauty that surrounds them. Admission to the garden is free for all visitors and all Military personnel get the added bonus of free parking by presenting ID at the parking gate. 

8. Illinois Beach State Park

Enjoy lakeside relaxation at Illinois Beach State Park. This 6.5-mile stretch of beach offers a variety of activities for people of all ages. Explore the different plants and wildlife of the local marshes, go for a boat ride on Lake Michigan, splash around the water on a hot summer afternoon or spend a night camping under the stars. 

Whether you’re looking for a calm retreat to catch up on the latest book club read or want to actively explore the great outdoors, Illinois Beach State Park is a perfect destination for an afternoon of fun. 

9. Six Flags Great America

Featuring some of the world’s best roller coasters, Six Flags Great America is the ideal destination for action and adventure. Popular attractions include Maxx Force, a triple record-breaking roller coaster, and The Joker free-fly coaster. For those thrillseekers looking to beat the heat, Hurricane Harbor waterpark offers a variety of slides and pools for visitors of all ages.

10. Genesee Theatre

From musicals and dance performances to concerts and comedy shows, the Genesee Theatre is one of the area’s top entertainment venues. The theater first opened its doors in the late 1920s and originally served as a community center for Waukegan residents to immerse themselves in entertainment. While the theater’s offerings have changed over time, it remains an important part of the local arts scene.  

The Genesee Theatre is not only a popular venue to see local and well-known artists perform, but it’s also a great space for reunions, Sweet Sixteens and other family or corporate gatherings. Make sure to reserve your event well in advance as available dates fill up quickly!

When you call Naval Station Great Lakes your home, you get the best of quiet, small town life with the benefits of big city action nearby. From its arts and entertainment scene to the natural wonders of Lake Michigan, you’ll never run out of places to go and things to do.

More Things for MilFams to Do Around the Country:

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