Parents are like magicians — they need to have a bag of tricks. When your 2-year-old decides the playroom is “boring”, get him in the car before the meltdown begins! Keep a list of fun places handy, in your phone or calendar, and you can make a quick getaway.

In the north and northwest suburbs, there are places that are relatively inexpensive and even free to take your little one.

Ravinia Festival

200 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park
(847) 266-5100

Ravinia in Highland Park has a series of children’s concerts that are not too expensive, especially if you buy lawn seats. Pack a picnic or just throw a blanket into your car and buy food at the park. Bring a couple of toys to entertain your little ones when the music and food no longer keep their attention. Bubbles work great.

Marriott Theatre

10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire
(847) 634-0200

Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, has great, one-hour children’s shows that inspire imagination, and budding actors, and give mom and dad a chance to be entertained too.

The Glen Town Center

2660 Valor Drive, Glenview
(847) 724-2025

Looking for some creative art time with your kids? Check out two places at The Glen Town Center, in Glenview: Make-a-Messterpiece and Color Me Mine. Your kids can get messy and creative and have finished artwork to bring home.

Kohl Children’s Museum

2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview

While at The Glen, you should visit the always-entertaining Kohl Children’s Museum. Children love the pretend grocery store, water area and pretty much everything else!

Independence Grove

16400 W. Buckley Rd., Libertyville
(847) 968-3499

You want to play outside? Take the kids to Independence Grove in Libertyville, for the beach and park.

Chicago Botanic Garden

1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe
(847) 835-5440

The Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, which is always spectacular, also has special events for all ages.


Lambs Farm

1425 W. Rockland Road, Libertyville
(847) 362-4636

Another great outdoor place is Lambs Farm in Libertyville. Your kids will love it and you will be helping out a group of special people. This is a must do!


Northbrook Court

2171 Northbrook Court, Northbrook
(847) 498-8161

On a rainy day, the Northbrook Court shopping mall treehouse let’s your kids climb and slide and have make-believe adventures. A warning — on busy days, playing at the treehouse can be like hand-to-hand combat for kids!

Michele Youngerman,