This village in Chicago’s western suburbs is relatively young, as little more than a collection of farms with a few subdivisions until the late 1950s.
Glendale Heights was incorporated in 1958 and today is a modern, residential community, in a townscape scattered with ranch-style homes, sprawling neighborhood parks and a couple of shopping centers.
Like much of this corner of the suburbs, Glendale Heights has a sizable South Asian community, reflected in the choice of restaurants, Asian supermarkets and a cricket pitch at the main local park.
Glendale Heights is known in the wider area for its five-day town festival every July, with carnival rides and a fireworks show that pulls in crowds from far and wide.
1. Camera Park
The premier public park in Glendale Heights is also the village’s main outdoor event venue in summer.
This is the location for the annual Glendale Heights Fest, famed for its fireworks, as well as several other gatherings in the warmer months.
Recently renovated, Glendale Park is furnished with all kinds of amenities, for basketball, baseball and even cricket thanks to the large local South Asian community.
There’s also a winding trail system for walking, jogging and bicycling, and you’ll often find a Community Officer around who will be happy to answer any questions.
2. GH20 Aquatic Park
Open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, Glendale Heights has a sensational outdoor water park next to its Sports Hub.
Something special at GH20 that you won’t find at any other aquatic park in the region is a FlowRider Surf Simulator, although this does require a little experience to master.
Also on hand is a zero-depth entry wading pool, a lap pool, twin water slides, a drop slide, a diving area, a splash pad and a sand play area.
The High Tide Snack Shack offers snacks and beverages, and there’s ample room for parents to spread out and relax. Separate rates apply for residents and non-residents, and you have to sign a waiver to use the FlowRider.
3. Glendale Heights Fest
Usually coinciding with the village’s anniversary on July 13, Glendale Heights Fest has been the signature summer event since it was launched in 1983.
Across these five days more than 50,000 come to Camera Park, making it one of the high points on the calendar in the western suburbs.
What you get is loads of live music and other entertainment, great food and crowd-pleasing carnival rides and midway games. The event culminates with a thrilling fireworks show, dubbed the “best in the suburbs”.
4. Bowlero Glendale Heights
Recently acquired by the Bowlero chain, this sleek bowling alley in Glendale Heights has over 30 lanes, as well as an arcade, pro shop and sports bar.
There’s a lounge party feel to the place on Friday and Saturday nights, and all week long the alley has specials, like unlimited bowling on Wednesdays and student discounts on Thursdays.
The arcade at Bowlero has a blend of state-of-the-art machines and nostalgic classics such as Mario Kart and Jurassic Park.
You can order bites and drinks, delivered to your lane while you play, or catch the big game over a craft beer at the sports bar.
5. East Branch Forest Preserve
You’re never far from nature in Glendale Heights, with this generous 520-acre expanse of lakes and wetland on your doorstep.
As the name tells you, the East Branch Forest Preserve is on the course of the East Branch DuPage River, and is composed of open water and marshes, offering a habitat to a multitude of shorebirds and waterfowl, including during the spring and fall migrations.
There’s a two-mile paved trail through the preserve, and plenty of unmarked paths if you would like to explore a little more.
Keen anglers have got Rush Lake and the smaller Sunfish Pond, where you can catch channel catfish, bluegill, crappie and largemouth bass.
6. Cosley Zoo
Strictly speaking, this attraction is in Wheaton, but can be reached in under ten minutes from Glendale Heights. Cosley Zoo is set on the grounds of a historic train station, and is a showcase for the wildlife native to Illinois, as well as domestic animals.
The zoo also participates in conservation programs, helping to increase the population of endangered Blanding’s turtles.
A few of the species on show at Cosley Zoo are white-tailed deer, bobcats, turkey vultures, coyotes, raccoons, red foxes, American kestrels and a wide array of snakes, turtles, owls and ducks.
Among the farm animals are Guernsey cows, Nubian goats, Norwegian fjord horses, Shetland ponies and Montadale sheep.
7. DuPage County Off-leash Dog Park
This expansive space, off the southeast corner of the East Branch Forest Preserve, is aimed at DuPage County residents who own dogs, but also stands as another lovely place to go for a stroll.
The park is an excellent resource for local dog owners with Forest Preserve District dog permits, as one of the few unfenced places in the county where you can let your pup off the leash to join you on your adventure.
The park has a gravel path, numerous dirt tracks and a chain of ponds with little beaches where braver dogs can take a dip. It’s such a pretty landscape that you could come for a ramble even without a four-legged friend.
8. Vertical Endeavors
This chain of indoor climbing gyms has several locations, all but one of which are in Minnesota. The only exception is Vertical Endeavors, Glendale Heights, set in a giant warehouse on Bloomingdale Road.
Within are climbing walls that rise 30 feet, as well as three different bouldering areas to take on. You can choose from a staggering 450 different routes, and the center has 30 auto belays.
Vertical Endeavors is a welcoming and safe place for first-time climbers, and you can get to grips with the walls following an orientation process and waiver.
You can rent all the necessary gear for $12, while day passes cost as little as $20. The center organizes a range of classes for top rope and sport lead, as well as camps, outdoor climbs and private lessons.
9. Glendale Lakes Golf Club
Adjacent to Camera Park is a well-regarded public golf course embedded in a tranquil residential neighborhood.
Glendale Lakes was designed by Dick Nugent and as the name suggests, the course is strewn with water hazards accompanied by numerous tricky bunkers.
The fairways are kept in great condition, and the greens are extremely quick, posing as much of a test for recreational golfers as for seasoned pros.
No surprise given the verdant backdrop, but Glendale Lakes is also a popular setting for wedding receptions and other events, and has a banquet facility that can hold 250 people.
10. Center Ice of DuPage
Ice skating and hockey are of course major pastimes in the Chicago area, and most towns have an indoor rink like this one in Glendale Heights.
Center Ice of DuPage is open year round, and hosts adult and youth league games as well as figure skating competitions.
There’s a variety of programs for kids and grownups to work on their skills, helping you learn to skate or learn to play hockey.
For casual pick-up games, you could come for a stick & puck session, while there are also freestyle skating slots and regular public skating sessions with skate rental for as little as $3.
11. Picture Show at Bloomingdale Court
At the nearby Bloomingdale Court Shopping Center, this multiplex cinema has been around since 1989 and has come through several different owners in that time.
After a spell as a second run theater in the 2010s, Pictures Show at Bloomingdale Court is now a first run theater with updated interiors that have comfy leather recliners.
Tickets and concessions are uncommonly reasonable here. When we wrote this article shows before 6.15 pm were just $4.50, while new movies on Tuesdays were $4 all day. You also get free refills on drinks and popcorn.
12. K1 Speed
Next door in Addison is one of the 54 locations for the indoor karting brand, K1 Speed. Like all of these tracks, the K1 Speed facility in Addison is self-contained and fully air-conditioned, and offers racing all year.
The track is designed for speed and overtaking, and, as opposed to dirty gas-powered engines, the karts are electric, and capable of speeds of up to 45 mph.
Complemented by The Paddock lounge and restaurant, K1 Speed is a no-brainer for parties, family get-togethers and corporate activities.
For people who just want to stop by and race there’s a menu of “Arrive & Drive” packages for up to three races.
13. Glendale Heights Sports Hub
Known simply as “The Hub” around Glendale Heights is this impressive recreation facility loaded with amenities and equipment.
To sum up, the Sports Hub has a fitness center packed with machines, an indoor turf soccer arena, an indoor playground, two fitness studios, two dance/martial arts studios, an activity room for kids, an arts and crafts room, four preschool rooms and finally a large gymnasium with basketball courts of varying sizes.
You can check the Glendale Heights Parks and Recreation site to learn about the Village’s comprehensive schedule of classes and programs.
14. Ki’s Steak and Seafood
A local institution, Ki’s Steak and Seafood was in business long before Glendale Heights was incorporated.
Backing onto a six-acre farm with goats, sheep and a donkey, the restaurant’s origins go back to 1934 when this was a field house with a pair of gas pumps, and when North Avenue (IL 64) was just a dirt road.
Whether you go for filet mignon or ribeye, all of the steaks on the menu here are Midwestern corn-fed beef marinated with fresh herbs and garlic. And if you’re here with children, make sure to visit the little farm around the back.
15. “Show and Shine” Car Show
One keenly anticipated landmark on the calendar in Glendale Heights is this car show and swap meet in mid-September.
Taking place on a Sunday, the “Show and Shine” Car Show is held at Camera Park. There are hundreds of exhibitors, and you’ll see many spectacular vehicles from hot rods to antique cars going all the way back to the early 1900s.
Prizes are presented in no fewer than 11 categories, the most coveted being “Best in Show”. Alongside the car show is a large swap meet and craft fair, as well as a host of games, live music and great food.