6.14.2010

Music under the Trees: Ravinia

I've finally had a chance to visit that renowned, Chicagoland outdoor music venue, Ravinia.

Ravinia is located North of the city of Chicago in Highland Park, IL. It's well-known for its outdoor concerts among the trees. They have delicious restaurants and take-out kiosks for creating amazing picnic spreads for attendees, in addition to what they already bring. I hear they even have a contest for participants to enter themselves in for the best picnic award!
Ravinia on the lawn

Folks from near, far, and wide come to Ravinia to experience outdoor concerts, delicious picnics, and summer joy under the trees and stars. This is definitely one of those "must-do" things on the list of anyone who grew up or moved to the Chicagoland area.

Well, ok, that's the brochure version. Now for the practical considerations...

To begin with, if you are driving and have tons of stuff to schlep, the best option is to pay an additional $20 for the official parking lot. Your navigation system will not help you find the easy-to-miss park-n-ride locations--which don't have clearly-labeled shuttle pick-up locations nor hours of operation. Those convenient park-n-ride parking lots, might actually get you to the park late!-that means you'll have missed a spot on the lawn! The best part about the $20 parking lot: 1) short walk to park entrance, 2) you can drive off early because your car's not boxed in.
 
As you may have guessed, it's all rather expensive. Pavilion seats are at a premium costing an arm and a leg, but are worth it, if you're not a picnic/tailgate type of person who can be on a messy--and sometimes muddy--lawn for extended periods of time. Lawn tickets cost me $54 for two--that means you bring your own seating surface with you and your spot on the lawn is on a first-come, first-pioneer-stake basis. The lawn seats have ZERO visibility to the stage and performers, however, you may very well have partially-obstructed view to the large screen on either side of the stage to look forward to...

The food can get pricey: $25 for a half bottle of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. It's HIGHLY recommended you bring your own wine, food, utensils (corkscrew, matches, etc.) and anything else you need away from home on a picnic on a grassy knoll. Don't forget sunscreen if it's sunny, sunglasses, and bug repellent if the bugs are out and about. Wear clothes in layers, you may be warm, and then cold. Don't wear flip flops, you'll get muddy or sandy feet.

Bring plastic (bounce-drop-friendly) tumblers, wine glasses, plates, forks, and other dining regalia. Remember, this is a picnic. Bring a lantern, citronella candles, or another light source for packing up.Folks really seem to like the Crate and Barrel folding picnic tables, camping-style folding chairs, and rolling coolers full of ice, cold-packed nibbles, and wine/beer. Take note. These.Make.Your.Life.Easier.


Bring lots of hand wipes, napkins, a garbage bag, and drinking water--don't get smashed on the vino please, or if you do, act like your age. And, above all, bring an open, uncommitted, low-to-no expectations attitude as you never know who you'll be squished next to, what you might see that you wish you hadn't, and how fun or not fun the wait to the show start will be. You might end up surrounded by absolutely charming people you want to bear hug, like we did. They even gave us a slice of their fresh-baked spice cake. We thoroughly enjoyed commiserating over a strange couple and engaged in absolutely lovely conversation on and off during our visit.

On the grass, you WILL be exposed to the environment. Bring plastic tarp to mark your territory, lay your stuff out, and possibly to kick off your shoes and be comfy with your party. Bring a roll-out picnic table and folding chairs--don't forget the size limit on the brolly should there be some sprinkles--don't want to obscure already partial views of your fellow attendees. Above all, come early and you'll be more likely to find a spot on the lawn.

So what did I go see after all is said and done? It was a Colbie Caillat and Sheryl Crow twofer. Colbie was soothing and lovely, and Sheryl was amazing Sheryl.  I just wish I could have seen them and taken pix. I had obscured view of the right-hand side screen. The sound was good, but not great. It didn't feel like a concert, it felt like eavesdropping. At $54, plus $20 parking, plus nibbles and wine. Hmph.

I just have a major issue with paying for tickets and I don't get a direct line of sight to the artist I paid to see. Would I go again? Maybe. I would try out Pavillion seats and a dinner reservation at one of the restaurants next time. Maybe. Maybe not. When I add up the packing, the drive, the parking fee, the food and beverage prices, the mass of human bodies all around making potty breaks or leg-stretch-walks difficult to impossible, and the zero-view-of-the-stage...why did I come all the way up from Aurora schlepping stuff again?

Our local area is actually very competent these days when it comes to summer entertainment. So, although I can see how Ravinia was ahead of its day for the Chicagoland area, especially pre-Millennium Park/Pritzker Pavillion...but all the activities nearby, like Catigny, Aurora Downtown Alive, Naper Settlement, Shakespeare on Clark, Morton Arboretum Concerts and Theater Hikes, etc., just to name a few, are a strong incentive to stay near to home and hearth.

Hmmm. Yes, I think I'll definitely stick closer to home next time.