Road Pictures: Tinley Park and Naperville, Illinois

Being a good mom, I recently drove the twins and one of their friends to Tinley Park. They were headed to the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre for the Warped Tour—an all day punk rock festival. To me the idea of spending 10 hours listening to punk bands brought this to mind:

Portrait

And made me want to do this:

Cover ears

But the kids were excited to go, and luckily they are old enough to just drop off. This was excellent news for my eardrums, but I needed something in the vicinity to do for 10 hours. Fortunately, a friend of mine, Terri, was available to keep me company, and we were able to make our own fun that didn’t involve this (which I am pretty sure is expressly forbidden in my insurance policy):

Warped mosh

Once we turned the kids loose, our first stop was just a few miles away from the Amphitheatre at the Tinley Park Farmers’ Market (TPFM). We live in downstate Illinois, where there is much more farmland. (Helpful hint: when driving through central Illinois, if the crop is tall, it’s corn; if it is short, it’s soy beans.) Farmers’ market is probably a misnomer in Tinley Park. The TPFM is probably a quarter of the size of our local one, and the most obvious difference is that there were only two or three booths (as opposed to two or three rows of booths) selling actually local produce. Intriguingly, however, one of the TPFM produce stands was selling bananas. The booth was doing brisk business, and I didn’t want to interrupt to ask how they managed to grow bananas locally, so sadly this remains an unsolved mystery.

Despite the decided lack of farmers, the TPFM did have several booths selling food items. The best sign goes to the cheese booth: Caseum Diem (Cheese the Day). I would have bought cheese there just because the sign was clever, but it would have spoiled in the hot car before we returned home. I resisted flavored olive oil, dubious foodstuff on a stick, and assorted jams and jellies. I did end up buying a caramel apple coffee cake ($10). The booth was serving samples, which were delicious. Veni. Gustaverim. Emi. (I came. I tasted. I bought!) Other booths were filled with things we could live without (e.g., fleece blankets, which were probably not the best thing to sell in 90 degree heat, or necklaces of teen pop stars made out of bottle caps) and some beautifully made items that were more than I wanted to spend that day (e.g., painted gourd planters or a lovely oak pie cupboard with punched tin panels). But it was fun to look, and we spent an hour poking around. There was even some entertainment in the form of a violinist (who seemed to be raking in the money) and half of the winning team from the most recent Virginia Beach Sand Castle Championships. He was making palm trees from a sand block for a Caribbean-themed street party that was to be held the next day.

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After we had exhausted the TPFM options, we walked a few blocks of Oak Park Avenue because they had benches decorated in children’s book themes: fairy tales and classics like Where the Wild Things Are. They were very cute. (Apparently the bench theme changes each year.)

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You’re freaking me out, Grandma.

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This is why moms say “No sweets before dinner!”

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I thought the cow was supposed to be milky white.

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Let the wild rumpus start!

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Notice the shot put-sized pea.

After admiring the benches, we departed Tinley Park for Naperville. Parking in both towns turned out to be free, and in Naperville, it was plentiful. We found a spot in the second lot we tried. The first order of business was lunch and we chose a bar and grill that seemed to be doing booming trade: Jimmy’s Grill. Terri had fish tacos and I had a burger and fries. We both thought the food was tasty. They charged extra for cheese and mushrooms (making my $9 burger a $10 burger), but soft drinks were a reasonable $2. Terri’s fish tacos were $11 or $12. Having an OCD-fueled germ phobia, I thought the place could have been a tad cleaner (table and seats were not wiped well; there was no changing table in the restroom, so another patron was changing her son’s diaper on the sink), but overall, it was a decent meal at a reasonable price.

Driving into Naperville, we had noticed a little river walk. After lunch, we strolled over to the park entrance. That part of the walk went through woods, so it was shady (welcome on a hot day) and followed a winding brick path along the river. It was lovely. The Morton Arboretum had placed information plaques by some of the trees, and there were benches dotted along the way. On the opposite shore you could see the stadium of North Central College. We also spotted a chipmunk, several ducks and their babies . . .

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.  . . and this guy, who was just hanging out on a downed tree.

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We walked the whole length of that part of the river walk (about 1.2 miles roundtrip) and then headed into town to explore the various shops. We sniffed all the spice sample jars in a spice shop, and Terri ended up buying some Chili 9000 (staff assured us that was not the temperature of your tongue after ingesting said Chili 9000.), which blended chili, cocoa, cinnamon, and other spices. We next tried samples in a gourmet popcorn store, and we each bought a small bag for $5—hers was plain salted, mine was kettle corn. Of course the small bag there was the size of a large bag at the movie theatre. Then we crossed the street and browsed a Barnes and Noble bookstore. After that, we stopped at Potbelly’s to get a soft drink and sit for a bit (less than $2 per drink) before purusing a few more shops along that main street, including some resale stores (one describing itself as upscale sold old designer shoes for outrageous prices—a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s shoes, for example, that were dirty and well-worn were still being sold for $100! Me: Why?), a board game store, and more.

Then we walked a different part of the river walk, heading the opposite way. This part had a concrete path along the river and a wider brick path up at street level. There was less shade here, but it was still fun to people watch, admire assorted art and fountains (including the aptly named Dandelion Fountain) and crisscross the river on the various bridges (covered bridges for pedestrians only or regular street bridges. Naperville’s vibrant downtown had more shops and restaurants than we could explore, the river walk was an unexpected delight, and there is even a historic area that we didn’t investigate because it was closed for an Ale Fest the day we were there.

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As the day turned to evening, we headed back to Tinley Park,** topping up the gas tank in Naperville because it was about 16 cents a gallon cheaper than Tinley Park (although both cities had considerably higher gas prices—over $4 a gallon—than central Illinois). We had a quick dinner at an Arby’s in Tinley Park and arrived at the amphitheatre before the last set. We walked around a bit outside the venue. There was music in the parking lot, which was competing with the noise music inside. Inside there were several stages and the sound bled between them. Fingernails on the chalkboard to me, but the kids came out happy and hungry (a vegan, a vegetarian, and a frugal teen did not do well with the venue fare), so we took them over to Subway to get reasonably priced food before driving home.

The adventures were successful all the way around; although I still think Terri and I had the better day. We’re already planning a return trip to Naperville with another friend in the fall. There are tons more shops to check out, and the river walk should be lovely when the leaves turn.

Photo 1: National Archives (public domain)
Photo 2: Noisy Whistler; Nathan Jones, Flikr
Photo 3: Warped 2010; Ted Van Pelt, Flikr
Text and all other photos ©: Rebecca Bigelow

**We drove to Naperville with the GPS set to “Avoid Toll Roads.” We drove back on the toll roads. The former route was picturesque, but took longer. The latter was shorter, but cost us about $7! Highway robbery and/or reason to buy an I-pass?

Tinley Park by the numbers:

Incorporated: 1892

Population: 56,703

Capacity of the Amphitheatre: 28,000

Weird Claim to Fame: Tinley Park Lights UFO sightings in 2004, 2005, and 2006

Naperville by the numbers:

Settled: 1831; incorporated as a city: 1890

Population: 141,857

Naperville’s Smartest Decision: Keeping parking free—a choice made in the 1970s so the downtown area could compete with shopping malls that were opening in the surrounding area. It clearly worked.

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