The Park District of Highland Park is partnering with SaLT: Service and Learning Together and the Highland Park/Highwood Rotary Club to collect pre-packaged food donations to provide groceries to Highland Park and Highwood families facing food insecurities.

About 21.3% of Highland Park/Highwood residents live in poverty, 18% of residents over 60 years qualify for food stamps, and 22% of elementary school students are classified as low-income with many facing food insecurity, together we can make a meaningful impact in our community.

Drop-off Dates: Monday, August 14 – Sunday, September 10.

Items Needed

Drop-Off Locations

Thank you to the artist Christie Russert! Christie and her husband Joe worked hard this summer to bring her winning design to life on the two concrete structures. Be sure to stop by and check them out!

Project Background: In February, the Park District of Highland Park and The Art Center Highland Park began seeking submissions to decorate the two concrete structures at Moraine Beach. Artists participated in a design competition and submissions were due in March. Submissions were evaluated by a panel of judges who narrowed down the submissions to two finalists. The finalists’ designs were shared with the community through a survey and then shared with the Park District Board of Commissioners who determined the winning design in April.

“Camp was not just a way to pass the summer break, but a vital part of who we became.” Michael Eisner, former CEO of The Walt Disney Company, talking about how he and his business colleagues look back on their summer camp experiences.

The wonderful summer sports camps run by the park district offer your child seven weeks of fun and games, running around outdoors with their friends.

And that used to be enough.

Now, the experienced coaches, counselors, and student-athletes who teach the fundamentals of a wide range of sports—including baseball, basketball, golf, and soccer—provide campers with much more than a respite from school and a glimpse of glory as “the boys & girls of summer.” We’ll get to the extras after this short break to tell you what happens each week.

Jr. Varsity Sports Camp, for everyone in grades 1–4

While all of that fun is happening, kids are learning some mighty important life skills, from caring adults they trust—their coaches and counselors:

Troy Hoffmann, Athletic Supervisor at the Park District, said “These are things that help shape kids into good people, and we emphasize them every day. Happily, none of them require looking at a screen!”

Varsity Sports Camp, for everyone in grades 5–8

While the Varsity Sports Camp is great fun for everyone, if your young sports enthusiast is a girl in grades 3–6, take a look at our Girls Play Strong camp. It’s filled with special features designed specifically for them.

We’re looking forward to seeing your child this summer!

The Park District of Highland Park is partnering with Moraine Township Food Pantry to collect non-perishable food items to provide families in need with meals over Memorial Day Weekend.

Drop-off Dates: Monday, April 10-Sunday, May 14

Items Needed

Drop-Off Locations

The Moraine Township Food Pantry is always in need of donations. If you can’t supply the above Memorial Day Meal items, please consider donating the following at our facilities:


Our golf camps offer all the benefits of team sports—being active both physically and mentally, being outdoors, making lifelong friends, and learning a game that your child can play for life—with one big difference: the outcome is all up to them.

Yes, golfers like to play twosomes and foursomes. But it’s all about what the individual does on the course that ends up on their scorecard. So if your child is ready to spend a summer playing a game where they are in control, we have a special sports camp that’s perfect for them.

The Highland Park Golf Academy week-long summer camp is a half-day of intense fun where players are immersed in a game that never gets old, never gets boring, and is never the same two days in a row. Students at the Golf Academy dive deep into the fundamentals: grip, proper swing techniques, driving, and putting. Plus the rules of the game, club selection, and proper course etiquette are part of every session. Our pro instructors emphasize self-esteem along with goal-setting—two skills that are important in every other aspect of life: from family, to school, to business. The great Tiger Woods said it best: “Achievements on the golf course are not what matters. Decency and honesty are what matter.”

Playing golf is fun, and we make sure that your child has a great summer! But just taking a club and whacking a ball around ends up being frustrating and disappointing. “Young golfers often just want to smash the ball as far as possible,” says Rob Saunders, PGA pro instructor at the Golf Academy, “and they end up hitting long and wrong time after time.” Students in this camp can spend plenty of time on the driving range swinging for the fences. (Actually, there aren’t any fences.) But individual time spent on the attached Par-3 course, practicing the all-important short game, will pay even bigger dividends for your golfer when tallying up the score at the end of a round with their friends.

Golf teaches discipline: there are rules, and everyone has to follow them to be successful. Golf teaches players to control their emotions: your child will learn to focus on the next shot, and not be overwhelmed by a bad one. Golf teaches responsibility and integrity: The Legend of Bagger Vance anyone? (Hint: The ball moved.) Golf teaches the value of being quiet: while a golfer plans each shot, and while other players line up their putts. Being quiet in the great outdoors, on a beautiful course, might just be the thing your child ends up liking the best about the game.

Does golf sound like the thing for your child? Sign them up for a week or two of summer camp at the Golf Academy where we help every child get started (or get better) playing this great game where what they do makes all the difference.

One of the most popular education centers on the Northshore is getting ready to unveil a brand new set of interactive exhibits, all about the wonders of the world that surround Heller Nature Center. These beautiful displays have been specially designed to replace or enhance the beloved exhibit areas that have been inspiring kids and families for more than 20 years. The combination of traditional materials and new technology makes each of the areas easily accessible to all ages and fun for everyone. Here’s a peek at what’s to come.

Who Eats Who

If the name alone isn’t enough to get kids excited, this new exhibit will give them a hands-on lesson into the circle of life. Designed to replace the current Flying Squirrel display, there are individual pieces showing a variety of animals that you can place where you think they belong, based on guessing “Who Eats Who.” Each magnetized piece will generate a sound when put onto the display: Yum if you’re correct, and Yuck if you’ve guessed wrong. Keep trying (and remember what you’ve done before!) until every piece is in just the right spot.

The multi-sensory and multi-purpose Creature Theatre is a unique area where families can discover, play, and create their own stories. There are scent boxes, where you can test just how good your nose for nature is. Look closely around the exhibit and you’ll discover lots of natural items, including pine cones, animal bones, insects and much more. Puppets are waiting patiently for you in their boxes, and when you find them, you can choose one of the natural play area mats—a pond, a prairie, or a forest—to help make up your own nature story. Then, act it out in the Theater! This is a creative space you’ll come back to again and again for educational and imaginative play.

We have completely refurbished the existing Prairie Panel display, where you see just how deep prairie roots are in the ground, and how important they are to the ecosystem. These roots are good at reaching water more than a meter deep, and can live for a very long time. The new exhibit includes a crank wheel, so you can “pull up” a prairie root, study the image, and see how deep they actually go. When you’re all done, crank the wheel again and reset the display for the next budding ecologist.

Our Ephemeral Pond area has been retrofitted with a beautiful series of images displaying the importance of these ponds, and the unique animals you’ll find in them. Also known as Vernal Ponds, they are a specific type of wetland that provide habitat for distinctive plants, amphibians, and insects. The unique features of our local ephemeral ponds make this updated display particularly interesting. After seeing the exhibit, go out and find a pond in the area around Heller. You’ll have a new appreciation for all of the visible and invisible life that is sustained there.

We call our large aquarium the Pondarium. It’s a fascinating exhibit that shows not only what you see above the water, but also what’s there to discover if you dig deep into the sediment of the pond floor. It’s a wonderful way for kids to learn that there’s so much more to nature than what’s visible on the surface… and that’s a good life lesson that extends far beyond the pond.

In addition to all of the new exhibits, and the changes made to existing ones, we’ve added a stunning new educational mural around the existing aquarium, and a hands-on learning table. We know you’ll enjoy seeing, touching, and interacting with everything when you visit.

This extensive renewal project has been carefully researched and thoughtfully designed to enhance your ecological experience and educate the community on the natural areas that surround us. We encourage all visitors—young and old alike—to take what they’ve learned indoors and recognize it outdoors as you hike through the wonderfully diverse and ever changing Heller Nature Center grounds each season. We look forward to welcoming you soon!

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.