Sunday, April 24, 2016

Playground: Mt. Greenwood Park

Spurred by the beautiful weather and a new favorite park suggested by Chicago Parent, we checked out Mt. Greenwood Park.

It was worth the drive!  The park was very popular (yet would guess each and every park or grassy surface was equally packed today) -- ages ranging from babies to grade school.  There were a lot of climbing areas and there is an emphasis on music with some drums and oversized bells / gongs scattered throughout (photos below).  We could have definitely made a full day of this location.

Cost Savings:
Free, easy parking!  Large lot adjacent to the park.

Mt. Greenwood
We drove about 25 min from the South Loop. The trip was slowed by two train crossings; though it was a bonus for the kids. The area is beautiful with a lot of older, stately buildings and a lot of tree-lined streets.


  • Two great features new to our family: a metal tunnel slide (middle photo in top collage) and sway fun (collage: far right).  The sway seating was a huge self-propelled teeter-totter. This was a crowd favorite and many kids would rotate to help with keeping it moving and sitting to enjoy the ride.
  • There is a huge park near the play ground I was eyeing for a perfect area to practice my son's new training-wheel-free bicycling!
  • Has an indoor/outdoor pool, as well as a water feature (wasn't on yet).
  • Cute cafe across the street.
Kid's Jury: 5 stars
The kids had to be dragged from the park and really enjoyed their time there.  This is also on the heels of my youngest screaming and angry that he was forced to go outside at all. A Skittle bribe got him out the door and into a better frame of mind. Should have probably brought some skittles to get them out of the park.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Playground: Oz Park

Today's adventure had two goals accomplished: a new train line and new park!

I picked them up early from school and whisked them to the blue line on our way to Oz Park.  While we did get in the first car, with a bonus wave and chat with the driver, this may not have been my best call on transit options.  Because once we were done with the train, we boarded the Halsted bus for 12 stops.  Which may not sound like a lot, but when in the heart of rush hour, and realizing this fact seconds before boarding the bus, my heart sank a little.

And then more as the boys asked every 5 seconds: "is this the stop??"

However, when we did arrive, the boys had a great time!  Oz Park is expansive with a huge grassy hill, the playground, and areas for baseball, basketball, tennis, soccer, and football.

The park is great for the imagination and climbers.  The unique aspect is that most of the playground is wood.  There are three different areas and all have a mini-castle feel where they loved climbing through each one to figure out how to get to the top.

There was a much larger contingency of older kids at the playground (guessing high school age, but I am admittedly terrible at guessing ages).  However, they were careful around the younger kids and seemed to be a spill-over from the baseball practice that had just finished.

Cost Savings:
Free!  Not too shabby.

Lincoln Park Neighborhood
Took Blue Line to Halsted 8 Bus; then determined that wasn't ideal and took the Red Line back (much faster for us)

Kid's Jury: 4 stars
Asked the 5 year old, what do you wish they had at the park? 5yo: "a two-wheeled bike and a real motorcycle." So aside from unrealistic expectations, they had a good time.
When asked if this was in his top 5 favorite parks, he thought a moment and said "I liked that park and would place it in my top ten."  Not sure if we have been to a total of 10 parks yet, so...
It had a unique feel and I liked the concept, but could see them potentially getting bored there after a longer stint.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Annual Event: Touch a Truck

If the weather is beautiful and you have a 3 year old interested in anything on wheels -- Glen Ellyn's Touch a Truck event.

Figuring my 5 year old son may be too old, my youngest and I left him and the husband at home.

There was a huge variety of trucks and vehicles, including a tow truck, emergency trucks, and a steam roller.  With the great weather, we were not the only ones seeking activities outdoors.  The attendance was strong, and turns out everything my son wanted to see was exactly what every other child was interested in touching.

So lines were not in our favor at the fire truck or ambulance.

Fortunately, we were content poking around the other options (favorites were the tow truck, train, and steam roller).  Additionally, Maryknoll Park is beautiful and had a lot of entertainment options.  We could have made the trip into a full day.

The park had two separate playground areas (including a small-person zip line (photo below) and unique merry go round climbing structure), large grassy knolls, platform tennis courts, mini-golf, picnic tables with plenty of shade, and public bathrooms.

  • The steam roller was interactive.  If you had an aluminum can, they would crush it and this was a favorite, as we saw many a soda breathe its final breath.
  • Food trucks are available on site, which is great when you have a kid that although they have had a huge breakfast suddenly gets the munchies.
  • There is a 3 minute train ride through part of the park ($1 per person).
  • Remember: when the sun is out, a good mom brings sunglasses and sunscreen.  I am not a good mom.
Cost Savings: 
Free event, free parking, and $1* to ride the train??  Nothing better!
*One dollar, that is, if you don't have an angelic stranger approach you with their left-over tickets.

Glen Ellyn
It was a 45-60 minute drive for us (we are in the South Loop), plenty of free parking is available and signage is good.  They had volunteers to help direct traffic as well.

Kid's Jury: 3.5 stars
The long lines meant we missed getting into the fire truck and ambulance, yet enjoyed the trucks we did get too.  And they provided several entry points to allow more contact options - the back of the ambulance; side of the fire engine.

Fortunately, the park has a lot to offer, so we had fun in the shorter lines and then headed to the train and park playground areas afterward.  

Friday, April 15, 2016

Playground: 31st Street Beach Park / Edwin C Berry Park

After reading about 31st Street Beach Park -- or the formal name I have never heard: Edwin C. "Bill" Berry Park -- in RedTricycle, I knew we had to visit.

And it did not disappoint.

The park is beautiful and well maintained.  The area had a lot of unique features not seen at other parks.  And while my kids enjoyed all aspects, my 5 year old focused heavily on repeat missions up the rock climbing wall, while my 3 year old may have worn a path down the long twisty slide.  It was fast moving and my son was not alone in his slide love affair - many kids were there and the giggles were contagious.

The view of the lake is fantastic, it is steps from 31st Street Beach, bathrooms (which should be noted are not open year round), LSD bike/walk paths, and several tables for picnics.

  • Bathrooms open on April 22.
  • Public Parking is available.  Download the Parkmobile App before you go if you don't want to take your purse/wallet.  Was $2 for an hour, so really inexpensive.
Cost Savings: 
All you pay for is parking

Can bike, as it is just off of the Lake Shore path.
We drove and didn't have issues finding parking (but were not there during a busy time)

Kid's Jury: 5 stars
I had to promise the kids we would go back as soon as possible so we could leave.
Parents love the size, it is manageble, so while my 5 and 3 year old want to be in different areas - we still felt close to each.  It has a great variety and can't wait to go back!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Annual Event: ReptileFest

Every year, our family starts to get antsy as Spring is technically here, but the promise of warmth tends to be delayed.  Come April, we get restless and need something unique.  And indoors.

This year, ReptileFest came to the rescue!

This is an annual Chicago event hosted by the Chicago Herpetological Society -- or the Reptile Reps as I call them to avoid the "What does hurtogogo mean?" questions.

It is a great chance for kids to be nose to nose with boa constrictors, turtles, lizards, and alligators (or maybe they are crocodiles?  I should pay better attention next time).

The people working the fest are incredibly nice and knowledgable.  They love to share information and interact with the kids -- most even allow you to pet or hold the little guys (animals, not my children).

Missed it this year?  It's annual, so keep an eye out for April dates!


  • There were two rooms and a majority of the closer interaction opportunities were in the second room.  Make sure not to tucker out before getting to this room, or you will miss holding turtles, tortoises, alligator/crocodiles, snakes, and lizards.
  • A food vendor is on site -- Italian Beef & Hot Dog type of food, so pack fruit or alternatives if you prefer.  
  • Pre-purchase tickets to avoid the entrance line. The line is pretty long every year, so avoid it if you can!
Cost Savings: 
A Coupon is available on the ReptileFest site!

North Park
Closest El stop: Brown Line / Kimball, then a 25 min walk for adults.
So obviously we drove -- bonus of free parking!  Arrive early to find a spot.

Kid's Jury: 5 stars
Kid's loved it, hence we go every year.
Parents love it too, as it gets said kids out of the house for a few hours.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Activity: Kid's Island

I woke up excited.  Today was the day to introduce the kids to ADVENTURE DAY!
Where would we go?  What would we do? 

To kick off the new tradition, the weather outside made one aspect very clear: 
It would be something inside.

Man it was wet and cold out there.

No worries.
When Mother Nature refuses to let us go outdoors, you find a playspace that brings the outside IN!

Today's Adventure: Kid's Island & Moe's Southwest Grill
This is an indoor play space with an indoor sandbox and other little areas (market, etc).

The sandbox was decent size and the plethora of toys were in great condition.  They had a lot of trucks, shovels, kitchen items, and even a slide!

It was a cute space and the boys had it almost entirely to themselves as it was the last hour of play.

Moe's is nearby and has parking, not to mention it is Mexican food, so it was a no brainer for dinner.

Southport / Webster
Closest El stop: Fullerton, then a 15 min walk (3/4 of a mile) for adults...with those little legs we would never make it, so took the car.

The playspace can provide "supervised play," giving adults the chance to enjoy the attached coffee shop (Julius Meinl) or Wellness Nail Spa. Must call well in advance for this option.

Cost Savings: 
We arrived with only an hour left to play, which equates to a discounted rate per child (saved us $5/kid)
Lucked out with the nearby mexican cantina having a kids' eat free night!

Kid's Jury: 5 stars
The kids weren't ready to leave and requested to visit again.