Picnic & Outdoor Event Permits

people at a picnic shelter

The Forest Preserves’ nearly 300 picnic groves are popular locations for outdoor events of all sizes.

On this page:


Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Cancellations

To book permits for 2020 event dates, please call 800-870-3666, option 1 or email FPD.Permits@cookcountyil.gov. Online reservations are not available. All events are limited to 50 people (with physical distancing).

For permitted events and indoor room rentals that were booked before July 31, 2020 and are scheduled to be held through December 31, 2020, there will be no penalty for rescheduling or cancelling regardless of whether they are cancelled by the Forest Preserves or by the permit holder. For events and indoor room rentals booked on or after August 1, 2020, standard cancellation rules apply, unless state or local COVID-19 regulations change in a way that would prohibit the event.

Service at the Forest Preserves General Headquarters permits counter is by appointment only on Mondays and Wednesdays. We strongly encourage patrons to call 800-870-3666 or email FPD.Permits@cookcountyil.gov for their permit needs.

Please call 800-870-3666 to leave a message for in-person appointment scheduling or to book a permit by phone. Calls are returned within 24 to 48 hours.

Contact Lindsay Rash at 773-558-2003 or lrash@forestpreserveevents.com to reschedule or receive a refund for room rentals.

Learn more about COVID-19 cancellations and closures.


Apply for a Permit

Picnic and event permits may only be purchased online or in person. You must be 21 years old to purchase a permit.


Apply Online


Apply in Person


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


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.


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)

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

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)

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)

Tampier Greenway Family Picnic Area
135th St, east of S Wolf Rd
(near Orland Park)

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