Virtually every community has a leash law. In Highland Park, the law requires that dogs be kept on a leash on public property, including our parks. The law intends to protect the health and safety of the public and to protect your pet. A leash is commonly referred to as “Your Pet’s Lifeline” and protects your pet from harm and potentially harming other people or animals in the area. While you can train certain dogs to avoid the busy roads, stop and wait for their owner at corners, and even return to their side at command, there is always the chance that a dog could act impulsively. The safest way and legal way to walk your dog is on a leash.

Other Reasons to Always Use a Dog Leash

Become a Dog Park Member!

Dog Park Membership offers countless benefits for your dog. One of the most important benefits a dog park provides a dog is to exercise both his body and mind. In an open off-leash space, your dog has the chance to run around freely, chasing after balls and other dogs as much as his heart desires. He can socialize with humans and other dogs, which helps maintain healthy social skills. Like people, dogs are social creatures, and they enjoy being around their own kind. Your dog can practice his communication skills with other dogs and gives him practice reading other dogs. Practicing and mastering these skills helps your dog from developing fear or aggression problems around other dogs. This is especially true if you have a young dog that is eager to learn. And, not only is it fun for your four-legged friend, but it’s also fun for you! You can run around and exercise with your dog, practice off-leash training, talk to and bond with other dog owners, and enjoy the time watching your dog have the time of his life.

The Park District of Highland Park has three dog parks available to registered members:

Debbie Gottlieb Beitler Dog Park at Larry Fink Memorial Park – open year-round (701 Deer Creek Parkway)
A relaxed park-like atmosphere with two off-leash exercise areas, depending on the size of your dog.

Highland Park Golf Learning Center – open mid-December through mid-March* (2205 Skokie Valley Highway)
A large outdoor venue for your dog to run off some of that cabin fever energy.

Moraine Dog Beach – open mid-April through mid-November* (2501 Sheridan Road)
Moraine Dog Beach is scheduled to reopen this year with a new boardwalk and path leading down to the beach. Your dogs will soon be able to run in the sand and dip in the lake on those hot, sunny days.

If you are a parent of a teenager, now is an excellent time for both you and your teen to start thinking about how to make the most out of summer. A summer job is a great hands-on experience for teens to learn about responsibility, time management, teamwork, expectations associated with being a valued worker, money management, and more. 

There is no better summer job for a teen than working at the Park District of Highland Park. Whether it’s applying to be a lifeguard or camp counselor, your teens can build strong job skills, enhance their ability to focus, work together as a team with other teens, build confidence, and set a solid foundation for a strong resume for the future.


Focus is a critical part of the job. Lifeguards must be able to block out all distractions and prioritize their focus on the people and the area they are guarding. And camp counselors need to take responsibility for the well-being of children. Teens learn to dedicate themselves to their tasks which can translate to their work ethic while studying in school or doing extracurricular activities.


Our camp counselors and lifeguards learn to work as a team. To ensure our patrons’ safety, our staff executes all policies as a team. Teens experience the importance of working together in a challenging environment. They learn how to be given responsibility and how to take responsible action.


Building a teen’s confidence through a responsible job is an excellent foundation for the transitions they will have to make in the future, such as going to college and starting a first full-time job.

Resume Builder

Parents count on lifeguards and camp counselors for the safety of their children. College and business recruiters look closely at applicants who have proven themselves in such a serious environment.  In addition to critical first aid and safety skills, lifeguards also need to be responsible, quick thinkers, mature, have good customer service & communication skills, and have great concentration.  These are all important and transferable leadership skills that are valuable for college admission and landing a full-time job in their chosen career.  

No matter how hard you try, you can’t outrun your fork! Not gaining weight starts in the kitchen with a healthy grocery list, meal prep, and portion control. Take a look at these tips from Karen Jarger, Personal Trainer at the Recreation Center of Highland Park, to help you avoid that extra weight this year.

Be mindful.  Chew your food thoroughly.  It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register satiation from food.  The slower you eat, the better your saliva does its predigesting work and your stomach registers that you’ve had enough. This technique helps avoid overindulgence. 

Include complex carbs in your diet to give your body long-lasting energy and important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Complex carbs are an ideal source of fiber; they digest more slowly, leaving you feeling fuller longer. Some great examples are lentils & legumes, oatmeal, whole wheat breads, brown rice, quinoa, squash, whole fruits, and leafy green and colorful vegetables.

Going to a holiday party? Before heading out, eat a snack high in protein at home so you don’t overindulge. Protein takes longer to digest and can help you be selective about how much and what you put in your mouth later! Drinking lots of water before and during parties helps control urges to “overcelebrate” as well!

Whether it’s holiday shopping or your weekly errands, park your car a little further away from the store. These extra steps add up!

There is no better place to spend time with your family, friends and neighbors than at your Park District. We are honored to be part of this vibrant community providing heathy recreational outlets and expansive outdoor spaces. We strive to remain your go-to-place for classes, special programs, and events. Our teachers, instructors and coaches, along with the front desk staff at each facility, do their best to get to know you and be part of your world.

The Park District provides a wealth of other benefits to Highland Park and nearby communities.

Here are just a few of the ways that you, your family, your friends and neighbors are connected to us that you might not think about. We’re proud to provide them all. As Parks & Recreation professionals, it’s a large part of what we do every day.

Take a deep breath.

We have 45 parks and hundreds of acres of open space where everyone can breathe fresh air, walk on paths through lovely natural areas, enjoy beautiful amenities including public art, and of course there are lots of playgrounds for kids. We’ve planned and created these spaces so that almost every family lives within a 10-minute walk of a park. Equal access is something we’ve championed for many years, and we continue those efforts with every park and playground update we do.

“We spend many months holding listening sessions and talking with the residents who live near a park whenever we plan a renovation, so we can understand exactly how they use the space now and what their view for the future is”, says Amalia Schwartz, the Park District’s Planning and Projects Manager. That connection means families and kids get what they want, and what they need for recreation close to home.

A healthier you, indoors and out.

Nearly 40 years of research evidence confirms that nearby nature, including parks, gardens, the urban forest and green spaces, support human health and wellness. The research about active living and opportunities to avoid chronic diseases (such as diabetes, heart disease and respiratory problems) is particularly relevant to large parks… But, equally as important is the role of small parks and nature spaces for health.1 (Read more here and here.)

The open spaces we maintain are thoughtfully designed for healthy physical activities, like biking, running, walking, and playing games. They also provide quiet places, created so you can sit, read, watch the abundance of nature, and ease out of the daily tension that can overwhelm any of us. The stress of the past two years has reinforced how critical it is for all of us to look after our mental and emotional health. Parks and green spaces offer everyone a place to relax and reconnect with the simple joys around us.

“Participation in recreation and leisure is one of the most essential and accessible forms of preventative health care available”, said Executive Director, Brian Romes, adding “If your doctor said ‘I have this pill you can take that will help you manage stress better, make your mind sharper and body stronger,  protect your heart and body from disease, increase your confidence, focus and overall well-being, while also connecting you with new friends’, would you take it? Of course you would! That’s the Park District.”  If you’re looking for a park, or a particular amenity, they are all listed on this Interactive Map.

The Recreation Center of Highland Park provides another way for you to stay healthy, year-round. Our wide variety of classes and dedicated instructors can help you create a personal, complete workout routine to build strength and stamina, lose weight, and develop a healthy lifestyle. State-of-the-art equipment in a large, open space, individualized instruction, and a friendly atmosphere where you can socialize with your friends combine to make this a truly unique facility, and all are welcome. Read more here.

We specialize in special events.

One of the things we love most is bringing the community together, for a couple of hours or a whole day, so that everyone can enjoy being a part of something unique. Something wonderful.

Something that gets families and friends talking, laughing, and meeting new people. Our recent Día de los Muertos event was a spectacular celebration of culture that brought people from miles around to dance and sing, eat and play, look and see and learn about a holiday that’s been part of people’s lives for more than 3,000 years. It was an emotional day for so many who came, and we’re happy that it will now be an annual event, along with many more that are produced at Heller Nature Center, West Ridge, The Preserve, and our other parks & facilities.

Be sure to bookmark the Calendar of Events and check it often. On Sunday, February 19, Canadian pianist Winston Choi makes his debut with the Strings in a performance of George Gershwin’s iconic “Rhapsody in Blue” at our Annual Benefit concert. It takes place in the intimate and acoustically perfect Bennett-Gordon Hall at Ravinia. If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing this fine orchestra, you can enjoy listening to them perform a delightful bit of Beethoven here.

We value your property.

When a family moves into the Highland Park community, one of the most important things they look for is the availability of nearby parks and recreation areas. That’s us. We work here, and we live here, so we know how the quality of our facilities, parks, open spaces, and of course the lakefront, impacts the decision to move here. What we provide increases property values, and we’re keenly aware of how important that is to you. It’s not a daily topic of conversation, like how much your kids love their preschool teacher or their soccer coach, but it’s important, nonetheless.

It’s why we talk to you whenever we’re planning a major renovation—like the Sunset Woods Park, and Sunset Valley Golf Club. When we designed the Interpretive Center at Rosewood Beach, and now as we build the new Park Avenue Breakwater, we’ve gathered your input and looked to you for guidance. Our GreenPrint 2024 Community Vision, the Lakefront Master Plan, and our Athletic Field Master Plan are not only critical to the growth and long-term health of the Park District, they are good for home values all across the community.

Inclusive means equal access.

We believe everyone in our community should have access to Park District programs regardless of their family’s financial situation. For 30 years, SMILE grants have made it possible for thousands of residents to participate in camps, sports, lessons, and fitness programs. In the last year alone, $100,000 in grants were awarded to over 85 Highland Park families, all made possible by generous donations. Read about how you can be a part of this important program.

Inclusive also means helping our neighbors in Highwood to enjoy the benefits of the Park District. There’s no physical boundary between Highland Park and Highwood. But the Park District, as a government agency, is restricted from offering resident rate discounts and scholarship funds to Highwood residents. Parks Foundation President, Rafael Labrador, calls it “Bureaucracy vs. Community.”

In 2018, to address this inequity, the Parks Foundation of Highland Park created a new program: the Foundation Youth Initiative (FYI). With the help of grant support from the Highland Park Community Foundation beginning in 2019, the Parks Foundation was able to expand their FYI, which now supports the successful Paddlers Learn to Swim Program by offering free swim instruction to young children, predominantly Highwood residents. Why? Because Swim Lessons Save Lives. That grant, along with other generous donations helps the Parks Foundation fulfill its mission of ensuring equal access to quality athletic instruction, year-round outdoor activities, and other social and recreational opportunities for all community members.

“Community is the people you see on the street and in the stores”, says Labrador. “Borders don’t exist for the kids, for my kids, who all attend the same schools and want to enjoy the recreational opportunities at the Park District with their friends.”

The Park District is planning ways to create more programs that will provide equal access to recreation and education. We’re working on ideas for a Dual-Language Summer Camp and including Spanish in some of our preschool lessons. Research suggests that second language acquisition skills peak around the age of 6 or 7, although that ability certainly may continue through ages 12–13.

Brian Romes added, “The Park District is a place where you can learn new things and build practical lifelong skills in a fun, low stress, encouraging environment. Our dual-language initiatives would work both ways, helping English speakers and native Spanish speakers to communicate easily with each other, which leads to a greater understanding of everyone in the community.” We’re interested in your thoughts. Please reach out to us.

Be curious. Be rewarded.

Take a few moments to search our website. You’ll find hundreds of classes, programs and events created to inspire, enlighten, and enhance your life. Ways you can start and expand your journey to a healthier, happier you. For kids, teens, adults and families, the benefits of being an active part of the Park District community are endless. Spread the word!

1 Wolf, Kathleen L., Ph.D. The Health Benefits of Small Parks and Green Spaces. Parks & Recreation Magazine, April, 2017.

Meditation is a wonderful way to “de-stress” during stressful periods during this holiday season. Busy calendars full of obligations can keep us from spending time with people we cherish, and distance ourselves from our emotions.  “Calm down meditation” helps improve our self-awareness and refocus our energy.

Here are some calming meditation techniques recommended by Lisa Hodges, Yoga Instructor at the Recreation Center of Highland Park:

  1. Progressive muscle relaxation: tense each muscle for a minimum of 5 seconds, and then release.  Start either at the top or bottom of the body and work your way up/down.
  2. Mantra meditation: repeat a calming word, phrase, or sentence. Examples are: “My life is love”, “I am calm and relaxed”, and “Ommmm”.
  3. Mindful meditation: this uses the technique of focusing on the breath which gives the mind free rein to discover that it is okay to have emotions without doing anything about them.
  4. Guided meditation: there are meditation classes and apps that are specifically designed to help calm the mind.  Lie down or relax in a comfortable chair, listen, focus, and let the meditation do the rest.

Keep Your Dog On-Leash 

It may be tempting to let your dog run off-leash on the beautiful new lawns at The Preserve of Highland Park.  Though The Preserve may look like a traditional park with its paved trails and mowed lawns, it is a natural area and home to hundreds of wild birds and animals.   To make sure our new park is fun and safe for everyone, we require that dogs always be kept on a leash.

There is evidence that dogs off-leash can be detrimental to wildlife.  Most birds and other wildlife perceive dogs as predators. Impacts include: 

  1. Displacement – The presence of dogs causes wildlife to move away, temporarily, or permanently reducing the amount of available habitat in which to feed, breed and rest. Animals become less active during the day to avoid dog interactions. Furthermore, the scent of dogs repels wildlife, and the effects remain after the dogs are gone. 
  2. Disturbance – Animals are alarmed and cease their routine activities. This increases the amount of energy they use, while simultaneously reducing their opportunities to feed. Repeated stress causes long-term impacts on wildlife including reduced reproduction and growth, suppressed immune system and increased vulnerability to disease and parasites.

It is against City law and Park District ordinance to have a dog off-leash in any of our parks, except in designated areas. Dogs off-leash are not in your control. They may:

There are several options for off-leash fun in the community. The Park District of Highland Park has two dog parks available to registered members:

Debbie Gottlieb Beitler Dog Park at Larry Fink Memorial Park – open year-round (701 Deer Creek Parkway)
A relaxed park-like atmosphere with two off-leash exercise areas, depending on the size of your dog.

Highland Park Golf Learning Center– open mid-December through mid-March* (2205 Skokie Valley Highway)
A large outdoor venue for your dog to run off some of that cabin fever energy.

Be a Pooper Scooper!

Anyone who’s a dog owner has been there. You’ve been playing fetch with your dog for the last half hour, and just when it’s time to start walking back home, he crouches down and leaves a big pile. And then comes the dreaded moment when you know that it’s time to clean up. But wouldn’t it be so much easier to just leave the mess? No one will know it was you…

But if you care about your health, your dog’s health and your community, it’s imperative that you clean up after your dog. Here’s why:

We all get tired and sluggish, and doggie droppings are quite unpleasant – so we don’t blame you for not wanting to pick up after your dog. Because we care about you, your dog and our environment, we put together a list of tips to help make clean-up time a little bit easier:

Be a Dog Park Member!

The best option to give you and your dog safe exercise is to become a member of our dog parks. Membership to a dog park is a wonderful way for you and your dog to play and socialize freely in a safe environment with other dogs and owners. In Highland Park, the Debbie Gottlieb Dog Park (year round) and Highland Park Golf Learning Center Dog Park (mid-Dec – mid-March) feature two off-leash exercise areas – one for big dogs and one for small dogs.  Our dog parks are available to registered dog park members.  Learn more and become a member.

We invite all residents to celebrate Family Health & Fitness Day, and discover we are building a strong, healthy and resilient community through the power of parks and recreation. To celebrate, simply gather with family and friends to get active at any Park District park, beach or facility.

Community members can participate by doing the following: 

The Park District of Highland Park offers year-round opportunities for families and individuals to stay active and healthy. In fact, Living close to parks and other recreation infrastructure is consistently related to higher physical activity levels for both adults and youth. Moreover, parks provide a connection to nature, which studies demonstrate relieves stress, tightens interpersonal relationships, and improves mental health.  

We always think of summer through rose-colored glasses – the nice weather, holiday celebrations, beach vacations, lounging around with a tall cold drink, and a great book.  But, summer can also mean a lot of stress if you try to pack in everything you can into this short 3-month season. Take some time to de-stress your summer!

According to the Mayo Clinic, the best way to relieve stress is to get active. Virtually any form of physical activity can act as a stress reliever. Even if you’re not an athlete or you’re out of shape, exercise is still a great stress reliever. 

There is no time like the present to get moving!

Here’s a bucket list of 10 “must-do” family outdoor activities at the Park District of Highland Park:

  1. Walk 100 miles. Challenge each other to walk 100 miles over the summer.   The first one to meet the goal gets a coveted prize.
  2. Bike the Parks. Do a bike tour of our parks.  Bike all the parks in one day or split up the town and tour over several days.
  3. Play a Round of Mini-Golf.  Head over to the Highland Park Golf Learning Center and challenge each other to a game.
  4. Take an Outdoor Fitness Class. The Recreation Center of Highland Park is offering outdoor family fitness opportunities.
  5. Play Tennis or Pickleball.  We have tennis courts at nine different park sites throughout the city.  Dedicated pickleball courts are also located at Danny Cunniff and Woodridge Parks. 
  6. Go for a Swim.  We offer opportunities to swim at both Rosewood Beach and the Hidden Creek AquaPark.
  7. Stand-up Paddle or Learn to Sail.  The North Shore Yacht Club provides opportunities to learn how to sail, paddle, or kayak on Lake Michigan.
  8. Take Your furry friend to the Park. Play “off-leash” with your dog at the Debbie Beitler Dog Park.
  9. Play a Game of Basketball.  Outdoor basketball courts are located at numerous park sites throughout the Park District. 
  10. Explore Nature.  The Heller Nature Center is a 97-acre preserve with more than three miles of trails to explore. 

As the weather gets cooler, finding activities for the entire family might be getting harder.  Check out these five fun activities to do at the Park District this weekend:

1. Walk Around The Preserve of Highland Park

Bundle up and take your pooch on-leash for a walk around The Preserve of Highland Park.  Temporary informational signs are posted throughout the park that detail the park’s new amenities.  And, check out the new turtle climbing playground!

Stay up to date on The Preserve of Highland Park project

2. Public Ice Skating is Back!

Meet friends and lace up your skates for public skating at Centennial Ice Arena.   Public skate is open  Saturdays between 11:25am-12:10pm.  If you have time during the weekday, take a public skate lunch break Mon, Tue, Thu, or Fri between 11am-1pm.  

If you have your own skates, it only costs $6 for children and $7 for adults.  Need skates?  Only pay $3 more.

Register for public skating online or in person

3. Get Your Sweat On

It’s time to get in shape before indulging in those holiday sweets, treats, and feasts!  Did you know, the Recreation Center of Highland Park offers All Access 7-Day Passes for only $20?  Passes include access to the fitness floor, Group Ex classes, and lap swimming.  

Purchase the All Access 7-Day Pass

4. Read & Play at Heller Nature Center

The whole family will enjoy Constance’s Story Trail at Heller Nature Center.  Just follow the walking trail while reading our featured story: The Rainbow Fish.  While you’re at it, discover nature and play at Wander Woods – a free play natural area designed to nurture a child’s sense of wonder and discovery.

More information on Heller Nature Center

5. Indoor Swimming at the Rec Center

Not ready to let go of summer?  Join us for a splash at our indoor open swim times on Saturdays and Sundays between 12:30-5:30pm.  It’s only $6/person for residents and $8/person for non-residents. 

Learn more about Open Swim