Chicago’s lower West side community of Pilsen has a strong Hispanic and artistic presence and is known as an affordable place to raise a family. It’s a great neighborhood to wander around and explore, with loads of public art and storefront galleries. Early Slavic settlers named it Pilsen after a city in the Czech Republic, renowned as the origin of Pilsner beer. Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood became a National Historic Register District in 2006 and has plenty to do for all ages. Here are some of the fun things families can enjoy.
Most of the best food and funky thrift shopping are all along 18th street. Get the authentic flavor of the neighborhood by buying mango or coconut bars right from the paleta (ice cream) salesmen. Or try elotes (corn on the cob) with chili and lime.
Taqueria El Milagro
1923 S. Blue Island
Open 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. daily
Try this cafeteria-style restaurant for some of the best authentic Mexican food in Chicago with something for everyone’s taste, and a comfortable, kid-friendly space. Taqueria El Milagro seats up to 60 people and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
1820 S. Ashland Ave.
Sun. – Wed.: 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Thu. – Sat.: 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Just like the Pilsen neighborhood combines people of many cultures, Fogata combines some of the best Mexican and Italian dishes.
2119 S. Halsted Ave.
Mon.-Sat.: 5:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Sun brunch: 9 a.m.- 2:30 p.m.
This upscale eatery has been winning rave reviews for their excellent food, but they’re still casual enough for an early dinner with kids, or for a special celebration. They’re also much cheaper and completely family friendly for brunch.
1515 W. 18th Street
Sun. – Sat.: 7 a.m. – midnight
This colorful, reasonably priced restaurant has been a meeting and eating place for the Pilsen community since 1962. It’s a great place to stop and grab a nice meal when the kids are tired of taking in the sights and want to refuel.
1733 S. Halsted Street
Mon.: 7:30 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Tue. – Fri.: 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sat. – Sun.: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Kristoffer’s has a comfortable atmosphere where families can play games like checkers and chess, check out fun art, and eat some of their famous tres leches cakes (traditional Mexican cakes with a creamy sweet center) and flan.
Cafe Jumping Bean
1439 W. 18th Street
Mon. – Fri.: 6 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sat. – Sun.: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
This architecturally unique coffee house/gallery space is a great, kid friendly, artsy, gathering space.
2214 S. Wolcott Ave.
Mon. – Fri.: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sat. – Sun.: 10 a.m. – 6p.m.
These guys have made-to-order, fresh churros that locals rave about. Don’t settle for stale ones elsewhere, because the fresh ones are really good! They also have a truck at the Maxwell Street Market on Sundays.
1508 W. 18th Street
Mon. – Sat.: 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Sun: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
BomBon has traditional Mexican sweets like pan dulce and tres leches cakes and an impressive window display of fancy occasion cakes.
Take a mural walk along 16th street near Blue Island. Both Slavs and Mexicans worked together, as the neighborhood became integrated, to create its renowned murals. The East side of the neighborhood along Halsted Street is one of Chicago’s largest art districts. Galleries stay open late the 2nd Friday of every month, year round, for a casual, family friendly, arts walk.
National Museum of Mexican Art
1852 W. 19th Street
Tue. – Sun.: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The National Museum of Mexican Art is a great place to bring the little ones to give them an introduction into Mexican culture. There are plenty of exhibits to keep people of all ages busy and there are interactive stops along the way to keep them involved.
Pilsen Play Places
1640 S. Jefferson
1824 S. Wood
Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
This beautiful facility, right next door to the National Museum of Mexican Art, has great classes.
Fiesta del Sol, the largest Latino Festival in the Midwest
1400 W. Cermak Road (Between Loomis and Morgan Streets), Chicago
Thursday, July 28th: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday, July 29th – Saturday, July 30th: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sunday, July 31st: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Vendors, entertainment and art merge in an alcohol and tobacco free, family-friendly environment. The fest is expected to draw over 1 million visitors this year. Come explore 39 Years of Mexican Culture at this excellent Family-Friendly Latino fest in Chicago’s Cultural District of Pilsen.