Best Indoor Playspaces for Chicago Kids

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Where are you going to play today? When your living room loses its luster (your kiddos can only bounce off the walls for so long), check out a neighborhood play space. With indoor jungle gyms, pretend play areas and tons of toys, the options in Chicago and the ‘burbs have something for every kind of kid. Plus, many have cafes — with coffee! — for parents. Scroll to discover options to get those wiggles out.

Purple Monkey Playroom

Muraled walls fill this hub for parents with character and cheer. Best suited to kids ages 0-4, it's intimately sized to allow kids free range to gain independence while you keep tabs. The focus is imaginative play with a hut-style house and a nice stock of dress-up clothes. Gross motor skills can be developed on the balance beam or small toddler slide.

2040 N. Western Ave., Bucktown; Online: purplemonkeyplayroom.com

Little Beans Cafe

Little Beans Cafe was one of the first and remains one of the most popular play spaces. They offer both imaginative and active play, preschool, summer camps, special holiday events, classes and they're a great place to host a birthday party. The cafe serves food and drinks and they worked on their patio in 2021 to make it extra inviting for parents to relax.

430 Asbury Ave., Evanston; Online: littlebeanscafe.com

Bubbles Academy

Bubbles Academy

Bubbles Academy now offers several ways to enjoy its services. Bubbles North Branch is located across the street from Bubbles Academy and is dedicated to all caregiver and child drop-off classes and garage and tent classes. Bubbles Academy is home to the arts-integrated preschool for ages 2.5-5. This location includes an outdoor nature playground using materials that inspire play and connection with the natural world. 

They also opened a location at 900 N. Michigan shops that hosts music, movement and art classes, preschool prep, weekly drop-in art experiences and curated retail from local mom-owned businesses. 

If you'd prefer to take in-home classes, their website has over 30 pre-recorded virtual classes. 

2184 & 2211 N. Elston, Bucktown & 900 N. Michigan Ave., Mag Mile; Online: bubblesacademy.com

Gather

Gather

Toys, blocks and games are a-okay, but this Evanston play space goes beyond all that. It uses a large portion of its space to encourage creativity through arts and crafts. Go ahead and get messy with play-dough, glue, paint and chalk without worrying about cleanup. There are creative opportunities other than art, including regular music classes.

COVID Update: As of press time, Gather is closed until further notice. Please keep tabs on their website for opening updates. 

602 Davis St., Evanston; Online: gathereverywhere.com

Bellaboo Play and Discovery Center via Tiana Kubik

Bellaboo Play and Discovery Center

Why venture to Indiana for a play space? Because this one, which feels like a hybrid of a children's museum and play space, is truly out of this world. Every aspect of Bellaboo is open-ended, play-based and unstructured, which means your kids really engage their imaginations. With a circular layout, each themed area is actually an entire room. Have a blast in the blocks room, water room, arts and craft room, train room and more. A full menu in the cafe means you can make a day of it. Weather permitting, they offer an outdoor area as well.

2800 Colorado St., Lake Station, IN; mybellaboos.com

Exploritorium

This hidden-gem delights kids with hands-on exhibits about light, water, wind and more. Come wearing your thinking cap—or just romp around. Attractions include a giant “Lite Brite” peg board, musical instruments, and climbing tubes and tunnels that stretch two-and-a-half stories.

4701 Oakton St., Skokie; Online: skokieparks.org 

— Maria Chambers & Lisa Snart

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We’re easing back into birthday parties, and boy is it exciting! For a kid, there’s nothing more exciting than a birthday. And having a great cake—and we mean one that tastes good and looks cool — is an important part of their day. No matter what your child’s superhero, video game or character obsession du jour may be, you will find a Chicago-area bakery to create a canvas for those candles. Here are our favorites. Make a wish!

For Nostalgic Bliss: Sweet Mandy B’s

When you hit up Sweet Mandy B’s you can’t fight the urge to slow the pace and plant yourself to savor whatever treasure you find in the glass encasement and soak up the old-school nostalgia. One taste of their icing will have you wishing you had a vat full and a giant spoon. Call the bakery or stop in to place your special cake order and enjoy the warmth the pastel colors and old-fashioned decor evokes.

1208 W. Webster Ave., Lincoln Park & 254 E. Ontario, Streeterville; Online: sweetmandybs.com

For Artistic Genius: Alliance Bakery

Break the cake mold and dream beyond the traditional sheet cake with one-dimension designs. Having served as Executive Pastry Chef at downtown hotels and winning or placing in several design competitions, Chef Peter Rios’ Alliance Bakery is ready to show you that if you can think it, he can bake it. Besides his three-dimensional edible works of art, Chef shows off skills he picked up training in Paris with his European-inspired pastries and desserts.

1736 W. Division St., Wicker Park; Online: alliance-bakery.com

For Gluten-Free in the Western 'Burbs: Sweet Ali’s

Inspired by her son’s, and subsequently her own, celiac diagnosis and lack of quality baked goods available in 2007, Ali Graeme set out to blaze gluten-free trails. After playing in her kitchen with different blends of flour and receiving encouragement from family, she opened Sweet Ali’s two years later with recipes perfected that all would enjoy, gluten-free or otherwise. Beyond the cakes, you’ll find pre-packed pasta, bread and baked goods to enjoy later.

13 W. 1st St., Hinsdale & 1107 Waukegan Rd., Glenview; Online: sweetalis.com

For Organic Cool: West Town Bakery & Diner

Whether you’re seeking a traditional cake or need to spin the wheel of dietary restrictions — vegan, nut-free, sugar-free, soy-free and gluten-free — this organic bakery with a funky, retro vibe can knock your cake request out of the ballpark. They strive to use as many local, natural ingredients for everything from the flour down to the eggs and their products come in environmentally friendly packaging.

1916 W. Chicago Ave., West Town; Online: westtownbakery.com

For Gluten-Free Deliciousness: Defloured

Gluten-impervious baker Johanna is only sensitive to wheat in the way she feels that every person should have the ability to enjoy worry-free heavenly desserts. She took on and conquered the challenge of making desserts that were indecipherable from their glutenized counterparts. For kids who might be gluten-sensitive or for anyone just looking for a delicious cake to celebrate their special day, call or send Johanna an email to place an order. Keep your eyes peeled while you’re out and about, you might find samples of these gluten-free goodies at your nearest Whole Foods or coffee shop in addition to their Andersonville storefront.

1477 W. Balmoral, Andersonville; Online: deflouredbakery.com

https://www.instagram.com/p/CPyPOb8BDpd/?hidecaption=true

For Pre-Made, Gotta-Have-It-Now Cakes: Bennison’s Bakery

Let’s face it: Some of us are a little more last-minute with party planning than others. If you find yourself cakeless the day of, you could either pull through the nearest Portillo’s drive-thru and enjoy the reaction when you order an entire chocolate cake with a side of cheese fries or you could find a bakery with amazing pre-made cakes. Bennison’s, a North Shore institution since 1938, is one of those gems that stocks delicious 7” and 9” chocolate and yellow cakes with either fudge or buttercream icing. Ask them to fancy it up with the birthday boy or girls name and you’re good to go.

1000 Davis St., Evanston; Online: bennisoncakes.com

For a Cake that’s the Center of the Party: Urban Icing

If the birthday star wants to share the stage with an over-the-top cake, Urban Icing is the place to go.  Whether you prefer some traditional sweet confections or a 3D-shaped cake, this spot has got you covered.  In addition to being a boutique bakery, Urban Icing is an event space where you can let them take care of all the details of your child’s party.  You can choose from a Lego Party, Mermaid Party, Ice Cream Social and more. There's something fun – and delicious – for everyone!

1944 N. Damen Ave., Bucktown; Online: urbanicing.com

For Sweet Tradition: Roeser’s Bakery

It doesn’t get any more old school than Chicago’s oldest family-owned bakery, which has been servicing Humboldt Park sweet tooths since 1911. As a specialty, Roeser’s offers low-glycemic options for birthday boys and girls who could benefit from reduced sugar, carbs and calories. Follow the bakery’s iconic neon sign to find cakes baked using recipes perfected over 4 generations with culinary skills to decorate to any theme you could possibly imagine, including a wide variety of licensed character cakes. Pop into Roeser’s Party Palace next door to tick decorations off your birthday planning checklist.

3216 W. North Ave., Humboldt Park; Online: roeserscakes.com

— Maria Chambers & Lisa Snart

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In spite of what we’re facing with the COVID-19 crisis, as parents, we still must look forward and make life as normal as possible for our kids. That includes birthday celebrations! We are doing our best to monitor any changes, and encourage you to speak directly to the business owners to make a plan that works best for your family. We want to continue to support our local small businesses including these entertainers who strive to make our kids feel special!

The list of birthday party venues is growing at warp speed, but sometimes the best parties are those at home. And, good thing, because right now you don’t have many other options! We checked in with our favorite in-home birthday party entertainers to see what they’re offering now and when they’ll be back up and running as normal. Many are at a standstill until groups can congregate again, but some have virtual options to keep the party going. Scroll through to find the perfect party option for your kiddo, order a cake and you’ll be making wishes come true in no time!

Smarty Pants Balloon Show

For Carnival Enthusiasts: Smarty Pants

Smarty Pants (yep, that’s his name) and his wife, Miss Dena, offer various balloon show and face painting options. But the one we wish we were young enough to star in is The Big Balloon Show. This ultimate performance art ends with a larger-than-life balloon creation made on the spot for the birthday star. We’re talking a giant kid-sized balloon airplane that stays inflated for an entire week. Parties are great for kids ages 3-8 years old. Plan hosting the show indoors because one little breeze can blow the whole show to bits.

Balloon Twisting starts at $399, balloon show packages start at $699, additional pricing and packages are available at smartypantsworld.com with full booking details on the website!

Covid-19 update: Smarty Pants is offering a Big Balloon package that features a 10-minute Zoom mini balloon show with Smarty Pants in his virtual balloon studio that ends with a big reveal of a balloon installation in your front yard. Check out this adorable installation he did for a 7yo's birthday in May. The cost is $299, plus any applicable travel fees for balloon setup.

Jacob Kepler/The CW -- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC

For Harry Potter Fans: Scott Green

Scott Green is an absolute legend in his industry, having written a best-selling book for magicians about performing magic for family audiences, and it's pretty epic that he's right here in Chicago. He's the only family magician in the world to have appeared on the Penn & Teller: Fool Us television show. If you want examples of his performance, visit his youtube channel, youtube.com/scottgreenmagic, to see for yourselves.

Party packages start at $495 for a 50-minute show, however, prices may vary depending on age, location and number of guests. Book your party by calling 847-361-0924. Get more info online at thegreatscott.com.

Covid-19 Update: During this period of sheltering-in-place, families everywhere can experience Scott Green's interactive show via Zoom. When you schedule a Zoom birthday party, the guest of honor will receive a box they don't open until showtime that will allow the magic to literally happen in their hands. If you want examples of his performance, visit his youtube channel, youtube.com/scottgreenmagic, to see for yourselves.

Miss Jamie

For Soon-to-Be American Idols: Miss Jamie's Farm

If your birthday star just can’t stop the music, a party with Miss Jamie's Farm is a must! Miss Jamie is known throughout the area for her original barnyard tunes and magical puppet friends that she shares with the audience during her interactive sing-along, dance-along performance. Perfect for ages 1-6, each birthday party is completely customizable, so if go ahead and pitch Miss Jamie your birthday boy or girl’s theme-of-the-moment. She can totally handle it!

Prices start around $300 for 30 minutes of music. Book your party by calling 773-609-5054 get more info online at miss-jamie.com.

Covid-19 update: Miss Jamie is offering virtual playdate birthday parties because she believes just because you have to be distant, doesn't mean you can't be social!

Sarah's Pony Rides

For Animal Lovers: Sarah’s Pony Rides

Who doesn’t want a pony for their birthday? Turn that dream into a reality—at least for a few hours—with pony rides. The kind people at Sarah’s travel just about anywhere around the state to bring maned beauties to little cowboys and cowgirls. They can also fill up an on-site petting zoo with ducks, chickens, lambs, llamas and more. You get your bang for your bucks: They’ve done the per guest/per hour/per pony math so your guests get as many rides as possible.

Prices start at $225 plus travel for 1 pony/1-hour; $300 plus travel for 1-hour petting zoo without ponies; additional pricing info is available at sarahsponyrides.com. Book your party by calling 630-802-1316.

Covid-19 update: While their pony parties are on hold, the trails are open for horseback riding, trail rides and pony rides. Small private groups following safety guidelines are allowed. You'll find beautiful trails, amazing horses and wonderful trail guides.

Mad Science

For Wiz Kids: Mad Science

Science is fun and these party people prove it. Pick a theme — Air Blast, Made About Foam or Reactions in Actions — and let the Mad Scientists take care of set-up and clean-up so that you can enjoy the demonstrations along with your child. They even offer add-ons like an awesome rocket launch, a dry ice demo, or the tastiest science project of all, cotton candy making. Perfect for 5-12-year-olds, each 1-hour party is lead by one or two instructors based on the number of guests.

Party packages start at $365; additional pricing information is also available at chicago.madscience.org.

Covid-19 update: While parties as we know it have come to a screeching halt, Wiz Kids has put together online resources to plan a day of science-y fun with your birthday star. They will also be putting links up to virtual summer camps on the website in the next week to keep STEM learning going this summer. 

For Dancing Queens (& Kings): Chicago Loves Dance

Turn your house into a dance club with hip-hop or break dancing instructors that will get your party peeps up and moving. With add-ons like yoga parties, cupcake decorating and princess appearances, CLD is a one-stop party shop. Expect icebreakers like freeze dance, and pump up the fun with a choreographed dance-off. The friendly competition continues with more games until it’s time to hop aboard the people train to the dining room for cake. 

Prices vary based on number of kids and add-ons selected. Book your party by calling 773-485-0777. More info at chicagolovesdance.com.

Covid-19 update: No need to hang up your dancing shoes, follow Chicago Loves Dance's Facebook page to find out about virtual classes (yoga, breakdancing, cheerleading, hip hop, theatre and more!), weekly challenges and Zoom birthday parties for kids (even Zoom Zumba parties for adults!). Birthday parties are $90 for up to 25 people and run 40 minutes in length and everyone sings Happy Birthday at the end.

For Adorable Divas: Rock Candy Salon & Spa

Rock Candy’s stylists will bring all of their salon and spa services to you. From hair chalking to pedicures (even green slime manis), every guest gets pampered. 

Party packages start at $300, plus $150 in travel fees. Book your party by calling 773-883-3000 or get more info online at  rockcandysalonandspa.com.

Covid-19 update: Mobile salon and spa parties are on hold until restrictions are lifted by the state. 

For the Puzzle Solver: Mobile Room Escape

If your kiddo spends his or her days solving riddles, then a Mobile Room Escape party is perfect. Kids 7 and older will be challenged to escape from this mobile chemistry lab before the end of a 60-minute time limit. If you have 45 feet of space, let this lab on wheels pull up to get the party started.

They also launched Mobile Ax Throwing. They have a mobile trailer with lighting and fans to keep you cool during the hot summer months.

Call 773-219-2922 to book your party and get more details at mobileroomescape.com.

Covid-19 update: Mobile Room Escape and Mobile Ax Throwing are open for business with strict restrictions on the size of your parties and the number of parties they allow per day, so they can clean thoroughly between sessions. 

For Gamers: GameTruck

If you have a screen-addicted kid, hiring these guys for his party is going to score you some major parental points. They’ll delivery a truck overflowing with video games that’ll pull up in front of your house and the birthday boy and his friends can play until their fingers go numb. Might sound painful to you but they’ll be in gamer-heaven. You are responsible for arranging street parking and permits but the trailers aren’t much wider than a landscaper’s vehicle (about 6 car lengths of space), so the neighbors shouldn’t be too put out.

Pricing varies based on day and time. Book your party by calling 866-253-3191 or grab details at gametruckparty.com.

Covid-19 update: For gamers, the party never has to end. GameTruck created a new hour-long virtual party experience that allows all the party attendees to stay in their own homes and a GameCoach facilitates the fun. 

For the Wanna-Be Princess: Magic, Music & More

Give the birthday star the royal treatment by inviting a princess or prince over to entertain your queen and her court with a dress-up party, storytime, games and dancing. If the guest of honor is less than interested in royalty, you can also invite villains, superheroes to the bash.

Pricing starts at $235 for a one-hour party. Parties can be booked online by visiting magicmusicmorechicago.com or by calling 773-564-0783.

Covid-19 update: In-person parties are on hold, but you can schedule a 20-minute princess chat that includes storytime, singing, a royalty promise and a Q&A session for $40.

George's Gym

For Gym-tastic Adventures: George’s Gym

Avoid a mini-Lord of the Flies experience at your next at-home shindig by giving the folks at George’s Gym a holler for an organized yet fun-packed party. They’ll create customized birthday party packages for kids that includes awesome games, group activities and creative craft based on whatever theme you’ve dreamed up. Snap pics and relax because they’ll even deal with serving the food and cake.

Geared toward kids ages 2.5 & up, George's pricing ranges from $175-$350. Their newest party option, Carnival Party, has become quite popular. More info at georgesgymllc.com.

Covid-19 Update: George's Gym launched a free YouTube channel with fun, short workouts to take care of the wiggles, as well as fun activities and games the whole family can do together (which could be used for an at-home small family party). For adults, they launched a Facebook group, The Hope Space, as a resource guide/support group with helpful information, inspiration and ways to find hope for people from all walks of life. As we move past phase 3 of reopening the state, they will then offer small, no contact parties and fitness classes.

— Maria Chambers & Lisa Snart

Featured photo: Amponsah Nii Davidson via Pexels

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Navy Pier: Getting Better with Time

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Vintage handbags, cheddar, fine wine and Navy Pier . . . all things that get better with time. Navy Pier celebrated the big 1-0-0 in 2016 and with that brought exciting changes that just keep being built upon. Read on to learn more about the iconic Ferris Wheel and activities that make this the top leisure destination in the Midwest.

Navy Pier Ferris Wheelphoto: Navy Pier

Go for a spin. At 196 feet tall and 50 feet larger than the former Ferris Wheel, the Centennial Wheel is the best way to get an overview of the excitement at Navy Pier and take in the Chicago skyline. Believe it or not, the original Ferris Wheel at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago was actually larger than the Centennial Wheel, but now you’re riding in style thanks to the cushioned seats, video screens and doors that automatically open and close on each of the 42 gondolas.  If you have a family of daredevils, splurge for a private ride for up to four on the glass bottom gondola.

 

Grab a bite. Having your kids by your side won’t leave you yearning for a better dining experience at Navy Pier because the kid friendly communal area includes views of the water, WiFi access, and lots of food options.  Bubba Gump, DMK Burger and Fish Bar, Harry Caray’s are just a few places serving up sit-down lunch and dinner options. Satisfy your sweet tooth after dinner by stopping into the Original Rainbow Cone at the Pier’s South Dock when its warm and Brown Sugar Bakery all year ’round.

Enjoy being green.  As you wander down the Pier, you can rest assured knowing that the updates brought to the Navy Pier have occurred with the environment in mind.  From the behind the scenes infrastructure to the recently planted trees and benches made from reclaimed wood, the greener Navy Pier allows you to enjoy natural elements in an urban environment.

Navy Pier Fireworks 2photo: Navy Pier

Don’t forget the old favorites.  The Chicago Children’s Museum, Crystal Gardens, Amazing Chicago’s Funhouse Maze, IMAX theatre and boat rides are some of the classic Navy Pier destinations that are not to be missed.  No need to worry because these attractions are still around the updated Navy Pier, as is the fireworks display that occurs ever Wednesday and Saturday evening Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends.

Navy Pier
600 E. Grand Ave.
Navy Pier
Online at: navypier.com

—Lisa Snart

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Chicago Restaurant Week runs January 26 through February 8 — two glorious weeks where you have a legit excuse for not cooking. Participating restaurants offer multi-course menus at nice prices ($22 for lunch and $33-$44 for dinner). The portions are adult-sized, but we figure kids shouldn’t miss out on the fun. Read on to find our top spots that offer great deals for adults, but are kid-approved, so you can all enjoy exploring the culinary delights our great city has to offer.

beatixphoto: Beatrix

Beatrix (lunch or dinner)
If your attempts at healthy eating with the kids has failed thus far, try Beatrix. They make wholesome meals exciting. The meatloaf — made with turkey, sweet potato and greens — is called “neatloaf,” and it may convert (or trick) your kids to be meatloaf and veggie lovers. Other choices on the Restaurant Week menu include (for starters) hummus with veggies and warm naan or tomato soup with cheddar shortbread, and desserts like caramel pie . . . because it doesn’t all need to be healthy, right? If you prefer not to order the full menu for kids, items can be ordered a la carte. The fresh squeezed juices are a highlight and taste so yummy your kids won’t even notice the greens (like kale!) mixed in.

671 N. St Clair St., Streeterville
312-642-0001

519 N. Clark St., River North
312-284-1377

834 W. Fulton Market, Fulton Market
312-733-0370
Online: beatrixchicago.com

Belly Q (dinner only)
If you’re looking for a date night locale where it’s A-OK for the kids to tag along, this is a great pick. The Asian BBQ-inspired menu is packed with flavor, but nothing too adventurous that the kids couldn’t nibble, too. Supplement the Restaurant Week menu or treat kids to tasty plates like Fried Rice or Belly Mac. Fingers crossed they save a bite for you. For an entrée on the prix fixe menu for you, choose a Seafood Bouillabaisse or Lola “Lechon” Pork Loin. For dessert, everyone will enjoy the Mango Cannoli.

1400 W. Randolph St., West Loop
312-563-1010
Online: bellyqchicago.com

ba-baphoto: Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba (brunch or dinner, on select days)
An oldie but a goodie, this tapas restaurant has been welcoming families with children of all ages for 31 years! For this pick, we’d recommend taking the kids for brunch, which will be served January 27, 28 and February 3, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Kids will flip for the Bacon Mac’n Cheese, Butternut Waffles served with Nutella and either the Chocolate Truffle Cake or Marcona Almond-Caramel Bar for dessert. They’ll be mesmerized by the bright colors of the restaurant and have fun playing with complimentary Wikki Sticks.

2024 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park
773-935-5000
Online: cafebabareeba.com

Eli’s Cheesecake World (lunch only)
When dessert appears in a restaurant name, it’s sure to make your kid’s ears perk up. This Chicago classic is serving up recipes inspired by the Eli’s Cheesecake Cookbook, including Matzo Ball Soup, a Roast Beef sandwich and your choice of cheesecake for dessert. After enjoying your meal, bring home your choice of a free autographed cookbook or a 9″ Original Plain Cheesecake, which feeds 14 (or just you, 14 times).

6701 W. Forest Preserve Dr., Northwest Side
773-736-3417
Online: elischeesecake.com

photo: River Roast

River Roast (brunch, lunch and dinner)
While you dine on a prix fixe lunch menu that includes a Fish Sandwich or Cubano with smoked pork and ham or a dinner menu with a choice of Roast Beef or a Berkshire Pork Chop, the kids can happily dive into a basket of Golden Gobbets, which is some of the best fried chicken pieces you’ll find in the city, served with a side of honey. We’d also highly recommend choosing the Carrot Cake for your dessert option, which is big enough to offer a few bites to the kids.

315 N. LaSalle St., River North
312-822-0100
Online: riverroastchicago.com

Grange Hall Burger Bar (lunch and dinner)
What’s not to love about burgers and pie? A real indulgence, this West Loop burger-focused joint is offering guaranteed favorites on the prix fixe menu. Enjoy your choice of burger, side and dessert. Rest assured that although this is filling food, the restaurant focuses on farm fresh ingredients. You can choose between grass-fed beef, turkey, chicken, a vegan patty or wild rice and veg burger and choose a gluten-free bun or have your burger served up on a bed of lettuce. To top it off, you get to choose between a Lemon Cheesecake or a gluten-free and vegan Chocolate Pudding PIe. Kids with smaller appetites can order from the Little Farmers menu that includes burgers, grilled cheese and mac n’cheese options.

844 W. Randolph St., West Loop
312-491-0844
Online: grangehallburgerbar.com

photo: Sugar Factory

Sugar Factory (brunch, lunch and dinner)
They have Chocolate Decadence French Toast on their breakfast menu, Rainbow Sliders and Mac & Cheese Lollipops on their lunch and dinner menu and Cookie Jar Old Fashioned Sundaes and Chocolate Old Fashioned Milkshakes — what more do we need to say? Tell the kids you’re going to dinner at a place with the word “Sugar” in the name and we can guarantee they’ll get out the door faster than you’ve ever thought possible.

55 E. Grand Ave., River North
312-946-2002
Online: sugarfactory.com

Pinstripes (lunch and dinner)
Combine a game of bowling with a multi-course meal for a fun day out that’s sure to please. The more casual lunch menu includes a choice of salad, followed by Italian Fettuccini Bolognese or Chicken Parmesan and ends with a scoop of gelato or sorbet. Two dinner menus are offered, the more indulgent option includes Maple Glazed Salmon and a Filet Mignon Trio and the other features Italian Jambalaya or Boneless Short Ribs. Kids won’t be left out of the multi-course meal, as the kids’ menu includes a breadstick starter, entrée, dessert and drink, all for $9.

435 E. Illinois St., Streeterville
312-527-3010
Online: pinstripes.com

For the full list of participating restaurants, go to choosechicago.com.

Where are you going to eat during Chicago Restaurant Week? Shout about it in the Comments!

— Lisa Snart & Samantha Lande

Jump-tastic Trampoline Parks for All Ages

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Heat up chilly winter days and cure your cabin fever by bouncing into a local trampoline park. Not only can kids jump and flip as much as their hearts desire, they can also fly into foam pits, play sports and perfect their own stunts. Read on for the scoop on parks where it literally is A-Okay for kids to bounce off the walls!

sky-high-sportsphoto: Sky High Sports

Sky High Sports
Started by two brothers, Sky High Sports has two Chicago-area locations where you can boing-boing safely. The jump spaces are covered wall to wall with trampolines, and all frames and springs are covered by two-inch-thick safety pads. We love Sky High for its attention to jumpers of all ages, abilities and needs. For example, every Tuesday from 3-6 p.m. there are jumps for kids with special needs. The music is dialed down and distractions limited for everyone’s comfort. Family Pizza Night is every Thursday from 5-9 p.m., where $40 gets you 4 jumpers, a large pizza and pitcher of soda. Be sure to visit the website calendar before visiting, because during holidays and school breaks, specials are sometimes cancelled.

Tip for small tots: There are designated sections for jumpers age six and under. Mom & Tot sessions are held Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-11 a.m. and for $10 per child, they get to jump while you sip on free coffee.

6424 Howard St., Niles; 847-801-5867; Online: nil.jumpskyhigh.com
&
2244 Corporate Ln., Naperville; 630-717-5867; Online: nap.jumpskyhigh.com

Epic Air Park
At 30,000 square feet, this spot is a biggie. Catch air on the wall-to-wall trampolines, which are specially designated for basketball, dodgeball or gymnastics. There is a Soft Play Area where toddlers that might not be ready to catch air can romp on a padded surface, scurry through crawl-through structures, or play with toys. There’s also a separate trampoline area for jumpers 7 and under, though all kids are welcome to use any of the trampolines at their parents’ discretion.

Tip for small tots: Every Tuesday (9-11 a.m.) and Saturday (8-10 a.m.) year-round and Fridays (9-11 a.m.) they host Toddler Time, where kids six and under (maximum height 48 inches) can play on the trampolines with no fear of big kids ruling the roost.

1675 N. Lancaster, South Elgin; 847-608-0600; Online: epicairpark.com

Rockin Jumpphoto: Rockin’ Jump

Rockin’ Jump 
Rockin’ Jump trampoline parks offer large arenas for jumping, foam pits, and dodgeball courts. Will you be brave enough to challenge your kids to the X-Beam jousting attraction? Watch your balance or you could be sent falling into the giant foam pit! New to this jump spot is the Stunt Bag, where you’ll feel the freedom of flying, flipping and jumping into the soft landing pad of an air-filled stunt bag.

Small tot tip: Every Tuesday-Friday from 9 a.m.-noon, Saturday 8-10 a.m. and Sunday, 9-11 a.m., Rockin’ Tots gives parents the chance to bring a child for a two-hour jump for only $10. Add a sibling for only $5 more!

950 Busch Pkwy., Buffalo Grove; 224-676-0660; Online: buffalogrove.rockinjump.com
&
485 Mission St., Carol Stream; 630-752-1400; Online: carolstream.rockinjump.com

Jump America Indoor Trampoline Park
Jump America offers a range of “Jump Deals” so be sure to check their website for current promotions, especially if you’re bringing along a large group to take advantage of the trampoline areas and foam pit. Check the calendar for special events at the Park such as special needs nights or dodgeball tournaments.

Small tot tip: Toddlers take over the joint on Wednesdays from 10 a.m.-noon and 5 p.m.- 7 p.m. Parents can bring the tots (walking without assistance to six years old) for an opportunity to jump ’til their heart’s content.

880 Lakeside Dr., Gurnee; 224-325-5867; Online: jumpamerica.com

Elite Sports Complex
If you’re serious about evolving your skills as a jumper, head to this education-focused option. More than a trampoline park, it’s a gymnastics center that offers lessons in artistic and rhythmic gymnastics, tumbling and trampolining. As kids evolve their skills, they may have the opportunity to join teams and compete in regional, state and national competitions. Sessions last for ten weeks and start as early as age four. For those taking a more casual approach to jumping, Open Jump is offered Friday from 7:15 p.m.-9:15 p.m. It’s recommended you call ahead to reserve your spot.

Small tot tip: Kids as young as 12 months can get in on the fun with You & Me classes that introduce them to trampolines, as well as tumbling, group warm-ups and even the balance beam, as they develop.

6360 S. Belmont Rd.
Downers Grove
630-968-2699
Online: elitesportscomplex.com

photo: Sky Zone courtesy of Nabeel H. via Flickr

Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park
This growing franchise has been such a big hit, there are now 4 Chicagoland locations to choose from! Each location has unique programming in addition to the main zone, foam pit, dodgeball and basketball courts. Programming includes Skyfitness, where you can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour, Toddler Time and Skycamp. Check the websites to learn about programs offered at each location.

87 Executive Dr., Aurora; 331-207-4759; Online: skyzone.com/aurora
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325 W. Lake Street, Suite A, Elmhurst; 630-478-8339; Online: skyzone.com/elmhurst
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2318 Essington Rd., Unit 1, Joliet; 815-314-4890; Online: skyzone.com/joliet
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66 Orland Square, Orland Park; 708-966-2399; Online: skyzone.com/orlandpark

Happy jumping, folks!

Have you tried a trampoline park? Tell us about it in the Comments section below.

— Maria Chambers & Lisa Snart

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Whether your little is yet to make an appearance, is no longer so little, or anywhere in between, there’s a yoga studio in Chicago that will leave them feeling a bit more zen. Read on to plan your yogi-in-training’s next date with the mat.

photo: courtesy of freestocks.org via flickr

For Expecting Mamas
You’re probably already familiar with the benefits of prenatal yoga, but head to Sweet Pea’s Studio, Chicago’s first family yoga center, where moms are treated to so much more than a yoga class.  Whether you choose to attend childbirth classes, book a massage or drop-in on a breastfeeding clinic, this studio is sure to help you find a tribe and be the best mama you can be!

Sweet Pea’s Studio
3717 N. Ravenswood Ave. #214
Lakeview
773-248-9642
Online: sweetpeasstudio.com

For Bouncing Babies
If you’re looking for an activity that will benefit you and your baby, head to Cocoon Care for their Baby and Me Yoga Class or any other post-natal class, because your little is welcome to join! In the Baby and Me Yoga Class, not only will you build your own strength, but you’ll also build a bond with your bundle of joy.

Cocoon Care
409 W. Huron, Suite 100
Near North Side
312-265 0615
Online:cocooncare.com

For Terrific Toddlers
You might think your toddler can’t do yoga because sitting still is just so difficult, but check out the schedule from Buddha Belly Kid’s Yoga for classes to keep toddler’s entertained and grounded. These classes nurture toddler’s natural desire to move and play, while focusing on poses that help them relax. Private lessons are available for kids of all ages.

Buddha Belly Kid’s Yoga
Online: buddhabellykidsyoga.com/

photo: Tula Yoga

For a Crowd
If you want to give yoga a whirl with the whole family in tow, head to Tula’s Family Yoga on Sundays at 3:30 p.m. Families up to 4 people can participate in the class that includes breathing exercises, dancing, story time and relaxation for only $12.

Tula Yoga
2827 W. Belden Ave.
Logan Square
773-620-9945
Online: tulayoga.net

Gratitude Yoga also offers a family class that welcomes young and less young.  On Saturdays at 12:30 p.m. the all-ages class introduces your crew to relaxation techniques like meditation and journaling, while having fun!

Gratitude Yoga
510 W. North Avenue
Old Town
630-803-7157
Online: gratitudeyogachicago.com

For School Age Kiddos
By the time your littles are in school, they can make decisions on their own regarding health and well being. Encourage them to check out Yogakids at Ahimsa Yoga Studio on Oak Park where they’ll learn techniques that encourage self-control, maturity and well-being, while maintaining a focus on good times!

Ahimsa Yoga Studio
441 South Blvd.
Oak Park
844-295-0922
Online: Ahimsayogastudios.com

photo: Bloom Yoga

For Everyone
At the accessible Bloom Yoga Studio, they make it their mission to have something for all ages and stages of yoga practice.  From prenatal yoga to story time yoga to teen yoga, Bloom Yoga Studio can support your family through all of life’s stages.  Check out their programs to help your kids develop lifelong healthy habits.

Bloom Yoga Studio
4663 N. Rockwell
Ravenswood
773-463-9642
Online: bloomyogastudio.com

Share your favorite place to practice yoga with your littles in the Comments below.

— Lisa Snart

Our Big Delicious Guide to Where Kids Eat Free

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Eating out with kids is always a gamble. Sometimes they devour their entire meal, licking their plates until they’re sparkling clean, and other times it’s two bites and done. The good news is lots of restaurants get it (the owners are often parents themselves). And they take the stress off by offering family meal deals. Here are our favorite places where kids eat free across the city and ‘burbs.

benny's-chop-housephoto: Benny’s Chop House

IN CHICAGO

Benny’s Chop House
444 N. Wabash Ave., Downtown, 312-626-2444; Online: bennyschophouse.com

The details: Upscale steakhouses and kids don’t usually go hand in hand, but at this steak haven, they are welcomed with open arms. Typical kid’s choices are done first class, like a USDA Prime burger or steakhouse Macaroni and Cheese. Grownups.

The deal: Kids eat free anytime on Sunday nights.

photo: Crosby’s Kitchen

 

Crosby’s Kitchen
3455 N. Southport Ave., Lakeview, 773-883-2525; Online: crosbyschicago.com

The details: This Southport corridor spot was designed with kids and parents in mind. There is a stroller valet, step stools in the bathroom and a sink for quick hand washing in the dining room. That’s on top of a menu of rotisserie selections, fresh salads, entrees and full bar.

The deal: Kids eat free every day between 4 p.m.-6 p.m.

Dunlays on Clark
2600 N. Clark St., Lincoln Park, 773-883-6000; Online: dunlaysonclark.com

The details: This neighborhood spot offers up simple American fare — salads, sandwiches, flatbreads — in a classic bar and grill setting. Kiddos will be tempted to join the clean-plate club if you offer them a bite of the homemade skillet cookie or nutella brownie for dessert.

The deal: Kids eat free every day between 4:30 p.m.-6 p.m.

photo: Frasca’s Pizzeria

Frasca’s Pizzeria
3358 N. Paulina St., Lakeview/Roscoe Village, 773-248-5222; Online: frascapizzeria.com

The details: Kick back and enjoy at this Lakeview pizzeria meets wine bar. Pies are upscale and inventive, but the space is low-key and totally caters to kids so you can enjoy sipping your Pinot while they tear apart their pizza of choice.

The deal: Kids eat free every day between 4:30-6 p.m.

Hutch
3301 N. Clark St., Lakeview, 773-248-1155
416 W. Ontario St., River North, 312-300-4195; Online: hutchchicago.com

The details: Hutch is filled with comfort foods that will warm you on the coldest of days. Braised short ribs, rainbow trout and meatloaf are a few of the sophisticated choices. Kids may prefer the crust-less grilled cheese, PB&J and other classics. The River North location offers brunch classics like scrambled eggs and French toast . . . even fruit loops are available for the uber picky!

The deal: In Lakeview, kids eat free everyday between 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m. and all night on Sundays. Check out the River North location from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Friday when kids can order a free meal from the kid’s brunch menu.

pizzeria-seriophoto: Pizzeria Serio

 

Pizzeria Serio
1708 W. Belmont Ave., Lakeview, 773-525-0600; Online: pizzeriaserio.com

The details: East Coast-style pizza, giant calzones and overstuffed sandwiches . . . how could you go wrong? Families are welcomed to this former recording studio space — especially on Sundays, which they designate family night.

The deal: Kids eat free anytime on Sunday nights.

Riverview Tavern
1958 W. Roscoe St., Roscoe Village, 773-248-9523;Online: riverviewtavern.com

The details: Sometimes you feel like eating like the little ones, in a sophisticated way of course. Riverview Tavern has you covered with six “adult” versions of grilled cheese and tater tots on the menu, amongst burgers, sammies and salads.

The deal: Kids eat free Monday through Thursday between 4:30-6 p.m.

Southport and Irving
4000-4006 N. Southport Ave., Lakeview, 773-857-2890; Online: southportandirving.com

The details: Grab a table with your family and a few good neighbors and enjoy the regional fare served at this corner bistro. Entrees are reasonably priced and range from salmon to fried chicken sandwiches. The free kid’s meal even comes with a build-you-own ice cream sundae and kids can take a toy from the treasure chest!

The deal: Kids eat free everyday from 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m. with purchase of an adult entree.

wildephoto: Wilde

Wilde
3130 N. Broadway St., Lakeview, 773-244-0404; Online: wildechicago.com

The details: To quote Oscar Wilde himself: “The best way to make children good is to make them happy.” His namesake bar and grill took note. Embrace the Irish and indulge in fish and chips — the kiddos can get a pint-sized version.

The deal: Kids eat free Monday-Friday between 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m.

Wishbone
1001 W. Washington Blvd., West Loop, 312-850-2663; Online: wishbonechicago.com

The details: This cult fave has been serving up Southern cooking since the early ’90s. Young eaters are mesmerized by the funky artwork. Your whole family will love the home-cooked favorites like shrimp and grits, and the signature crunchy French toast dipped in corn flakes.

The deal: Kids eat free on Tuesday nights as vintage cartoons are shown on a huge screen.

francescas-on-95thphoto: Francesca’s

IN THE ‘BURBS 

Francesca’s
Suburban locations in La Grange, Oak Lawn, Bolingbrook, Forest Park, West Dundee and Naperville
Online: miafrancesca.com

The details: The Francesca’s empire has a strong presence in the city and ‘burbs, serving fresh, classic Italian food in a familial setting. The handwritten menu changes often with inventive seasonal pastas the whole family can enjoy.

The deal: Kids eat free on Monday night at Francesca’s Bellezza (with a magic show at 6 p.m.!), Francesca’s at the Promenade, Francesca’s on 95th, Francesa’s Vincenato and Francesca’s Fiore. Kids eat free on Sundays all night at Francesca’s Passaggio and Francesca’s Campagna.

Colonial Cafe
Suburban locations throughout the North and West suburbs; Online: colonialcafe.com

The details: This string of family owned restaurants scattered throughout the ‘burbs offers up all of the kid favorites, from mac and cheese to chicken nuggets, as well as a separate kid’s breakfast menu that is served all day.  Everyone will be anxious to finish their food, as the ice cream is really what this place is all about.  Save room for the “Kitchen Sink” sundae!

The deal: Kids eat free on Mondays with an adult purchase.

New York Slices
16111 S. La Grange Rd., Orland Park, 708-403-3366; Online: ottimoorland.com

The details: This downtown Highland Park spot serves up genuine New York-style pizza with fun toppings like penne, smoked mozzarella, bacon and hot sauce (not together, of course!). Kids love creating their own pies and the graffiti on the wall, while parents may be more likely to fixate on the large-screen TVs that play the big games.

The deal: Kids eat free on Tuesdays, 4:30 p.m.-close.

Osteria Ottimo
16111 S. La Grange Rd., Orland Park, 708-403-3366; Online: ottimoorland.com

The details: Two former Francesca’s chefs partnered together to open this Orland Park osteria where fresh pasta is made in-house daily and ingredients are locally sourced. Kids meals come with a scoop of gelato for dessert.

The deal: Kids eat free anytime on Sunday nights.

Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the Comments section below.

— Lisa Snart & Samantha Lande

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