About 90 miles south of Milwaukee, Chicago is a city with extraordinary green space, museums, restaurants and zoos — all the right ingredients for a satisfying weekend away for both kids and parents.
Maggie Daley Park, 337 E. Randolph St., Chicago, (312) 742-3918
If you drove into the city, chances are the kids are restless. Head downtown to Maggie Daley Park. Just a walk over a pedestrian bridge from Millennium Park (that’s where “The Bean” is), this new park features a climbing wall, a deluxe playground, a mirrored maze, field house and more. Plus, Maggie Daley Park is a short stroll from the Art Institute of Chicago, a museum known for its collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. The museum offers free admission for kids under 14 and houses a family area filled with art-making activities and games.
Borelli’s, 2124 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, (773) 275-1700
If you are in Chicago, you need to eat pizza, right? Well, thin crust lovers with children in tow will cheer for Borelli’s. The pizza is crispy and satisfying. Plus, there is a game room with pinball, video games and table hockey. And the games are free — no quarters needed! Do take note: Borelli’s is BYOB. Less convenient, but easier on the family pocketbook. Of course, if you are looking for traditional Chicago deep dish, try popping into one of the many Lou Malnati’s around the city.
Coffee and Treats
A Baker’s Tale, 2127 W Division St, Chicago, (872) 206-5581
The décor at this Wicker Park bakery and coffee shop is what really takes the cake. The ornamentation is inspired by the classic tale of Alice In Wonderland. There is a tree indoors, book pages in lieu of leaves, colorful seating, a table with quotes from Lewis Carroll’s famous work and pictures featuring Alice and the Mad Hatter. Treats range from quiches and soups to sweet cupcakes, pies and tarts. The neighborhood, Wicker Park, is hip and trendy, so the cafe is great for people watching.
Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, (773) 684-1414
With so many museums in the city of Chicago, it’s difficult to choose one, but this one tops our list. Interactive exhibits, a life-size tornado display and a complete model of Chicago are just a handful of things to see. Be sure to show your kids the ToyMaker 3000, an assembly line of robot arms creating toys. For a fee, you can customize one yourself. If you are a member of Discovery World in Milwaukee, you receive free admission!
Joy Yee Noodles, 2139 S China Pl., Chicago, (312) 328-0001
Joy Yee is in the newer section of Chinatown, a neighborhood deserving of an extra hour before or after lunch to explore and shop. Serving up fun smoothies and bubble teas, Joy Yee is a hit with the younger set. The drinks are large, and for a young child, could be a meal in itself. There are hundreds of flavor combinations pictured on the colorful drink menu, including mango lychee with tapioca, watermelon freezes and tropical purees. The food menu features noodles, fried rice and chow mein in a bright and friendly room.
Cruise the Chicago River Seadog Cruises at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Avenue, Chicago, (888) 636-7737
Enjoy the river while a guide shares cool tidbits about historic buildings all from a comfy boat seat. Seadog Cruises departs from Navy Pier, which is where the Children’s Museum and Ferris Wheel are located. On the open air, 75-minute tour, passengers see celebrated bridges at close range and learn about the history of Chicago buildings, such as the Tribune Building, Willis Tower, Lyric Opera and the Merchandise Mart. Plus, after a calm float along the river, kids get a kick out of the fast blast back to the pier through Lake Michigan.
Greek Islands, 200 S Halsted St, Chicago, (312) 782-9855
With flaming cheese brought to the table while the staff shouts “Opa!,” it’s hard not to get into a festive mood at this amusing dinner out. Serving up satisfying Greek food at a sound price, Greek Islands is a friendly spot with free valet parking and outdoor seating. For appetizers, try the saganaki (you gotta hear the Opa!), grilled octopus or dolmades. There are many entrée options, too, including moussaka, spinach pie and lamb. While not a spot with a specific kid menu, Greek Islands is an entertaining night out for any age.
Glenn’s Diner, 1820 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, (773) 506-1720
A restaurant with over 30 types of cereal! It’s a breakfast food mecca for the kiddos with an entire wall filled with cereal options. Diner breakfasts, such as omelets, biscuits and gravy and waffles, are alongside a dinner menu focused on seafood. If you stay in Chicago during the week, Tuesday is all-you-can-eat Alaskan king crab legs and Thursday is all-you-can-eat you-peel-‘em shrimp at Glenn’s Diner.
Oz Park, 2021 N Burling St, Chicago, (312) 742-7898
The focal point of this Lincoln Park green space is the Wizard of Oz statues throughout the park. See the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Dorothy and Toto as you stroll to the playground, which is one of the few wooden play lots left in the city. The park is free, and if you want to make a day of it, the Lincoln Park Zoo is nearby.
Mali Anderson lives and writes in Chicago. She prefers to spend her Saturdays sipping coffee at Glenn's Diner, but her daughter usually suggests the family take an L train to Maggie Daley Park. Thankfully, weekends are long enough to do both.