Dee Alexander at Chicago Jazz Festival in 2009. File Photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 26, 2013 6:36AM
It’s not too late.
But you’re pushing it.
If you’re like the rest of us, summer is nearing its end and you’ve made it to just a few of Chicago’s only-in-summer gems.
School is starting up and the days already are growing shorter, putting the squeeze on your last few hours of summer.
But sunshine and time remains on your side — if you start today.
We’ve culled the summer to-do list for ideas and dug deep into our experiences. Our focus is on what’s free, or of minimal cost, isn’t naturally a tourist draw and is a true, only-in-Chicago experience.
» Shakespeare in the Parks. In its second remarkable season, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the city of Chicago and corporate sponsors have brought a free, first-rate production to 18 parks across the city. This year’s show, The Comedy of Errors, is engaging, silly, exceptionally well-acted and accessible to even the youngest Chicagoan. The very last performance is Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave.
» 31st Street Beach. It underwent a complete overhaul before opening last year and the results are spectacular. Adjacent to a new harbor, the beach offers some of the best views of the Chicago skyline and sits next to a stunning boardwalk/pier called Peninsula Park that culminates in a peaceful, green oasis jutting out into the water. Connected to the beach is a new playground, with endless climbing contraptions and a spray area for kids to cool off. Nearby, atop a new parking garage, are lovely, peaceful picnic areas and green space. All that and the adjacent bike path is far less crowded than on the North Side.
» Movies in the Parks. At sunset across Chicago this summer, city parks have been transformed into outdoor movie theaters, complete with free popcorn. The city- and corporate-sponsored run is nearly over, but 28 showings remain through Sept. 14. And these aren’t just for kids. “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Fame” and “Life of Pi” are coming up. Check out http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/events/movies/ for a schedule.
» The “Magic Hedge.” A delight for birders and anyone looking for a quiet, beautiful spot in the heart of the city, this bird sanctuary sits at the edge of Montrose Avenue where it juts out to meet Lake Michigan. Some 300 bird species have been recorded at the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary — the official name of the area that includes the Magic Hedge — according to the Illinois Audubon Society. It’s known for attracting migrating songbirds. The trails are well marked and include a gentle hill (a hill!) that offers stellar views of the lake and the skyline.
In addition to the above list, don’t miss out on these better known, but no less worthy, events and activities:
» Taste of Greektown, the weekend festival wraps from noon to 11 p.m. Sunday, 100-400 S. Halsted
» Chicago Jazz Festival, Aug. 29-Sept. 1, Millennium Park
» Midnight Circus in the Parks performs at 10 parks from now until Oct. 27. The playful, theatrical and clever shows benefit local park districts.
» Millennium Park concerts and events at the park continue, including World Music Festival, through the end of September.