Ravinia: Pro Tips with Joel

As Umphrey’s McGee closes in on our return to Chicagoland’s beloved Ravinia Festival, I thought I’d offer you a couple tips on how to do Ravinia right.  Growing up in the Chicago area, I’ve attended concerts at Ravinia since I was a kid, and have seen many outstanding performances there.  A few of my favorites over the years have been Herbie Hancock with Wayne Shorter, Taj Mahal + Bonnie Raitt and Chucho Valdes with Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez.  Needless to say, Ravinia has provided plenty of inspiration to me and that’s part of what led me down the path of music.  It’s a legendary, iconic venue.

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First let’s talk about the differences between the pavilion and the lawn at Ravinia.  While the lawn offers a sprawling, beautiful tree-laden concert landscape, the pavilion is where you want to be for the show as the lawn is flat with no direct view of the stage. That will be especially true for this year’s show as we have the Chicago Mass Choir joining us for a few numbers — their beauty & sheer power need to be witnessed in person, not to mention experiencing the always-colorful, exciting light show of Jefferson Waful.

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One of the cooler perks of Ravinia is that the lawn is BYOB, you’re encouraged to bring your own spread and live it up.  Blankets, chairs, tables and as much food & beverage as you need should all be in your plan. So even if you want to watch the show from the pavilion, the pro move is to come early, set up a spread on the lawn pre show and enjoy the gorgeous setting with friends, family and most likely, new friends.  If you’re sitting in the pavilion for the show, you’ll also likely want to wander back to your spread at set break to stretch out a bit.  The show starts at 7 pm, but the lawn opens at 4. Trust me, take advantage of this. Want to come early but would rather get food & drinks at the venue?  A market & a number of dining experiences await you on site.

Unlike last year’s Ravinia show, we will have large viewing screens set up on the lawn so that those in the lawn can watch the band & get a taste of the light show in the process.  While the lawn is BYOB, the pavilion is food & beverage free.  So if you’d like to continue to eat & drink while the show is happening, you’ll be able to do that this year AND at least have a partial view of the show from the lawn.
Ravinia is located about 25 miles north of the loop but can be easily accessed by the Metra Chicago-Kenosha train line at the Ravinia Park stop, dropping you off steps from the entrance of the park and picking you up post-show.  The train is definitely the way to go for ease & safety if you’re indulging, but if you prefer to drive, there is also plenty of parking on site.  Interested in extending your day on the front end?  Definitely visit the nearby Chicago Botanic Garden on the way in.

If this is your first time to Ravinia, or if you had such a good time last year that you need to review what it’s all about, check out the page & video below.


Most importantly, Umphrey’s McGee is proud of our Chicago & Midwest heritage and want to keep our reputation alive as a well-respected organization.  You as the fans play an enormous role in how our show & overall vibe is perceived.  Have a blast out there, but respect the laws, your neighbors and pick up after yourself.  Let’s make sure we leave Ravinia as beautiful and trash-free as it was before we arrived.

We’ll see you all on Friday August 14th, we can’t wait to return to Ravinia and create another magical night of music for you in one of the most beautiful settings in the world.