The goal of our first-ever Outside Experience was simple: create the ultimate urban-based active-lifestyle festival. With that in mind, we rounded up 140 of our favorite brands, which offer everything from running shoes and travel destinations to adventure rigs and dog gear, to show off and demo their latest goods. Then we signed up inspiring speakers, like polar explorer Eric Larsen and aviator Kellee Edwards, to bring their stories to life on the main stage. Finally, we sprinkled in some live music, a mini film festival, and a craft-beverage lounge for good measure.
You Can SUP, Rock Climb, and Test an E-Bike—All in the Same Day
The Paddle Zone on Lake Michigan will have Hobie SUPs and other paddle craft to try out. The Climbing Zone’s eight-route wall will be staffed with belayers ready to help you send a project. And the biking area’s test tracks will be ready for as many laps as you can put in on both pedal-powered and e-bikes.
It’s the Perfect Event for Families
Kids can spend time on everything from slacklines to bikes to the climbing wall or explore the kids’ play area in the Backyard Zone, while kids at heart can give axe-throwing a try, enter the cornhole tournament, take a yoga class, participate in a Spartan Race-style workout, and dozens of other activities.
Gear Demos Will Be Out of Control
You can have your stride expertly analyzed by the folks from Salomon before heading out on a guided group run. Try out the latest hiking shoes from brands like Keen, Scarpa, or Vivobarefoot, load up a backpack at the Fjällräven booth, and head out on the natural-surface trail for some real-world testing. Or give the latest fly-fishing rods from Orvis a whirl at the casting tank.
It’s a Chance to Meet Outdoor Athletes, Explorers, and Change Makers
The Yeti Main Stage will include presentations from artists to ultrarunners, including two Chicago natives: Nathan Fluellen, host of the adventure travel web series World Wide Nate, and Kellee Edwards, host of the Travel Channel’s Mysterious Islands.
Tour the Coolest New Adventure Rigs
Wondering what all those cool RVs, vans, and trailers you see on Instagram are really like inside? The Adventure Vehicle Zone will be chock-full of the latest off-road vehicles.
There Will Be Puppies (That You Can Take Home)
Seriously. Dogs make the best outdoor partners, which is why we teamed up with One Tail at a Time dog rescue to run on-site puppy adoptions.
You Can Bond with Like-Minded People and Build Community
Want to get into climbing but don’t have a partner? Looking for people to paddle with on Lake Michigan? Drop in to one of the weekend’s many meetup sessions or skills clinics.
The Year’s Best Adventure Films Will Be Playing All Weekend Long
Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey is teaming up with the 5Point Adventure Film Festival to screen curated inspirational films both days. So grab a whiskey and settle in for stories sure to leave you excited to plan your own daring pursuits.
It Will Feed Your Wanderlust
Destination reps from Arizona to South Africa will be showing off their coolest attractions, and outfitters like G Adventures and OneSeed Expeditions will be on hand to discuss adventures in every corner of the globe.
There’ll Be Good Music and Beer
After a full day exploring all that Outside Experience has to offer, swing by the craft-beverage lounge before settling in at the adjacent main stage for an acoustic set by Missouri-based band Ha Ha Tonka.