This community in Chicago’s northern suburbs has changed its name a few times since the first European inhabitants arrived in the early 19th century.
The current name comes from the Archbishop of Chicago, George Mundelein, who set up the University of Saint Mary of the Lake Tour just after World War I.
The campus for this seminary is open to the public during daytime hours, and has some fine architecture in manicured, precisely planned grounds.
Summer is a good time to be in Mundelein, as the village has some great public facilities, like a sandy lakeside beach and an outdoor water park, while in late July Lake County Fair takes place a few moments away in Grayslake.
1. University of Saint Mary of the Lake Tour
The Roman Catholic seminary in Mundelein opened in the early 1920s on the campus of Area, a vocational school that boasted as many as 10,000 students at the turn of the century.
Archbishop George Mundelein (1872-1939) oversaw the purchase of the land and the unique design of the campus, which mixes Catholic architecture inspired by Renaissance Rome, with the more American Colonial Revival Style.
The layout was carefully planned to reflect Christian life and values, and has been lauded for the beauty of its architecture and the way it harmonizes with the idyllic lakeside setting.
The USML grounds are open to the public daily, and you can contact the seminary for a guided tour if you would like more background.
2. Barefoot Bay
This outdoor water park was opened by the Mundelein Park District in 2006 and has become a summertime staple for families in the village.
Barefoot Bay is six acres in size, and features a combined zero-depth leisure and lap pool, a 740-foot-long lazy river, a diving pool, a wading pool for toddlers, a kids’ spray park, a tube slide, two body flumes and a climbable “water wall” for a unique workout.
All of the park’s staff are certified by the Starfish Aquatics StarGuard Elite program, and the facility is available for daytime or after hours rentals.
There’s a cafe here if you need a quick bite, and a calendar of fun special events to look out for.
3. Diamond Lake Beach
The Mundelein Park District owns the eastern shore of this expansive natural lake. Many people who have grown up in the village look back fondly at childhood summers learning to swim in the lake or playing at the beach.
Open early June through mid-August, Diamond Lake Beach covers almost 100 acres, and as well as a big arc of golden sand, features a floating sports park, a sand play area and shaded picnic areas.
If you want to spend some time on the water you can rent a stand-up paddleboard, kayak or pedalboat for a small fee.
4. Tighthead Brewing Company
Surely the only craft brewery in America to be named after a rugby position, Tighthead Brewing Company was founded in 2010 by master brewer Bruce Dir who played the sport for 13 years.
The brewery’s taproom is an excellent location, next to Mundelein’s Metra station, and pours six year-round brews along with rotating seasonal beers.
The ever-present beers are Scarlet Fire (Irish Red Ale), Boxcar (Porter), Irie (IPA), Comfortably Blonde (Blonde Ale) and Bear’s Choice and Chilly Water (American Pale Ales).
The taproom has the ambience of a traditional pub, as a welcoming place to unwind, meet friends, play board games and watch some sports. There are food trucks on Thursdays and Fridays for beer-friendly comfort food like pizza, burgers and BBQ.
5. Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County
There’s a great history museum for all of Lake County a short hop north in Libertyville. Named for Bess Bower Dunn (1877-1959), the county’s first official historian, the museum has rich collections and takes you on a chronological journey through the history of the area.
This begins in prehistory, with a fossil dating back 420 million years and the skeleton of a dryptosaurus.
Other permanent displays cover the 12,000-year story of Native Americans in Lake County, early Euro-American settlers in the 1830s and the sudden industrial advances in the late 19th century.
In the latter you’ll find out about Waukegan’s once thriving movie industry and see an early 35mm motion picture machine.
6. Mundelein Heritage Museum
Now in the hands of the Mundelein Park District, this local history museum recently reopened after a long closure when the Fort Hill Historical Society disbanded.
The setting is the relocated Soo Line Depot, built around 1924. The permanent exhibits, loaded with historical objects, shed light on different facets of Mundelein’s past, like its Native American inhabitants, early pioneers, railroads, education, local businesses and the story of the Saint Mary of the Lake seminary.
One riveting artifact on show is a hand-drawn map of downtown Mundelein dating back to 1915. Kids are also kept entertained with a Junior Historian Scavenger Hunt.
7. Kracklauer Park
This compact, centrally located park sits near the foot of the water tower, just around the corner from Mundelein’s Metra station.
On 2.6 acres, Kracklauer Park has a playground, tennis courts, a picnic area and a parking area. But the park’s headline, especially in the summer, is the gazebo, staging an exciting Sunday concert series during the summer.
This is longer than most communities in the Chicago suburbs, running from mid May to the start of August, and organized to suit all ages and tastes. The park is also home to a dance studio, offering instruction for various styles and ability levels.
8. Bosacki’s Brewery
Beer aficionados are in good hands in Mundelein as there’s another highly rated small-scale brewery in the village.
As is often the case, Bosacki’s Brewery started out as a home brew situation when founder Greg Bosacki was gifted a brewing kit by his wife Brigitte in 2000.
The hobby was taken to a new level in 2013 when the couple founded a full-fledged microbrewery, with a lineup of favorites.
To name a handful there’s a Vienna Lager, I Wish Red (Irish Red Ale), Weekend Dark Wheat (American-Style Dunkelweizen), Corn Lager (American Pre-Prohibition Lager), Improper English Ale (Traditional Pub Ale) and Word to the Weizenbock.
There are food trucks outside on weekends, and all kinds of events, like trivia and singalongs.
9. Mundelein Farmers’ Market
The village has a diverse and well-attended farmers’ market, taking place on Fridays, 3 pm to 7 pm mid-June to mid-October.
You’ll find the Mundelein Farmers’ Market at the corner of Park and Seymour Streets, and there are close to 30 vendors here most weeks.
As well as seasonal fruit and vegetables you can pick up farm-raised meat and poultry, homemade candy, all kinds of baked goods, pickles, salsas and jerky.
Added to all that are pet treats, solar equipment, kitchen products, bags, cake-decorating tools, vintage wares and CBD products.
The market also has some great food to go, from tamales and tacos to Georgia smoked sausage and woodfire pizza.
10. Peter Patterson Glassworks
With more than four decades in glassblowing, Peter Patterson is an acclaimed glass artist with a studio in Mundelein.
His dazzling works are produced in collections such as hearts, aquatic themes, glo-glass and light bulbs. If you’re interested in the craft of glassblowing you can tour the gallery, studio and hotshop and watch a demonstration.
For something more in-depth you can book a glassblowing experience to produce your own work of art, and these classes range from two to six hours depending on how involved you want to get.
11. Wilderness Park
If you’re passing by there’s a very picturesque community park in the southwest of Mundelein. Wilderness Park encloses a small lake, with an adjoining wetland area.
There’s a path curling around the lake’s southern side, traced by well-kept hedges and dotted with benches. Here you can stroll across a small bridge to a cute observation deck out on the water.
You’ll often see anglers on the lake’s banks, and there’s a great playground for kids close to the bridge on the south side.
12. Mundelein Park District Spray Park
Close to Barefoot Bay at the Mundelein Park District headquarters is another facility that offers hours of fun for kids in the summer.
The spray park, open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, has been designed with a lot of imagination and is a little wonderland of sprays, misters, fountains and water cannons.
Perhaps most fun is the lighthouse that has a spinning jet of water instead of a light signal. There are separate areas for children of different ages, and the park is accompanied by a sandy play area, picnic areas and concessions.
13. Steeple Chase Golf Club
Open to non-residents, this public golf course in Mundelein has won a lot of praise. Designed by Ken Killian, Steeple Chase Golf Club is in a beautiful natural setting of lakes, wetlands, natural hills and woods.
The course has been voted “Best Golf Course” in the Daily Herald’s Readers Choice awards, and has earned four stars in Golf Digest’s Best Places to Play.
The signature hole is the 18th, which is on a narrow strip of land between two lakes, and has a green framed by the handsome clubhouse.
14. Just For Fun Roller Rink
A treasured family attraction, this roller rink is a popular spot for children’s birthday parties in Mundelein.
Roller skating has come back into fashion in the last few years, and grownups also love Just for Fun, either for parties or open public skate sessions.
When we wrote this article the open skate slots were on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
This spot is commended for its cleanliness and the buffed smoothness of the rink itself. Skates can be rented for as little as $3, and newcomers can use a skate trainer frame.
15. Lake County Fair
The Lake County Fairgrounds are just outside Mundelein in Grayslake, and the main event goes down over five days at the end of July.
The Lake County Fair has been going for almost a century and remains an opportunity for the county’s community to gather.
On the schedule are tried and tested classics like carnival rides and midway games, livestock and produce competitions, a flower show, a petting farm, a whole slew of food vendors, live music and motorsports like a demolition derby and motorcrossing.