Get this party started
The first event of the summer pop-up series ACTIVATE, Playground -- The Rec Room of the Block, riffs on the theme Off Street. So expect it to explore the alley as a play space with such events as ping-pong, a pop-up barber shop, a skate jam, a breakdancing battle, an interactive black light mural and lots of art. The Chicago Loop Alliance's event features music by Ifficial Reggae Movement and the Four Star Brass Band; DJ and muralist Roho Garcia; Bare Strokes body painting with Dwight White, Marcus Sumrall and Barrett Keithley; and a mural painted by Chris Orta and Jose Quezada. 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday, June 15, at the Sullivan Center Alley, 16 E. Monroe St., Chicago. See loopchicago.com/activate.
Brookfield Zoo kicks off its fourth annual Summer Nights, which offers a variety of live music and roaming kids' entertainment, as well as enhanced dining experiences, a beer and wine garden, animal encounters and a laser light show to close out each night. Acoustic opening acts will get the night rolling, then local and national bands of all genres will take the main stage. Zoogoers can bring lawn chairs or blankets to enjoy "American Idol" artists, synth pop performers, indie rock duos, dance hits, blues musicians, country and reggae bands and tribute bands of all genres. Bring the kids to learn from the zoo's animal ambassadors and to view several animal exhibits and other in-park attractions open at night. 4 to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, June 16-Aug. 12, at Brookfield Zoo, First Avenue between Ogden Avenue and 31st Street, Brookfield. Summer Nights is included with general admission: $19.85 for adults; $14.50 for kids 3 to 11 and seniors 65 and older. Parking is $12. Arrive after 4 p.m. for Summer Nights and get $2 off admission and $6 off parking. (708) 688-8000 or czs.org/SummerNights.
The 21st annual Taste of Randolph brings together 18 Chicago restaurants and a list of the country's best up-and-coming bands, including big names in Chicago house music and a DJ stage. Minus the mountains but offering extra visual stimulation, the Denver Live on the Rocks stage will be constructed again at this year's festival -- it's a scale replica of Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Denver's famous outdoor concert venue. 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, June 16, and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 17-18, at Randolph and Halsted, Chicago. Free admission, but VIP ticketing with amenities is available for $40. For a detailed line-up, see starevents.com/event/taste-of-randolph/.
Harborfest in South Haven, Michigan, is a celebration of Southwestern Michigan's unique maritime history offering visitors a wooden boat show, dragonboat races, entertainment for kids and adults and a huge craft fair. Sample Michigan goodies from food vendors and the beer garden and enjoy special activities on Father's Day. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, June 16; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 17; and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 18, in South Haven, Michigan. For directions to the harbor, see southhavenharborfest.com/.
You'll be reciting Polish like a pro after an hour or two at the Polish Fest in Milwaukee. Well, at least enough to order bigos (hunter's stew), golabki (stuffed cabbage), poppy seed cake, Tyskie beer and pierogies -- stuffed with everything from mashed spuds to plums. Stroll into the Cultural Village to learn how to cook your favorite Polish foods and find out about Poland's lively history. Animal lovers can commune with traditional Polish sheepdogs, chickens and rabbits. Folk artists will demonstrate Polish crafts, including wood carving, Polish paper cuts, decorated eggs, floral head wreaths and metal working. Plus, there's Polish entertainment, vodka tasting and an expansive marketplace. Noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, June 16-17, and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, June 18, at Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N Harbor Drive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Gate tickets cost $12; advance purchase is $10; kids 15 and younger admitted free. polishfest.org/.
Flume and board
For summer fun nearby, consider a quick drive to Crystal Lake next weekend for the annual America's Cardboard Cup Regatta. You can either enter or just watch the cardboard boat races on Main Beach to see who wins prizes in various categories. If you covet more personal action on the water, Quarry Cable Wakeboarding Park in Crystal Lake beckons you to grab some air on the wake at this 32-acre water park extravaganza with Unit Parktech jumps and features. Stay a little longer and enjoy the lakefront tap and grille, fire pit, live music, sand volleyball, baggo, open-air yoga, or rent rowboats, kayaks, sailboats and paddleboats. 12:30 p.m. Saturday, June 17 (rain date is July 29), for the Regatta at Main Beach, Crystal Lake. Cable passes to the Wakeboarding Park, 5517 Northwest Hwy., Crystal Lake, cost $35-$55. Rental equipment is extra or bring your own. See cardboardcup.com/ and thequarrycablepark.com/ for details.