Known for its historical and beautiful downtown Main Street, Waukegan hosts countless events and activities for tourists and locals. A guide to the City of Waukegan is necessary when visiting this storied metropolis.
Waukegan is one of Illinois’s oldest communities. The city was initially visited by Pere Marquette in 1673 (I know right? Way before the United States was the United States!?).
The City of Waukegan began as a French trading post. However, it was also known as a Potawatomi Native American settlement known as Little Fort. Some records indicate that a truce was signed between the Potawatomi and the U.S. federal government.
The town known as Little Fort became the county seat of government in 1841 and the town’s population skyrocketed from 150 to 750 residents. By 1859, when the city was incorporated, the residency had risen to 2,500 residents.
The area known as Little Fort became a ‘big little town’ and by March 31, 1849, the city was renamed to the present day name Waukegan. Waukegan is the Potawatomi word known as fort or trading post.
One of the oldest structures in Lake County (and one of the oldest in the state) is the home of John C. Haines. Haines was the 20th Mayor of Chicago from 1858-60. Haines also was a founding member of the Chicago Board of Trade as well a co-author of Illinois’s Constitution. The Waukegan resident retired as an Illinois State Senator, but long story short, his property in the Lake County city was built in 1843. It currently still stands and is known now as the Waukegan History Museum.
Some other notable residents from the City of Waukegan include author Ray Bradbury (sci-fi writing extraordinaire), actor Jack Benny (one of the 20th Century’s most notable entertainers), actor Neil Flynn (known for “Scrubs” and “The Middle”), actor Jerry Orbach (known for “Law & Order”), former NBA All-Star Shawn Marion, former NFL Pro Bowl player Michael Turner and a slew of others.
Waukegan is home to some of the best boating, nightlife, arts, recreation, and dining in Lake County. After checking out Waukegan, take a look at our other village and city guides like the Villages of Gurnee, Lincolnshire, Long Grove, Mundelein, Grayslake, Antioch and the City of Zion.
Enjoy your stay out on wonderful and sometimes ‘weird’ Waukegan. Here’s your guide to the City of Waukegan.
Devoted to preserving one of Lake County’s most vibrant, historic communities on the shore of Lake Michigan. Visit the theater, get a bite to eat at one of their many great eateries or spend a day on the water. Don’t forget to make a stop at the Waukegan Arts Council to get the latest in magnificent art mediums. Continue to scroll to get a full feel of what this metropolis has at its disposal in the guide to the City of Waukegan.
The Waukegan restaurant serves delectable and authentic Mexican dishes. Their menu features plates of pasta, salads, soups, chicken, steaks, fajitas, seafoods and other house specialties. La Casa de Samuel Mexican Restaurant truly loves to create unique eats for all customer’s pallets.
120 N. Genesee St., Waukegan.
The beach-themed Waukegan drinkery features Gold Pyramid House Vodka and video gaming. Club Tiki can host private parties, corporate events and fundraisers.
3500 Sunset Ave., Waukegan.
Waukegan Polar Plunge
Tis the season to be freezin.’ Already Lake County has been hit with a lot of snow and low mercury temps. Kick the year off by chilling in the 18th Annual Polar Bear Plunge in Waukegan. This Waukegan Municipal Beach event awards a polar plunge shirt to the first 500 brave souls that take a dip in the drink. Water shoes or other footwear are required. Food, hot chocolate and polar bear hats will be sold on site. If you’re not enticed by a frigid hug with Lake Michigan, cheer your friends and family from slightly warmer shores.
New Years Day.
It’s an art revolution party in Waukegan, and everyone’s invited. It’s a little bit of art, it’s a little bit of music and plenty of delightful dishes as you walk down Genesee Street at ArtWauk. Local artists will be in attendance at this monthly downtown event displaying their many different art mediums that range from portraits, sculptures, digital, photography, film, comedy and so much more. Hop on and off the fun, free Greentown Trolley when going from gallery to shop to restaurant.
Every third Saturday.
CLC Salute to Gospel
Some of the biggest names in gospel grace the stage at Genesee Theatre. Pastor John P. Kee started a community choir in Charlotte, N.C., which achieved rapid success and grew to become the renowned New Life Community Choir (NLCC). As a solo artist and with the NLCC, Kee has received a flood of awards and nominations including the Grammy’s, Billboard and Soul Train Awards to name a few. Head to this salute and prepare yourself to be wowed!
Thank you to everyone who came out last night and made @dinosaurstudiotattoo 1st annual StarWauk event a success!! Can’t wait for #Starwauk2018!! @davidmotley @waukeganartsdis @waukjam @waukeganmainstreet @waukeganparkdistrict @greaterwaukegan @explorewaukegan @drewsomeart @snafufig @siftedswts @billzilla_rex @duh47ronin @hiwaukegan @waukeganharbor @lmgx525 @sweettreasuresresale @lularoegypsydowns @swerving4irving @explorewaukegan @s0kay @edpincombe @nancytonkin7 @artwauk #imperial #rebel #rebelscum #TheLastJedi #newhope #returnofthejedi #tattooist #tattooing #tattooed #tattoos #tattoo #art #artists #artgallery #custom #fineart #fineartist #starwauk #calltoartists #edpincombedesigns #lakehousesoycandlesandbath #waukeganartsdistrict #waukegan #chicago #waukarts #weirdwaukegan #annualevent #1stannual #artwauk
The City of Waukegan is altering the ArtWauk, pray they don’t alter it any further. It’s not a trap because this edition of the Waukegan artsy celebration is transforming to StarWauk. This inaugural festival of the Star Wars saga and science-fiction genre during the monthly ArtWauk features free live entertainment, art exhibits, unique shops, costume contests, delicious eats and more. Have fun, you will.
Third Saturday of May.
Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine Fine Arts Festival
The City of Waukegan always knows how to throw a party for its favorite son: Ray Bradbury. The Green Town mastermind behind “Fahrenheit 451” and “Martian Chronicles,” unfortunately, passed away June 5, 2012. To celebrate his life, times and legacy, this Lake County city hosts the Annual Ray Bradbury Dandelion Wine Fine Arts Festival. This Bowen Park box social features art, music, live readings, dance, a drum circle and so much more. Attendees are encouraged to add their artistic flair to help create an epic festival masterpiece titled “The Happiness Machine!” The Waukegan fest is a free admission event.
Scoop Waukegan & Tanabata Fest
The tradition returns to Downtown Waukegan as the hot rod holiday, Scoop kicks off in early July7. Save the date to experience your favorite vehicles at the Car Show & VIP Scoop, Lake County eats and beers, a carnival and plenty of live entertainment Running alongside Scoop (located a few blocks north at the Lilac Cottage in Bowen Park) the Waukegan Park District throes their Annual Tanabata Festival. The Tanabata, known as a Japanese star celebration, is when the two stars named Altair and Vega meet on the seventh day of the seventh month. Attendees can make a wish or attach a personal haiku to the ‘wishing tree’ for good luck of the upcoming year.
Wings Over Waukegan/Northern Illinois Airshow
Viewers will witness an unbelievable flight performance by the world-renowned aerobatic pilots at the Waukegan Regional Airport. The Northern Illinois Airshow – Wings Over Waukegan features vintage military crafts like the F-86 Sabre, delicious eats, mouthwatering drinks, photo-ops with the brave pilots and more. Don’t forget your camera so you can capture the best snapshots. As these captains of flight have said in the past and what pilots will exclaim in the future, “Aim High…Fly-Fight-Win.”
Every third Saturday of the year, you get a touch of culture with the different mediums you see from ArtWauk. However, downtown Waukegan is transformed into Halloween town as ArtWauk runs alongside their Annual ZombieWauk. The event will feature six bands including Everything Must Die, Wings of Severance, Escapist, Cereviscera, a free tour of the Daddy War Bus, suds and eats vendors, face painters as well as flesh-eating abominations clutter the streets while hunting you down. Beware of the walking dead.
The third weekend of October.
Who’s ready for the holidays? HolidayWauk returns to the streets of Waukegan along the shore of Lake Michigan. Grab an artsy and unique gift for someone special and know you kept it Lake County Local. The party festivities include a kid’s creative session, free ornament decorating at the Tufo Galerie, Small Works Show at Dandelion Gallery, free photos with Santa at Jack Benny Plaza, a petting zoo and so much more.
Third weekend of December.
Jack Benny Center for the Arts
Named after Waukegan’s own native son and national treasure (actor Jack Benny), this excellent arts facility champions fine arts instruction in music, dance, theatre, art and traditional crafts. They also host educational lecture programs.
39 Jack Benny Dr., Waukegan.
This historic former movie palace now headlines premier music and entertainment acts on the stage of its opulent 2,416 seat auditorium. A slew of performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Chubby Checkers, Kristen Chenoweth, Jack Hanna, Blondie, Kenny G and countless others have graced the downtown Waukegan stage. The Genesee conducts free tours Tuesdays and Thursdays. The historic landmark also doubles as a venue for birthday parties, anniversaries and weddings.
203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan.
Waukegan History Museum
Once the Haines House, one of the oldest buildings in Illinois, portrays the life of the Victorian period in 1870s Waukegan through the use of carefully researched relics. Besides the rich history of Waukegan, the museum also features antiques from Jack Benny’s early Vaudeville days, the bed Abe Lincoln slept on while visiting the city and so much more.
1917 N. Sheridan Rd., in Bowen Park, Waukegan.
Designed by James Foulis in 1926, ‘The Brook” ranks among the top 50 golf facilities in the Chicagoland area, catering to scratch golfers and brand new players as well.
2800 N. Lewis Ave., Waukegan.
A park that is home to Waukegan’s History Museum. Bowen Park is also a former picnic in the park location equipped with a fitness course, playground and jogging paths.
1800 N. Sheridan Rd., Waukegan.
This large fitness center features an indoor track, an eight-lane lap pool, a three-story climbing wall and a six-court gym for hoops and volleyball nets. The fieldhouse also has a sauna and steam room.
800 Baldwin Ave., Waukegan.
Glen Flora Country Club is a private country club, but the Waukegan facility isalso open to the public for banquets, weddings, meetings, and other special events, large or small. The banquet capacity is 225 in the main dining, 50-person capacity in the Grille Room and a 50-person capacity in the upstairs lounge.
2200 N. Sheridan Rd., Waukegan.
The Waukegan Arts Council is a nonprofit organization that serves to advance the economic, social and cultural life of Waukegan through education, collaboration, networking and promotion of the arts. Visit their website for a list of arts & entertainment events taking place in Waukegan, as well as a listing of galleries, venues, and resources.
39 Jack Benny Dr., Waukegan.
This boater’s haven offers an expansive season from April 1-November 1, which is just one of the many reasons to choose Waukegan as your next boating destination. The harbor features the finest in boating with a marina of over 1,000 slips, perfect for the freedom to meander Lake Michigan.
55 South Harbor Pl., Waukegan.
This beach is open shine, rain or even snow. The beach features one mile of sand that is groomed daily, along with some of the area’s only natural dunes in the area. The Stiner Pavilion on the beach hosts their concert series every Tuesday during the summer. Recreational activities include swimming, sunbathing, picnicking and sand volleyball.
201 Seahorse Dr., Waukegan.
An innovative park district that creatively adapts to their evolving community and provides exceptional parks, recreation and cultural arts that benefit all.
2000 Belvidere Rd., Waukegan.
Fields of dreams for softball, soccer and flag football at this 138-acre athletic complex. The facility hosts local, regional and national athletic events, youth and adult rec leagues.
3391 W. Beach Rd., Waukegan.
This 122-room accommodation comes equipped with a full kitchen, with microwave, stove top and refrigerator. There is also a fitness center onsite. Man’s best friend is allowed to stay with you in this Waukegan hotel.
1151 Waukegan Rd., Waukegan.
The 149-suite hotel is equipped with a pool, fitness center and restaurant. Located in the Fountain Square Plaza, it is nearby Six Flags Great America, Abbott, Cardinal Health and Naval Station Great Lakes. The facility also obtains 1,284 square-feet of meeting space.
3800 Northpoint Blvd., Waukegan
Elegant brand with two bedroom suites, executive suites and jacuzzi featured in the rooms. Guests will enjoy the large heated indoor pool, 24-hour fitness center and an extended size breakfast room with a complimentary continental breakfast.
611 Lakehurst Rd., Waukegan.
These versatile suites offer separate living, dining and sleeping areas, fully equipped kitchens and a comfortable work area including free wireless high-speed internet. Free hot breakfast buffet and an evening social Tuesday-Thursday offered to all guests from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Recline and relax in the Waukegan hotel’s jacuzzi.
1440 S. White Oak Dr., Waukegan.
The Springhill Suites obtains 120 rooms, has a pool, a fitness center and offers a free hot breakfast. You’ll find plenty of room to make yourself at home with up to 25% more space than a traditional hotel.
For more information about the guide to the City of Waukegan, continue here.