Kids cool it in outer space
Adler Planetarium just launched Young Explorers Mondays, a weekly series of hands-on activities that promote creativity, fun and scientific investigation for the 2- to 6-year-old set. Families can explore the secrets of flight by building their own glider, kite, parachute or jetpack in the Adler's Planet X Lab. Test your five senses at the Sensory Station, where kids and their adults work together to dodge balloon asteroids, create constellations and more.
9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, now through Labor Day. Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Young Explorers Mondays activities are included in paid general admission. General admission (without shows) is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors/students with ID and $8 for children (ages 3-11). (312) 922-7827 or adlerplanetarium.org.
The largest annual outdoor dancing series in the United States, Chicago SummerDance, returns for its 18th year of moving and grooving. The series offers free introductory one-hour dance lessons by professional instructors, followed by music and dancing in the Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park. Dance to the sounds of 44 different live bands, and move across the restored 4,900-square-foot, 100 percent recycled, open-air dance floor designed by Chicago artist Dan Peterman.
6 to 7 p.m. dance lessons, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. live music and dancing Friday to Saturday; 4 to 5 p.m. dance lessons, 5 to 7 p.m. music and dancing Sunday. SummerDance continues through Sept. 14. Spirit of Music Garden, Grant Park, 601 S. Michigan Ave. (312) 742-4007 or cityofchicago.org.
When Irish guys are smiling
There's no need to wait until St. Patrick's Day to dazzle friends with your Liam Neeson impersonation -- just get to the 29th annual Irish American Heritage Festival which celebrates the best in Irish music, dancing, food, and culture. Entertainment on six stages includes Kevin Flynn and Avondale Ramblers; Gaelic Storm; The Kildares; and the Larkin and Moran Brothers. Kids stuff includes an inflatable kicking wall, arts and crafts, carnival games and a Sham-ROCK Stars! contest. Dad might want to belly up to the mashed potato bar for an eating contest, or if he has nice gams, a Men in Kilts contest. Singles get in on an old-fashioned Hooley featuring music, dancing and traditional Irish Matchmakers. The Heritage Center's library, art gallery and museum will be open so you can get out of the sun for a wee bit. Come hungry for fish and chips, sausages, shepherd's pie, corned beef sandwiches, pizza and ice cream.
6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, July 11; noon to 1 a.m. Saturday, July 12; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, July 13. Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox., Chicago. Admission is $10 for adults in advance on Friday and Saturday ($15 after July 9), online or at the door; Sunday tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door; Seniors (aged 62 and up) get in for $10; and children 10 and under get in free. (773) 282-7035 or irishfestchicago.com.
Follow your bliss
The 34th Annual Blissfest Folk & Roots Music Festival offers lots of live entertainment, culture, art and community in picturesque rural northern Michigan. Open to families, friends and music-lovers of all ages, the annual event is a showcase of American roots and world music, including bluegrass, blues, zydeco, Celtic, folk, jazz, Latin, ethnic, world music and dance. Rustic camping is available for the weekend with a Weekend Pass, and organized children's activities, a variety of food and a juried arts and crafts show round out the experience.
July 11-13 at Festival Farm, 3695 Division Road, Harbor Springs, Michigan. $44 for one-day tickets and $145 for weekend passes for adults; $18-$20 for teens; 12 and younger admitted free. (231) 348-7047 or blissfest.org.
Pretty fly for fishing
Boyne Outfitters at Boyne Mountain Resort in Michigan will host the second annual Michigan Fly Fishing Festival, bringing together fly fishing vendors with free casting clinics and guest speakers, fly fishing and casting competitions, a barbecue and live music. Browse gear and talk with representatives from vendors; join discussions on fly-casting fundamentals for fiberglass and bamboo rods; and learn about fly patterns at the tying bench. Enjoy food from Tannery Creek Meat Market and beer from Petoskey Brewing Company.
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 12. Boyne Mountain Resort, 1 Boyne Mountain Road, Boyne Falls, Michigan. Admission is $10 for adults, and free for children ages 16 and under. The competition is $10 per person. (800) 462-6963 or boynemountain.com.
Vive le Milwaukee
North America's largest outdoor French-themed festival is held in downtown Milwaukee's Cathedral Square Park and the 2014 version offers old favorites and some new twists. Enjoy live entertainment options, an international marketplace, roaming minstrels, chef and wine demos, activities for the kids, and great French and Cajun food. Bastille Days is known for its impromptu street performers, interactive and musical entertainment and the signature 43-foot Eiffel Tower replica. Be sure to buy a beignet before heading back home.
11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Thursday to Friday, July 10-11; 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, July 12. Cathedral Square Park, downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, between Kilbourn Avenue (North), Jackson Street (East), Wells Street (South) and Jefferson Street (West). easttown.com.