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From scary to sweet, Chicago has it all this October. Bonus: many of the family-friendly Halloween events around the city are free!

Here in Chicago, Halloween seems to last the entire month of October, and for many that makes it the most wonderful time of the year. And considering how questionable fall weather can be, it gives everyone the chance to get in on the fun. If one parade or trick-or-treating event gets cancelled due to weather, you have several more to choose from.

So, take a break from getting lost and found in corn mazes and working your way around all the harvest festivals Chicago has to offer to focus on more faboolous fun. There are Halloween events for all ages throughout the city (and nearby suburbs), from the scary to the sweet, and we’ve rounded up some of the best. Go to one or go to all—we dare you!

Free Halloween Events in Chicago

Chicago Pumpkin Patches & Halloween Parties

Halloween in the Parks
The Chicago Park District will host pumpkin patches with decorating stations, Halloween-themed carnival games, inflatables, and some surprise visitors. Pumpkins cost $5. They will also host numerous Halloween celebrations in the parks. Events vary by location but many include costumes, treats, and games.

Oct. 1-31
Various city park locations
Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

Pier Pumpkin Lights
Navy Pier will once again transform into an experiential fall spectacle with nearly 1,000 pumpkins for the month of October. Guests will explore a variety of pumpkin pop-up installations and enjoy Pier-wide deals and other Halloween festivities throughout the month.

Oct. 1-31
600 E. Grand Ave.
River North
Online: navypier.org

Gallagher Way Annual Pumpkin Party
Trick or treat among the various candy stations, dance and sing along to music by the Old Town School of Folk Music, and/or make a kid craft. Be on the look-out for wandering performers such as stilt walkers, magicians, caricature artists and balloon artists. There will be lots of lawn games and every kid can leave with a free junior pumpkin. 1pm-5pm

Oct. 22
3635 N. Clark St.
Lakeview
Online: gallagherway.com

Related: Our Ultimate Guide to Chicago-Area Pumpkin Patches

Chicago Halloween-Themed Movies & More

Movies at Gallagher Way
Pack a picnic and lay down a blanket at Gallagher Way for some Halloween themed movies, starting with Coco, followed by Gremlins and Hocus Pocus. Gates open at 6 p.m. Movies start at 7 p.m. Alcoholic drinks and snacks are available for sale at the park.

Oct. 6, 12, 19
3635 N. Clark St.
Lakeview
Online: gallagherway.com

Wednesday Night Live – Halloween Edition
Decorate a pumpkin, dress up for a costume contest, and stay for a free outdoor screening of Hocus Pocus in the Ainslie Art Plaza. Gates will open at 5 p.m. with the movie starting around 6:30 p.m.

Oct. 19
4844 N. Lincoln Avenue
Lincoln Square
Online: lincolnsquare.org

Chicago Neighborhood Trick-or-Treating Events

Pup-O-Ween
Take your pup trick-or-treating around Ainslie Arts Plaza. Vendors will be passing out various treats and promotions to pets and owners alike.

Oct. 22
4844 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Square
Online: lincolnsquare.org

Spooky Zoo
Kids can trick-or-treat around the Lincoln Park Zoo grounds from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. or while supplies last. Families can stick around to enjoy the fall fest, seasonal food and drink, or other family-friendly entertainment.

Oct. 22
2001 N. Clark St.
Lincoln Park
Online: lpzoo.org

Roscoe Village Halloween Block Party
Roscoe Street will be shut down from Damen to Hoyne. Wear your costume and at 12 p.m. join or watch the parade. The parade ends at Damen where the marching band will give a final performance before the kids are let loose to trick-or-treat at all the local businesses. Families can also congregate in the center for Halloween themed activities and a live DJ. The party will wrap up at 4 p.m.

Oct. 23
Roscoe St. between Damen and Hoyne
Roscoe Village
Online: roscoevillage.org

Trick or Treat Southport
Trick or Treat on Southport is a free annual community event featuring family-friendly activities, a pumpkin patch, pet parade and trick or treating at local businesses. Enjoy food trucks and a beer tent. 4pm-8pm

Oct. 24
Southport Ave. from Roscoe to Grace
Lakeview
Online: southportcorridorchicago.com

Halloween on Catalpa
Trick or treat among the many Andersonville businesses for a fun and safe Halloween experience.

Oct. 29
Catalpa St.
Andersonville
Online: andersonville.org

Lincoln Scared Ravenswoooood
For one day, Lincoln Square and Ravenswood will transform into Lincoln Scared and RAVENSWoooooD as children trick-or-treat between participating businesses from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Maps of participating businesses are available online.

Oct. 30
Lincoln Square and Ravenswood neighborhoods
Online: lincolnsquare.org

NorthCenter Trick-or-Treat
NorthCenter will host a morning of trick-or-treating around local business, as well as free crafts and entertainment in the Town Square

Oct. 29
4100 N. Damen Ave.
NorthCenter
Online: northcenterchamber.com

Wicked West Trick or Treat
Commercial Park will host a Halloween Parade & After Party from 2 p.m.-3:15 p.m. immediately followed by safe and family-friendly trick-or-treating around the local retail business and restaurants.

Oct. 31
1845 W. Rice St.
West Town
Online: westtownchamber.org

Chicago Halloween Parades

Upside Down Halloween Parade
The 2022 Upside Down Halloween Parade, presented by LUMA8 and the City of Chicago, is a bit off-kilter. Instead of a parade passing its audience as it marches down the street, dance troupes, circus acrobats, musical groups, and more will occupy a stationary space and parade goers will walk past them, giving ample time to enjoy each performance. Halloween costumes are encouraged, and complimentary goody bags sponsored by Blommer Chocolate Company, Mars Wrigley, and others will be handed out.

Oct. 22
5531 S. King Dr.
Washington Park
Online: artsinthedark.com

Arts in the Dark Halloween Parade
The Arts in the Dark Halloween Parade is the most fun and unique parade. Parade participants represent the many art institutions including performing arts theaters around the city, each accompanying an imaginative float or staging creative performances along the parade route. Costumes are made to glow-in-the-dark for added spectacle. 6 p.m.-8 p.m.

Oct. 29
State St. from Lake to Van Buren
The Loop
Online: artsinthedark.com

Haunted Halsted Halloween Parade
If anyone has any energy left after trick-or-treating, stop by the Haunted Halsted Halloween Parade. Participants pull out all the stops for their costumes. See dancers and fire-eaters, and the most elaborate costumes.

Oct. 31
Halsted St. from Belmont to Brompton
Lakeview
Online: northalsted.com

Related: Walk This Way! Colorful Spots for Fall Family Strolls

Chicago Halloween Carnivals

Highwood Pumpkin Fest Carnival
Highwood’s annual pumpkin fest features carnival rides, games, food, live music, and plenty of pumpkins! There’s also a Super Hero 5K fun run, walk, & stroll. Admission is free. Games and rides are additional fees.

Oct. 7-9
Downtown Highwood
Highwood, IL
Online: highwoodpumpkinfest.com

Ticketed Halloween Events in Chicago

Chicago Haunted Attractions

The 13th Floor Chicago
Get ready for the most fun you’ve ever had getting scared at the world-famous 13th Floor Haunted House in Chicago! New this year, they also have mini escape rooms for only $5 per game. The 13th Floor is not recommended for kids under 13.

Now through Nov. 5
5050 River Rd.
Schiller Park
Online: 13thfloorchicago.com

Nightmare on Clark Street
For a few weeks of fall, Deuce’s Major League Bar in Wrigleyville transforms into Nightmare on Clark Street. The Halloween Pop-up includes an over-the-top immersive haunted house experience for those who dare. Tickets are required. Kids must be 15 or older and must be accompanied by an adult. If the haunted house is too terrifying, you can just enjoy the ghoulish decor, themed cocktails, and festive snacks by reserving a table online. Kids are welcome before 5pm on weekdays or before noon on the weekends.

Oct. 1-31
3505 N. Clark St.
Lakeview
Online: deucesmlb.com

TILT Terror Nights
After 6 p.m., 360 Chicago Observation Deck at the top of the John Hancock Building will host TILT Terror Nights where you can experience a longer, more intense experience on Chicago’s highest thrill ride. Note: you must be 42 inches or taller to take part.

Oct. 1-31
875 N. Michigan Ave.
Magnificent Mile
Online: 360chicago.com

Six Flags Great America Fright Fest
Go early to admire the Halloween decorations and seasonal menu items. Stay for the rides, live shows, the Monster Bash (an interactive Halloween party for tiny goblins), and the trick-or-treating on Saturdays and Sundays. But make your way to the exit at 5:45pm when The Uprising Parade: Nightly Call of the Dead begins. This is the cue for kids 13 and under to make their way to the park exit or dare to be scared. Fright Fest includes four different haunted houses and four different scare zones, where you can expect to be terrorized by jump scares.

Sep. 17-Oct. 31
1 Great America Pkwy
Gurnee, IL
Online: sixflags.com

Related: Field Day! Local Chicago Corn Mazes to Get Lost In

Chicago Zoos

Boo! at the Zoo
If the zoo was photo worthy already, several Halloween themed photo spots have been created to fulfill all your Instagram needs. There are giant inflatables, a “Crazed Maize,” a Creepy Carousel, and Zoo Chats each day. Pumpkins are given to different animals on different days (check the online schedule), and everyone gets a treat as you leave. Guests age 13 or older are not permitted in the zoo wearing full-body costumes with their head covered.

Oct. 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23
3300 Golf Rd.
Brookfield, IL
Online: czs.org

Chicago Halloween-Themed Movies & More

Drive-In Movies
Fill up your car with snacks and kids, and head over to Little Beans Cafe for a special screening of The Adams Family 2 from 7:30 p.m.-10 p.m. There will be 15 car spots ($30/car) and 10 blanket and chair spots ($20/spot) in the parking lot. Tune into the sound on your radio.

Oct. 28
430 Ashbury St.
Evanston, IL
Online: littlebeanscafe.com

The Forge Celebrates Halloween
All ages can enjoy hayrides through the Quarries, ghost stories in the forest, scavenger hunts, a costume contest, dance party, and family movie beginning at 2pm.

Oct. 15, 16, 29, 30
1001 Main St.
Lemont, IL
Online: forgeparks.com

Chicago Ride-Thru Halloween Attractions

Santa’s Village Spooktacular Drive-Thru
Visit Santa’s Village Spooktacular Drive-Thru this October for a Not-Too-Spooky Halloween Experience. The park will be transformed into a Halloween Haven with family-friendly scenes, featuring The Witches Broom Lot, Mad Scientist, Alien Landing, Monster Mash Bash, and more. At the end of the route, enjoy tasty treats, including funnel cakes and hot chocolate, photo opportunities, and fun activities.

Oct. 1, 2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 27-31
601 Dundee Ave.
East Dundee, IL
Online: santasvillagedundee.com

Pumpkin Train
Take a ride on a Halloween-themed electric interurban trains to the Illinois Railway Museum’s own pumpkin patch. Plenty of pumpkins and picture opps await!

Oct. 22, 23, 29, 30
7000 Olson Rd.
Union, IL
Online: irm.org

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These amazing Chicago pumpkin patches have just what you need to make the most of the fall season

Give Charlie Brown a run for his money and find your own Great Pumpkin this fall season. We dug deep to bring you a list of the best Chicago pumpkin patches. Warm your face on the steam of a hot apple cider, breathe in the crisp air, and listen to the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot as you hoof your way through these family-friendly spots. You’ll find there are so many wonderful things to do this season!

Chicago pumpkin patches
Mark Duffel on Unsplash

Chicago Park District Pumpkin Patches

When it comes to pumpkin picking within the Chicago city limits, there's nothing quite so convenient as your local park! Hand-select your favorite pumpkin from these Chicago parks filled with pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. If you have to choose one, consider stopping by Jefferson Memorial Park, which will host a full-on Fall Fest filled with crafts, games, and—of course—pumpkins. 

Event Date: Oct. 1, 10a.m. - 2p.m.

5430 N. Olcott Ave.
Oriole Park
Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

Event Date: Oct. 8, 10a.m. - 2p.m.

6935 W. Addison St.
Shabbona Park
Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

Event Date: Oct. 29, 10a.m. - 1p.m.

910 S. Aberdeen St.
Sheridan (Philip Henry) Park
Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

Event Date: Oct. 9, 12p.m. - 3p.m.

4822 N. Long Ave.
Jefferson Memorial Park
Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

Related: How ‘Bout These Apples? U-Pick Apple Orchards Worth the Trek

Pumpkin Patches in Chicago

Pumpkin Party at Gallagher Way
Take the whole family to Gallagher Way's annual Pumpkin Party for an early Halloween celebration on Oct. 22. Trick-or-treat your way through Gallagher Way, snag a free junior pumpkin from the pumpkin patch, and enjoy a sing-a-long with the Old Town School of Folk Music crew. 

Cost: Free

3635 N. Clark St.
Wrigleyville
Online: gallagherway.com

Sonny Acres Farm
Shutterbugs looking for a prime pumpkin patch photo to Instagram will love the mountainous spread of pumpkins of varying shapes, sizes and colors sitting under the watchful eye of scarecrows and ghostly wooden cutouts.

Allow time for play and visit the Dizzy Zone spinning tunnel, enjoy a ride atop a friendly pony or camel, take a 15-minute tractor-pulled wagon ride and tiptoe into the haunted barn that’s just the right amount of scary for littles ages 10 and up. Food stands with taffy apples, elephant ears, brats, and spiced cider are scattered in the patch. If you’re still on the lookout for the perfect Halloween costume, don’t fret because they have a novelty shop with masks, wigs and disguises, plus a farmer's market with gourds, squash and Indian corn.

Cost: $25

29W310 North Ave.
West Chicago
Online: sonnyacres.com

Related: Walk This Way! Colorful Spots for Fall Strolls in Chicago

Chicago pumpkin patches
Gerda on Unsplash

Pumpkin Patches Outside of Chicago

Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm
Located just outside of Joliet, Siegel’s offers 40 acres of family fun with 30 attractions, including a tractor ride to their u-pick pumpkin patch and a beehive demo. Explore three different play areas that offer physical play, see the farm in style by taking a ride on the Ghost Town Railroad and squeeze in relaxation for the whole family when you sit back in the giant 100-year-old rocking chair. They are open from Sep. 24 - Oct. 31.

Cost: Weekends: $25, Weekdays: $20

17250 S. Weber Rd.
Crest Hill
Online: ourpumpkinfarm.com

Stade’s Farm and Market
The Fall Festival has been a family favorite since its inception in 1995. Take a hayride back and forth between the patch, visit four-legged friends in the petting zoo, test your navigation skills in the corn maze and indulge in your favorite fest foods.  

Cost: $20

3709 Mill Rd.
McHenry
Online: stadesfarmandmarket.com

Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm
You can pack a full day’s worth of fun that goes well beyond the pumpkin patch at this gem located about an hour southwest of Chicago. General admission includes unlimited turns on kiddie rides including the Happy Swing, a 90-foot-tall mega fun slide and twirling t-cup honey pots, pig races that occur every hour, adorable furry fun in the petting zoo, a walk through Kid Village, and lots more. The farm is now cashless. 

Cost: $20-$34

13341 W. 151st St.
Homer Glen
Online: pumpkinfarm.com

Didier Farms
Put an unexpected colorful twist on Halloween by going beyond the typical orange roundie and select one of the speckled, green or white pumpkins instead. Visit Pumpkin Playland, where kids can ride the kiddie carousel and Ferris wheel, mine for gems, ride mini tractors, play corn hole, get up close and personal with birds in the Parakeet Encounter, conquer a straw bale mountain, and weave their way through corn stalk or kiddie straw mazes. The farm is open from Sep. 17 - Oct. 30.

Cost: $1 per ticket (most activities take 4 tickets)

16678 Aptakisic Rd.
Lincolnshire
Online: didierfarms.com

Related: Field Day! Local Chicago Corn Mazes to Get Lost In

Kroll’s Fall Harvest Farm
Whether you want to bake, carve or decorate, Kroll’s carries many specialty breed pumpkins that vary in size, color and shape ready for you to load up in their pumpkin carts. Hayrides with a focus on educating visitors on farming (crop rotation, hay versus straw, pollination) and the crops they grow (gourds, corn, pumpkins) are offered. Continue the education with a visit to the donkeys, sheep, goats, chickens and turkeys and learn about each from one of the knowledgeable employees. Don't forget to check out a hayride or the corn maze!

Cost: Weekends: $14/adults, $12/kids

13236 W. Town Line Rd.
Waukegan
Online: krollsfarm.com

Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch
A visit to Goebbert’s has been a long-held tradition for local families since they opened their roadside pumpkin stand in 1978. Not only do they have a fantastic assortment of pumpkins eager to adorn your fall displays, but kids will leave with happy memories of the 1/2-mile tour aboard the Pumpkin Express, watching the weekend pig races, experiencing the insatiable appetite of the giant mechanical pumpkin-eating dinosaur and wandering through the corn stalk maze. Don’t leave without a stop into the petting farm where you’ll be greeted by a mama pig and her piglets, the furry residents of Bunny Town, llamas, cows, fuzzy chicks and goats looking down from atop the 25-foot wooden Goat Mountain.

Cost: $18

42W813 Reinking Rd.
Pine Grove
Online: goebberts.com

County Line Orchard
Well known for their u-pick apple orchard, County Line is also a stop for your fall-inspired favorites like pumpkins as big as a small child, gourds, squash, hay bales, Indian corn, corn stalks, zinnias, sunflowers and mums. Kids can experience barnyard jams, a corn maze, a cow-themed barrel train, and tons of exciting animals at the kids farm!

Cost: General Admission: $2 + price of pumpkin

200 County Line Rd.
Hobart, IN
Online: countylineorchard.com

 

 

 

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Get your corn maze fill at any of these amazing Chicago corn mazes that’ll entertain the family for hours

Local farms know that if they build it, we will come. And by “it,” we obviously mean acres of intricate corn mazes to maneuver through—and get lost in—with your kids. If that isn’t enticing enough, a lot of the maze locations have added bells and whistles like petting zoos and pumpkin doughnuts. Plus, you can check off plenty of fall activities at once as most have options to pick apples or pick pumpkins to complete your fall experience. So lace up those walking shoes and check out this year’s crop of Chicago corn mazes.

Konow’s Corn Maze
A huge indoor western-themed playland, 2 corn pits, gem mining, straw playgrounds, animal barn, tractor-pulled grain train and more make this Homer Glen attraction a fall favorite. The keystone, however, of the operation is the corn maze. Depending on how much stamina your kids have, you could spend a chunk of the day winding your way through the miles-long behemoth.

16849 S. Cedar Rd.
Homer Glen
Online: konowscornmaze.com

Kroll's Fall Harvest Farm
Each year, the cornfields at this farm are cut into elaborate circuits and the activities are designed to entertain your entire clan, Kroll’s has hayrides, a petting zoo with goats, donkeys, sheep and turkeys and a pumpkin patch. Timed entry tickets are required on weekends to help control numbers, so be sure to book online before visiting. The maze is open Sep. 17-Oct. 31.

13236 W. Town Line Rd.
Waukegan
Online: krollsfarm.com

Richardson Farm
Home to the world’s largest maze, it’s go big or go home at Richardson. This sprawling attraction includes 4 separate mazes that make up 9-10 miles of trails winding through 28 acres of live corn. The trail includes games that range from solving puzzles to map reading that keep the littles engaged. In addition to the corny fun, kids can glide on zip lines, cheer for pig races, mosey through pumpkin patches, go for wagon rides and loads more. The maze is open Sep. 10-Oct. 30. 

9405 Richardson Rd.
Spring Grove
Online: richardsonadventurefarm.com

Related: Walk This Way! Colorful Spots for Fall Strolls in Chicago

Odyssey Fun Farm
Romp around 110 acres in Tinley Park and enjoy a pumpkin patch, inflatables zone, zip line, hay rides, a petting zoo and the crown-jewel 15-acre Pac Man-themed corn maze. In case that seems like a lot walking for little feet, the farm also features a pint-sized hay maze. Brave souls may also be interested in the twilight flashlight maze, wherein visitors peruse the maze at night. Don’t worry . . . it’s not haunted . . . or is it? (It's not). The farm opens Sep. 24.

19111 S. Oak Park Ave.
Tinley Park
Online: odysseyfunfarm.com

County Line Orchard
Just over the Indiana border lies an awe-inspiring orchard complete with pumpkin doughnuts, concessions, apples galore and corn mazes. Along with a larger maze, there is also an Albanese gummy bear-themed maze that's perfect for the little ones. Once you’re all maze-d out, pick apples and peruse the massive barn to get your fill of fudge and other farm essentials.

200 S. County Line Rd.
Hobart, IN
Online: countylineorchard.com

Jonamac Orchard
This apple-picking oasis is also home to one stellar corn maze. While mostly renowned for its extensive apple orchards, the 10-acre corny adventure should not be overlooked. And with three miles of pathways and two bridges, it’s almost impossible to ignore. There’s also a nighttime haunted version on Friday and Saturday evenings for the brave corn stalkers. The maze is open Aug. 27-Oct. 30.

19412 S. Shabbona Rd.
Malta
Online: jonamacorchard.com

Related: 100 Things to Do in Chicago Before the Kids Turn 10

Jack's Pumpkin Patch Pop-Up

Looking for a corn maze, but don't want to leave the city? You're in luck! Jack's Pumpkin Patch Pop-Up has the city's largest family-friendly corn maze (before 7 p.m.), carnival games, a pumpkin patch, and so much more. It's recommended that you buy your tickets in advance, but they do accept walk-ups. They are open everyday from Sept. 22 - Oct. 31.

1265 W. LeMoyne St.
Chicago
Online: jackspumpkinpopup.com

Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm
With 30 attractions on hand, Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm in Crest Hill, truly is a solid catch-all for kids of all ages and interests, whether said interests include pumpkin-picking, pony rides, climbing walls, jellies and jams, hay rides, or even “zombie” paintball. Then, of course, there’s the corn maze, open weekends through October 31. Spanning 15 acres, the corn maze contains 5 miles of winding pathways.

17250 S. Weaver Rd.
Crest Hill
Online: ourpumpkinfarm.com

Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch
Through October 31, the farm opens its gates to visitors clambering for homemade fudge and caramel apples and those eager to ride the ponies and take a run through the mazes. The mazes here come in two varieties: a larger corn maze good for slightly older children and a “munchkin maze” ideal for younger kids.

42W813 Reinking Rd.
Hampshire
Online: goebbertspumpkinpatch.com

 

 

 

 

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From the moment of birth, your toddler has been exploring their environment through of all their senses. They’ve touched foreign objects, smelled new scents, learned to recognize your face, have grown to love your voice and tasted so many new flavors (Woah, who knew milk was so awesome?). These key experiences increased their understanding and sense of curiosity and also helped develop their physical, mental and emotional capabilities.

As they enter pre-nursery, their sensory exploration will help them learn more and gain a whole new set of skills. Known as sensory play, activities that incorporate and exercise the senses can enhance your tot’s brain function, fine and gross motor skills and communication, and even ease their emotions.

At the British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park (BISC-LP), a unique, private international school for students ages 15 months to 11 years old, sensory exploration and play-based learning is a core component of the pre-nursery program. In a safe and nurturing environment, toddlers are supported in their first school setting through lessons that engage their senses and are centered on play to help foster emotional and social development.

Separate from a traditional daycare or pre-school, BISC-LP’s toddler program helps to build a strong academic foundation for future grade levels. Students will be able to tackle a more challenging curriculum, like foreign languages, STEAM subjects, athletics and performing arts.

“These foundational skills acquired in our early years’ program support each child with their learning and independence, enabling them to excel to their full potential as they progress in our ongoing academic program,” explains Emma Taylor, BISC-LP Pre-Nursery Director.

For BISC-LP, however, scent, smell, touch, taste and sight aren’t the only senses that children should explore their environment with. The toddler program also highlights the vestibular sense (the movement and balance sense that provides information about where our head and body are in space) and the proprioception sense (the body awareness sense that tells us where our body parts are relative to each other).

The reason for the focus on seven versus five? The unique combination “enables children to fully immerse with the characteristics of effective learning,” according to Taylor. To learn more about how sensory play can help your child as they take on school, we’ve listed out the top five benefits.

1. Promotes communication and language development

As toddlers play and engage with other children in class, they’re able to use all of their senses. They see their classmates running around, they hear nursery rhymes being played, they feel the different textures of toys, they’re able to share and taste snacks, and they may even smell certain objects depending on what it is (like that distinct Play-Doh scent from our childhood). By using multiple senses simultaneously, tots can practice describing what they’re doing and better explain their emotions towards a task.

2. Supports cognitive growth

From birth to age three, babies form over 1 million neural connections in their brain every second—and sensory play helps to bridge these pathways more. As they tackle new challenges through hands-on activities that spark their curiosity, problem solving, exploration and creativity, your little sponge is constantly absorbing new memories. Taylor adds that by incorporating these multi- sensory, first-hand experiences, children can connect and inquire about the world.

3. Boosts gross motor skills

With each day that passes, your little one can begin to do more and more with their body. This happens thanks to their growing gross motor skills (movements related to a child’s growing arms, legs, trunks and feet). Through sensory play at school, youngsters can increase their strength and coordination of these large muscle groups even more. Whether they’re learning to throw a ball, mastering the art of crawling or jumping and running all throughout the schoolyard, you’ll have a tiny explorer always on the go.

4. Encourages fine motor skills

Sensory play also has a key role in the development of a kiddos’ fine motor skills, which are the coordination and movement of the small muscle groups in the body (eyes, hands, fingers and wrists. By practicing holding a crayon, stacking up blocks and squeezing a handful of gooey slime, preschoolers can increase their hand-eye coordination and ability to grasp, as well as enhance their proprioception sense. “[Children can learn] about how much force to use, allowing us them to do something like crack an egg while not crushing the egg in their hands,” explains Taylor.

5. Helps calm children when overwhelmed

For toddlers, sensory overload and mixed emotions can result in the form of tantrums, outbursts, or sullen rage. A sensory activity, like squishing sand between their fingers, listening to music, and doing stretching exercises or breathing techniques, can help to calm these mood swings and ease feelings of anger, frustration and sadness. “Toddlers thrive when they are loved and well cared for, so building relationships is key to each child feeling safe, secure, and ready to learn,” says Taylor. “We support children when they’re having big feelings in a nurturing way, by providing cuddles and singing songs.”

At the British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park, your tot will begin to explore their surroundings through sensory play, which is foundational to their older years. Contact the school today to begin your child’s educational journey in the pre-nursery program! 

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Take your family to these great places that are perfect for a crisp stroll and a chance to see the fall foliage in all its glory

Fall is around the corner and will certainly come through Chicago in a blaze of red, yellow, orange and gold. In between apple picking and pumpkin patch hopping, color your family’s world and take a nature walk—maybe even turn it into a family bike ride. Whether you’re pushing a stroller at the Chicago Botanical Garden, pumping those legs on a bike or lacing up little hiking boots at Pilcher Park Nature Center, there are plenty of leafy paradises to explore in and around the city.

Chicago Park District

Garden of the Phoenix at Jackson Park

Yet another reason to spend an afternoon on the South Side, The Garden of the Phoenix is modeled after traditional Japanese "stroll gardens," where each turn gives way to a photo-worthy panorama. The garden symbolizes Japan and the U.S.'s complicated 160-year story of friendship, turmoil and prosperity. It's even home to Skylanding, Yoko Ono's first permanent art installation in the United States comprised of a dozen lotus-shaped petals. Take snaps of the fall colors, as well as the pagoda and curved walking ridges. The garden was originally designed for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition by Frederick Law Olmsted, the mastermind behind New York City's Central Park. You'll find it at the south end of the Museum of Science and Industry.

6401 S. Stony Island Dr.
Hyde Park, IL
Online: gardenofthephoenix.org

fall strolls in chicago
Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden

This North Shore destination is 26 gardens in one—and each has a different feel and plenty of vibrant colors. Stroll the 385 acres of land and pause at the most photogenic sites. They include the Japanese Garden, where you can pose and play amidst striking bonsai plants. And don't miss the English Walled Garden, where you can make like you're in the Cotswalds. 

1000 Lake Cook Rd.
Glencoe, IL
Online: chicagobotanic.org

Related: Low-Key Thrill Seek as a Family at The Forge: Lemont Quarries

fall strolls in chicago
Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

Pilcher Park Nature Center

Trek to Joliet for a blaze of fall colors at this worth-the-drive oasis. You might already know it for its Fairy Fest, a kid-idolized dress-up extravaganza held every May. In autumn, it's a great place for leisurely walks on forested paths on 640 acres that's peppered with picnic grounds and playground areas.

2501 Highland Park Dr.
Joliet, IL
Online: jolietpark.org

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond

Hidden just north of Lincoln Park Zoo, this tree-spangled paradise has landscape architecture history that grownups appreciate; it was designed by Alfred Caldwell in the Prairie School style and named a National Historic Landmark in 2006. Kids go bananas for the rich fall colors and water lilies that float in the pool. Open mid-April through mid-November.

125 W. Fullerton Pkwy.
Chicago, IL
Online: lincolnparkconservancy.org

Morton Arboretum

The 1,700 acres of verdant green space are the stuff dream backyards are made of. Wander the 16 miles of paved and wood-chipped walking paths, and romp around the Children's Garden; it has secret streams, huge wooden playground structures and photo opportunities so pretty you'll do backflips.

A visit to the Arboretum this fall is extra special because you can walk the Scarecrow Trail and see the five massive outdoor sculptures that make up the temporary Human + Nature exhibit. 

4100 Illinois Route 53
Lisle, IL
Online: mortonarb.org

Related: Captain Your Own Boat Down the River with Chicago Electric Boats

fall strolls in chicago
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North Park Village Nature Center

Give autumn a shout-out at one of the city's adored nature centers. Its trails wind through woodland, wetland, prairie and savanna—and fall colors take hold everywhere. Drop by the birding area for peeks at rare birds. Visit the Discovery Room, which has an area where you can touch and feel nature objects native to the area.

5801 N. Pulaski Rd.
Chicago
Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

Promontory Point in Burnham Park

This man-made peninsula can be accessed by Chicago's Lakefront Trail and has excellent views of the skyline from afar. But you're more likely to be peeping the fall foliage. Blazing red and yellow leaves look at all more picturesque when set against the backdrop of Lake Michigan and skyscrapers. Of note to architecture buffs: The landscaping was designed by noted designer Alfred Caldwell and includes stone rings along the lakefront that are now used as fire pits.

Lake Shore Dr. & 55th St.
Chicago
Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

Rock Cut State Park

Fall color clusters around two shimmering bodies of water—Pierce Lake and Olson Lake—at this destination located just outside Rockford. The restored prairie land looks not only painterly, but it's also a great place for bird watching. If you don't want to walk the trails, there are also opportunities for horseback riding.

7318 Harlem Rd.
Loves Park
Online: illinois.gov

Related: 100 Things to Do in Chicago Before the Kids Turn 10

Starved Rock

Take a short road trip an hour and a half southwest of Chicago to explore land that was once home to Native American tribes. It has 13 miles of well-marked walking trails that cut down and around rugged rock formations. The trails jag in and out of canyons and are not stroller friendly. However, if you have older kids they're worth the trek, even if only for the beautiful waterfalls that dot the way. If you have a stroller, stick to the one-mile sidewalk that surrounds the observation deck behind Starved Rock Lodge, the park's onsite family friendly hotel.

2668 E. 875th Rd.
Oglesby, IL
Online: starvedrocklodge.com

LaBagh Woods

Located at the southern start of the popular North Branch Trail, LaBagh Woods is host to diverse natural areas, including wooded landscapes, wetlands, savannas, and sedge meadows. Known for exceptional birding opportunities, this site is an ideal destination for families to spend an hour or a full day.

W. Foster Ave. & N. Cicero Ave.
Chicago, IL
Online: fpdcc.com

 

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Choosing a school for your child is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in their lifetime. The right school will provide them an educational, spiritual and social foundation, ultimately equipping them with the essential skills needed for a successful future. What they will learn within the classroom walls is an extension of your family’s beliefs and values, especially when those are based in the Catholic faith. So how can you make such a seemingly daunting decision in a city like Chicago, which offers so many options?

Established over 130 years ago in the heart of the beautiful Lincoln Park neighborhood, St. Josaphat School (SJS) educates over 380 students from Pre-K through 8th grade, and it prides itself on offering a caring, welcoming, faith-based environment at a reasonable cost. But don’t take our word for it. Here are four reasons it stands out amongst the rest:

1. A commitment to “Enlighten, Empower, Excel”

Winner of two Blue Ribbon Awards for Excellence, SJS offers the highest Catholic education through four levels — Early Childhood, Primary, Intermediate and Junior High — preparing each student for a lifetime of learning and service. In addition to language arts, math, sciences and religion, each level includes special classes in foreign languages, arts, music, physical education, library and STEM, helping students develop important skills while furthering their education.

2. Highly skilled and supportive faculty & staff

Comprised of 40 professionals, both faculty and staff are committed to encouraging each child to pursue their passions and interests, in great part thanks to the small class size with a 10 to 1 student-to-teacher ratio, which enables each child to be individually nurtured spiritually, socially, intellectually and physically. Parents of current students have praised teachers for being smart, kind and invested in their child’s development under the leadership of Principal Mullens, and appreciated their commitment to in-person learning even through the challenges of the recent pandemic.

3. A welcoming faith-based community

In contrast to larger public institutions across Chicago where individuality is often overshadowed by class sizes, this small, private and faith-based school fosters a sense of community and service for both students and their families. With a variety of after-school activities and thanks to the inclusive and welcoming environment permeating the entire organization, new students and their parents will feel like part of an extended family.

4. Excellent extra-curricular activities and athletic programs

To round out a rigorous curriculum, SJS also offers a wide variety of activities and programs to suit each of their students’ interests. Their team sports program starts at the Junior level from Pre-K through 3rd grade, becoming more challenging through 7th and 8th grade, and fostering integrity, teamwork, and respect while preparing each child for competition beyond grade school. Students can also pursue interests outside of sports, with after-school clubs and programs that range from band and choir to chess or theater.

Want to learn more? Schedule a tour of St. Josaphat School or send an email to admissions@stjosaphat.net.

 

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Show your grandparents how much they mean to you by treating them to one (or all) of these exciting events in Chicago

Is there anything more special than a grandparent? We’re giving that an emphatic no! And is there anything more exciting than experiencing the city with grandparents? With so many accessible, exciting things to do in Chicago, there are plenty of ways to celebrate a visit from such a beloved relative. Spend precious time with your loved ones and make special memories with these attractions, perfect for all generations.

Comb the Orchards for Apples

It's hard to believe, but apple picking season has arrived. Get the grandparents in on the sweet fun by visiting one of Chicagoland's u-pick apple orchards. Be sure to leave time to have chats over an apple cider donut. We recommend a visit to County Line Orchard. Only 45 miles from the city, it's a far easier commute than many farms hours away. Plus, at County Line, you can experience apple picking, train rides, a corn maze, and a kid's farm. Everyone will have a blast!

200 S. County Line Rd.
Hobart, IN
Online: www.countylineorchard.com

Related: 11 Tips for Grandparents Traveling with Grandkids

Plan a Day Built on Fun at the Morton Arboretum

Sculpture enthusiasts of every age will be dazzled as they search for eight larger-than-life, nature-inspired sculptures throughout the Arboretum's exhibit Human + Nature. Use this map from Morton Arboretum to help you on your hunt and to learn about their names. Be sure to stop by the Children's Garden where kids splash, dig, and play in a kid-safe environment.

4100 Illinois Route 53
Lisle, IL
Online: mortonarb.org

Related: A Heartfelt Salute to Parents from Grandparents

grandparents day
Chicago Architecture Center

Geek Out on Architecture

It might sound completely touristy, but the 90-minute Architectural Boat Tour is by far one of the best activities for visitors to Chicago. All while cruising the Chicago River, attendees can learn the fascinating stories behind more than 50 buildings and discover how Chicago grew from a small settlement into one of the world's largest cities, as told by an expertly trained volunteer docent. If you can hang, we recommend taking one of the tours that will be cruising when the sun sets—it makes the ride extra magical. 

112 E. Wacker Dr.
Chicago, IL
Online: architecture.org

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Put Those Pinkies Up for Tea Party

Grandparents deserve white glove service! So, make a reservation for Afternoon Tea at Palm Court in the Drake Hotel. Experience delicious tea, finger sandwiches, cakes, and scones. You and the kiddos will feel like royalty, especially if you book a Prince & Princess Afternoon Tea.

140 E. Walton Place
Chicago, IL
Online: thedrakehotel.com

Related: Easy Ways to Stay Connected to Grandparents from a Distance

Take Them to a Show They'll Never Forget

You just can't miss a chance to see a Broadway in Chicago show. You just can't. So, bring Grandma and Grandpa along for a musical theater experience they'll never forget. Anastasia runs Sep. 20-25 and Wicked runs Sep. 28-Dec. 4. 

17 N. State St. Ste. 810
Chicago, IL
Online: broadwayinchicago.com

White Sox

Spend a Family Sunday with the Sox

Got a south-side baseball lover in the mix? Catch the White Sox play the Tigers at the last Family Sunday Baseball Game of the season, on Sep. 25. The ballpark experience will feature special kid-focused activities and it's guaranteed that you'll have a great time!

333 W. 35th St.
Chicago, IL
Online: mlb.com

Related: The Best Movies to Watch with Grandparents

grandparents day
Midnight Circus in the Parks

Have Big Top Fun in the Park 

Chicago’s offbeat and totally entertaining circus, Midnight Circus in the Parks, takes its act on the road, performing in parks in all corners of the city. It’s all for a good cause, too: The tour raises money to improve the city's many public parks and playgrounds.

1140 W. 84th St.
Chicago, IL
Online: midnightcircus.net

Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Visit an Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor

Is there anything better than ice cream?! Take your grandparent to Homer's Gourmet Ice Cream for a delicious treat and special experience at an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. Apparently, Homer's was a favorite of Al Capone!

1237 Green Bay Rd.
Wilmette, IL
Online: homersicecream.com

See the Flourish Exhibit at Chicago Botanic Garden

Experience the delightful sights of huge sculptures that show the connection between art and nature at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Flourish: The Garden. The exhibit features 10 amazing structures created by different artists from Chicago and around the world. The exhibit closes Sep. 25.

1000 Lake Cook Rd.
Glencoe, IL
Online: chicagobotanic.org

Related: 10 Lessons I Learned from My Grandparents

grandparents day
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Check Out the Scaumburg Park District

The Schaumburg Park District is full of great family-friendly events that would be perfect for the grandparents to join in on throughout the fall season. Enjoy a movie in the park on Sep. 16 or Octoberfest on Oct. 8. You'll find the events listed on page 6 of the Fall Program Guide

505 N. Springinsguth Rd.
Schaumburg, IL
Online: parkfun.com

Mercury Canine Cruise Chicago

Cruise with Grandma's Pup

Dogs on boats? Yes! If Grandma has a pooch, bring it along on Mercury's Canine Cruise for quality time cruising on Chicago's waterways. Sit back, relax, and soak in the city as you enjoy a lively narration of Chicago’s rich history and architectural marvels with dog-friendly highlights.

112 E. Wacker Dr.
Chicago, IL
Online: mercurycruises.com

 

 

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There’s no better place to be than outside during Labor Day weekend in Chicago, so we’ve rounded up the best outdoor family-friendly festivals and activities to soak up the sun

Labor Day weekend can be a magical time in Chicago. Summer breaks are over and kids have just returned to school, so it serves as one last chance for some carefree summer fun. Some will head out of town, but many of us locals know that there is no better time, and no shortage of fun, to have right here in the Windy City. Festivals are plentiful this time of year, the lake has finally reached a comfortable temperature, and if the sun is shining, people will be found outdoors soaking it up in any way they can.

Among the outdoor fun to be had this Labor Day weekend—for the foodies, the audiophiles, and adventure junkies alike—there is a little something for everyone and every budget. So grab your sunscreen, and your family, and head on out to savor a long holiday weekend. If you haven’t already, you’ll discover what makes this such a special time in the city.

The Great American Lobster Fest
The Great American Lobster Fest celebrates its seventh year at Navy Pier. Enjoy live lobster flown in fresh from the cold waters of the East Coast, live music performances, family-friendly games, unique craft shopping, and cold beverages. Picky eaters need not worry: they’ll also have plenty of dessert and non-seafood items to please the whole family! The festival grounds are open to the general public to enjoy live music and many different food, drink, and craft vendor options. Do note that no lobster meals are included for walk-up guests, and VIP or special meal experiences are a separate fee.

When: Sep. 2-4
Navy Pier
600 E. Grand Ave.
Online: lobsterfest.com

Related: The Best Ways to Use Up Every Last Drop of Summer in Chicago

North Park Neighborhood Artisan Market
Whether you are looking for a cool t-shirt, a toy or souvenir your family has not seen before or a one-of-a-kind collectible for your home, shopping in Chicago is more dynamic and delightful at Navy Pier. Learn about the different neighborhoods of Chicago and their talented residents. Meet local artists, see their craft and learn their stories. While you are at the Pier you can find plenty of things to do as a family—from splashing in the fountain at Polk Bros park to climbing aboard the ferris wheel for a bird’s eye view of the city and lake.

When: Sep. 2-4
Navy Pier
600 E. Grand Ave.
Online: navypier.com

Chicago Jazz Festival
The Chicago Jazz Festival is a Labor Day weekend tradition that promotes all forms of jazz through free, high-quality music programming. The festival showcases Chicago’s local talent alongside national and international artists to raise awareness and appreciation for one of the city’s most beloved art forms.

When: Sep. 2-4
Millennium Park
201 E. Randolph St.
Online: jazzinchicago.com

Nashwood
Slip on your boots and don your cowboy hats and head to Downtown Highwood for three days of live country, bluegrass, southern rock music and some tasty Southern inspired food and drinks! This event is free and for all ages with a family-friendly lineup and activities on both Friday and Saturday.

When: Sep. 2-4
Highwood Ave. & Green Bay Rd.
Highwood, IL
Online: celebratenashwood.com

Lincoln Square Greek Fest
Opa! Celebrate the end of summer at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church over Labor Day weekend for their annual Lincoln Square Greek Fest. Enjoy Greek food, delicious pastries, loukoumades (Greek honey puffs), NORTHSIDE’s performance on Friday, Greek dance troupes, and the Hellenic marketplace.

When: Sep. 2-5
St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
2727 W. Winona St.
Online: lincolnsquaregreekfest.com

Taste of Polonia Festival
Did someone say pierogi? For four days, you can enjoy a true cultural experience that includes nonstop live music, dance performances, authentic Polish food and beer, exhibitions, local merchants, a casino, beer garden, a kids stage and area filled with great activities and much much more! The largest Polish festival in the US is a Labor Day weekend tradition in Chicago.

When: Sep. 2-5
5216 W Lawrence Ave.
Online: tasteofpolonia.com

Fireworks at Navy Pier
Catch the final fireworks show of the summer over Labor Day weekend. You can see the fireworks from Navy Pier, or find a vantage point along the lake shore if you want less of a crowd and a little space to spread out. You can also check out one of the many options to watch the show aboard a boat!

When: Sep. 3
Navy Pier
600 E Grand Ave
Online: navypier.com

Related: Discover the Not-So-Obvious Spots to Hike, Camp & Fish Near Chicago

Bike the Drive
Grab your helmets and set your morning alarms for a Sunday morning ride along DuSable Lake Shore Drive—from the neighborhoods of Edgewater to Bronzeville—to explore Chicago in a new way while spending time being active outdoors together. While the main festival is located in iconic Grant Park, you are able to begin riding from any of the five entry points along the course and you can choose to do the full 30-mile loop, or you can stop, or change direction at any of the checkpoints and rest stops along the way. You can register in advance for this event to avoid paying “same day” pricing. This event does support the Active Transportation Alliance which works to enhance walking, biking, and public transportation conditions throughout Chicago.

When: Sep. 4
DuSable Lake Shore Drive (between Bryn Mawr Ave. and Oakwood Blvd.)
Online: bikethedrive.com

Art on theMART
Mesmerizing and beautiful since its debut in 2018, this is something worth seeing at least once in your life, but with a seasonally changing schedule of shows, you can see it over and over in a year if you like! In fact, Labor Day weekend is a great time to see the current shows before new ones debut September 8th. Art on theMart is the largest permanent digital art exhibit in the world, covering over 2 acres of the building’s south facade. Pack a picnic and use public transportation to save yourself the hassle (and expense) of parking.

When: Nightly at 9 p.m.
Chicago Riverwalk (between Lake & Wells)
Online: artonthemart.com

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Want the scoop on the coolest ice cream shops across Chicago? These 20 spots serve up creative cones and tasty treats your kids will not soon forget

Going out for an ice cream is a simple and relatively affordable way to celebrate life’s little milestones. Although you don’t need a reason to treat yourself, whether it be the first day of school, a good report card, or a dance recital, a cold, creamy reward helps say, “cone-gratulations.” It’s also a great way to cone-sole (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves!) a scraped knee, a lost soccer game, or even a bad day. Forget chicken soup: ice cream soothes the soul. 

And the options are endless, particularly in Chicago, where cool ice cream shops pop up often. From a single scoop to a banana split, from hard serve to soft, and from traditional flavors to avant-garde taste combinations, this sweet treat gets a new spin seemingly anywhere you go. In fact, even the lactose intolerant and plant-based vegans can indulge in some of our top 20 recommendations for the best, most unforgettable ice cream shops in the city.

Eli’s Ark
If you want your ice cream cone to have a cute face before you devour it, head to Eli’s Ark. The process? First, pick the number of scoops you want, then choose your animal—or animals. Do you want animals to piggyback each other? Picture a unicorn, on top of a pig, on top of a koala. The end result is a delicious, artistic creation almost too adorable to eat. 

1843 W. North Ave.
Wicker Park
Online: instagram.com/elisarkchicago/

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Jeni’s carries some of the most interesting flavors you will find, so it makes sense that the Ohio founder, Jeni Britton, started out mixing scented oils with different foods before she began experimenting with ice cream. Where else will you find cream cheese ice cream with everything bagel gravel or goat cheese with red cherries? If the saying didn’t already exist, Jeni’s would have certainly inspired, “Don’t knock it ’til you try it.” They even have dairy-free and gluten-free flavors.

Insider Tip: Keep a steady supply by joining their subscription pint club. 

Various city locations, plus you can buy at many local grocery chains, including Mariano’s, Whole Foods, and Target
Online: jenis.com

Kilwins
One of the newer entrants to the Chicago ice cream scene, Kilwins originated in Michigan. In addition to some of the kids’ favorite flavors like Superman and Blue Moon, they have an abundance of rich, hard-serve flavors and sorbetto. While you wait for them to scoop your ice cream, watch as they hand-craft Mackinac Island fudge and caramel apples. You’ll undoubtedly want to bring some of that home as well.

3519 N. Clark St.
Wrigleyville

Online: kilwins.com

Related: Chicago Restaurants With Desserts Worth Saving Room For

Kurimu
Kurimu puts an Asian spin to its ice cream flavors, from Thai ice tea to lychee pearl and purple yam. The exotic flavors are matched by the colorful, artful cones. Aside from the vibrantly color-blocked handheld desserts, you can also enjoy beautiful bubble teas.

1159 W. Taylor St.
UIC

1632 W. Division St.
Wicker Park

601 N. Martingale Rd.
Schaumburg
Online: kurimuchicago.com

Vaca’s Vegan Creamery
Vegans certainly need not miss out on the joys of ice cream, and Vaca’s is making sure of it. The creamery uses high-quality, certified gluten-free oat milk for their vanilla and chocolate soft serve and have designed four specialty sundaes. They ensure all of their ingredients align with vegan values, which means there are no animal sources whatsoever, and they also have a strong commitment to social responsibility and paying their employees fairly. 

1436 W. Blackhawk St.
Wicker Park

Online: vacascreamery.com

Shawn Michelle’s Homemade Ice Cream
Enjoy delicious ice cream while supporting a black-owned, woman-owned small business. Shawn Michelle’s signature flavors include banana pudding, bourbon butter pecan, strawberry cookies and cream, Blue Moon, Caribbean sunset (mango), Superman, lunchroom butter cookie, chocolate peanut butter and jelly, and chocolate harmony. She also has a vegan menu and five signature sundaes. Join their loyalty program and enjoy BOGO single size scoops on Saturdays and Sundays—but, heads up, both scoops must be the same flavor.

46 East 47th St.
Bronzeville

Online: smhmicmenu.wordpress.com

 

Pretty Cool Ice Cream
Pretty Cool Ice Cream launched in 2018 by founders Dana Cree, author of Hello, My Name is Ice Cream, and Michael Ciapciak, founder of Bang Bang Pie and Biscuits. They specialize in hand-made treats reminiscent of what you might find on an ice-cream truck. However, their skilled artisans work with the best ingredients to create edible works of contemporary art on popsicle sticks.

2353 N. California Ave.
Logan Square

709 W. Belden Ave.
Lincoln Park
Online: prettycoolicecream.com

Museum of Ice Cream
For the ultimate ice cream experience, visit the Museum of Ice Cream in the former Chicago Tribune building. Learn about the history of ice cream through 14 multi-sensory installations, take a dip in the sprinkle pool, and ride on the Chicago Sprink-L Line. Multiple ice cream treats in five different shapes and forms are included with your ticket.

Insider Tip: Reservations must be made in advance.

435 N. Michigan Ave.
River North

Online: museumoficecream.com

Sugar Factory
It’s not simply an ice cream shop, but the Sugar Factory cannot be ignored. After all, it is home to the World Famous Sugar Factory King Kong Sundae—a 20-scoop mountain of ice cream covered with hot fudge, caramel, and strawberry sauces and topped with bananas, marshmallows, chocolate chip cookie chunks, a donut, a cupcake, gummy bears, sprinkles, graham cracker crumbs, all sorts of candy, whipped cream, and cherries. The $99 masterpiece serves 12! Of course there are also their “Insane Milkshakes” and other desserts as Instagram-worthy as they are delicious. Plus the club-like party atmosphere will be a sure hit with the kids. 

55 E. Grand Ave.
River North

5445 Park Place
Rosemont
Online: sugarfactory.com

Lickity Split Frozen Custard & Sweets
Does anything say summer more than a peach cobbler concrete? It is one of the many rotating flavors available at Lickity Split. Along with ten other concrete concoctions, you can design your own using the various retro candy on sale. That’s right: with a base of either the chocolate, vanilla, or featured custard flavor, you can get anything from a simple cone to five sundae recipes, or a shake or malt. They even have warm treats including hot chocolate and affogato. 

6056 N. Broadway Ave.
Edgewater

7000 N. Western Ave.
West Rogers Park
Online: lickitysplitchicago.com

Related: Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Parlors That Scoop Serious Nostalgia

The Original Rainbow Cone
The Original Rainbow Cone is a 95-year-old Chicago tradition: it’s a tower of five flavors that include orange sherbet, pistachio, Palmer House (otherwise known as vanilla with cherries), strawberry, and, of course, chocolate. Although you could enjoy each layer individually and work your way down, if you start from the bottom, it is the perfect lick up to the top! Also available are tiered cakes and cake rolls, as well as additional flavors like black walnut and mint flake, a perfect addition to sundaes and shakes.

Various locations in Beverly, Lombard, Darien, and Navy Pier (as well as roaming ice cream trucks, which are often parked near Shedd Aquarium and the Lincoln Park Zoo.)
Online: rainbowcone.com

Margie’s Candies
Another Chicago institution, this ice-cream parlor and candy shop has been in the Poulos family since 1921 and is known to have been visited by the likes of Al Capone and The Beatles. The 57 different sundaes on the menu come with a side of hot fudge for you to drizzle yourself—so there’s a little fudge in every spoonful. Bring your children in with an “A” on their report card for a free cone. And don’t forget to bring home some decadent confections from their candy counter.

1960 N. Western Ave.
Bucktown

1813 W Montrose Ave.
North Center

Banana Cream Ice Cream
Looking to support a woman-owned business? Step right up to Banana Cream Ice Cream, whose specialties include coconut ice cream served within a coconut shell, five wild milkshakes, hot cinnamon waffle rolls, ice cream cookie sandwiches, vegan ice cream, and—of course—banana splits. Promotions include $1.50 scoops every Wednesday.

6305 N. Clark St.
Edgewater

Online: instagram.com/bananacream_icecream/

Sundae Stop
Kids will get a kick out of the replica CTA train inside the Sundae Stop, which makes its own ice cream, sorbet, vegan ice cream, and waffle cones just steps from the Belmont Red Line CTA stop. Its menu celebrates the various CTA train lines and Chicago neighborhoods, so step aboard for the Red Line Brownie Sundae or Pilsen Ice Cream Nachos. They also specialize in crepes.

931 W. Belmont Ave.
Lakeview

Online: sundaestop.com

Cone Gourmet Ice Cream
Owner Sean McGuire hails from Ireland and thus infuses little Irish twists to Cone’s menu with toppings such as Irish chocolate flake bars, Lucky Charms, and salt ‘n’ vinegar chips. Cone offers European-style soft serve in both dairy and non-dairy options. As an added bonus, Lil Cones for kids 5 years old and under are only $2! Cone is also an excellent venue for a party with its spacious indoor party room or outside patio. Birthday party options include a build-your-own sundae bar, character visits, an ice cream cone piñata, homemade frozen bananas dipped in Irish chocolate, and more. Don’t forget to grab your Lucky You card which will get you a free cone or sundae after nine cone or sundae purchases. 

1047 W. Madison St.
West Loop

Online: conechicago.com

Black Dog Gelato
For those who prefer gelato to ice cream, there is no better place than Jessica Oloroso’s Black Dog Gelato. Flavors can vary month to month, but expect to find their signature Italian custard, which is inspired by the Italian dessert Zabione with additional yolks added for a richer custard base and finished with a Marsala wine. Their bold mint cookie is another signature flavor, while banoffee praline (bananas and coffee) and cassatta (Ricotta gelato, maraschino and dark cherries, candied orange peel, and chocolate), are featured periodically. Dairy-free flavors rotate on and off the menu as well, and you’d never guess they are free of milk, cream, and eggs. Try all their flavors by joining the Pint Club.

859 N. Damen Ave.
Ukrainian Village

1012 W. Lake St.
West Loop

2662 N. Sawyer Ave.
Logan Square
Online: blackdoggelato.com

Related: A New Mecca of Sweets and Other Candy Shops in Chicago

JoJo’s Shake Bar
Visitors to the city flock to JoJo’s Shake Bar for their out-of-this-world Biggie Shakes, certain to impress kids of all ages. They are less about the ice cream blend, and more about the over-the-top toppings. For instance, The Gold Digger is a caramel toffee shake with a toffee dodo, a gold star marshmallow, a toffee pretzel, and a full size white chocolate macadamia nut cookie. The Rocky IV is a banana Reese’s Pieces shake with a toffee marshmallow, a white chocolate boxing glove, and a full size peanut butter cookie. Kids also love the Milk and Cookie Flight which includes four fresh-baked cookies paired with four house-made milks. 

23 W. Hubbard St.
River North

916 W. Fulton Market
Time Out Market

5 Jackson Ave.
Naperville
Online: jojosshakebar.com

Hooyahs Ice Cream Shoppe
It might be a bit of a drive or a long ride on the Metra, but Hooyahs is worth the trip. Located within the Great Lakes Metra train station and a short walk from the Great Lakes Naval Base, the family-owned and operated shop has a naval theme. Patrons rave about the Barge, a nine-flavor sample or the Ships and Dip ice cream nachos. Kids will love their flavors from Playdough to Pirate’s Bounty and Elephant Tracks. Breakfast foods and hot dogs are also offered. 

3000 Sheridan Rd.
Lake Bluff

Online: hooyahsicecream.com

Scooter’s
Believe it or not, although it only opened in 2003, Scooters is the oldest frozen custard shop in Chicago. Vanilla, chocolate, and a custard flavor of the day are made fresh, daily, on-site. Although they have numerous concrete and sundae suggestions, you are welcome to create your own. They also serve Italian ice parfaits (half custard, half Italian ice.) Hot dogs are also on the menu. Because Scooter’s has become part of the fabric of Roscoe Village, residents often congregate outside the take-out window, while their toddlers, and even their dogs, enjoy free cones with their purchase. 

1658 W. Belmont Ave.
Roscoe Village
Online: scootersfrozencustard.com

Oberweis Ice Cream and Dairy Store
Serving both hard serve and soft serve, shakes, cakes, and frozen lattes, Oberweis has it all. The shop is very kid-friendly with chess and checkers on the tables and more games available upon request. Plus, colorful balloons are up for grabs to any kid who wants one. If you’ve got errands to run, it’s worth noting that you can pick up some light grocery items—like milk, butter, and eggs—while you are there. Oberweis also offers a HappyLicious loyalty program and great fundraising opportunities for local sports teams and school groups.  

3055 N. Sheffield Ave.
Lakeview

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Have you been a tourist in your own city lately? Time to check out these awesome things to do in Chicago with kids!

Keeping a family entertained, particularly in a big city, can deflate the wallet rather quickly. Teach your family the value of a dollar by exploring the free (or, at the very least, the incredibly cheap) things you do in Chicago with kids. Although there are countless new free events happening every week, we gathered up our top overall picks, which add up to a whole wealth of fun. Plus, it’s easy on your pocketbook. You can thank us later.

Free Museums and Zoos in Chicago

things to do in chicago with kids
Taylor Clifton

Lincoln Park Zoo

It’s full of creatures big and small, it has the perfect lakeside address with gobs of family activities and restaurants all around it, it’s gorgeous . . . and, it’s free! What’s not to love about Lincoln Park Zoo? Plan a day spent at the zoo visiting hundreds of animals from around the world, including critically endangered animals and species that are extinct in the wild.

Online: lpzoo.org

Related: 8 Hidden Gems in Chicago That You Definitely Need to Experience

National Museum of Mexican Art

National Museum of Mexican Art

See a colorful new world unfold at the free-admission National Museum of Mexican Art. The 10,000-piece permanent collection spans ancient Mexico to the present day, and is one of the largest in the country.

Online: nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org

Free Cultural Sites in Chicago

things to do in chicago with kids
Conner Freeman on Unsplash

Cloud Gate

If you've never heard of Cloud Gate, chances are you are well-versed in this free tourist destination thanks to its more popular name based on its peculiar shape, The Bean. Located in Millennium Park, the lakefront attraction has become one of the most identifiable monuments in the city, and perhaps the most fun one to try to snap a selfie with.

Online: chicago.gov

Related: 20+ Things You MUST Do with a Baby in Chicago

things to do in chicago with kids
Anthony Fomin on Unsplash

Baha'i Temple

The beautiful domed building of the Baha'i Temple was constructed in 1953 and designed by French Canadian Louis Bourgeois. Just a stroll around the outside wows with architectural feats. Be sure to take time to check out the intricately carved stone pillars and surrounding manicured gardens during your visit.

Online: bahai.us

Related: Baha’i Temple Is Just One of Chicago’s Hidden Gems—Discover the Rest

things to do in chicago with kids
Albany Capture on Unsplash

Ping Tom Memorial Park

Expose kids to another culture in their own city with a walking tour through Chinatown. Start things off at Ping Tom Memorial Park, known for its traditional architecture and festive dragon boat races as well as gorgeous city skyline views. Then make your way through Chinatown Gate, which leads into “Old Chinatown,” where the area’s original restaurants, homes, churches, and schools are clustered. Don't forget to check out the Nine Dragon Wall, which is one of only three such replicas outside of China. And consider ending your trip with a stop at Legend Tasty House for delicious rolled ice cream.

Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

Free Indoor Activities

Nickel City

Five cents doesn’t get you very far these days, which is why Northbrook’s Nickel City is so refreshing. Games like Skee-Ball and Bozo Buckets take mere nickels instead of pricy tokens, and old-school arcade staples like Pac-Man and Mortal Kombat operate for free. 

Online: nickelcitygames.com

Free Resources

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Chicago Public Libraries

Chicago's public libraries are great spots to visit during the cool-weather months. They have gobs of educational toys, engaging activities and interactive atmospheres. Pay your local library a visit and bring home a stack of books to hibernate with as the weather chills.

A Chicago-Themed Scavenger Hunt

Show your kids the coolness of their hometown with a Chicago-themed scavenger hunt. You'll stroll down the Chicago River to see moveable bridges (or perhaps just do a drive-by if the weather is nippy), find the Picasso installation at Daley Plaza, and intro the kids to a Chicago-style hot dog

 

 

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There comes a time when camping in the living room with Mom and Dad will no longer cut it. If that’s the case, your kids might be ready for their first sleepover. But, like any new milestone, you may worry if it’s the right time to send them to a slumber party. There are no hard and fast rules about the right age: some 6-year-olds might be ready to sleep away from home, some 11-year-olds might not be. So it’s important for parents to assess each opportunity individually. Read on for six signs your kids may be ready for a sleepover or an epic slumber party, and 10 ways you can reassure them that everything will be A-OK once they get there.

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1. They Know What to Expect
Your kid’s first sleepover is a fun rite of passage, but make sure she knows exactly what she’s getting into before she heads out the door. Go over specifics, like navigating the bedtime routine at someone else’s house, and answer all the questions, like whether or not she can still bring her favorite stuffed animal.

2. You’ve Tested It Out
If you’re not quite sure if your child may be ready for a full-fledged slumber party away from home, try it at your house first. This way, you can see if the kids tire of one another or begin to fight with one another. Also, you can opt to throw a “mock sleepover” with a movie, popcorn, and PJs, but call it quits just before bedtime. Then you’ll know you’ve worked your way up to the real deal, but everyone can go home and sleep in their own beds!

Related: Why I’m Saying Yes To Sleepovers This Summer!

 

A little girl goes to sleep with her teddy bear while a parent comforts her after her first sleepover
iStock

3. They’re OK without You
Have you ever had to spend the night away from your child? Perhaps they’ve had a babysitter walk them through brushing and bedtime or stayed with grandparents while you were out of town? If they are OK being away from you overnight, or at least until they fall asleep, they may be ready for their first sleepover.

4. You’ve Asked Questions
Perhaps your little one is thrilled about the pint-sized pajama game, but you’re still a little uneasy. There is nothing wrong with calling up the other parent and asking questions until you feel more comfortable. Everything from “What time will they go to bed?” to “Do you have pets?” are all fair game to calm your nerves. You’ll also want to address any concerns you have about how the parents will handle situations like arguments or kids being scared in the night. And don’t overlook the BIG question: are there guns in your house, and are they kept in a safe, secure place where the children (ANY children) will not have access to? 

5. They’re Planning One
When your kids come home from school, begging for a sleepover with their BFF, it’s a good indication that they’re ready to give it a go. On the flip side, if they seem cautious about the idea or worried about who will tuck them in, they may need more time to warm up to sleeping away from home.

6. You’ve Talked to Your Kids About Inappropriate Touching
Part of feeling safe is being safe and making sure your children understand not just what is good etiquette at the host family’s house, but what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior from the adults and older siblings in the house. While we encourage our children to be polite and on their best behavior, it is equally important to speak frankly with children in a way that will empower them to say “no” and know when something just isn’t right.

Related: The Best Museum & Zoo Sleepovers in the U.S.

 

A little girl dressed in pink pajamas does a happy dance with her stuffed animal during a sleepover
Gail Adams-Arnold on Unsplash

Related: Goodnight Summer! 11 Epic Sleepover Ideas

Encouraging Words

Here are 10 statements you can make to help your little one feel secure at their first sleepover:

  1. "You can call me to say goodnight before you go to bed.”
  2. “I will pick you up first thing in the morning.”
  3. “You can take a picture of us with you.”
  4. “We are only a phone call away.”
  5. “You will have so much fun with your friend and we’ll see you in the morning.”
  6. “[Friend]’s parents will be there in case you need anything.”
  7. “You can bring your pillow, blanket, and stuffed animal with you.”
  8. “We’ll be home if you need us.”
  9. “I’m so proud of you and I want you to have fun with [friend]!”
  10. “I can’t wait to hear all about it when you get home.”

And if all does not go according to plan and you need to dash out to pick up your child early, a simple “maybe next time!” can help them to feel a little less embarrassed about feeling homesick. Happy slumbering!

 

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