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The Reader's guide to summer 

Road trips, restaurant patios, farmers' markets, festivals, and 110 things to do between now and Labor Day

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Summer is complicated. The three-plus months that fall between Memorial and Labor Day are often less a reason to rejoice and more an incredible scheduling nightmare, as every last grill-out, every last music festival, every last minute of sunshine has to, has to, be crammed into an already fat agenda. And though populating an hour-by-hour Google calendar—in which some semblance of a life must be lived around work obligations and the arrivals and departures of guests—is all well and good, at some point you've got to get the hell out of town. Because one of the best ways to love Chicago in the summer is to come back to it.

So we're here with suggestions for what to do in town and where to go when you need to escape. And since we understand that certain schedules are more flexible than others, there are options. For example, you can coordinate with the Cubs and embark on a three-night visit to Saint Louis—August 9 through 11, specifically—during which spewing obscenities at the Cardinals can be squeezed in between trips to the Soulard Farmers Market and the giant, playful art installation that is the City Museum. Or perhaps you want to ditch city livin' altogether with a weekend in Northport, Michigan. Nearly six hours north of Chicago and nestled up against the lake on the outskirts of the mitt, the cozy village offers fireworks, fancy booze, and an annual dog parade—all within the reach of your golf cart.

But what if you only have one night to spare? How about a trek two and a half hours due west to Mount Carroll, Illinois, to explore the peaceful town's year-round haunted house, the Raven's Grin Inn? If you don't have a car at your disposal, just hop on a bike and pedal to the brewpubs that sit barely outside of Chicago proper, including Three Floyds or Lake Bluff Brewing. Have as many pints as it takes to make a vacation, and pedal back.

As for the rest of the 110 days between this issue date and Labor Day, we've constructed a calendar filled with summery (and, occasionally, bizarre) fun. And if that's not enough to fill your days, we've tracked down worthwhile fairs, farmers' markets, alfresco dining and drinking, and music festivals.

Basically, what we're getting at here is that though you probably won't be able to chuck your own calendar, you can still rely on ours to make the most of summer—while still enjoying it. Kevin Warwick

110 reasons to mark your calendar

Something summery every day, from now until Labor Day

Road trips

Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Missouri

Two cycling day trips to three brewpubs

A guide to biking for beer outside the city's limits—yes, Three Floyds included

By Julia Thiel

Mount Carroll's small-town insecurity

Maybe it's the peace and quiet, maybe it's the year-round haunted house, but Mount Carroll, Illinois, has a subtle and spooky kind of charm.

By Gwynedd Stuart

Golf cart livin' in Northport

A fly-in pancake breakfast, an island overrun by herring gulls, and a village as charmingly peculiar as it is gorgeous

By Kevin Warwick

Meet me in Saint Louis

The "Gateway to the West" is not just a smaller, inferior version of Chicago.

By Aimee Levitt

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