City Breaks, Educational Adventures, Mini Midwest

Mini Midwest: Ravinia


Every now and then, I hit the jackpot of educational travel.  I mean sure, every destination can be educational, provided you approach it with an adventurous spirit and a thirst for knowledge.  And of course, there are the obvious options for learning-while-traveling–museums, historic homes, science centers and the like.  But sometimes I stumble upon something that turns out to be fabulously educational in a way that I never expected.

Like Ravinia.

I visited Ravinia this past summer with a group of other travel writers; we attended a Lyle Lovett concert (and, by the way, Lyle Lovett kind of rocks.  I had no idea.  See?  Already a learning experience.) But Ravinia is better known as the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and is the oldest outdoor music festival in the United States.

DSC_0610It also has a pretty awesome collection of educational programming.  In fact, education is the entire goal of Ravinia, and this goal guides all of Ravinia’s policies.  Like the one that made my travel-nerd heart grow three sizes, and thus I am putting it in really big letters:

At Ravinia, admission to all classical music events is FREE for children through college age.  

That’s right folks, it will cost you exactly zero dollars to take your kids (and teens, and young adults) to hear world-class classical music in a beautiful, outdoor setting.  And, as an added bonus–and also to help encourage attendance of people-on-a-budget–the venue is BYOB (and we all know how important beverages are to me).

During my evening at Ravinia, in addition to enjoying a great night of music, I got to witness hundreds (perhaps thousands?) of families camped out on the picnic-basket-and-candle-strewn lawn, enjoying an evening together.  Most brought food.  Some even decorated their areas.  I saw one family with a fondue pot (and still regret not asking to take that photo).

Best of all, Ravinia is a local travel option for anyone living in the Chicago area.  Even if you are a car-free city-dweller, the train station is literally on the property (and after my last visit to Chicago, wherein I sat on I-90 for an hour and twenty minutes watching trains whiz by, I can assure you that the train is a good idea).

Yes, I know that these mini-midwest posts are supposed to be under 150 words.  But I needed more than that to express my admiration for Ravinia’s commitment to musical education.  I was impressed, I was inspired, and I was entertained.

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