Thursday, June 23, 2016

Activity: Happy Play

Happy Play is unlike any play space we have been to. It is separated into 5 distinct areas, and while the biggest draw is the bunnies and parakeets, the owners still paid special attention to details in the other three spaces.

Please note: Am sad to share this venue is permanently closed :(

Space Summary:

  1. Parakeets: It is safe to say there are over 20 parakeets in a decent sized space, so it can entertain a good number of people at once. Each child receives a seed stick and lots of bird attention - photo evidence above
  2. Bunnies: This area requires a more calm demeanor as the bunnies are more skittish and require more care. And they are adoptable! 
  3. Toddler Area: Full of soft blocks, wedges and more, forming a baby gymnasium. Complete with a mini ball pit!
  4. Tiny Town: This area has an assortment of child-sized homes (and a teepee) with adorable rain clouds as lighting.
  5. Train Room: Blown away. The train tables were spanned across a huge area and the kids can swap out the tracks, bridges, and pieces with any of the extras in the large buckets on the side. Another bonus: the walls have a variety of ball-rolling ramps if the tracks are busy.


  • There is an area next to each section with nice chairs for parents (photo below)
  • A small room in the back allows for a cozy birthday party or gathering.
  • Recommend a 1:1 adult-child ratio when one wants to stay (forever) with the birds and the other has (definitely) had enough.
  • The birds are loud and can be intimidating for first timers. We spent time with the bunnies first to give the kids time to acclimate to the noise level.
  • It is located near a cute yogurt shop Yoberri and the popular Eleven City Diner -- we tested both!
  • My kids didn't appropriately appreciate my walk down memory lane where I shared all about when I lived in that area and what I used to do there. 

Cost Savings:  N/A

Lincoln Park
15 min walk from Fullerton Red Line. Bus routes in the area.
Street parking (for fee)

Kid's Jury: 4.5 stars
We plan to go back to spend more time in each area!

There is still plenty to play with if your child is afraid of the birds

Friday, June 17, 2016

Playground: Skinner Park

As expected, when visiting one of the top Chicago schools, their playground is top notch. There are two large climbing and slide areas, a toddler area, a water feature, community gardens, picnic tables, AND a sandbox. The park itself sprawls for 2 blocks and includes basketball, tennis, and baseball areas.

Both boys found a lot to do, though I was unimpressed with the sandbox. It was small and the only "toys" in the sand where wrappers and other trash people left behind. I threw them away and would like to preemptively apologize to those hoping to use the chip bags as a shovel. It also had a lot of rocks, which the kids actually really liked (photo evidence below)...until they stepped on them.


  • Cool climbing structures, especially the red hoops
  • Dragon - don't worry, it's not real - was a surprise hit (photo above).
  • No bathrooms on site.

Cost Savings:

West Loop
Free street parking along the park area

Kid's Jury: 4.5 stars
My youngest loved the rope web he climbed in; my son liked "the whole park". I had to dock it half a star because of the sandbox.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Playground: Union Park

This park was so handy to get to, being across the street from a train station! The park has a pool, playground with a small (and very popular) water feature, and a lot of unique playground features.

  • The main slide structure has all kinds of unique features, from rock climbing throughout, little plastic hammocks, to angled monkey bars. 
  • Climbing is abundant: the huge rope dome and neighboring rope "course" has bridges, ladders (you guessed it, made of rope), and different layers to climb throughout.
  • 1 out of my 2 kids loved the bucket spinner. The other lost his mind because it was going really fast and when his mom wasn't there to stop it, he (understandably) freaked out.
  • Bathrooms in the fieldhouse.
Showcasing a few special touches incorporated in the main play structure.
Cost Savings:
Free! Especially when a random person holds open the CTA gate to have you walk through.  Who am I to say no?

First time on Pink
AND Green Lines!

West Loop
Incredibly easy access off the Ashland Train Stop via Green or Pink Line - literally across the street.

Kid's Jury: 4.5 stars
The park is great and has a lot of options: playground, swings, green space, tennis, pool, and water feature. My 3 year old didn't have as much to play on, as it was geared to older ages - my 5 year had a great time.

L-R: Open field; bucket spinner (with the one who liked it); pool

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Playground: Mary Bartelme Park

Mary Bartelme Park is an oasis for the neighborhood whether you have kids, dogs, or none of the above.  The park takes up a full city block and includes a robust playground, artwork doubling as misters, dog park (not pictured), and plenty of grass for picnics & ball.

The playground is fenced in, which is great until they figure out how to get out. Truthfully, my husband couldn't figure out how to get in, so our 5 year old showed him how.

The park is located near a Starbucks, and it seemed each family had made a pit-stop there on their walk over. Wishbone restaurant is walking distance or you can head a few blocks over to Greek town for a myriad of (greek) options. Another bonus option: A pop-up juice stand is frequently spotted there, and food trucks seem to meander past from time to time.

  • There are a lot of climbing structures, with a unique feature of rubber mats to climb and jump around (top collage, middle photo).
  • Toddler area has 2 slides and a few teeny hammocks (we think, not quite sure their function).
  • Two rope areas - the web is pictured below; and the other is a series of ropes to climb through.
  • There is some picnic seating within the playground or you can BYO blanket to sit in the grass.
  • No bathrooms, which may also explain all the Starbucks fans / "visits."
  • What is behind the name Mary Bartelme? First Illinois judge and much more.

Cost Savings:
Free!...unless you don't luck out with the parking.

West Loop
Green Line Morgan Station is a 10 min walk, though we typically drive.
Parking: We haven't had issues - some streets are free; others zoned or metered.

Kid's Jury: 5 stars
We love this park because we love to climb and use our scooters and bikes on the pathways.