Volatile weather can make it tough to come up with a plan to keep the family entertained, but one great option is local amusement parks. Some offer a sunny day outside, others provide indoor fun when it's raining and temperatures get too extreme. If the forecast is inconclusive, you can head to a place with a mix of both elements.
With new rides, attractions and special events, these spots will keep your kids busy and having fun all summer long.
Six Flags Great America
1 Great America Parkway, Gurnee, (847) 249-4636, sixflags.com
Six Flags has torn down Iron Wolf, which had been waning in popularity after a run of more than 20 years. In its place, the park is debuting Goliath -- the world's tallest, steepest and fastest wooden roller coaster.
"Parks are always anticipating a new record-breaking roller coaster," said communications manager Katy Enrique. "We had the space open and it really worked out."
Opening May 31, the new ride is one of just three wooden roller coasters in the world to go upside down and the only one to do it twice. "Wooden roller coasters are really in an innovative spot right now," Enrique said. "We've got other wooden roller coasters, but it's substantially taller and a lot steeper. It's almost straight down."
Santa's Village Azoosment Park
601 Dundee Ave., East Dundee, (847) 426-6751, santasvillagedundee.com
Santa's Village is celebrating its 55th anniversary this year with a history exhibit filled with memorabilia and pictures. The first 255 guests on Monday, May 26, pay the original entry price of 55 cents. The park has also added a host of new activities. There's a mining area where kids can buy a bag of gemstones or fossils and work them through water to filter away the dirt and unveil their treasures. An Asian animal exhibit lets kids see Chinese deer, while a new waterfowl pond teaches them about different species of ducks and swans. Later this summer, the park plans to unveil two new family rides.
"We're driven every year to keep adding new things," said owner Jason Sierpien.
Pirates' Cove Theme Park
901 Leicester Road, Elk Grove Village, (847) 439-2683, www.elkgroveparks.org
Tickets: $9-$11; free for adults
Recommended for kids ages 2 to 9, Pirates' Cove offers rides, a playground, daily performances, paddle boats, inflatables, a climbing wall and more. "It's just a great place for your little guys to run off their extra energy all summer long," said general manager Lisa Sibik.
Tuesdays and Thursdays the park stays open until 8 p.m. and some families take advantage of the quieter hours to have a picnic dinner. The spot also offers special events every Friday with giveaways for the first 300 kids and characters wandering the park. Favorites include Superhero Day on Aug. 1, which includes a costume parade, and Wizard Day on July 11, where visitors can make potions, wands and have their fortunes read at different stations.
Funway Ultimate Entertainment Center
1335 S. River St., Batavia, (630) 879-8717, funway.com
Tickets: Prices vary by attraction
Last summer, Funway added laser tag and improved its arcade to use play cards instead of tokens and prize tickets. "Some of the younger kids really enjoy receiving tickets still, so you can set it up that way," said general manager Jodi Foland.
Parents can have dinner at the bar and grill while older kids play, or share some family fun including roller skating, go karts and batting and soccer cages. "It's indoor-outdoor fun, so if they come in the morning and it happens to rain, they can come inside," Foland said. "We have bumper boats outside, bumper cars inside, mini golf outside, mini golf inside."
Legoland Discovery Center
601 N. Martingale Road, Schaumburg, (847) 592-9700, legolanddiscoverycenter.com
Lego and "Star Wars" fans are sure to love the new Miniland display, which features 10 scenes from "Star Wars: Episode IV" that take place on the Death Star and the city of Mos Eisley. Kids looking to test their own building skills will enjoy the addition of two new ramps to race their creations and 15 new tables that provide crafting space. Kids ages 2 to 5 now have their own area where they can play with larger Duplo blocks.
"We provide a nice indoor environment so you don't have to worry about the weather," said general manager Nick Miller. "It really is an immersive environment for kids."