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Our District

Park District of Highland Park Mission 

To enrich community life through healthy leisure pursuits and an appreciation of the natural world.

Park District of Highland Park Vision

To provide extraordinary experiences in parks and recreation, consistently exceeding the public’s expectations, while:

Adventure awaits you at the Park District of Highland Park

Nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan, the Park District of Highland Park has a mystique all its own just waiting to be discovered. Founded over a century ago, it is one of the oldest park districts in Illinois.  Explore the district’s unique historic parks and find secret gardens, hidden ponds, and a one-of-a-kind beachfront Interpretive Center.

What other place produces Olympic athletes and its own honey, let alone thousands of programs, camps and events that will knock your socks off? Whether you are interested in discovering nature on a spectacular white sand beach or in the quiet woods, trying a new sport or fitness program, testing your creative talents with visual or performing arts class …or just having fun at one of our world class events, there is no reason to wait.  Start your Adventure Today!

The Park District serves over 30,000 residents in the City of Highland Park, Illinois and a small portion of the Village of Deerfield and is located approximately 25 miles north of Chicago.

Take a look….


img_0531Centennial Ice Arena
Centennial is a premier regional teaching center for both ice skating and gymnastics with a highly qualified staff and progressive programming.  The arena has one indoor ice rink and a fully-equipped gymnastics studio and  offers public skating, figure skating lessons,  hockey lessons and gymnastics lessons.  Centennial is a member of the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) and USA Gymnastics.

Deer Creek Racquet Club
United States Tennis Association 2015 Facility of the Year! Deer Creek is Highland Park’s tennis destination for every member of your family to learn and improve their game,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA stay in shape and make friends. Our experienced professional staff provides one of the north shore’s most comprehensive tennis programs for young and old alike.  Deer Creek Racquet Club features six climate controlled indoor tennis courts, tennis pro shop, fully equipped locker rooms, and a comfortable lobby viewing area overlooking the tennis and racquetball courts. The club also features Racquetball & Wallyball courts, table tennis, indoor golf driving range and a small fitness area.

Heller Nature Centerdsc_9112
This 97- acre preserve features oak-hickory forests, tall grass prairie, oak savanna and natural wetlands. Heller has been under public stewardship since 1977 where careful resource management, including restoration and controlled burns, provides a taste of an authentic native landscape. Visitors can enjoy a picnic in the woodlands, visit the nature exhibit, participate in a program, or rent cross-country skis and explore our three miles of trails. At Heller, every season is suitable to enjoy the outdoors. The Interpretive Center offers unique interactive displays. Here you can learn about the three main biological communities found at Heller Nature Center (Oak-Hickory Woodlands, Northern Flatwoods and Prairie). Featured in the exhibit is a bird watching station where visitors are able to observe, identify and even draw the birds they see, and a 450-gallon aquarium that showcases native fish and aquatic plants.

Hidden Creek AquaPark
No matter what your age, you’ll have fun speeding down the water slides, free falling from the drop slide, exploring the fun in our nature themed Splashpad, or enjoying a dip in the zero-depth entry, six lane pool.  Or, after some fun in the pool stretch out on a lounge chair on our large deck and lawn areas to relax and enjoy the summer days.


Highland Park Golf Learning Center 

The Highland Park Golf Learning Center is your destination to improve your golf skills, practice your game, and have fun! The Learning Center is home to a complete with 40 hitting stations (grass & mat) driving range, short game practice area, putting green, and bunker practice area; River’s Edge Adventure Mini Golf Course – challenging 18-hole miniature golf course; as well as private, semi-private, and group golf lessons taught by our PGA professionals.


Recreation Center of Highland Park
TRX_JadeP_02Get a great workout at a great price… a little something more. Our bright and beautiful facility right in the heart of town offers the amenities of a traditional fitness club and is Highland Park’s community hub. It’s the place where you know you’ll see familiar faces, where the workout is not intimidating, and where you can chat with friends before heading out to manage the rest of your day.

The state-of-the-art facility which includes a fitness center, indoor aquatic center, gymnasiums, large & small group fitness studios, indoor walking track, and locker rooms. Center your body, mind and soul with yoga class while your kids take swimming lessons; play a game of basketball while your spouse works out in a spin class.

Sunset Valley Golf Club
Since 1920, Sunset Valley has been the community’s destination for golf.  In 2018, the club completed an extensive $7 million renovation to the course and clubhouse. The new course reflects a unique British Heathland design with an openness accentuated with strategic landforms, flowing masses of native grasses and groves of trees which harken back to the character and aesthetic appeal of the course’s original 1920’s era golf course architecture. The newly remodeled clubhouse offers a classic vibe with striking views of the golf course. Now featuring an expanded golf shop, the new 13ninety restaurant as well as a cozy lounge area with fireplace, the clubhouse is a destination for guests and golfers to relax and Enjoy the Sunset.

West Ridge Community Center
Located in a convenient neighborhood setting, West Ridge Center is home to  art, dance and childhood enrichment programs.StreetFunk_Older_JRunge_03 The Center is also home to the Park District administrative staff and is the location for the monthly Park Board of Commissioners’ meetings.  The Center also offers a multipurpose room, gyms, outdoor sports fields, walking path and playground.


Parks, Beaches & Natural Areas

The Park District of Highland Park operates and manages over 760 acres of land in 44 park areas including:

Community & Neighborhood Parks – Our parks provide a variety of amenities including playgrounds, walking and biking paths, tennis & basketball courts, disc golf, sports fields and more. 

Natural Areas – More than 250 areas of prairie, woodlands, ravines and wetlands within 10 distinct natural habitats, ranging from the cool-water ravines of the Lake Michigan shore to rare Northern Flatwood communities to the Sedge Meadows of Skokie Valley, each with its distinct community of wildflowers, wildlife, trees and shrubs.

Three off-leash dog parks – Two off-leash dog parks and one off-leash dog beach are available to registered members.

Four lakefront Beaches – With nearly ten percent of all of Illinois’ Lake Michigan shoreline within Highland Park, our lakeshore, bluffs, ravines and public parks physically define Highland Park’s community character. The Park District maintains four public park beaches that offer public access to this magnificent shoreline: Millard, Moraine (dog beach), Park Avenue (boating), and Rosewood (swimming, nature programs, beach volleyball, yoga and the beachfront Interpretive Center). Each of the four beaches provides a unique mix of ecological, recreational, aesthetic and educational value that is an integral part of the historical, cultural and natural resources of Highland Park.


The Park District provides a full range of indoor and outdoor activities. Major recreation programs include summer camps, ice swim-17skating, athletics, preschool, and aquatics. All told, the Park District offers approximately 3,000 distinct programs. Park District annual events include Annual Egg Hunt, the Firecracker 5K race and other Independence Day events,  Halloween events, Woofstock, Touch a Truck, Father Daughter Dance, Winterfest, Autumn Fest, and a holiday train ride as well as many others.

The Park District is a vital part of the community and pays close attention to meeting the needs of all of its residents. As the population ages, the Park District’s focus on suitable program offerings and customer service establishes and increases goodwill within the community.


The Park District works with several affiliates to provide a wide range of opportunities and additional services in baseball, hockey, and martial arts. The District also supports the Highland Park Players and Highland Park Strings by providing space and financial support for their community wide productions. Our District partners with other local governments such as the schools who provide facilities for the Park District’s use.

The Park District is a member of the Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association (NSSRA) to provide recreational activities for residents with special needs; the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA), and the Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD). The District is also a participant in the Character Counts program, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics. This program fosters community education in the six pillars of character: Trustworthiness, Respect for Others, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship.

History, Governance, Staffing, Funding 

camp picThe Park District of Highland Park has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1909 when it managed only a 2-1/2 square mile parcel of land. Today, the Park District currently owns and manages more than 700 acres of land in 44 park areas. It also helps manage some land for other municipal agencies.

Highland Park facilities include an indoor ice arena, indoor tennis and racquetball complex, a recreation center, a 97-acre nature reserve, an 18-hole golf course, aquapark, beaches, boat launch ramp and yacht club on Lake Michigan, and three dog exercise areas.

Our district is governed by a five-member elected Board of Commissioners. They serve without compensation and are directly responsible to the electorate. Day-to-day operations are handled by a professional staff led by the Executive Director.

The Park District has an appointed Executive Director responsible to the Board of Commissioners for the administration of theIMG_7446 District along with a full-time (over 1,560 hours annually) staff of 75. The District employs several hundred part-time, seasonal and temporary employees as well as many volunteers in three Functions; Administration (which includes the Executive Director’s support staff, Finance and Information Technology, Human Resources, and Marketing); Parks, and Recreational Services.

Approximately 6% of the total resident property tax is paid to the Park District of Highland Park, which is a separate taxing entity. Taxes provide about 50% of the park district’s annual operating budget of more than $20 million. The balance of income is derived from user fees, admissions, rentals, sales and so forth. Grants, donations and endowments for special projects provide another source of revenue.