Super Busy at Home

Family blog about homeschooling, autism, saving money, mom blog, travel, vacation, budgeting.

North Chicagoland

Waukegan, Illinois. Do you even know where this place is? If not, you should! This is a great hub for all things between Chicago and Milwaukee.

That being said, there isn’t much to do IN Waukegan. We stay there and there are a couple of fun things we have found to do but outside of that we travel around the area for most of our happy, happy, fun times.

For about the past three years, once or twice a year, we find ourselves in this area, traveling with Nick for work and working on trying to figure out what types of things there are to do in the area.

One of the most built up areas around Waukegan is Gurnee Mills. If you are from the Midwest you’ve probably heard of Gurnee Mills: its largest claims to fame are 1) Six Flags Great America, and 2) The Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall, one of the largest outlet malls in the nation.

Aside from those things, some widely known chain restaurants, and various car dealerships, I’m not sure there is much else in Gurnee. And so I began what is apparently to be a lifelong quest to find things to do in the Gurnee/Northern Illinois/Southern Wisconsin area.

Traveling with our kids, mind you. Here is what we have found:

Yummy Food


The Shanty-

The fisherman wharf style of restaurant was a huge hit with our kids. The kids prices were very reasonable and their appetizer platter was a huge hit with all of us. Make sure you try their fresh (piping hot!) bread with their olive oil…this was an amazing and fruity oil that was a great start to our amazing meal.


Dockside Ice Cream-

We love stopping here for a cone or two and then taking a walk along the water to see the ducks and fish. It’s always a nice way to end the evening and have some family time. There is a large cement pier that you can walk out on and see the bay…very pretty at sunset!

O’Tooles of Libertyville

has amazing fish and chips and is a super relaxed atmosphere. They always decorate for the seasons or for holidays so it’s a lot of fun to visit and hang out each time we’re up there.


Illinois Beach State Park


located in Zion, Illinois is such a fun getaway from the hustle and busltle you can sometimes feel on the crowded interstates of Chicagoland. We loved the beach and our future geologist loved all of the smooth stones it offered to look at. There are also plenty of hilking trails and a nature center.

Chicago Botanical Gardens


This free garden is massive and one of the best in the world! It can easily take you a day to meander through all of the different displays. Fun fact is that Nick is also a landscape architect so this is a legit place to us. Nick came up to the gardens in college on field trips because it is so wonderfully made. The gardens are free to visit but you pay for parking. This garden is located on the North side of Chicago which is very close to Waukegan since Waukegan is a suburb of Chicago.

Fun Places


Bowen Park

This park in Waukegan is one of the top playgrounds in the nation and will help your kiddos to get their wiggles out…guaranteed! We love the large spider web maze and the gigantic playground structure with slides that go underground! This is a seriously cool playground!

Bricks 4 Kidz

If you find yourself in the area you have to check it out! It was so much fun and we had a blast creating and putting together different ideas. This would also be a perfect rainy day activity.

Downtown Libertyville, Illinois

This is a fun downtown to explore with a historic feel, lots of shopping, and fun restaurants to try!

Where to Stay

We love the Springhill Suites in Waukegan

The rooms are nice and spacious with a mini kitchen and a separate living room space from the bedroom area. Another nice feature of this hotel (not all Springhill’s have this but most do): they have two rooms for the bathroom. One room has a sink and toilet, another room has a sink and shower. This makes it so nice for families when you are traveling because there are two places to change, two places to brush your teeth, and two mirrors to get ready at. So, so lovely!

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