By Megan Horst-Hatch
If your playgroup’s usual location is feeling “played out” with summer well underway, now is the perfect time to get creative with new locations. Whether it’s exploring nature, unwinding in a café, getting hands-on with history or seeing animals up close, the Chicagoland area offers a variety of museums, zoos and parks that can make the dog days of summer more enjoyable. Pack a lunch, grab your sunscreen and get ready to have fun with your playgroup in a new meetup destination.
First Avenue and 31st Street
Brookfield, IL 60513
Price: $15 for adults/$10.50 for seniors 65 and older/$10.50 for children ages 3 to 11
Complete with a petting zoo, dolphin presentations and a hands-on demonstration with stingrays, Brookfield offers exhibits that will appeal to children of any age group. The zoo also features plenty of dining options, including outdoor picnic areas. Brookfield is centrally located near Oak Park and is easily accessible by major interstates, making it an ideal meetup spot for groups with members coming from throughout the area. Parents looking for a caffeine fix to keep up with those little ones will be pleased to know that Brookfield sells Starbucks products at two locations in the zoo.
Chicago History Museum
1601 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614
Price: $14 for adults/$12 for seniors 65 and older/$12 for ages 13 to 22/free for children 12 and younger
While the Chicago History Museum focuses on Chicago’s past, it is anything but old-fashioned. The Museum’s “Sensing Chicago” exhibit is a multi-sensory experience that lets visitors use their noses to experience history through the Smell Map, dress up as a Chicago-style hot dog and catch a fly ball. Aspiring magicians, take note: The Museum’s exhibit “Magic” celebrates Chicago’s place in magic history with daily performances by professional magicians through Sept. 3. Located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, the museum is accessible by car and public transportation.
Indian Boundary Park
2500 W. Lunt Ave.
Chicago, IL 60645
Indian Boundary Park, considered by many to be one of the gems of the Chicago Park District, is the quintessential meetup destination for playdates. Located one block west of Western Avenue in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood, Indian Boundary offers everything you could want for a playdate, including a playground, an open field for playing a quick game of soccer, a lagoon, a children’s spray pool and a small zoo with sheep, goats, chickens and ducks. The park also has picnic benches for that perfect outdoor brunch, lunch or dinner. Street parking is available.
Kohl Children’s Museum
2100 Patriot Blvd.
Glenview, IL 60026
Price: $9.50 for adults and children/$8.50 for grandparents and seniors ages 55 and older
Located near downtown Glenview, Kohl Children’s Museum makes a fun outing for a fun and educational playdate. Featuring a mock-up of a grocery store, restaurant and animal hospital, the museum allows children to explore and learn in a welcoming environment. Parents and caregivers with infants do not need to worry about being in two places at once. With the museum’s infant areas, parents and caregivers may stay with their infant or crawler while also keeping an eye on their older children in nearby areas. In addition, the museum’s public areas are 100 percent ADA-compliant. Così Café is located in the museum’s entrance so parents and caregivers can take a quick break in an easy-to-find location.
Nibbles’ Play Café
13 Huntington Lane
Wheeling, IL 60090
Price: $7.50 per child/$3.75 for siblings
With a hot summer in Chicago’s forecast, you might want an indoor option to beat the heat. Nibbles’ Play Café offers children a safe and welcoming environment where they may play with an ever-rotating collection of toys, including a train table, a baby play area and a dress-up area. The café’s menu features both adult and kid-friendly options; vegan and vegetarian menu items are available as well. The café was designed with parents and small children in mind. The bathrooms feature child-height sinks, child-sized toilets and changing tables in both the men’s and women’s restrooms. The café is located in the Arlington Club Commons shopping center where lot parking is available.
Megan Horst-Hatch is a mother, runner, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She loves nothing more than a great cupcake, and writes at I’m a Trader Joe’s Fan. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.