Sitting 25 miles southwest of Chicago, the village of Orland Park is a wealthy suburb renowned for its upscale restaurants and shopping opportunities.
At the heart of this is the newly remodeled Orland Square Mall, the largest in the Chicago Southland.
Something special about this village is the amount of open space given over to public parks, golf courses and nature preserves.
Orland Park has more than 60 parks adding up to 650 acres, as well as vast swaths of nature belonging to the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
And whatever the season, there’s endless inspiration for family activities here, with family fun centers, outdoor nature programs, a superb public water park, an indoor mini golf course and a great deal more.
1. Centennial Park
If you had to pick one place for outdoor recreation in Orland Park, this would be a good bet.
Served by the 153rd Street Metra station, Centennial Park has two enormous fishing lakes at its south end.
Bordering these is the Winter Wonderland Ice Rink, open November to March, with a warming hut where you can rent skates.
Also part of this sweeping complex are soccer fields, baseball fields, a large playground, a skate park, sledding hill, the Orland Park Health & Fitness Center and the Centennial Park Aquatic Center, which we’ll cover below.
2. Centennial Park Aquatic Center
The water park at Centennial Park is a public amenity, but looks like the kind of thing you might expect to find at a big theme park.
Generally open May through September, this facility offers a large zero-depth pool surrounded by lawns and decks for lounging in the sun.
There’s a long lazy river encircling much of the center, along with a platform cliff jump and a pair of body slides, 328 and 200 feet in length.
If you’re just up for some exercise, the pool is open for lap swimming on weekday mornings, when you can also use the lazy river for lap walks against the current.
3. Orland Grassland
Part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, this remarkable site is more than 960 acres of former farmland that has been allowed to revert to open prairie.
There’s a patchwork of habitats at the Orland Grassland, among them oak savanna, shrubland, wetland, woodland, open ponds and prairie.
The process of restoring nature to this place began in 2002, and already wildflowers and native grasses have begun to take hold once more.
More than 100 bird species have been recorded here since then, many rarely counted anywhere else, along with butterflies, grasshoppers, dragonflies and mammals like coyotes.
Natural footpaths weave through the interior of the Orland Grassland, while there’s a five-mile paved bike trail around the perimeter.
4. Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm and Fall Fest
A local fall tradition for more than four decades, this family-run farm opens to the public between September 25 and November 1 for all kinds of fun.
For a brief summary you’ve got a corn maze, a petting zoo, pony rides, 90-foot fun slides, train rides, pig races, a roller coaster, a haunted barn, kids’ fun house, hayrides and much more.
Of course the pumpkin patch is a big part of the ritual, also accessed via a hayride. And for food you’ve got classic fall treats like apple cider donuts and kettle corn, all freshly cooked on the day.
5. Orland Square Mall
The largest mall in the Chicago Southland can be found in Orland Park.
This upscale shopping destination first opened in 1976 and came through a big revamp in the 2010s. Anchored by Macy’s, JCPenney and Von Maur, Orland Square Mall has upwards of 150 stores.
There are locations for Guess, Gap, Forever 21, Sephora, MAC Cosmetics, H&M, Pottery Barn and Victoria’s Secret, as well as an Apple store and a whole store dedicated to LEGO.
The food court is packed with familiar favorites like Panda Express, Sbarro and Taco Bell, and the mall also has a location for the Cheesecake Factory by Macy’s.
6. Orland Park History Museum
In the old Village Hall you’ll find Orland Park’s compelling history museum, charting nigh-on 200 years of local history.
Here you’ll learn the stories of the families that settled on this land in the 1830s, and find out about the village’s progress from a rural community of a few hundred in the 1950s to an expanding suburb by the 80s.
The museum’s collections are loaded with artifacts like diaries, photographs, maps, blueprints, books, household textiles, clothing, quilts, furniture, farming equipment, ceramics and sports memorabilia.
There are also fascinating programs, going into depth on topics like Dillinger’s time in Chicago, the black experience in Chicago and Lincoln’s assassination.
7. Space Golf
If you catch a rainy day in summer, or need a family outing during the Chicago winter there’s an indoor 18-hole mini golf course in Orland Park.
Space Golf, which has a retro sci-fi theme, with space creatures, flying saucers, kaijus, giant robots and alien planets, uses blacklight throughout to make the backdrops glow.
These details have also been designed with 3D in mind, and you can play your round with a pair of 3D glasses for an even more immersive experience.
Space Golf also has an arcade, and you’ll find a display of authentic movie props in the lobby.
8. Gizmos Fun Factory
Also indoor is this family activity center, in 47,000 square feet with seven major attractions. To sum up, these are a ropes course with zip line, bumper cars, go karts, robot laser tag, a soft-play maze, a laser maze and climbing walls.
Added to all that is a video arcade with the latest games and a restaurant for comfort food like pizza, burgers, wings, nachos and Wisconsin cheese curds.
Gizmos Fun Factory offers special deals on weeknights and is naturally a popular location for children’s birthday parties.
9. Orland Park Nature Center
Seven years in the making, this 28-acre site in the north of Orland Park opened to the public in 2020.
The center is mostly made up of an extensive tract of wetland donated to the village by Steven Gianakas, a prominent local businessman, in memory of his son George.
The wetland at Orland Park Nature Center is a magnet for birdlife, including great blue and black crowned night-herons, and the space features a paved walking loop and an amphitheater for public programs.
Directly west of the center is Orland Grove Forest Preserve containing McGinnis Slough, a haven for coots, ducks, egrets, herons and cormorants.
10. Marcus Orland Park Cinemas
This huge complex at 16350 South La Grange Road opened in 1995 and has since been expanded to a 15-screen multiplex.
If there’s a new mainstream release that you want to catch then this is the place to go. For added comfort, try to book a showing at a screen with reclining “Dreamlounger” seats, which have a full seven feet of space between rows.
The theater has a variety of offers, like $5 movies on Tuesdays, $6 for students on Thursdays and early bird movies for $6 every day of the week before 11 am.
11. Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Park
Moments away on the banks of the Cal-Sag Channel is a sprawling attraction made up of natural spaces, gardens, a ten-acre lake and an indoor nature center.
In these 85 acres you can explore prairie, woodland and wetlands, and one of the most spectacular features is a man-made waterfall.
Close to this is the buzz n’ bloom prairie, which is breathtaking in the summer months when the wildflowers are in bloom.
The heritage garden meanwhile grows crops typical of the region and then come harvest time donates them to the local food pantry.
Finally the nature center is engaged in a wealth of programs, from talks to classes showing you how to identify and cultivate herbs and make garden decorations from recycled materials.
12. The Center, Palos Park
Set in nature a few minutes from Orland Park is a non-profit organization hosting a wide array of activities and events throughout the year.
On beautiful grounds, The Center is a popular venue for weddings, but also hosts everything from art classes to guided meditation, summer camps, concerts, with hayrides and pumpkin picking in fall.
One beloved detail is the children’s farm, open Friday to Sunday and also a venue for educational experiences. The farm keeps chickens, goats, cows, pigs, ducks and rabbits.
13. Orland Bowl
Also on hand in Orland Park is this 50-lane bowling alley, open seven days a week and as late as 1 am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
For casual players, Orland Bowl takes reservations for open bowl sessions, but also leaves a few lanes free for walk-ins.
There’s free Wi-Fi at the alley, as well as plenty of arcade games and a kitchen baking fresh-tossed pizza.
Also here is Escapology, a set of six private escape rooms, intricately designed, with immersive themes and suitable for groups of up to eight people.
14. Schussler Park
We’ve seen that Orland Park is brimming with green public spaces, and one neighborhood park with a bit of everything is Schussler Park in the southeast of the Village.
This spot has tennis courts, a baseball field, a soccer field, picnic areas, a sledding hill in winter and an expansive kids’ playground on the southside with separate equipment for bigger and smaller children.
The park is divided by a large pond, attracting plenty of waterfowl, and no lack of people for fishing.
15. Doogan Park
Geared towards active recreation, this park on the west side of the village is popular for its disc golf course.
With nine holes, this course was set up in 2008 and poses a fun test in a moderately hilly, partially wooded landscape.
There’s a lot of open space at Doogan Park for walks, as well as amenities for tennis and baseball/softball, along with a children’s playground.
A tunnel on the park’s west side takes you under the Metra tracks to neighboring Brown Park, while the Orland Park Cultural Center on the east side is a venue for year round events with all kinds of programs you can sign up for.