By Amber Holst of Concierge Preferred
The Bears are back.
Chicago Bears Training Camp has returned to its preseason training facility on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais. Admission and parking are free, though you must get tickets online to attend.
We know that training camp can be an adventure on its own, but watching your squad practice only fills a few hours of the day. So if you’re looking to bear down and explore Bourbonnais — as well as the nearby towns of Bradley and Kankakee — consider this your official off-the-field playbook.
Many of the Bears' practices begin promptly at 8:15 a.m. (gates open at 7:30) — but that's still plenty of time to grab an eye-opening bite. Several great places serve breakfast near Bears training camp — here's two of our favorites, both of which open at 6 a.m.
Located just a short drive from training camp, this cheery breakfast/lunch place serves enormous portions at reasonable prices. From omelettes and Belgian waffles to skillets and savory crepes, there’s something to satisfy everyone in your group. Make sure to take a look at the booths, intentional or not, they look like pieces of toast.
If you’re looking to go old school, then this diner is your pre-camp breakfast or post-camp lunch destination. Opened in 1954, a chalkboard sign lists the varieties of homemade pies available that day (you’ll want to splurge!) and the menu consists of classic diner-style fair. The sawmill gravy here features housemade sausage, making the biscuits and gravy a must-try. The restaurant is cash only, so make sure to hit the ATM before.
Likewise, morning practices end around noon, so grabbing lunch near Bears training camp isn't a bad idea, either. Luckily, the region is stacked with great options of comfort food that will make sure you really can't wait for those fall Sundays.
If you’re looking for cold brew and a really good burger, then this is your place. As the name would imply, the menu here is all about meaty perfection on a bun. With over 20 burgers to choose from it’s hard to hone in on just one, though we’re partial to the Big Cheese which is an angus beef patty packed between two grilled cheese sandwiches. Hey, you’re on vacation. The gym can wait.
Given its popularity with coaches and players, this is one of the best places to spot a Bear out in the wild. This spacious Mexican restaurant, a short distance south of Olivet Nazarene's campus, features a variety of margaritas for the adults and gigantic burritos and other Mexican cuisine for the entire family.
For slow-smoked Southern barbecue, this is the place. The focus is on Texas-style—which means smoked brisket and snappy hot links—but also lots of pulled pork. You might even have another sighting as Bears apparently seem to like it low and slow, too.
Doing it right since 1940, this no-frills staple is a good option for Chicago dogs, Atomic fries, chili dogs and “sauce buns” (that's a chili dog without the dog). They also make a sweet root beer we simply can’t get enough of.
PRO TIP: These places are open for dinner, too, making them a great option for before the Bears' evening practice on August 11.
If you’re looking to venture out later in the evening, Bears players are likely to be found here. Tucked away just across from the campus, this local watering hole is as laid back as they come. There’s an uncomplicated menu of bar fare and the pints flow freely.
This independently-owned American Brewpub opens at 10:30 a.m. during training camp (and is a great lunch option as well), but the real draw here is their award-winning Illinois Made microbrews. This local favorite offers at least 10 homebrews each day so when you find a favorite among the beers, make sure to buy a 64-ounce growler to take home.
While the menu here is worth a visit alone—we love the sauce on their wings and the pork belly BLT is divine—this industrial chic put offers a great selection of craft beers and craft cocktails. There’s over 40 taps and a plethora of can and bottled options and the bourbon selection here is equally impressive.
Getting a little tired of the suds? Then treat yourself to a sophisticated night out at this cozy local wine bar. Start with the individual-sized charcuterie and cheese boards before selecting one of the 12 wine flight options ($10 to $15). Found one you love? It’s likely on the wine list which offers more than 55 wines by the glass or bottle.
Kankakee County recently launched a new bike share program, Bike 609, which has docking stations conveniently located near training camp. We recommend grabbing a sandwich and cruising your way over to the Kankakee River State Park for a picnic before pedaling over to see the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed B. Harley Bradley House.
Located just a few blocks south of Olivet Nazarene University, Perry Farm provides more bike paths and hiking trails but is also home to Exploration Station, which is perfect for those with their kids in tow. This museum’s imaginative exhibits include a light room, the Exploralot Castle, a soda shop and diner, the STEM learning lab and even a pet clinic.
Garden of the Gods and Rim Rock/Pounds Hollow Recreational area are two must see...
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