Do you even remember what a polar vortex is or what minus-35 degrees feels like?
Probably not, considering Illinois got the first taste of hot, muggy weather this week. Hard to believe considering the brutal winter we had.
Saturday marks the first day of summer. But before you plop yourself down in front of the television to indulge in Netflix marathons, make sure to check out trails, water parks and other fun activities the area has to offer.
Some of these ideas, such as hiking, swimming and biking, may already have been on your radar, but consider other ways to spend the summer: reading, watching a movie with your family outdoors or volunteering at a local organization.
Ways to Get Outside
For those looking for ways to beat the heat this summer, Joliet’s Splash Station water park has it all with a 200-foot-tall slide, tube slides, a zero-depth pool, lazy river and laned pool. The park is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For admission prices and more information, visit www.jolietsplashstation.com.
Splash Pad at Community Park in Channahon
The Splash Pad opened in 2011 as part of overall improvements made to Channahon’s Community Park. The area features ground nozzles that spray water upward from the ground, a rainbow pipe shower that spouts water down. Jennifer Mensik, spokeswoman for the Channahon Park District, said the spot is a perfect place for children to cool off.
The Splash Pad is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Movie Nights at Silver Cross Field
Families can grab a spot in the outfield at Silver Cross Field for “Movie Nights,” according to the stadium’s website. Admission is $1; children under age 2 get in free. Bring blankets, play catch and enjoy snacks on select Friday nights when the Slammers aren’t playing. “Angels in the Outfield” is playing Aug. 30, with “Finding Nemo” featured Sept. 6 and “Cars” on Sept. 13.
Whether you’re new to hiking or a seasoned pro, the Forest Preserve District of Will County has 120 miles of available trails at your disposal.
For those looking for a challenge, check out Hammel Woods in Joliet, with its several grade changes, or Frederick’s Grove in McKinley Woods.
Bikers should check out the Rock Run Greenway Trail, a nearly 10-mile trek that starts in Crest Hill and travels south through Joliet. For an easier trip, Lake Renwick Bikeway travels just over 3 miles through the Lake Renwick Preserve. For a longer trek, try the 61.5-mile I&M Canal Bike Trail, which starts in Channahon and ends in LaSalle/Peru.
The district’s “Woods Walk Challenge” kicked off earlier this year. Participants who hike certain trails can earn medallions.
Ways to Volunteer
With all the things you have planned out for the summer, why not bring a little brother or sister along? About 70 children are currently on the waiting list at Big Brother, Big Sister of Will & Grundy Counties, and 67 of them are boys in need of an older, male mentor, said Lisa Morel Las, CEO of BBBS Will & Grundy Counties.
Volunteering just a couple of times a month can make a difference in a child’s life. Las said children in the program sometimes come from single-parent homes and need a mentor who can introduce them to new activities, perspectives or ideas they may not otherwise have.
“Sometimes, people don’t want to volunteer because they think, ‘Boy, I can’t come up with something creative or something gargantuan to do with the child.’ The reality is, just do what you normally do. If you’re out bike riding, take them along. Take them to a Joliet Slammers baseball game,” Las said. “What these children really are looking for is someone to be with them.”
Las said volunteers are asked to make at least a one-year commitment, meaning your time with the child should extend beyond the summer season. To volunteer, visit www.bbbswillgrundy.org.
Consider picking up a hammer this summer and heading over to a Will County Habitat for Humanity work site. The organization works hard to provide affordable housing in Joliet and surrounding communities – but it would be impossible without help from volunteers, said Annette Leck, executive director.
Skilled volunteers are always in demand on work sites, but less experienced workers can be taught construction tasks. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old. Two rehab projects and one new home is going up in Joliet this summer, Leck said.
Volunteering opportunities also are available from 9 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at the organization’s ReStore site, 200 S. Larkin Ave., where donated appliances, furniture and building supplies are sold.
To sign up for a construction work site, call 815-666-8140. To help out at the ReStore site, call 815-714-7011.
Ways to Stay Sharp
The Joliet Public Library’s “Paws to Read” reading program is a great way to help children combat learning or reading skill losses during the summer, said Linda Ward-Callaghan, manager with the library’s youth services.
The library has three reading programs – for children, teens and adults. The more participants log their reading times, the greater chances they have to win weekly prizes. For information, check out jolietlibrary.org/summerreading.