Picnic & Outdoor Event Permits

people at a picnic shelter

The Forest Preserves’ nearly 300 picnic groves, including more than 40 accessible shelters, are popular locations for outdoor events of all sizes.

On this page:


Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Cancellations

Outdoor permitted events are limited to ten people or fewer.

Indoor room rentals are cancelled starting November 12 until Cook County moves into Tier 2 on the Restore Illinois resurgence plan.

Forest Preserves staff will contact permit holders with the option for a full refund or an account credit to be used in 2021. Late and change fees will not apply. Refunds will only be issued in the event that state or local COVID-19 public health guidelines require the Forest Preserves to cancel your permit.

Learn more about current COVID-19 restrictions and cancellations.


Apply for a Permit

Online and telephone permit sales are now open. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, in-person permit sales are not available through January 15 or until Cook County moves into Tier 2 on the Restore Illinois resurgence plan.

Please review the following information carefully as the application process has changed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Booking capacity for 2021 permits will be restricted to a maximum of 50 attendees. Should state COVID-19 public health restrictions change at any point in 2021, capacities can be adjusted by contacting the permits office and paying the difference in price (if any.) The $5 change fee will not apply.  
  • A reduced number of portable restrooms will be placed in the Forest Preserves in 2021. Only picnic groves close to a bathroom will be available for booking online (see a list of groves with bathrooms here). Groves without nearby bathrooms can be booked by telephone (800-870-3666) after December 1, 2020; however, it will be the customer’s responsibility to rent a portable bathroom for their guests, either through the Forest Preserves rental program or directly through a vendor.
  • Permit reservations are considered non-refundable. Refunds will only be issued in the event that state or local COVID-19 public health guidelines require the Forest Preserves to cancel your permit.   
  • New permit fees for all events will be in place for 2021. Sample Permit Fees (PDF)
  • Customers adding special use items to their picnic permit will be required to rent through a vendor from our Approved Vendor List. (Customers who own their own special use items are still required to provide proof of insurance.

Online & Telephone

Online and telephone (800-870-3666) permit sales are now open. We encourage patrons to book online.


In-Person

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, in-person 2021 permit sales are not available until Cook County moves into Tier 2 on the Restore Illinois resurgence plan.


Permit Offices

General Headquarters & Permit Office
536 N Harlem Ave
800-870-3666
Dan Ryan Woods Visitor Center
S Western Ave & W 87th St

Permit Types & Requirements

Your permit type, fees, requirements and deadlines will vary depending on the details of your event.


Basic Picnic Permit

Definition

  • Private event
  • 25 – 399 attendees
  • May feature Special Use Items
  • *Examples: Family reunion, birthday party, quinceañera, graduation party, wedding, corporate picnic

*The Forest Preserves also rents indoor event spaces for private events.


Fees

Fees, requirements and deadlines vary depending on the details of your event. Requests received within two weeks of event date are subject to denial or a $25 late fee.


Application Deadlines

  • Online: 14 days prior to event
  • In person: 14 days prior to event
  • Permit changes: 14 days prior to event
    • Permit Change Form (PDF)
    • Change requests received within two weeks of event date are subject to denial or a $25 late fee.

Additional Requirements

For events that feature Special Use Items:

  • Basic Picnic Permit holders must use an Approved Vendor for rented Special Use Items.
  • Basic Picnic Permit holders may use personally owned Special Use Items. They may also use the vendor of their choice for on-site catering or portable bathroom rentals. However, permit holders must submit:
    • A Certificate of Liability Insurance with the endorsement attached, naming the Forest Preserves of Cook County as an additional insured in the amount of $1,000,000 per occurrence. All documentation must be submitted and approved at least 10 business days prior to the event.
      • Sample Certificate of Liability Insurance (PDF)
      • One-day event insurance is sometimes available through a home insurance policy. Some permit holders obtain insurance online as well. If renting a Special Use Item, most rental companies provide insurance for a fee—be sure to ask before you rent.

Special/Athletic/Other Event Permit

Definition

  • Any size event with additional features such as, but not limited to: routes, vendors, promotions, ticket sales or fundraising.
  • Any event with 400+ attendees (total includes staff, volunteers, etc.)
  • Examples: Festival, fundraiser, 5K walk/run, fishing derby

Fees

Fees, requirements and deadlines vary depending on the details of your event. Requests received within two weeks of event date are subject to denial or a $25 late fee.


Application Deadlines

  • 25 – 399 attendees: 30 days prior to event
  • 400 – 999 attendees: 45 days prior to event
  • 1,000+ attendees: 60 days prior to event
  • Permit changes: 14 days prior to event
    • Permit Change Form (PDF)
    • Change requests received within two weeks of event date are subject to denial or a $25 late fee.

Additional Requirements

Upon receipt of your application, a Permit Administrator is assigned. The Permit Administrator will evaluate your application, reserve the space requested and provide you with more specific requirements/fees for your event.

All required documentation is due at least two weeks prior to the event date. Requirements that are not fulfilled before the two-week deadline may result in cancellation of your permit, or a late fee.

Additional requirements may include:

  • Special Use Items: If your event features Special Use Items, the Special Use Items request form and related documentation must be submitted at least 14 days prior to the event.
  • Insurance: A Certificate of Liability Insurance with the endorsement attached, naming the Forest Preserves of Cook County as an additional insured in the amount of $1,000,000 per occurrence. All documentation must be submitted and approved at least 10 business days prior to the event.
  • Large Events: Events with 400+ attendees must take place in designated large event areas.
  • Clean-up Plan: Due to the impact of large and special events, additional maintenance requirements may apply—including portable bathroom and dumpster rental and a detailed plan for post-event clean-up.
  • Safety Plan: To ensure the safety of our patrons and the participants of your event, a Safety Plan may be needed. Required documents may include: event layout, first aid station, on-site security, route, signage, transportation/parking plan, emergency response plan.
  • On-site Meeting: To reduce day of event issues, the Forest Preserves may require an on-site meeting with event organizers. On-site meetings should be completed no less than 30-45 days prior to the event.

Special Use Items

Definition

Items not naturally found in a forest preserve are typically considered Special Use Items.

Examples include, but are not limited to: amplified sound (DJ, stereo system, live band, etc.), generators, grills wider than 5 feet, inflatables, on-site catering, portable bathrooms or snack machines. If you are unsure if your event requires adding a Special Use Item to your permit, please contact us.


Fees

Special Use Item applications require a $25 processing fee, plus $10 per item. Requests received within two weeks of event date are subject to denial or a $25 late fee.


Application Deadlines

  • 14 days prior to event

Additional Requirements

  • You must have an approved or pending Basic Permit or Special/Athletic/Other Event Permit before adding Special Use Items to your permit.
  • Basic Picnic Permit holders must use an Approved Vendor for rented Special Use Items.
  • Basic Picnic Permit holders may use personally owned Special Use Items. They may also use the vendor of their choice for on-site catering or portable bathroom rentals. However, permit holders must submit:
    • A Certificate of Liability Insurance with the endorsement attached, naming the Forest Preserves of Cook County as an additional insured in the amount of $1,000,000 per occurrence.
      • Sample Certificate of Liability Insurance (PDF)
      • One-day event insurance is sometimes available through a home insurance policy. Some permit holders obtain insurance online as well. If renting a Special Use Item, most rental companies provide insurance for a fee—be sure to ask before you rent.
  • Special/Athletic/Other Event Permit holders may use an Approved Vendor, a vendor of their choice or personally owned Special Use Items, subject to insurance and documentation requirements.
  • All documentation must be submitted and approved at least 10 business days prior to the event.
  • All rental agreements and insurance documents must be in the permit holder’s name.

Maps & Important Resources


Preparing for Your Event


Approved Vendors

Picnic and event permit holders can obtain Special Use Items directly through approved vendors without any additional insurance requirements. You are not required to use an approved vendor.


Portable Bathroom Rental

Picnic and event permit holders can rent Portable Bathrooms directly through the Forest Preserves. You are not required to rent from the Forest Preserves.


Non-profit Discount

A bona fide non-profit organization is one which is engaged in charitable, educational, civic, youth and faith-based activities. For purposes of qualifying for the reduced rate, an applicant must submit proof of the following:

  • Exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; or current registration with the Illinois Attorney General as a charitable organization; and
  • The location of the official headquarters or administrative office of the organization submitting the request for said permit is located in the County of Cook and is the same as that which is on file with the Illinois Attorney General, or was submitted for exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, except in the case of local chapters of national organizations, wherein the local chapter maintains a Cook County office and submits proof of affiliation with the national organization.

If the applicant is a school located within Cook County, no additional documentation or proof of nonprofit status shall be required other than a letter signed by an official of the school stating that the activity, event, and/or use is officially sanctioned under and supervised by employee(s) of the school.


Apply for Non-profit Discount

Required non-profit documentation can be included with your application when applying in person, or submitted later when applying online. Non-profits that apply online will be reimbursed 4 to 6 weeks after documentation is approved. Documentation must be received and approved 14 days prior to event date.


Accessible Picnic Groves

Certain picnic shelters at these locations are accessible from May 1 to October 31. Visit the location’s page for information about each grove’s parking and bathroom options.

Each accessible shelter has accessible parking, an accessible curb cut and path from parking to picnic shelter, and accessible path from picnic shelter to an accessible indoor bathroom or accessible portable bathroom.

These shelters are available to people with disabilities and their guests and must be reserved ahead of time. For questions and assistance please call the Permits Department at 800-870-3666.


Allison Woods
Milwaukee Ave & Winkleman Rd
Cook County, IL 60062 (view web map of Allison Woods)
(near Northbrook)

Arrowhead Lake
W 135th St, east of Harlem Ave
Cook County, IL 60463 (view web map of Arrowhead Lake)
(near Palos Heights)

Barrington Road Pond
(part of Arthur L. Janura Preserve)
S Barrington Rd, south of W Higgins Rd
Hoffman Estates, IL 60194 (view web map of Barrington Road Pond)

Bemis Woods-South
Ogden Ave, west of Wolf Rd
Cook County, IL 60558 (view web map of Bemis Woods-South)
(near Western Springs)

Beaubien Woods
W Doty Ave S, southeast of E 130th St & S Ellis Ave
Chicago, IL 60827 (view web map of Beaubien Woods)

Blue Star Memorial Woods
E Lake Ave, east of Wagner Rd

Bremen Grove
Oak Park Ave, south of 159th St
Cook County, IL 60477 (view web map of Bremen Grove)
(near Tinley Park)

Brezina Woods
N La Grange Rd, south of W Cermak Rd
Cook County, IL 60526 (view web map of Brezina Woods)
(near La Grange Park)

Brookfield Woods
31st St, west of 1st Ave
Brookfield, IL 60513 (view web map of Brookfield Woods)

Bunker Hill
W Harts Rd, southwest of W Touhy Ave
Niles, IL 60714 (view web map of Bunker Hill)

Busse Forest-South
E Higgins Rd/Rte 72, west of N Arlington Heights Rd
Cook County, IL 60007 (view web map of Busse Forest-South)
(near Elk Grove Village)

Busse Lake Beisner Road Access
Beisner Rd, north of Biesterfield Rd
(near Elk Grove Village)

Busse Lake Boating Center
E Higgins Rd/Rte 72, east of I-290/Hwy 53
(near Elk Grove Village)
224-415-6554

Cermak Woods
7600 W Ogden Ave

Dam No. 4 Woods-East
S Dee Rd, north of Devon Ave

Dan Ryan Woods-Central
S Western Ave, south of W 83rd St

Deer Grove
N Quentin Rd, north of W Dundee Rd
Cook County, IL 60074 (view web map of Deer Grove)
(near Palatine)

Elizabeth A. Conkey Forest-North
Central Ave, north of W 135th St
(near Palos Heights)

Elizabeth A. Conkey Forest-South
W 135th St, west of Central Ave
(near Palos Heights)

Forest Glen Woods
N Forest Glen Ave, north of N Elston Ave

Harms Woods-North
Harms Rd & Old Orchard Rd
Cook County, IL 60077 (view web map of Harms Woods-North)
(near Skokie)

Irene C. Hernandez Family Picnic Grove
(part of LaBagh Woods)
W Foster Ave, east of N Cicero Ave

LaBagh Woods
N Cicero Ave, north of W Foster Ave
Chicago, IL 60630 (view web map of LaBagh Woods)

Lions Woods
S River Rd, south of E Golf Rd
Des Plaines, IL 60016 (view web map of Lions Woods)

Maywood Grove
Ohio St & Des Plaines Ave
Maywood, IL 60153 (view web map of Maywood Grove)

Midlothian Meadows
Crawford Ave, north of W 159th St
Cook County, IL 60428 (view web map of Midlothian Meadows)

Miller Meadow-North
Roosevelt Rd, east of 1st Ave
Cook County, IL 60130 (view web map of Miller Meadow-North)
(near Forest Park)

Miller Meadow-South
1st Ave, south of Roosevelt Rd
Cook County, IL 60130 (view web map of Miller Meadow-South)
(near Forest Park)

National Grove-North
W 26th St, east of 1st Ave
North Riverside, IL 60546 (view web map of National Grove-North)

Palos Park Woods-North
Kean Ave, south of Calumet Sag Rd/Rte 83
(near Palos Park)

Plum Creek Meadow
Burnham Ave, north of 223rd St
Cook County, IL 60411 (view web map of Plum Creek Meadow)
(near Chicago Heights)

Rubio Woods
W Midlothian Turnpike/W 143rd St, west of S Ridgeland Ave
Cook County, IL 60445 (view web map of Rubio Woods)
(near Midlothian)

Schiller Woods-East
W Irving Park Rd, west of N Cumberland Ave

Schiller Woods-West
W Irving Park Rd, east of Des Plaines River Rd
Schiller Park, IL 60634 (view web map of Schiller Woods-West)

St. Paul Woods
Lincoln Ave, south of W Dempster St
Morton Grove, IL 60053 (view web map of St. Paul Woods)

Sunset Bridge Meadow
North Ave, east of N 1st Ave
River Grove, IL 60171 (view web map of Sunset Bridge Meadow)

Sweet Woods
Cottage Grove Ave, north of Glenwood Lansing Rd
Cook County, IL 60476 (view web map of Sweet Woods)
(near Thornton)

Vollmer Road Grove
Vollmer Rd, west of Crawford Ave
Cook County, IL 60478 (view web map of Vollmer Road Grove)
(near Country Club Hills)

Help

Contact us at fpd.permits@cookcountyil.gov or (800) 870-3666. If you already have a permit, please include your permit number and date of event in the subject of your email.

Please note that during busy periods email responses may take up to two business days.


Locations

General Headquarters & Permit Office
536 N Harlem Ave
800-870-3666

General Hours:
Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 4:30pm

Memorial Day to Labor Day Hours:
Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 4:30pm
Sat: 9am – 2pm

Permit desk may close on holidays, call ahead to confirm.


Dan Ryan Woods Visitor Center
S Western Ave & W 87th St

Memorial Day to Labor Day Hours:
Tue & Thu: 8:30am – 4:30pm
Sat: 9am – 2pm