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Entries in summer (2)

Monday
Jul252011

Five Great ... Ways to Improve Public Pools

Last week, we brought you the Go West “Pooley Awards,” celebrating what’s great about the public pools, beaches, splash parks and spraygrounds (mostly owned and operated by park districts) in the far western ‘burbs.  This week, we want to suggest five changes that could be made to make them even better.

Naperville's Centennial Beach, pictured here, has nights for families with special needs. More pools should do the same. Photo by wuperruper on Flickr.Bring Your Own: Most of the aquatic parks don’t allow you to bring your own food and drink inside. That means if you’re at the pool over lunch or dinnertime, you’re going to have to pay $3 or $4 a sandwich for concession food that’s not healthy and usually not too stellar in quality, either. With sides and drinks, a concession bill for a family can quickly top $25. Aquatic parks should let visitors bring in their own coolers with food to eat in the concession area. The kids will still likely end up buying popsicles or ice cream. But I’m all for vigilantly enforcing the “no eating by the pool” rule.

All in the Family: A few of the newer aquatic parks have family restrooms, but they’re not that common overall. I know it’s a space issue, but family restrooms are a godsend when you have a adventurous toddler who likes to climb out from underneath the stall or changing room curtain while mom is getting dressed. I’m sure they’re appreciated by larger families, too, when one mom is trying to keep track of a group of young kids. And of course they’re useful for dads taking their daughters to the restrooms.

More Hooks!: Please add some more hooks and shelves to the bathhouses. The floors are always sandy and wet – and while you might be lucky enough to find space on a bench on which to to balance your beach towel and bag, it usually ends up falling to the messy floor. Ick.

Special Needs: Centennial Beach in Naperville is hosting four nights this summer for swimmers with special needs, saying the Sunday evenings provide a “quieter, more relaxed atmosphere.” Every pool should do something similar.

Stormy Weather: Most of the aquatic parks and splash parks have a strict “no refund” policy if weather forces the pool to close. But how about issuing a coupon for several dollars off – or buy one, get one free – for a return visit? The coupon could even be stamped with the date the pool closed early, and the park district could require patrons to use it within a week or two of it being issued.

Note: To read the reader suggestions made when this first appeared on the home page, click here.

Tuesday
Jul192011

Five Great ... Ways to Stay Cool on the Cheap

The weather forecast is predicting a scorcher this week, with the high temperature every day supposed to be in the 90s through at least Sunday. And of course we’ll likely have a couple more runs of extra-steamy weather before Labor Day. So we thought we’d offer up some ideas for how to stay cool without spending too much cash.

Photo by tjstaab on Flickr.* "Check Out" the Libraries: Most of the area libraries seem to be hitting the high point of their summer reading programs right about now. That means the Go West Calendar is packed with drop-in crafts, storytimes, movies and special programs, all free! Just to highlight a couple coming up: The Messenger Public Library in North Aurora is offering family bingo on Wednesday at 2 p.m.  The Sugar Grove Public Library is showing “Despicable Me” today at 2 p.m. And the Gail Borden Public Library’s Rakow Branch in Elgin will host a “Renaissance storytime” at 11 a.m. Thursday. Your kids will be treated to a “highly interactive” show about pirates, princesses, Robin Hood, Irish faerie legends, etc.

* Cheap Flicks: Nearly all of the local movie chains have some kind of summer promotion aimed at families and children. Goodrich Quality Theatres will be showing “Stuart Little” for $1 this week at its theaters in both Oswego and Batavia at 10 a.m. “Rio” is on the bill at theMarcus Theater in Elgin on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. with admission $2. Classic Cinemasin St. Charles shows a $1 movie each Wednesdy at 10 a.m.; this week the movie is “Alpha & Omega.”   

* Splash Around: The “spraygrounds at Geneva’s Moore Park and splash pad at Aurora’s Phillips Park (outside the Visitor Center) are free, as is the splash fountain at Elgin’s Festival Park. The large splash park at Otter Cove is $4 for resident children, $6 for non-resident kids and you only pay for the children’s admission. The Glen Ellyn Park District also has a splash park at Maryknoll Park that’s just $3 per child.

* All Wet: We have such wonderful public pools in the western suburbs, but admission prices can certainly add up. But there are deals to be had. The “Way Back Wednesdays” promotion at the Harold Hall Quarry Beach in Batavia means residents get in for $2, non-residents for $5. Nearly every pool has a weekday rate for after peak hours, often called the “twilight swim.” At Swanson Pool in St. Charles, the cost is just $3 per person.  Most of the pools don’t let you bring your own food onto the property (except the quarry.) But you could always pack your lunch or dinner in a cooler, leave it in the car and get a re-admission stamp to go outside and eat under a tree or on a picnic table. Most of the pools are located in lovely parks, anyway.

* Chilly Treats: I absolutely love going out for ice cream (hence “The Ice Cream Diaries”) yet it’s not always the most budget-friendly outing. So how about making ice cream at home? Why not dig that ice cream maker you got as a wedding gift up from the basement? We don’t have an ice cream maker, but we had great fun last night making this yummy “faux” ice cream in a blender using Greek yogurt and frozen fruit. There are tons of recipes online for homemade popsicles, but Real Simple never lets me down. We’ll be using trying this recipe for Peach & Strawberry Popsicles from Weelicious later today, using my mom’s “vintage” Tupperware popsicle molds!

Note: Check out these suggestions Go West readers had for beating the heat when the story was first posted on the home page.