Ravinia Festival
One of the entrances to Ravinia Festival
Location(s)Highland Park, Illinois
Coordinates42°9′29″N 87°46′37″W / 42.15806°N 87.77694°W / 42.15806; -87.77694[1]
Years active1904–present
Founded byChicago and Milwaukee Electric Railroad

Ravinia Festival is an outdoor music venue in Highland Park, Illinois.[2] It hosts a series of outdoor concerts and performances every summer from June to September. The first orchestra to perform at Ravinia Festival was the New York Philharmonic under Walter Damrosch on June 17, 1905, with the Chicago Tribune praising its "musical entertainment so satisfying in quality and so delightful in environment."[3] It has been the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) since 1936.[4] Located in the Ravinia neighborhood, the venue operates on the grounds of the 36-acre (15 ha) Ravinia Park, with a variety of outdoor and indoor performing arts facilities, including the architectural prairie style Martin Theater. The Ravinia Festival attracts about 600,000 listeners to some 120 to 150 events that span all genres from classical music to jazz to music theater over each three-month summer season.[2]

The Ravinia neighborhood, once an incorporated village before annexation in 1899, is actively maintained by the Ravinia Neighbors Association, who work to enhance and preserve Ravinia's architecture, history, and environment.[5] The business district on Roger Williams Ave., within walking distance from the Ravinia Festival grounds, includes neighborhood service businesses and restaurants.[6] Ravinia takes its name from the numerous steep-sided ravines that slice the shoreline near Lake Michigan.[5]


In 1904, the A.C. Frost Company created Ravinia as an amusement park intended to lure riders to the fledgling Chicago and Milwaukee Electric Railroad.[7] The amusement park had a baseball diamond, electric fountain and refectory or casino building with dining rooms and a dance floor. The prairie-style Martin Theatre (then called Ravinia Theatre) is the only building on the grounds that dates back to that original construction. When the park's existence became jeopardized following the railroad's bankruptcy, local residents (for the most part Chicago businessmen) formed a corporation in 1911 to purchase and operate the park. Music was a confirmed summer activity from then on, except for a brief hiatus during the Great Depression and the COVID-19 pandemic.[8][2]

Pavilion seats and stage at the Ravinia Festival

The Ravinia Festival has been widely acclaimed throughout its history. In the 1920s, it was known as the summer opera capital of the world due to businessman Louis Eckstein, who booked all-opera seasons and artists from the Chicago Opera and New York Metropolitan Opera Companies.[9] By 1930, Ravinia had featured performers including Yvonne Gall, Edward Johnson, and Giovanni Martinelli. However, the high costs of opera performances ultimately led to financial ruin for Ravinia, and it closed for four years. In 1936, North Shore residents raised enough funds to attract the Chicago Symphony Orchestra who then made Ravinia its permanent summer residence.[7][4]

In addition to symphony concerts, often with guest soloists, the venue hosts opera, jazz, blues, folk, rock, and popular music performances, plus ballet, drama, and educational programs which take place year-round. These educational programs serve around 75,000 people each year in Chicago area schools without a music program. The longest running program—Jazz Mentors and Scholars—assembles the best Chicago Public School musicians with city musicians to create a larger ensemble.[10][2]

Over the years, Ravinia Festival has hosted many famous artists. Recent artists who have performed at Ravinia include John Legend, Aretha Franklin, Bryan Ferry, Diana Ross, Maroon 5, Common, Carrie Underwood, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Josh Groban, Dolly Parton, Sheryl Crow, Patti LaBelle, Andrew Bird, Darius Rucker, Mary J. Blige, Gladys Knight, James Taylor, Santana, Stevie Nicks, Patti LuPone, Smokey Robinson, Sting and John Mellencamp among others.[11] [12][2]

In November 2023, The Ravinia Festival Association, organizer of North America's oldest outdoor music festival, filed a federal lawsuit against Ravinia Brewing Company for trademark infringement, alleging that the brewery's use of the name and imagery is misleading consumers into believing there is a relationship with the festival. The dispute escalated following the opening of a second brewery location and the rescinding of a prior agreement that the music festival now claims was violated. Ravinia Brewing Company responded, describing the lawsuit as "baseless and an embarrassment", emphasizing their willingness to coexist peacefully with the festival and defend their legal and moral right to their name. The legal battle centers on issues of brand confusion and the use of music-themed marketing, with the festival's complaint detailing multiple counts of trademark-related violations.

Performance venues

The Martin Theatre
Lawn section at the Ravinia Festival


Ravinia Park station

For most attendees, Ravinia is experienced on the 36 acre (150,000 m2) parkland and lawn.[18] Ravinia is one of the few concert venues in the country to allow full meals to be brought in and consumed at concerts, including allowing alcoholic beverages. Accordingly, most grocery stores and specialty restaurants in and around the Highland Park area offer ready-to-eat Ravinia picnics for purchase.[19]

Metra provides rail service to Ravinia Park on the Union Pacific North Line at a station outside the front gate with special stops before and after concerts. It is the last private train stop in Illinois.[2] The noted British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, who guest-conducted the CSO there in 1940, referred to Ravinia as "the only railway station with a resident orchestra."[20] Visitors get dropped off and picked up right at the front gate.

Artistic directors and leadership

° Levine was named "Conductor Laureate" in April 2017, to begin performances in summer 2018.[24] On December 4, 2017, the Ravinia Festival severed all ties with Levine, in the wake of sexual abuse allegations against him, dating back to decades earlier at the Ravinia Festival.[25]

See also


  1. ^ "Ravinia Park". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Ravinia - History" (Press release). Ravinia Festival. Retrieved 2010-01-28.
  3. ^ "125 Moments: 054 Ravinia Park". CSO sounds and stories. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  4. ^ a b "CSO at Ravinia". CSO sounds and stories. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  5. ^ a b Miller, Elliott. "History of Ravinia". Ravinia Neighbors Association. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  6. ^ Business District – Ravinia
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Ebner, Michael. "Ravinia". Encyclopedia. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  8. ^ "Ravinia Cancels 2020 Season Due to Covid Pandemic". Ravinia Festival. May 1, 2020. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  9. ^ Sawyers, June. "WITH SUMMER CAME OPERA AT RAVINIA PARK". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  10. ^ "Reach Teach Play®: Play Programs". Ravinia. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  11. ^ "Full 2017 Ravinia Schedule Announced". 15 March 2017.
  12. ^ "Ravinia Past Performances".
  13. ^ "The Pavilion". Ravinia. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  14. ^ "The Martin Theatre". Ravinia. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  15. ^ "Bennett Gordon Hall". Ravinia. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  16. ^ "The Lawn". Ravinia. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  17. ^ "Venues". Ravinia. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  18. ^ Devore, Sheryl. "The U.S.'s oldest music festival, Ravinia, is back starting June 1". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  19. ^ "Dining Options". Ravinia. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  20. ^ Oestreich, James (May 6, 2001). "Ravinia Festival: Where the Trains Have a Voice in the Concerts". New York Times. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  21. ^ James Conlon moves beyond Ravinia for new beginning – Chicago Tribune
  22. ^ "Marin Alsop". Ravinia. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  23. ^ "Ravinia Festival Names Jeffrey P. Haydon President and CEO" (PDF). Ravinia Festival. 10 July 2020. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  24. ^ Rhein, John von (April 11, 2017). "Ravinia creates conductor laureate title for James Levine". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  25. ^ "Ravinia Festival cuts all ties with former music director James Levine over sexual misconduct allegations," Chicago Tribune.