15 Best Things to Do in Palatine (IL)

Written by Bart Meeuwesen
Updated on
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This northwest suburb of Chicago is a family-oriented kind of place with a bustling events calendar and masses of public green space.

Big swathes of the Village of Palatine are given over to parks, golf courses and nature preserves, so there’s ample opportunity to get outside in the summer, whether you’re hiking in woodland, swinging a club, boating, fishing, swimming, cycling, horseback riding, or throwing a frisbee.

Palatine also has a high-quality outdoor mall and sits within minutes of famous attractions like Medieval Times in Schaumburg or the famous old racecourse at Arlington Park.

Closer to home you can catch Palatine’s latent acting talent at the Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center, while the village has a popular farmers’ market and a series of festivals and events in summer.

1. George Clayson House Museum

George Clayson House MuseumSource: Teemu008 / Flickr | CC BY-SA
George Clayson House Museum

This historic house museum, operated by the Palatine Historical Society, is on the south side of the Community Park.

The property, named after a 19th-century occupant and member of the Palatine Board of Trustees, was built in 1873 in a refined Second Empire style.

True to that French style, the house has a mansard roof. Inside, the house looks as it did at the end of the 19th century, and is flush with Victorian furniture donated by Palatine residents, as well as restored original fittings like mantelpieces.

You can check out displays of antique costumes, kitchen implements, toys, books and more. On the grounds there’s also a historic carriage house, relocated to this site from Plum Grove Rd, as well as a delightful garden and a shed containing historic tools.

2. Community Park

SkateboardingSource: Parilov / shutterstock

Close to the Village Hall and the Clayson House Museum is Palatine’s main park for recreation, as well as a space for festivals and concerts. Community Park has a skate park and amenities for soccer, basketball and baseball.

On the southwest corner is the Palatine Skate Park, open in winter, while the Family Aquatic Center on the southeast side is a 3,000-square-foot facility with slides, an enormous beach-entry pool and much more.

Meanwhile the Fred P. Hall Amphitheater opened in 1988 and hosts free concerts, events, recitals and movies all summer long.

3. Deer Park Town Center

ShoppingSource: VGstockstudio / shutterstock

Touted as an open-air lifestyle center, this shopping center lies just beyond Palatine’s northern fringe and is a pleasant place to spend some time browsing on a summer’s day.

There’s an upscale atmosphere along these city-like streets, with lots of greenery and familiar brands like Apple, Sephora, American Eagle, Barnes & Noble, Banana Republic, Gap and Pottery Barn.

Food-wise you’ve got a choice of noodles, poke, pizza, Italian, Mexican, as well as sweet treats from the likes of Cold Stone Creamery. Finally there’s a 16-screen Century Theatres location right here for family outings and date nights.

4. Deer Grove Forest Preserve

Deer Grove Forest PreserveSource: SB SHOTS / shutterstock
Deer Grove Forest Preserve

Back when Palatine was a little village in the 1860s, the residents would venture into this wild area to the north to collect firewood.

In 1911 the veterinarian Dr. John Wilson developed a portion of the Deer Grove into a private park, served by the long defunct Lake Zurich and Wauconda Railroad.

The land was later protected to prevent development, becoming the first forest preserve in Cook County.

Today Deer Grove has two distinct sections, East and West, to visit, adding up almost 2,000 acres and containing prairie, wetlands, wooded ravines and undulating upland forest.

There are around 15.5 miles of trails snaking through this landscape, with opportunities to admire spring woodland wildflowers and amphibians like the blue-spotted salamander.

5. Riemer Reservoir Park

Disc GolfSource: Diego Trabucco / shutterstock
Disc Golf

On relatively high ground at the heart of Palatine, close to the village’s Metra station, is another picturesque park.

The open space and elevation at Riemer Reservoir Park makes this the best place to watch the sun go down in Palatine.

The big attraction here is the 18-hole disc golf course, well-maintained and a fantastic introduction to the sport for newcomers.

Thanks to the hilly setting the park becomes a go-to for sledding in the winter, while in summer there’s lots of room for picnics, and a large shelter can be found by the park’s namesake reservoir on the south side.

6. Medieval Times

Medieval Times SchaumburgSource: EarlRShumaker / Flickr | CC BY
Medieval Times Schaumburg

One of the ten locations for this famous Medieval-themed dinner theater can be found on the southwestern edge of Palatine.

The production values at Medieval Times are always impressive, involving jousting, horsemanship, spectacular hunts, swordplay, falconry and an engaging storyline.

Despite being housed in an arena, the Schaumburg location always gets good crowds. For food you’ll have a Medieval-inspired meal of rotisserie chicken, bread and sweet corn, while vegan and allergy-friendly options are available.

And if you really want to go all-out, there are side attractions and a menu of special packages to check out.

7. Twin Lakes Golf Course & Recreation Area

FishingSource: TeodorLazarev / shutterstock

A great place for an active day outside in summer, this facility has something for everyone.

First up there’s a nine-hole executive golf course, in great condition and listed as one of the top three of its kind in Chicagoland.

This is accompanied by a lakefront driving range, and if you’d like to polish your game you can sign up for golf lessons.

Aside from the golf facilities there’s another expansive lake for fishing, pedal-boating and kayaking, while on the grassy, tree-lined shore you’ve got a children’s playground, volleyball courts and lots of places to laze and enjoy a picnic on a sunny day.

8. Plum Grove Reservoir Park

Plum Grove Reservoir ParkSource: Rajesh Vijayakumar / shutterstock
Plum Grove Reservoir Park

Curling around the east side of the Harper College campus in Palatine is this peaceful neighborhood park on the shores of Plum Grove Reservoir.

A paved multi-use trail hugs the reservoir’s south and west banks, for walking, jogging and bicycling.

The reservoir itself is a popular fishing destination, with plentiful bass, perch, catfish, crappie and pike.

Close by are handy park amenities like a playground for children, a shelter, picnic tables, grills and a dog park, though it’s worth remembering that registration and annual fees apply to use this facility.

9. Palatine Farmers’ Market

Farmers MarketSource: Javani LLC / shutterstock
Farmers Market

The Palatine Station parking lot is the stage for an excellent producers’ market, unusual because it trades all year round.

From November through April you can visit on the first and third Saturdays, and then every Saturday for the rest of the year.

At the time of writing there was a diverse list of vendors offering seasonal and organic fruit and vegetables, honey, freshwater fish, cheese, spices, fresh garlic and garlic products, eggs, bread, artisan confectionery and baked goods.

There’s always food to go here as well, with a choice of vegan and vegetarian specialties, grilled cheese, soups and tamales.

10. Palatine Hills Golf Course

GolfSource: Mikael Damkier / shutterstock

A fine public course on blue grass, Palatine Hills has been part of the scenery in the village since 1968 and continues to offer a testing but fun round.

The greens are always true, and there are plenty of interesting hazards, with no fewer than 29 bunkers and water coming into play on 10 holes.

Residents and non-residents can book a tee time up to seven days in advance, and you can practice those crucial shots at “The Hills” short game area.

As well as a practice green there you’ll find three holes at the Short Course here, perfect for younger players and newcomers.

11. Escapeocity

Escape RoomSource: graletta / shutterstock
Escape Room

One of dozens of establishments lining U.S. 14 on its way through Palatine is Escapeocity, an escape room attraction with two intricate and engrossing rooms to explore and solve in an hour.

Designed for groups of two to eight people, and for ages 10 and above, these are regularly updated with new themes.

When we put this list together there was La Résistance, in which you search the apartment of a missing WWII codebreaker, and E.T. Extra Toppings, in which you have to get to the bottom of some strange goings-on at a pizza restaurant called, Area 50-Yum.

12. Brandt’s of Palatine

Brandt’s of PalatineSource: Brandt's of Palatine / Facebook
Brandt’s of Palatine

At the corner of U.S. 15 and Quentin Road is a restaurant that has been a local favorite for well over half a century.

Specializing in American and regional comfort food like Wisconsin cheese curds, ribs, quesadillas, wraps, sandwiches, brats and its famous Brandt’s Burger, this establishment is housed in a building that dates back more than 140 years.

Before the days of Brandt’s, the building was connected to the violent bootlegger and mob boss Roger Touhy (1898-1959) and operated as a speakeasy during the last years of Prohibition in the 1930s.

13. Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center

TheatreSource: Media Whalestock / shutterstock

Just next to the Palatine Village Hall is a grand, 431-seat auditorium bringing live entertainment to the residents of Palatine and the surrounding area.

The building is historic, dating back to 1928 when it belonged to the original Palatine High School and was named for its first principal, Charles S. Cutting.

This facility is one of only a few in the region to be owned and run by the local park district, and is a lively community stage, hosting a wealth of theater productions, dance recitals, band concerts, choral performances and film screenings throughout the year.

The theater’s Broadway-style shows are produced by the local group, Music on Stage, which has been part of the cultural fabric in Palatine since 1957.

14. Downtown Palatine Street Fest

ConcertSource: Melinda Nagy / shutterstock

A cosier version of Taste of Chicago, this family friendly event takes over the streets of downtown Palatine on the weekend before Labor Day.

Street Fest is a chance for Palatine’s diversity of restaurants to showcase their food. Children meanwhile will be thrilled with the Kids Zone, staffed by community nonprofit organizations.

Another pillar of the event is live music, with a mix of established artists and talented tribute acts, and the sets continue into the evening.

15. Hometown Fest 4th of July Celebrations

FireworksSource: Audy39 / shutterstock

In Palatine the 4th of July is a big community event with five days of fun and entertainment.

This is all organized by the Palatine Jaycees club and is centered on Community Park where there’s a carnival throughout the five days.

Hometown Fest brings activities like a scavenger hunt and a toss tournament, as well as live music and a craft/vendor expo.

One of the highlights is the parade, running along Wilson Street and Wood Street to Community Park.

Of course, the evening of the 4th of July is also met with fireworks and there’s a fleet of food trucks throughout the festival, many representing local restaurants.


15 Best Things to Do in Palatine (IL):

  • George Clayson House Museum
  • Community Park
  • Deer Park Town Center
  • Deer Grove Forest Preserve
  • Riemer Reservoir Park
  • Medieval Times
  • Twin Lakes Golf Course & Recreation Area
  • Plum Grove Reservoir Park
  • Palatine Farmers’ Market
  • Palatine Hills Golf Course
  • Escapeocity
  • Brandt’s of Palatine
  • Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center
  • Downtown Palatine Street Fest
  • Hometown Fest 4th of July Celebrations