This city in southwest Chicagoland is right on Chicago’s city limits, sharing a boundary with the Ashburn neighborhood and sitting just south of Chicago Midway International.
Burbank and the surrounding suburbs have been associated with immigration from Eastern Europe, and that heritage is still obvious at Polish restaurants and a Lithuanian cultural museum.
There are two malls in the area, and if you’re on the hunt for family-owned restaurants you’ve got plenty along 79th Avenue, for everything from Polish sausage to shawarma.
Although Burbank is almost entirely made up of residential streets, the city is 10 minutes from a massive cluster of Cook County forest preserves where you can escape to nature on foot, by bike or on horseback.
1. Burbank Park District Water Park
Open May through August, this public water park has entertained local families for more than 40 years.
The main pool combines areas for laps and leisure, and there are also two water slides, two diving boards and a zero-depth water playground for children up to the age of 9.
If you get hungry, the Burbank Grill concession stand has a big menu, from hot dogs to tacos, pizza, frozen treats and sodas.
Just next door is the Fusion Recplex, which opened in 2013 and features a 4,000-sq-ft fitness center, steam rooms, a huge aerobics studio and 18 32” flatscreen TVs mounted throughout the building.
2. Haunted Trails Family Entertainment Center
With a fun, spooky theme this attraction has been part of the local scenery since the 1970s and offers a ton of fun activities for kids.
To sum up, Haunted Trails has an outdoor go-kart track, 18 holes of miniature golf, a “Crazy Cabs” carnival ride, the Miner Mike Coaster, batting cages, the “Lazer Frenzy” challenge and an arcade with a host of redemption games and a prize redemption center.
The center is also a popular location for lighthearted company picnics, and has a restaurant, Charmin’ Charley’s, baking classic homemade pizzas topped with 100% real mozzarella.
3. Buffalo Woods
Burbank is ten minutes from a Cook County forest preserve, which is at the tip of a large natural area that continues for miles to the south and southwest, crossing the Des Plaines River into DuPage County.
The main parcel at Buffalo Woods is on the Palos Trail System, made up of more than ten, color-coded, interconnecting trails adding up to over 30 miles.
So this can be the start of adventure into woodland, across wetlands and past expansive lakes and sloughs.
There’s no better place in the suburbs to try horseback riding, and we’ll talk about Sarah’s Pony Rides a little later in this list.
4. Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn
Operated by a non-profit organization, this nearby museum provides endless interactivity and open-ended learning for kids.
The exhibits at the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn have been intelligently designed to encourage creativity, roleplaying and building, giving parents a teaching role as you go.
Among the many spaces are Imagination Playground, with large soft building blocks, an animal shelter roleplay, What If…?, which explores diversity in terms of disability, a grocery market, a dress-up area and Health Quest, teaching children about basic health and allowing them to play with safe doctor’s instruments like a stethoscope.
The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn caters to birthday parties and has a multi-purpose room available for two-hour slots.
5. Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture
From the 1930s onwards, cities like Burbank, Oak Lawn, West Lawn and Cicero were settled by a large contingent of first or second generation immigrants from East Europe.
Even today, their influence is undeniable in this part of the Chicago suburbs. In neighboring West Lawn you find out more about the heritage of the Lithuanian community, at a museum founded in 1966 by the businessman Stanley Balzekas, Jr..
The Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture is the largest of its kind in the United States and has the largest inventory of Lithuanian cultural artifacts outside of Lithuania.
The upshot is a compelling overview of Lithuanian history, culture, politics and language, and insight into the experience of Lithuanian-Americans.
A great asset for Burbank is the string of local restaurants, delis and bakeries along 79th street. The choice is truly international, but with an emphasis on Polish/Lithuanian, Middle Eastern and Mexican food.
At the corner of 79th and Cicero Ave. is the Polish-Lithuanian diner, Mabenka, which has been part of the local scene for more than three decades.
Think hearty traditional dishes like Polish or Lithuanian sausage, stuffed cabbage, potato pancakes, sauerkraut, finger dumplings, breaded perch, kugelis (Lithuianian potato casserole) and much more.
7. SeatGeek Stadium
Built specifically for soccer, this 20,000-capacity stadium can be found on Burbank’s northwest shoulder. SeatGeek Stadium opened in 2006 as Toyota Park, and until 2019 this was home field for Chicago Fire, the city’s MLS team.
When we wrote this list the main tenants were the Chicago Red Stars of the NWSL and the newly formed Chicago House AC, who belong to the National Independent Soccer Association.
SeatGeek Stadium also hosts NCAA Division I soccer games for the Chicago State Cougars. The stadium has a permanent concert stage built in and over the last 15 years has welcomed Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews Band, Phish and Kiss, among others.
8. Chuck’s Southern Comforts Cafe
This acclaimed eatery at 6501 W 9th St cooks up a mix of Southern cuisines, from Cajun-Creole classics to slow-cooked BBQ.
Chuck’s Southern Comforts Cafe has featured on several TV shows, including Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Chicago’s Best.
The menu is seasonal and extensive, and to highlight a few specialties you’ve got 14-hour pulled pork, 12-hour brisket, jambalaya, New Orleans-style pork tenderloin and southern catfish (served blackened if you want).
The cafe is open at 8 am on weekends and has a tempting breakfast menu packed with omelettes, skillets, crepes, waffles, huevos rancheros and eggs benedict served Cajun or Tennessee style.
9. 5 Rabbit Cervecería
Founded in 2011, the first Latin American-inspired brewery in the United States can be found in Bedford Park, just north of Burbank’s Narragansett Park.
With a name inspired by Aztec mythology, 5 Rabbit makes beer inspired by the flavors and aromas of Mexican, Central America and South America.
They’ve even brewed a beer with chapulines (grasshoppers) as an ingredient. The range includes seasonal beers and special editions, but at the core are 5 Rabbit (Golden Ale), 5 Vulture (Oaxacan-style Dark Beer), 5 Lizard (Latin-style witbier) and 5 Grass (Hoppy Ale).
You can visit the brewery every other Saturday for a casual guided beer tasting and a behind-the-scenes look at the process. There’s also a taco truck on Thursdays making excellent carne asada and al pastor tacos.
10. Sarah’s Pony Rides
With that enormous mosaic of Lake County and DuPage County forest preserves in its backyard, this local business, 10 minutes away in Willow Springs, is in the perfect spot for a trail ride.
Close to 25 miles of gorgeous trails, Sarah’s Pony Rides offers a wide range of public and private guided rides, for everyone from absolute beginners to experts.
The stables here are large and keep a large variety of ponies and horses, all well trained and with a calm temperament.
The company also offers lessons, carriage rides, horse & pony camps, birthday parties and horse rentals, while there’s a petting zoo on site with llamas, alpacas, goats, sheep and of course ponies and horses.
11. Michael Looney Park
Next to Reavis High School is a pair of Burbank Park District parks sharing a boundary. The 30-acre Michael Looney Park was given its current name in 2007 and is a hotspot for active recreation, with five softball/baseball fields, soccer and football fields, a playground, concessions and a picnic area.
Families always come here in mid-winter for Harry’s Hill, one of the best sledding hills in the city.
Directly west is Narragansett Park, with basketball courts, a skate plaza, in-line hockey rink and another playground for wee ones.
12. Chicago Ridge Mall
One of two malls within minutes of Burbank, the Chicago Ridge Mall has been around since 1981 and has changed owners several times over the last 40 years.
At the time of writing the anchors were Kohl’s and a six-screen AMC movie theater. A few of the brands here include Foot Locker, a two-story H&M, Bed Bath & Beyond, American Eagle, Old Navy, Bath & Body Works, Claire’s, Hot Topic and GameStop.
There’s also a large food court by the AMC at the western entrance, with the usual suspects like Taco Bell, Sarku Japan, Tokyo Express and Charley’s Grilled Subs.
13. South Side Escape Rooms
Set up by a husband and wife team, there’s an escape room attraction close by in Oak Lawn. Requiring at least four players, the rooms here are immersive, with a compelling story and an ingenious diversity of puzzles using a variety of technology.
Something special about this attraction is that the main room, Get a Clue Vol 1 has several secrets and multiple outcomes, which makes it replayable.
Both of the two main rooms have a murder mystery theme inspired by Clue, based at a spooky old manor.
14. Newcastle Park
Extending several blocks from 79th down to 83rd Street, this park is home to the Burbank Park District’s administration building and the Newcastle Rec Center.
In just over 16 acres are five baseball/softball fields, a full-sized basketball court, football fields, soccer fields and a well-maintained playground for kids.
Local families with children can head to the administrative building here to sign up for the park district’s summer camp programs. There’s also a small, enclosed dog park here, although you’ll need a permit to use it.
15. Ford City Mall
Cicero Avenue, which marks Burbank’s eastern boundary, is a commercial corridor lined with chain restaurants, bix box stores (Costco, Walmart, Lowe’s, Kohl’s) and no lack of locally owned shops and services.
Here, just off Cicero’s northeast corner is the Ford City Mall, opened in 1965 and featuring the likes of H&M, Sephora. Foot Locker, Bath & Body Works, Old Navy, Victoria’s Secret, and an AMC multiplex.
Up and down Cicero Avenue are familiar food and drink chains like Lou Malnati’s, Subway, Starbucks, Chipotle, IHOP, Jimmy John’s and Panda Express.