Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Storytelling (and Music!) Festival at The Field Museum

If you're looking for something to do this week, make sure you check out the remaining days of this week's Storytelling Festival taking place at The Field Museum.

Tomorrow - Wednesday Dec 29 - at 2pm you can see a special concert by Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players. This is one of my favorite kids' bands and The Field Museum would be a super cool place to see them play. You've got to register in advance, and it's $5 on top of regular admission. Call 312.665.7400 to register.

On Thursday at 2pm, Jeanie B. and the Jelly Beans will be playing songs from their new CD, Mommy Knows Best. Don’t miss her signature song “Bubble Wrap,” where everyone gets to pop those wonderful bubbles! This one's also $5 and pre-registration is required.

And Friday at 11:30am and 1:30pm, kids can play a part in the classic children’s story The Mitten by Jan Brett - a favorite in our house! Through dramatic play, you and your family will learn about the rewards of sharing, communicating, and respecting others.

Regular admission still applies, so make a day of it!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chicago Family and Kids Fun New Year's Celebration Ideas

If you're hoping to ring in the New Year with your kids - most likely long before midnight - here are some suggestions. Visit the ChicagoKids.com Calendar of Events to see a more detailed list of options.

Bubble Bash 2010

DuPage Children's Museum, 301 N. Washington St., Naperville
(630) 637-8000
Outer space is the theme for DuPage Children's Museum annual countdown to noon and family friendly New Year's Eve celebration. Musical performances, art activities, food and play spread throughout the Museum's three floors of fun. Reservations Required.
Time: 9am - noon.
Cost: Members $15, nonmembers $20, under 1 is free.

Ice Center's Family New Year's Eve Party
Glenview Ice Center, 1851 Landwehr Road, Glenview
(847) 724-2800
The Glenview Ice Center will host a Family New Year's Eve Party! There will be candle making by Ultimate Art. A fun event for everyone in the family. New Years Eve kiddie toast at "midnight" (9 pm)
Time: 6:00-9:00 PM
Cost: Free

New Year Eve Party at Wonder Works
Wonder Works, 6445 West North Avenue, Oak Park
(708) 383-4815
Celebrate all the excitement of New Year's with even the youngest of children. Countdown with countries across the world as you learn some very interesting traditions, enjoy the special New Year's crafts, games, prizes, food and more. Registration is required.
Time: Noon to 5pm
Cost: Included with regular $5 admission.

New Year’s Eve at The ComedySportz Theatre
ComedySportz, 929 West Belmont, Chicago
(773) 549-8080
Choose a 5pm or 7pm seating. The ComedySportz Theatre created a special 5pm and 7pm show on New Year’s Eve that is perfect for children, teens and families. There will be a full main stage show, party favors, New Year’s count down and a cider toast with the cast after each show. Reservations recommended.
Time: 5pm or 7pm.
Cost: $22

Navy Pier's New Year's Eve Bash and Fireworks
Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
(312) 595-PIER
Navy Pier presents a spectacular all-ages showcase of hip-hop dance, live music, and more at the Winter WonderStage. The celebration starts at 6pm and comes to a grand conclusion at 8:15 with a Family Fireworks show.
Time: 6pm
Cost: Free

New Years Eve Party at Pump It Up Chicago

Pump It Up Chicago, 821 W Eastman, Chicago
(312) 664-7867
Bring in the New Year with friends at this early afternoon family friendly celebration. Event features music, play time, pizza, sparkling beverages, gifts and a countdown with balloon drop.
Time: 1-4 pm
Cost: $15/child $5/adult

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Free Chicago Holiday Family Fun

We've just released the ChicagoKids.com Winter Guide to Free Family Fun, and you can find lots of fun family activities and events taking place this winter in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.

Here's a sampling of free holiday activities for kids and families taking place in December:

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
Weekends Nov 26 – Jan 2 (closed Dec 24/25)
One of the brightest parts of Chicago’s winter, ZooLights, is free and open to all. Head out for a winter evening of ice carving demonstrations, visits with Santa, warm drinks, cool crafts and more than one million beautiful lights.

Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier
December 3 – January 2
Navy Pier transforms into an enchanted 170,000 square foot holiday hamlet, and you can come out for music, entertainment, indoor ice skating, inflatable slides, carnival rides, food, beverages, and more. General admission is free, some rides and attractions have fees.

Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza
Through December 24
Christkindlmarket Chicago is a holiday market that brings a cherished German and European tradition with international flair and local charm to Chicago. Children visiting the market can enjoy scavenger hunts, interviews with vendors, and singing German holiday songs.

Holiday Concert Series at Harold Washington Public Library
Select days between December 1-17
The Chicago Public Library presents its annual Sounds of Our City: 2010 Holiday Concert Series on selected dates during the month of December. The free, lunchtime holiday performances feature some of the best Chicago area children’s, grade school and high school choirs.

Ice Skating at McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
Through March 13
Come out for a family skate! The rink is free and open to the public, and skate rental is available for $10.

See more fun free Winter family activities at ChicagoKids.com.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winter Camps and Winter Break Activities

Winter is upon us, and Winter Break is coming up fast! Lots of places around Chicago and the suburbs offer special winter camps and programs to keep your little ones busy... and to make sure you're getting a break as well! Here are some highlight below, and you can find more in the ChicagoKids.com Winter Camp Guide.

Actors Gymnasium Circus & Performing Arts Camp
Ages 9-14 years. Mon-Thurs, December 20-23 and Mon-Thurs, December 27-30. For young performers who want to strengthen, stretch and flex their creative muscles. Circus skills covered include juggling, tumbling, trapeze, tightwire, stilts, and more.

Artist @ Heart
120 Old McHenry Road, Long Grove
340 N. Milwaukee Road, Libertyville
For kids 6-12. Option of camp per day, or per week. Different art activities each day including drwaing, painting, modeling clay, mosaics, 3-D art sculptures, jewelry making and more.

DuPage Children's Museum
301 N. Washington Street, Naperville
Chicagoland Offering 2 mini-camp sessions based on DCM’s popular school program, Kids Design Engineering. Children will learn about pneumatic power, use cool tools to design, and build and test their own pneumatic (balloon) powered project. For ages 7-10.

Easel Art Studio
1911 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Create art, dance the snowflakes away, and play your heart out at Easel. Enroll by day, and get a discount for attending multiple camp days.

Emerald City Theatre School
2933 N. Southport Ave., Chicago
For ages 3.5-5, and 6-10. Explore different characters and environments of the season through acting, music, dance, storytelling, crafts and more. Final presentation on the last day of camp.

School of Rock Chicago
3043 N. Ashland, Chicago
Winter Camp is an intensive musical learning experiences where kids can immerse themselves. During camp they will experience speed-learning song parts, rehearsing and performing with a band, writing original music and recording basics and introduction.

Top Golf
699 W. Thorndale Ave., Wood Dale
This winter golf camp helps kids of all skill levels learn the game of golf in a fun way and is a great way to stay active during the cold winter months. Each camp is a 3-day program that covers all aspects of the game of golf in a fun, interactive way.

2312 W. Roscoe Street, Chicago
Offering workshop days for ages 3-5, 5+ and 7+. Some workshop topics include Merry Mittens, Sweetie Pies, Snowy Scenes, Green Christmas, Cutie Foodies and more. Something for everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Win a copy of Eat the World - a family cookbook that gives back

When I think of Art Smith, I think of two things: first, Oprah Winfrey, who was lucky enough to have him as her personal chef; and second, the best mac and cheese I ever ate, from his restaurant Table Fifty-Two.

I now have something new to think about, thanks to a cookbook for families that benefits his non-profit organization, Common Threads. Common Threads educates children on nutrition and physical wellbeing, teaching low-income children to cook wholesome and affordable meals.

The cookbook is not new, but it's new to me. Parents can follow these easy recipes and let kids help with the process. Each recipe includes colorful pictures not only of the finished meal, but the different steps in the process. Helpful commentary and tips from kid chefs are included, making this book relevant for kids and giving their perspective.

And even though the recipes are easy to make, they offer a variety of sophisticated cuisine types and cultural flavors. From basics like Tomato Sauce, Roasted Yams and Cheesy Broccoli Sauce to more ethnic recipes like Moroccan Squash, Emerald Fire Noodles, Tabbouleh Salad and Sesame Date Sweets - there's something for everyone!

Sound good? Order it online and use code cthreads10 to get $2 off! It’s a great gift for any family, and it supports a great cause.

We’re giving away a copy of the cookbook on ChicagoKids.com. Enter now to win!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicago Toy & Game Fair this weekend - get ready for serious fun!

This weekend is the Chicago Toy & Game Fair, where parents and kids can preview and play with the latest toys and games from more than 100 exhibitors at the country’s largest public toy & game fair! Experts from companies such as Hasbro, Out-of-the-Box, Razor and more can tell you about the trends and holiday best buys.

The show is the largest of its kind that's open to the public, so Chicago families have a really special, local opportunity. Fairgoers will be able to meet legendary and up-and-coming toy and game inventors, including Leslie Scott, inventor of Jenga; Bruce Lund, inventor of TMX Elmo and founder of River Forest-based Lund and Company Invention, Tim Walsh, board game inventor, author and filmmaker; and Richard Gill, who made Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit household names.

A Star Wars Breakfast with the legendary 501st Legion: Vader’s Fist; a Mascot Madness toy drive, Monopoly Tournaments, chess tournaments in the Renaissance Knights Pavilion, the latest Eurogames from Essen, Germany and a free Illinois Accredited Educator Conference for teachers are just a few of the many fair events planned.

The fair hours are 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday and 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Children under three are admitted free; Scouts in uniform, military, teachers and librarians are also admitted free!

For more information, visit www.chitag.com.

And for a $2 coupon, visit

Win tickets to Traces!

Our last blog post was about Traces - now you can enter to win tickets! Enter here, but act fast, we're drawing a winner on Friday!

Enter now!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Traces Chicago - Hold on to your seats!

While most of the performers in the newly opened “Traces” have backgrounds that include time with Cirque du Soleil – Cirque this was not.

Traces felt like Cirque du Soleil had come to my corner of Wicker Park, selected seven local hipsters right off the street, and granted them superpowers. The show opens with a purely casual vibe, with seven friends dressed in comfortable street clothes just shooting the breeze in what can be imagined as some dank, gritty neighborhood.

While the primary focus is on circus and acrobatic feats, the show offers an array of performance arts - acoustic music, poetry slam, dance, piano playing…. even a humorous, skateboarding routine that reminded me of an old Hollywood scene.

Early on, the performers invite the audience to get to know them. They incorporate personal information into some acts, further lending to the feeling that we’re just hanging out on the corner with familiar friends (who are far more flexible than we are.) There was something about getting to know these performers as individuals, and seeing them in street clothes rather than sparkling, anonymizing costumes, that seemed to make everything they did even more daring.

Traces contains an unusual mix of darkness and humor. Adding to the vibe of the show is the uber-cool music; live imagery created for the stage by performers using a drawing board; and gritty, black and white live video feeds offering different angles of the performance.

While each act provided some unique sort of performance, the acrobatic prowess of these performers was the most amazing part of the show. Long-locked Florio, who looks like he just walked off the cover of a romance novel, did an entire solo act on a stack of chairs. I’ve seen performers balance single-handedly on top of a chair before, but typically they got to that position after first balancing on two hands and then removing one. Florio was on a stack of chairs, casually put his hand on top of the back of the chair, and then just launched himself up into the one-handed pose. Amazing.

The pole acrobatics were incredible. The performers leaped and flipped between 2 poles, threatening to land on their heads but always making their marks. And by the end of the show, with the performers flipping through small hoops at the top of a 6 foot stack, I was pretty convinced that they did indeed possess superhuman powers.

I recommend this for adults and for families with older kids. The performance is 90 minutes long with no intermission.

Playing October 26, 2010 - December 19, 2010 at the Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago Illinois.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Hundred Dresses opens today - timeless and timely

The topic of bullying has been prevalent in the media lately, and the opening of The Hundred Dresses at Chicago Children's Theatre couldn't be timelier.

This musical was written by Ralph Covert (Ralph's World) and G. Riley Mills, and is based on a children's novel by Eleanor Estes. It's the story of Wanda Petronski, an imaginative young girl who struggles to fit in with her new classmates. Replete with a myriad of colorful and buoyant characters, The Hundred Dresses is a timeless tale that explores the bonds of friendship, the willingness to be yourself, and the courage that it takes to stand up to others -- even when you're standing alone.

The theater's web site provides a Student Study Guide that you can download. It's meant for teachers but provides valuable insights and topics for discussion that you can use with your own kids.

The show is recommended for ages 6 and up, and tickets start at $26.00.

Playing November 3 through December 2 at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie.

Through ChicagoKids.com, you can get $5 off tickets for opening weekend performances, November 6 & 7. Reserve your seats by calling the North Shore Center box office at (847) 673-6300 or visiting www.northshorecenter.org and using the code "HDOPEN". (This code is only good for opening weekend performance)

Learn more at http://www.chicagochildrenstheatre.org.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Weekend Family Fun Ideas

There's been plenty of Halloween fun leading up to October 31, but now is your last chance to really celebrate. Here are a few picks for celebrating Halloween with your little ghouls this weekend.

October 30
Little Miss Ann Band's Halloween Party
Subterranean, 2011 W. North Avenue, Chicago
ChicagoKids.com sponsors the Beat Kitchen Concerts for Kids! Series, and this Saturday the show is at Subterranean, with a Halloween costume concert with Little Miss Ann Band. 3pm. $7.

October 30
Haunted Harvest
Lamb's Farm, I-94 and Rte. 176, Libertyville
The Haunted Harvest of Lambs Farm is a spooky celebration full of fun and adventure for thrill-seekers of all ages, transforming the Farmyard with delightfully frightening activities. 6-10pm. All night pass $15 per person, kids under 3 free, fees for some activities.

October 30
Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., Chicago
The Chicago Cultural Center is transformed into a spooky, magical destination for Halloween fun, with mask and costume making, a drama workshop and a performance of "One Monster after Another" by Child's Play Touring Theatre. Free.

October 30
Port Clinton Square, 600 Central Avenue, Highland Park
Celebrate this Halloween at Port Clinton Square for BARK-O-Ween; a pet parade, costume contest and fashion show for our four-legged friends. Benefits Tails of Hope. 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm. $15 per pet to participate in costume contest; $10 per pet if pre-registered.

October 30-31
Carnival of Curiosities
Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
A traveling sideshow has overtaken Navy Pier, transforming Pier Park into a spectacle of living human wonders. Every Saturday and Sunday witness with your very own eyes the wild, weird, and wonderful. Meet the Carnival characters from noon - 9pm, and on Saturday enjoy fireworks at 9pm. This is an outdoor, family-friendly theatrical walk-around experience and scare-free event. Free.

October 31
Justin Roberts Halloween Show
Space, 1245 Chicago Avenue, Evanston,
Justin and the Not Ready for Naptime Players are in the midst of their packed national fall family concert tour, and they have a local concert on Halloween at Space in Evanston. Hear their appropriate new song, "Trick or Treat," from hew new CD Jungle Gym. 11am. $15

October 31
Spooky Singalong
Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N Lincoln Ave., Chicago,
Calling all ghouls! Bring the whole family to this spooky, but not scary, sing-a-long featuring our Wiggleworms faculty. Be sure to wear your Halloween costume! 11am. $12.

You can check out our Calendar of Events and our Halloween Zone for more last minute Halloween events, activities, and fun ideas.

Happy Haunting!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Curious George: Let's Get Curious! at Kohl Children's Museum

This weekend, Mia got a preview of the Kohl Children's Museum's new exhibit "Curious George: Let's Get Curious!"

Mia knows who Curious George is, but she's still really getting acquainted with him. She has two Curious George books (one that she got after seeing the exhibit) and has seen the tv show just a few times. However, this did not stop her from enjoying this exhibit and apparently falling in love with Curious George! (see pic below!)

The exhibit is intended to inspire young children's George-like curiosity in the areas of math, science and engineering through activities, exploration and play. The exhibit is set in Curious George's neighborhood, so kids can feel like they're really in his world.

They'll see Curious George's apartment building, where they can move George around on pulleys and climb up the fire escape. A construction site allows them to build and move materials. By George's rocket, kids can pose for pictures with George in his space suit. And the park is a nice open area where kids can get up close with Curious George and give him a hug. Mia's a notorious hugger, so she loved this part... and since he's not a real monkey, we didn't give her our usual "two hug limit."

Mia's favorite part of the exhibit was opening up a little yellow door, and seeing her own reflection inside, wearing the Yellow Hat:

The exhibit officially opens this Tuesday, October 19, and runs through February 5, 2011. Find out more on the web site.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Brookfield Zoo's Boo! at the Zoo... with Judge Sue!

This weekend and next weekend - Oct 16, 17, 23, 24 - is Brookfield Zoo's "Boo! at the Zoo" Halloween event. I have a tremendous soft spot for this event, as maaaaany years ago I was the Special Events Coordinator at the zoo and helped put this event together. It was by far my favorite event, and there was nothing cuter than seeing hundreds of kids in costumes parading across the stage for the costume contest.

I'm extremely excited to be taking part in the event this Saturday as a costume contest judge (please make your bribes in the form of chocolate... just kidding!)

This is truly a fantastic family Halloween event, with fun activities taking place throughout the day.

Here's the schedule for the daily activities:

All Day: Take a Haunted Hayride around the zoo ($4/$2), and take a turn through a giant corn maze in the East Mall.

11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Games and Scarecrow Building
Children’s Zoo – FREE Admission

11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Games and Scarecrow Building
Children’s Zoo – FREE Admission

11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Fisher-Price Interactive Play Pen and Power Wheels™ Driving Track -West Mall

11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Pumpkin Carver at The Nature Stage

11:45 a.m.
Zoo Chat on Bats in Australia

12:30 p.m.
Zoo Chat on Spiders at The Swamp Classroom

12:30 p.m.
Zoo Chat on Argus Monitor in Australia House

1:00 p.m.
Costume parade departs from Discovery Center

1:30 p.m.
Costume Showcase at East Mall
(Costume categories are Best Animal Theme, Scariest, Most Original and Best Group Theme)

2:00 a.m.
Zoo Chat on Owls in Children's Zoo

3:00 p.m.
Zoo Chat on Spiders at The Swamp Classroom

3:30 p.m.
Zoo Chat on Python at The Fragile Kingdom-Rain Forest

3:45 p.m.
Zoo Chat on Wolves at Regenstein Wolf Woods

In addition to these activities taking place on all four of the Boo! at the Zoo dates, there are special activities taking place on specific dates. Visit the Brookfield Zoo web site for details.

I'll be judging costumes on Saturday, October 16. Stop by and say hello if you have the chance!!

Check out photos from the event on the ChicagoKids.com Facebook page.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chicago International Children's Film Festival - Plan your screenings now!

The Chicago International Children’s Film Festival gets underway on October 22, bringing more than 250 kids’ movies to a local audience for this 10 day fest. This is the largest festival of films for children in North America, featuring over 200 films from 40 countries. In addition to films that include live action and animated features, shorts, TV series, documentaries, and even child-produced works, there are also interactive workshops that make this an experience that kids can immerse themselves in. Workshops include “Acting is FUN!”, “Animation All-Stars,” “FLIP IT – For Future Animators” and more. Visit the web site for a full schedule of films and workshops.

There are films for kids of all ages, and movies are categorized so you can find the right ones for your kids. Starting with “My First Movies” for ages 2-5, there are age groupings up to ages 13+.

Here's a sample of a few of the top films of interest.

Ages 2-5:

Bob the Builder: The Legend of the Golden Hammer - England 61 min
October 23, 9:30 am.
Center on Halsted’s Hoover-Leppen Theatre - 3656 N. Halsted, 3rd Floor
Watch the original Bob the Builder, direct from England, in a never-before-seen U.S. premiere. Everyone's favorite fix-it man sets out on an exciting building project in his new home of Fixham Harbor. But when scarecrow Spud and four-wheeler Scrambler hear of an amazing treasure, the pirate Brickbeard's Golden Hammer, they decide building can wait—first, they must find the hammer for their best pal Bob.

Mamma Moo & Crow - Sweden 77 min
October 24, 9:30 am.
University of Chicago’s DOC Films - Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St.
Meet Mamma Moo: an extraordinary cow who wants to go where no cow has gone before! Mamma Moo wants to ride a bike, climb a tree, and play on a swing, which her new friend Crow doesn't understand. But after sharing adventures with Mamma Moo, Crow realizes how fun trying new things can be.

Ages 5-8:

Rainbow Magic: Return to Rainspell Island - England 61 min
October 23, 11:00 am.
Center on Halsted’s Hoover-Leppen Theatre - 3656 N. Halsted, 3rd Floor
Six colorful fairies live in a rainbow world of peace, joy and song. But when mean girls, goblins, and Jack Frost himself threaten the happiness of their turf, will magic and friendship be enough? See what the end of the rainbow holds, in this fun-filled action-packed musical extravaganza where anything can happen - and does.

Critter Capers - 73 min
October 24, 11:00 am.
Facets Cinema – 1517 W. Fullerton Ave.
Calling all adventurers! These little creatures are not afraid to try something new. A group of dancing hens jump and jive with bandleader Kevin Bacon. Weighing friendship in the balance is on the mind of one very determined cow. Courageous Mouse faces all creatures great and small in this award-winning film version of the beloved book, The Gruffalo. Challenge yourself and come out on top with these brave beasties.

Ages 7-11:

Ricky Rapper and the Bicycle Thief - Finland 77 min
October 24, 11:00 am.
University of Chicago’s DOC Films - Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St.
When Serna Rapper and Lennart Lindberg go on a vacation, they leave Fanny Freezer in charge of Ricky Rapper and Nelly Noodlehead. All is well, until Ricky's fancy new bike mysteriously disappears! Who are the culprits? Could it be Beril and Robert Rosenbeogel? Or the odd doctors in the new hospital? Join Ricky and his pals as they work together to solve the mystery — with fun music every step of the way.

Magic Silver - Norway 84 min.
October 24, 3:00 pm.
University of Chicago’s DOC Films - Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St.
Deep within the Norwegian mountains, princess gnome Bluerose leads a small but powerful tribe. The Blue Gnomes are keepers of the silver for The Magic Hour, the enchanted twilight time between day and night. But when the silver is stolen from the gnomes, their bright and beautiful world suddenly transforms into eternal dark. Brave Princess Bluerose must set out on a remarkable quest to bring back the daylight, turning rival gnomes into new friends and finding the courage within herself along the way.

Tickets are available at the door 30 minutes prior to screening, and tickets for weekend screenings only may also be purchased online at www.facets.org/kids. For weekend screenings, get your tickets ahead of time to make sure you don’t miss out.

And here are a few more important things to note:
• Tickets are $6.00 for children (2-16) and $9.00 for adults.
• Individual tickets for weekend screenings can be purchased at the box office 30 minutes prior to a screening or via the CICFF website through Ticketweb (additional fees will apply when purchasing through Ticketweb.)
• The ONLY way to guarantee seating is to pre-purchase through Ticketweb. Weekend programs are in high demand and seating can be very limited.
• All seating is general admission.
• Facets Patron Circle members receive FREE admission when they present membership card at Box Office.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Lion King Opens in Chicago

Ok, now I get it. I REALLY get it. I finally understand what all the fuss was about when The Lion King first came onto the scene and everyone raved about Julie Taymor’s costume design. I couldn’t have possibly imagined the magnificence of this production without seeing it firsthand.

I have always tended to literally get the chills when a live production starts out on just the right note, and that’s exactly how things started off for me last night. With a call of ““Nants ingonyama! Bagithi baba!” (the loud chant you’ve probably heard in the commercials - and yes, I did need to look up the spelling), a procession of actor/puppets/animals begins parading down the aisles of the theater, converging on the stage for a spectacular opening number. From the start, there’s an immediate sense of the brilliant puppetry, costume design and mechanisms that bring this production to life.

Tall, lanky giraffes are played by actors using stilts on their legs and arms; an enormous elephant rambles down the aisle with a puppeteer in each leg; a cheetah’s back legs belong to an actor/puppeteer, and his front legs are being moved by a mechanism that he controls. Every animal is fascinating, and I found myself as interested in the mechanics of how things worked as I was in the music and dance. And here's where I insert a visual aid, to best explain what I can't really convey through words:

Julie Taymor was the original director and costume designer for The Lion King, which opened on Broadway in 1997. Rather than hide the actors in masks while they played the roles of animals, it was her idea to instead have the actors wear the masks on their heads, leaving their faces visible. And it was her vision to represent the animals using enormous, complex puppets, which are a big part of what makes this production so memorable.

Obviously I was blown away by the costume design and mechanics, but I can’t really review a musical without mentioning the music, right? The music and dance were fantastic. The African rhythms and dance were pervasive, and were infused with modern dance, ballet and contemporary music.

The story itself is about a lion cub named Simba, whose father Mufasa is king and whose evil uncle Scar decides that he wants the throne for himself. Scar plots with some hyenas and kills Mufasa, and when Mufasa gets into a tight spot during a stampede, Scar kills him off. Scar convinces Simba that it’s his fault his father died, and tells Simba to go away and never come back. Simba stays away, grows up spending time with the comedic duo of Timon and Pumbaa (a meerkat and a warthog), and he eventually comes back to settle the score. (It’s far more complicated than that, but that’s the gist.)

I must say, I was fascinated by the hyenas. There are three main hyenas, and they are creepy as hell and utterly fascinating to watch. The actors/puppeteers in these roles must walk around in a hunched position, while alternately using their arms to work the hyena legs and the hyena heads that are suspended out in front of their bodies. Their costumes are designed so that there’s an arch of fur reaching from their backs, into the air, and onto these suspended heads, pulling it all together and giving them the shape of a hyena. It’s amazing to watch them, and many of the other “animals,” realizing that these actors are doing the ultimate multi-tasking: singing, speaking, moving, and operating their “costumes” all at the same time.

Overall, I absolutely loved the show and it’s now on my short list of all time favorites.

The show is recommended for ages 5 and up, and this sounds about right since some of the subject matter could be a bit heavy for younger kids. There’s some violence, the hyenas are just plain creepy, and of course the death of Simba’s father could be a bit much for some kids. Kids will love the costumes and puppetry, the storyline will have them engaged, and the antics of the Timon and Pumbaa (including Pumbaa's gas issues) will have them laughing.

Playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre through November 27.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Halloween Fall Fun

It's a crisp Monday and it sure feels like Fall... time to start thinking about Halloween!

There are lots of great pumpkin farms around the Chicago area that transform into full-on fun Halloween destinations. (Interestingly, many of them also turn into mini-zoos, which may not have much to do with Halloween but it sure is fun for the kids.) You can visit the ChicagoKids.com Halloween Zone for details on dozens of great Halloween activities and events. Here's just a sampling below. And make sure you check ahead regarding specific dates for activities, as some of the fun might happen only on weekends or certain dates.

Goebbert's Farms Pumpkins and More
2 locations - South Barrington and Hampshire
Halloween activities at Goebberts include wagon rides, pony rides, camel rides, pig racing, a corn stalk maze and a little straw town maze for your tiny ones. There's also Animal Land, where kids can get up close to animals you'd expect to see on a farm, like cows, pigs, goats and baby chicks, plus camels, kangaroos, llamas, zebras, lions and a giraffe. Admission is free, but some attractions require ticket purchase.

Dollinger Pumpkin Farm and Fun
7502 E. Hansel Rd., Channahon
At Dollinger Pumpkin Farm, pick a pumpking and then carve, decorate or make a pie. Then check out the Corn Maze, Petting Zoo, miniature steam train, horse drawn hayrides and more. Pumpkin farm entry is free, ut some activities like the train rides, corn maze and hayrides may require a fee.

Bengston Pumpkin Fest 2010
13341 W, 151st St., Homer Glen
At Bengston Pumpkin Farm, you can experience an animated Haunted Barn, a giggling animated Fun Barn, the "famous" action-packed Pig Races (running 10x a day on the 1/2 hour), an adorable Petting & Feeding Zoo, The Giant Crazy Corn Maizey & Pony Rides, plus a variety of entertaining animation throughout the barnyard and farm. Treats available for purchase include hot apple cider, funnel cakes, chili in a bread bowl, kettle corn and nore. Admission is adult $13, 3-11 $12, 2 and under Free.

Didier Farms Pumpkinfest
16678 W. Aptakisic Rd., Prairie View - Lincolnshire
Featuring mechanical rides, a corn maze, fresh donuts, an educational barn, farm animals, a petting zoo, hayrides, Indian teepees, a pony ride, crafts and more. Woody's Menagerie has over 200 creatures including lions, tigers, a bear, and a liger - a cross between a lion and a tiger (now THAT is scary!) Free admission but most activities require ticket purchase.

North Shore Pumpkin Patch
1024 Lake Ave, Wilmette
North Shore Pumpkin Patch is a non-profit pumpkin patch in Wilmette, with all proceeds going to support a local homeless shelter, Good News Partners, and a program to feed needy children in Senegal. Featuring a kiddie play area, scarecrow making, and weekend pumpkin painting, crafts and story time. Free.

Find more fall and Halloween fun in the ChicagoKids.com Halloween Zone.

Got a favorite fall or Halloween spot? Let's hear about it!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Jim Hensen's Fantastic World Now Open

Jim Hensen’s Fantastic World opened Friday at the Museum of Science and Industry, and walking through this exhibit was like stepping into the mind of a creative genius. Hensen is known for his iconic characters and creations like Kermit the Frog, Ernie and Bert, Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, The Dark Crystal, Miss Piggy and many others. The exhibit celebrates Hensen’s remarkable genius and his brilliant creative process, showcasing the sketches, storyboards, props, puppets and other elements that he used to bring his visions to life.
For adults, the exhibit will bring back a lot of memories, and for me it was fascinating to see how some of these memories literally got their start.

Here’s a storyboard for The Muppet Show theme song, one of my favorites items in the exhibit:

And who can forget Mahna Mahna??

And here’s an illustrated storyboard for the old Sesame Street counting bits - “How many is 5?”

Kids can try their hands at the creative process with some hands-on activities, including:

  • Puppet Theater – Kids can choose from a selection of props and design their own set, then direct their own puppet show and watch it on a tv screen.
  • Storyboarding – The storyboard wall lets kids draw out their storylines with etch-a-sketches.
  • Create-A-Character – this fun wall of parts lets kids pull together the pieces they want to create their own fun character.
  • Foley Stage – Kids can learn about sound effects, using objects to make sounds and creating their own soundtracks.

Aside from the obvious entertainment that these activities provide for kids, it can teach older kids how the creative process works. Heck - it could even inspire them to a career path that they didn’t even know existed. Perhaps if I’d seen this as a kid, I’d have been ready with a semi-intelligent argument to make against my parents when they dissuaded me from being an art major.

But I digress. If you’ve ever enjoyed any of Jim Hensen’s creations, you’ll get a new sense of appreciation awe for where these creations came from. The exhibit will be best enjoyed by adults and older kids, especially those with a creative side. And while the exhibit made me wonder what might have happened had I continued on my own creative path, I mostly wonder what fantastic creations the world has missed out on with Hensen’s untimely passing. We’ll never know.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ChicagoKids.com Fall Guide to Free Family Fun

It certainly seems odd to release a guide to Fall Fun on a day when the temperature will be nearing 90, but it's officially Fall and we're ready for it!

I've just finished up the ChicagoKids.com Fall Guide to Free Family Fun, a downloadable, printable booklet of free activities that your family can enjoy. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but a sampling of fun ideas that are FREE. You can find more events and activities by visiting ChicagoKids.com.

The list includes ideas for pumpkin patches, story hours, nature centers, farms, indoor fun and even some great free fall festivals that are taking place.

You can download the guide at ChicagoKids.com/guide.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Spectacle 2010: The Astronaut's Birthday

If you didn’t already know about Redmoon’s totally fantastical productions and performances, we tried to bring you up to speed with our posts about their recent J.O.E. (Joyous Outdoor Event.) And now, the far out fun continues with Spectacle 2010: The Astronaut’s Birthday, created in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The Astronaut’s Birthday is a bigger-than-life storybook adventure that you’ll view on the 5-story high façade of the MCA. The outer walls of the MCA have been transformed into a stage for this story, which Redmoon describes as a “collision of science fiction, comic book spectacle performance, wild shadow, silhouette performers and berserk music.” (I couldn’t possibly say it better!)

The actually storyline is about a single astronaut on a mission to save the Earth, and it’s a story delivered like none you’ve ever seen before. The performances take place at 7:30pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays through September 26. Tickets are $15 Thursdays and $20 for Friday and Sunday; $10 for kids under 10 and free for kids under 3.

Get tickets HERE, or call the Redmoon Box Office at 312-850-8440 ×111.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beat Kitchen's Concerts for Kids Block Party, sponsored by ChicagoKids.com

Beat Kitchen's Concerts for Kids!
Kick-off Block Party this Saturday, September 11
ChicagoKids.com is excited to sponsor this family concert series!

In a past life, I was a huge local live music fan who couldn’t wait to flip through each new issue of The Reader to find out where my favorite bands were playing that weekend. Flash forward to my current life, where I’m still a huge live music fan but my most preferred genre has certainly changed. Never would I have imagined the last time I was at the Beat Kitchen that I could get as excited as I currently am about their upcoming schedule of acts, which will be attracting audiences in the 36-48” height range!

That’s what happens when we grow up and have kids. Beat Kitchen owner Robert Gomez has 2 kids of his own now, and the idea for hosting kids concerts came to him after attending a Wiggleworms class with his then 2-year-old daughter. Beat Kitchen’s Roscoe Village neighborhood is teeming with families and small kids, so it seemed like a logical idea – and something that lots of little budding rockers will love!

The first concerts started at Beat Kitchen and then began to include some shows at Gomez’s other venue, Subterranean, in Wicker Park. This year, the schedule is full, with a show every weekend from September 19 all the way through Memorial Day (with some breaks for holidays.)

Kick Off Block Party
The series kicks off with a rockin’ block party this Saturday, September 11, from 11:30am – 5pm at Beat Kitchen. Family activities include maraca building with Easel Art Studio, punk rock hair styling by Psycho Baby, drum building with Bucktown Music, The Children's Learning Place Tot Zone and fun Penguin decorating crafts with yours truly, ChicagoKids.com! Admission is $7 and the event will be held indoors in case of rain.

Say Hello to ChicagoKids.com and ENTER TO WIN!
Stop by and say hello to me in the ChicagoKids.com area, where we’ll be doing fun Penguin decorating, and you can and enter to win a an adorable, oversized stuffed golden retriever donated by our friends at Building Blocks Toy Store! “Ruff Ruff” is 36” tall with lifelike details, ready to be a devoted companion to some lucky winner. We're also giving away passes to Fantasy Kingdom, one of our favorite indoor play places.

Saturday's Schedule
12:00: Mr. Singer and the Sharp Cookies
1:30: Human Tim + Robot Tim
2:30: Bucktown Music Kindermusik Family Fun Time
3:30: Little Miss Ann Band

This Season’s Schedule

Sept 19: Mary Macaroni - Beat Kitchen
Sept 26: Human- Tim + Robot-Tim - Beat Kitchen
Oct 3: Shana Sings! - Beat Kitchen
Oct 9: Laura Doherty - Subterranean
Oct 10: Super Stolie & the Rockstars! - Beat Kitchen
Oct 17: Jeanie B! - Beat Kitchen
Oct 23: Poochamungas - Subterranean
Oct 24: Mr. Singer & the Sharp Cookies - Beat Kitchen
Oct 30: Little Miss Ann Band's Halloween Party - Subterranean
Nov 6: Jeanie B! and the Jelly Beans - Subterranean
Nov 7: Little Miss Ann Band - Beat Kitchen
Nov 13: AmeriKid Idol hosted by Andy Moy - Subterranean
Nov 14: Karen 4 Kids! - Beat Kitchen
Nov 21: Kara Kesselring & Sugarcreek Road @ 4PM - Beat Kitchen
Nov 21: Suzi Shelton and Little Miss Ann Band
Upstairs at SubT, show at 11am - Subterranean
Dec 5: The Dreamtree Shakers - Beat Kitchen
Dec 11: The Boogers - Subterranean
Dec 12: Mary Macaroni - Beat Kitchen
Jan 9: The Okee Dokee Brothers - Beat Kitchen

Get more details at chicagokids.com.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Circus in the Parks featuring Midnight Circus

Step right up! The circus is in town, and it's coming right to five northside Chicago parks. Circus in the Parks, featuring the Midnight Circus, is a whimsical assortment of acrobats, aerialists, clowns and contortionists. Kids can get up close to watch daring feats while helping raise money for the parks. Circus in the Parks raises funds that will be equally split between all participating parks.

Circus in the Parks schedule:

Gompers Park - 4222 W. Foster - 773-685-3270
September 11th - 2pm & 5pm
September 12th - 1pm & 4pm

Welles Park - 2333 W. Sunnyside - 312-742-7511
September 18th 2pm & 5pm
September 19th 1pm & 4pm

Holstein Park - 2200 N. Oakley - 312-742-7554
September 25th - 2pm & 5pm
September 26th - 1pm & 4pm

Portage Park - 4100 N. Long - 773-685-7235
October 9th - 2pm & 5pm
October 10th - 1pm & 4pm

Chase Park - 4701 N. Ashland - 312-742-7518
October 16th - 2pm & 5pm
October 17th - 1pm & 4pm

Tickets are $15 per person, and children under 2 years old are free. In case of rain, the Circus will move into the Park Field House. Space is limited if the performance needs to be moved inside, so consider buying your tickets in advace!

To purchase tickets online, visit http://www.circusintheparks.com/.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Last chance summer events

It's September (*sigh*) and kids are back in school, but you still have a few days left to enjoy some of the best things that took place around Chicago this summer. Act fast though, these fun activities are truly just about over!

If you miss out on these events, don't fret - there's always something fun around the corner!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Win tickets to the Lion King

The Lion King will be roaring into Chicago on September 29, and we're giving away tickets to this amazing show! Enter at www.chicagokids.com/enter.asp for your chance to win a family four-packs of tickets to the 7:30pm show on September 29 at Cadillac Palace Theatre.

The show is here for a limited engagement from September 29 - November 27. You can purchase tickets online at www.broadwayinchicago.com.

Winners names will be drawn September 16.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Redmoon's Joyous Outdoor Event - (Festival J.O.E.)

Redmoon is one of Chicago's performance art treasures, with uniquely styled theatrical performances pulling from contemporary art forms and ancient theatrical forms, with pageantry, gadgetry, acrobatics and ephemera. (I plagiarized most of that past sentence directly from Redmoon’s web site, because I couldn’t quite put that into words quite as well as they do. Suffice it to say, they're known for being FANTASTIC.)

In just a few days, Redmoon is launching its first festival of quality family entertainment, public art installation, quirky small scale performances and live music acts, right at Chicago’s lakefront. Four fantastic days of children’s entertainment will include storytelling, clowns, music roaming performers, and a “living room” where your family can picnic right on the Lake Michigan Shore. Families can also enjoy activities throughout the festival including hula hoops, ring toss, lawn bowling, tug of war, and 3-legged races.

There’s one feature to this festival that will be a truly unique - and nearly out of this world - experience: the Luminarium. It’s a sensory experience presented within a walk-in piece of art. It’s an inflatable maze made of translucent pvc, and as you can see from the video below, it’s like walking into another world. Indulge your senses and be surrounded by iridescent color and light, and feel like you’re being transported away to another time and place. You may even find a storytellers and musician performing inside!

The event takes place at South Belmont Harbor on Thursday and Friday evenings beginning at 6pm, and Saturday through Monday starting at 1pm. Tickets are $25. Visit http://joyousoutdoorevent.org for more details.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tall Ships at Navy Pier

Tall Ships sailed into Chicago earlier this week, and you can still get tickets to see these ships - and maybe even set sail - through Sunday.

More than 20 majestic and historic tall ships from around the world will be docked at Navy Pier, and you can view all of them, board up to 12 of the vessels, and even take daily sails aboard five of the tall ships.

Ships will be docked in three places at the Pier - Nautical Mile (North Dock), Canada Cove (NW Wall at the front of the Pier) and America Alley (SW Wall at the front of the Pier). In addition to the ships, you can enjoy other activities at the Children's Village including international entertainment at three festival stages, and nightly fireworks shows.

You can make a day of it, and grab a bite, take a whirl on the ferris wheel, or even float away on the Aeroballoon.

Tickets for Tall Ships start at $9 and are available at www.navypier.com.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nature's LunchBox - No twinkies here

Just as schools all over Chicago are welcoming kids back to school - and to cafeterias and brown bag lunches - Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is opening a new permanent exhibit, Nature's LunchBox. (Did you notice - PERMANENT exhibit, that's how important this is!)

Nature's LunchBox provides information on food’s life cycle – from the farm to the market to the compost bin – to encourage visitors to think about how their food choices impact the environment.

Kids and parents can learn about where their food comes from, and have fun with hands-on activities like hunting for vegetables, shopping healthy at the "Supermarket," and sniffing out healthy foods. Parents can get ideas for healthy lunches that they can put into practice at home.

Bottom line - packing a healthy lunch for your kids can be quick, and delicious!

It's sponsored by Dominick's - and I admit I'm not quite sure which came first, the sponsor or the exhibit - but it's a worthwhile activity if you walk away with some tips that will make your kids' lunches easier and healthier.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Get your treasures, moms - mamaloot is here!

With so many deal-a-day web sites popping up lately along the lines of Groupon, I’m excited to write about a newcomer to the field that’s specifically geared toward moms, right here in Chicago. It’s MAMALOOT – and c’mon, the name alone screams “treasures!”

Mamaloot has special offers for all sorts of services that will appeal to moms. The concept is simple – you sign up, get emails letting you know about the newest deal, and if you’re interested you get online and buy in. Unlike Groupon, there’s no minimum number of buyers required in order for you to be able to get your deal.

And so far from what I see, the deals are from places that moms will love. Some recent deals include a $50 1 month membership to Kid City; 40% off 1 day of Art Camp at the Paintbrush; 54% off Open Play admission to the Family Grounds Café; 71% off a Nutrition Consultation with Nutrisults - and yesterday's deal was 50% off Hoohobbers, which is an awesome local manufacturer of kids products who I wrote about in one of my very first blog posts.

Learn more and sign up at www.mamaloot.com.

Friday, August 20, 2010

DeKalb Corn Fest

This weekend, Friday - Sunday, is DeKalb Corn Fest, one of the last remaining free summer music festivals in Illinois. If you don't mind hopping in the car and taking a drive outside Chicago, you'll be rewarded with all sorts of fun activities for the entire family. And - it's FREE!

This festival features a carnival complete with rides and games, food booths, live music, an inflatable bounce house, balloons, games, tattoos, a craft show and family entertainment.

On Friday night, Kid’s Fest presents the NI Dance Center at 5 pm and Monkeys and More Exotic Animal Rescue Show from 6-7:30 pm on the Community Stage. Then on Saturday from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm and on Sunday from 12:00, the Kishwaukee YMCA will be hosting an Art Fest in the Kid Fest area.

On Sunday, Colonial will be hosting an Ice Cream Eating Contest for all ages. Registration starts at 11:30 in the Kid Fest area and the competition begins at noon. There's even a laser tag arena!

For more details and directions, visit www.cornfest.com/kidfest.html.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Win tickets to Disney on Ice Princess Classics

It seems like quite a contradiction to be thinking about anything on ice while it's still summer, but it's time for Disney on Ice's latest performance, Princess Classics. And we're giving away two family four-packs of tickets to the show - you can enter to win here.

Disney On Ice presents Princess Classics is an amazing journey to the magical lands of Disney’s classic fairy tales. Travel to a kingdom under the sea, an enchanted French castle, an Arabian palace and more! With special guest Tinker Bell, enter the worlds of your favorite Disney princesses – Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Mulan and Snow White – and see their dreams come true as this royal skating extravaganza brings magic to your hometown!

The show is playing the United Center September 8-12.

We're also offering a special ticket deal to ChicagoKids.com readers - get four $24 tickets, 4 hot dogs, and 4 sodas for just $99, a savings of over $30! This special offer is good for performances on Friday Sept 10 at 7pm and Saturday September 11 at 11:30am and 7pm.

For more details on the special offer, visit this link.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Great kids music - Recess Monkey, Verve Pipe, Dan Zanes

Yesterday, we had the fantastic experience of enjoying a concert featuring some of the top Kidzapalooza performers - all in the comfort of the crowd-free and rain-free James Hotel. (plus - admission-free!) The event was put on by The James Chicago and Kidzapalooza, and families were invited to enjoy children’s artists Recess Monkey, The Verve Pipe and Dan Zanes. In addition to these great performers, there was a complimentary continental breakfast, giveaways from Paul Frank (I somehow missed the raffle entry and am still kicking myself, the prizes were awesome!) And attendees all received a pretty impressive goodie bag with funky freebies from Paul Frank’s “Small Paul” line.

The show started with The Happiness Club, which is actually a group of local kids who use dance and music to promote positive social messages and values. Mia was literally captivated.

Next up was Recess Monkey, who we were introduced to just a few weeks ago. Mia’s been jumping up and down to this fun, catchy CD since hearing the very first note, and the live performance really delivered. These guys are great in concert – they interact with the kids and get them dancing and taking part in the music. Even little Mia was following instructions and shouting out on cue. They relate well to kids, and understand how to get them engaged and involved in the show.

Next was Verve Pipe, who we have loved since their show at Schuba’s in April. You probably know their hit song “Freshman” – and watching them certainly doesn’t really feel like watching a kids’ band. Great lyrics, infectious tunes and a real rock feel - and their humor resonates with kids and adults. Their performance ended with the song “Cereal,” with the lead singer shaking loads of cereal out of his guitar over some guy’s head. As the kids in the audience sized up the situation and got ready to make their moves, he stated, “the 5 second rule has expired.”

Dan Zanes, a kids’ music legend, finished up the show. When he started playing, it was like the Pied Piper had taken over, and all the kids gravitated to the front of the room and sat down. He literally captivated his audience, including Mia, who had never heard his music before. His guitar and harmonica were all that were needed to go along with his music, and we loved his cool, laid back vibe.

Overall, this was one of my favorite concerts so far this year. Did I mention the awesome goodies from Paul Frank? A kids t-shirt, onesie, zipper pull, ID tag necklace, socks, lip balms and a beanie monkey head. Unfortunately for Mia all of the clothes were for a 12 month old, but as soon as I know she won’t eat the lip balms, swallow the zipper pull or misuse the necklace, I’ll let her check those out. For now, she’s mastering her zipper skills with the funky monkey head.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chicago area water parks

With temperatures expected to rise into the 90s again this week, I thought I'd post details on some Chicago area water parks that can help you beat the heat. This information was originally sent out in the regular ChicagoKids.com weekly newsletter a couple of weeks ago. If you're not already subscriber, make sure you sign up now so you don't miss important information like this! Here we go....

KeyLime Cove Water Resort, Gurnee
Avoid crowds here and book a room, as this waterpark is only for resort guests. Splash around in this 65,000 square foot indoor waterpark with wild rides for the older kids and adults and a play pond kiddie pool for the little ones. Check web site for rates.

Hall Quarry Beach, Batavia
Hall Quarry Beach occupies a former stone quarry owned by the Batavia Park District. It features a sand bottom swimming area covering 60,000 square feet that includes islands, slides, and a diving area. Admissions: $10, $7 resident.

Pelican Harbor, Bolingbrook
Relax on the Lazy River, experience the thrill of water speed slides, head into the diving well and let the little ones play in the zero-depth entry pool or spray playground. Admission $13, $7 residents, under 2 free.

White Water Canyon Water Park, Tinley Park
Five acres of wet family fun, with a zero depth entry interactive children's play area, diving board, 3-meter drop slide, continuously flowing lazy river, interactive fountains, water cannons and more. $13 nonresident, $7 resident.

Raging Waves Waterpark, Yorkville
Kids’ splash area, a family interactive play structure, a lazy river, wave pool, the Boomerang tornado ride—featuring a four-story drop and a 60-foot tunnel. Over 48" $26.99; Under 48”: $18.99; 2 and under free.

Dolphin Cove Family Aquatic Center, Carpentersville
Zero-depth beach area with geysers and slides for infants and toddlers; "Rip Tide" body slide, "Typhoon" tube slide, 12 foot deep diving well and more. Residents $5, nonresidents $7.50; resident child 3-9 $4, nonresident child $6.50, 2 and under free.

Adams Water Playground, Chicago
This is a little gem in the city, a Chicago park with a small water play area that's perfect for a hot day when you don't want to trek to a crowded water park. Located at 1919 N. Seminary Ave. in a shady area of Lincoln Park. Read my recent blog post about this park. Free!

See our complete listing of local Water Parks by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Retro on Roscoe

By now you've probably heard about Kidzapalooza, taking place at Grant Park this weekend as part of the Lollapalooza music festival. It's sure to be amazing - it's an enormous event, but with that comes enormous crowds... and a not too tiny ticket price.

So if you're not planning to spend the weekend - and some serious cash - with Lollapalooza, there's a great smaller festival that has some equally big performers.

Retro on Roscoe takes place this Saturday and Sunday in Chicago's hip and family friendly Roscoe Village neighborhood, near Roscoe and Damen. This has always been one of my favorite city festivals, even before Mia was born, and now as a mom it's not any exception. This festival has an amazing kids music lineup, with a price tag that can't be beat ($5 donation)

The Family area, ope from noon - 6pm, offers games, activities, face painting, a balloon artist, inflatables and crafts.

The entertainment lineup includes:

Saturday August 7

12pm Trinity Irish Dancers
1pm The Sparkle Monkeys
2pm Justin Roberts

Sunday August 8

12pm School of Rock
1pm Mad Science
2pm Ralph's World

Justin Roberts and Ralph's World are two of our favorite kids' performers, and I am SUPER bummed at the timing of their performances. They're both at 2pm, right smack in the middle of Mia's naptime.

The non-kid lineup is pretty fantastic too, featuring Mr. Blotto, 16 Candles, Too White Crew and Trippin Billies, which if you've spent any time at local street fairs, you've likely heard of. Depending on when Mia wakes up, we may end up spending some time with her over at Hairbangers Ball. Maybe we'll see you there!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Adams Playlot- Big water fun in a small city park

The recent heatwave has sent thousands of Chicago parents to the ChicagoKids.com Water Park page to find some relief from the heat! I also looked for a way to cool off with my daughter Mia, and we headed over to a local water playground that I hadn't yet tried called Adams Playlot, located at 1919 N. Seminary. It's a nice sized park, tucked away in a shady little area of Lincoln Park, and it's a water oasis in the city.

We've got a few water options in our neighborhood (Wicker Park) including some spouting bears at Wicker Park, and a tall bursting water pipe at Dean Park. However, Adams Playlot provided some serious water fun on a day when we really needed it!

The water area was essentially like a large jungle gym with water spouting from a variety of sources, providing different levels of water fun for different kids. Mia was actually a bit afraid of most of the spouting water, but she did enjoy stomping and splashing around in the water puddles and pouring out buckets of water that I filled up for her. Other kids were clearly having a blast, and quite honestly if it had been appropriate, I might have run through some of the water streams and headed down that slide myself.

The rest of the park was also pretty wonderful, providing lots of shade which was much appreciated on a hot day like this. There's also an enormous sand box, which we'll have to try another day, but it's unlike any I'd seen at other city parks I've been to.

For a little park in the city, I was impressed and I definitely plan to head back there again on another hot day. Overall, it is a great option for a hot day in the city!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shrek the Musical - Humor for the whole family

Last night, I saw Shrek the Musical at the Cadillac Palace Theatre - and I loved it! I've seen the movie of course, and as an adult who enjoyed it, I'd anticipated mostly adults to be in the audience. That was not the case - it was mostly families, and the show operated on different levels to please both its adult and child audiences. Just as in the movie, lots of lines and jokes could be interpreted different ways, depending on who was doing the interpreting. So there was plenty of humor for both kids and adults.

The opening scene was pretty somber - a 7-year old Shrek being pushed out into the world by his seemingly cold and uncaring parents. I'm not quite sure how the kids in the audience interpreted this, but it creates instant sympathy for an unlikely main character. Things turn pretty cheery early on though, when the fairy tale critters are banished from the kingdom of Duloc and put on a high energy, hilarious number.

The musical stays pretty true to the plot of the movie, and one of my favorite scenes from the movie – the torture of the Gingerbread man - was definitely done to my satisfaction.

The main characters of Shrek and Fiona were pretty much as I expected. Sometimes it was a bit disconcerting to hear such a beautiful voice coming from Shrek – the songs he sang didn’t always match the persona. However, the character of Donkey completely stole the show. Donkey is played by Alan Mingo, Jr., who played Tom Collins in Broadway’s Rent. His mannerisms, movements and delivery added up to comic perfection, and he lit up every scene he was in.

The songs were overall quite catchy and some of the lyrics had me really laughing – like the Big Bad Wolf, wearing a granny nightgown, singing about how they “tore my cotton granny dress, and called me a hot tranny mess.” At the end of the show, there's a number where the fairy tale characters celebrate their freakiness in a number called "Freak Flag," singing "Let your freak flag fly" and culminating with Pinocchio declaring "I'm wood, I'm good, get used to it!" Some of these lyrics definitely went over the heads of the kids in the audience, but that’s what made it so much fun for adults.

Overall, it’s one of those enjoyable performances that will please all members of your family. It’s recommended for ages 5 and up, which I think seems about right. It’s playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre now through September 5, and you can learn more on the official web site at http://www.shrekthemusical.com

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Justin Roberts New CD Jungle Gym

We're big Justin Roberts fans in our household, and I'm excited to be giving away copies of his new CD, Jungle Gym, as part of our current prize giveaway on ChicagoKids.com.

First, I'll say that my 2 year old daughter Mia is a huge music fan, and listens to anything ranging from kids music to adult music like Rodrigo y Gabriela, Killers, Madonna, New Pornographers, KT Tunstall.. and even some oldies I've dredged up from my past like Newcleus (remember Jam On It?) and other likely embarrasing favorites. I've made an effort to introduce her to all sorts of music, so that I'm not stuck listening to stereotypical kid music all the time.

The music on Jungle Gym appeals to both kids and adults, with the indie feel that Roberts is known for and that adults can enjoy. It's got strong beats that Mia can put many of her different dance moves to. While Mia's too young to appreciate the lyrics of the songs on this CD, I certainly did. It brought up seemingly mundane yet vivid feelings and memories from my own childhood, while also giving me a glimpse into Mia's future. These songs are about the seemingly uneventful things that will some day create lasting memories for Mia, like trick or treating, having a sleepover, getting a haircut, and even getting lost at the mall. I envision Mia relating to these lyrics when she's old enough, and I am sure that older kids will be able to totally identify with these scenarios.

This is the kind of music that we can play all day and not get tired of hearing, and it makes the whole family happy. If you'd like a copy, you can enter to win one at www.chicagokids.com through July 31, or buy it directly from Justin Robert's web site at www.justinroberts.org.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Folk and Roots Festival and Benfest

Another weekend, another street festival... but this weekend is going to be REALLY great! First, the Kids Tent at Old Town School's Folk & Roots Festival is packed with great kids music and activities. The fun takes place at Welles Park, at Lincoln & Montrose in Chicago. Entertainment includes Wiggleworms in English and Spanish, Kids Rhythm Circle, West African drumming, Hip Hop and Zumba for Kids and much more. Here's the stage lineup:

Saturday, July 11th 2009
12:00p | Wiggleworms with Little Miss Ann
12:50p | Ecuadorian Folk Dance with Carmen - Nuestra Música
1:40p | Cowpoke Sing-along with Annie
2:30p | Storytime Dances with Jen
3:25p | Laura Doherty
4:35p | Kids Rhythm Circle with Lenny
5:30p | Special Music by Special People

Sunday, July 12th 2009
12:00p | Wiggleworms with Julie
12:50p | Hip Hop Kidz with Lyn
1:45p | Remember the '80s? with The Swing Sets
2:45p | West African Drumming with Rick Neuhaus
3:40p | Erin Flynn Band

I'll for sure be rousing Mia from her afternoon nap on Saturday so we can see Laura Doherty - she's been a fan since she was 9 months old!

The other festival loaded with great kids music is Benfest, taking place at 2215 W. Irving Park Rd. I'm a little late to post for Friday, but Saturday's lineup include:

4:00pm - Emily Palmer
4:30pm - Basketball Skills & Games
4:45pm - Mary Macaroni
5:30pm - Hula Hoop Contest
6:00pm - CircEsteem
6:30pm - Pie Eating Contest
6:45pm - Super Stolie & Rockstar Tommy

And both festivals offer plenty of entertainment for adults as well, so there's fun for the entire family. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cirque Shanghai Dazzles and Amazes!

My daughter Mia just turned 2 in April, so we're starting to try out more activities that require an actual attention span. And I'm not quite sure she's ready - her attention span currently seems to be about that of a flea's - but we're going to keep trying. Today, I tested her out at Cirque Shanghai, playing at Navy Pier's Skyline Stage.

First, let me say that this is a really great, intimate venue. It's not too large, it's laid out so that you can get a good view of the stage from any angle, and it's covered, which is obviously great in case of rain.

I admit I was quite concerned from the start with keeping Mia interested in the show. When things got started, with performers in beautiful, colorful costumes running down the aisles to the stage and getting right into the show, Mia was elated. The first 10 minutes for her was great - she was laughing out loud, pointing at the stage, and having a seemingly wonderful time. At the 10 minute mark, she said "I want to go home," and that was the end of her attention span (perhaps because there were no elephants at this circus, as my husband had mistakenly promised her earlier in the day.) So my husband took her outside of the stage area where she played with iPhone apps for the remainder of the show, while I stayed behind to watch with my mother-in-law.

The show has changed from a few years ago, losing the hokey narration and gimmicks between acts, which I didn't miss at all. This year, it was just act after act of daring feats, amazing acrobatics, stunning, colorful costumes and displays of superhuman strength. We saw plate spinning, tumbling through hoops, trapeze and rope acrobatics, contortions, human pyramids (and other shapes), and a balancing act that had me holding my breath as a tiny woman climbed nearly 50 feet in the air on top of a stack of chairs - that she was helping to stack.

As far as I could see, Mia was the only kid in the place whose attention span gave out so early. There were plenty of young kids at the show who were completely enthralled, and I'd say that this would be most appropriate for kids at least 3 years old.

Ticket prices are quite affordable, at $14.50 for adults and $12.50 for kids 3-12. Parking is another issue, but it's worthwhile if you can plan to make a day of it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Taste of Chicago Family Fun Stage

You've always known that it's a good idea to bring your appetite to Taste of Chicago, but did you know it's just as good of an idea to bring the kids?! In addition to the great food that Taste is known for, the Family Fun Stage is hosting daily entertainment that includes some of Chicago's finest.

Every day, from 11:30am until at least 5pm, the stage is filled with family friendly music, dance shows, comedy and more. Some highlights include Ella Jenkins, the Little Miss Anne Band,
ComedySportz, Mr. Singer & the Sharp Cookies, and Justin Roberts & The Not Ready for Naptime Players.

On Sunday June 27 at 11:30, it's Taste of Talent, where finalists age 4-14 compete for prizes in a judged competition - and yours truly will be one of the judges!

This will make for a lengthy post, but here's the totally awesome Family Fun Stage schedule:

Friday, June 25, 2010
•11:30 am - Dauphin Theatricals
•12:30 pm - The Shushybyes
•2 pm - On Broadway Dancers from Coal City, IL
•3 pm - Michael Jackson “King of Pop” Tribute featuring Rico “Michael Jackson Tribute Artist,” Tiny Temptations, So Crucial Dance Team, fcbc Educational Theatre “Expressions of MJ”, Dance lessons by Chicago Dance Institute, and Dance Party with DJ Yella of WeJam DJ Services
•6:15 pm - The Happiness Club

Saturday, June 26, 2010
•11:30 am - The Shushybyes
•12:45 pm - Ella Jenkins
•1:45 pm - Kidz Clog & Cloggin’ Craze
•2:45 pm - Linda’s Dance Studio – Blast from the Past Dancers (2009 Taste of Talent All-Star)
•3:05 pm - Gospel Motion of Praise
•3:35 pm - Just Us Kids of the All City Elementary Youth Chorus
•4:30 pm - Stomping at the Taste – Step & Drill Team Showcase
Featuring: Alphonsus Academy & Center for the Arts Step Team, South Suburban Drill Team, Calumet Step Team, Mu Sigma Theta Elite Step Team, North Lawndale College Prep Step Team, Alphonsus Academy & Center for the Arts Varsity Cheerleaders, Alpha GEMS, HF Steppers, New Generation Fancy Drill Team, Alpha GENTS, Wheeling High School’s Crucial Step Clique
Hosted by WGCI’s DJ MoonDawg, music by DJ Zo of WeJam DJ Services

Sunday, June 27, 2010
•11:30 am - 15th annual Taste of Talent (finalists ages 4-14 compete for prizes)
•3 pm - The Little Miss Ann Band
•4 pm - M.A.D.D. Rhythms
•5 pm - The Ankle Todd Show! Chicago’s Newest Show for Kids of All Ages
•6 pm - Jeanie B. and The Jelly Beans

Monday, June 28, 2010
•11:30 am - Misericordia Heartbreakers & Heartzingers
•12:20 pm - It’s Hip Hop, Baby!
•12:40 pm - Special Music by Special People
•1:30 pm - It’s Hip Hop, Baby!
•2 pm - Dave Rudolf’s Beach Party
•2:55 pm - It’s Hip Hop, Baby!
•3:30 pm - Breakdance Chicago
•3:50 pm - Fun with Wontons ~ Cooking demo with After School Matters Chef Gloria D. Hafer
•4:30 pm - Radio Disney AM 1300 Road Crew (games, music, prizes)
•5:40 pm - It’s Hip Hop, Baby! www.itshiphopbaby.com
•6:10 pm - ZC Flawless Drumline (2009 Taste of Talent All-Star)
•6:35 pm - Faith Bardney (2008 Taste of Talent All-Star)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - International Day presented by Jamaica Tourist Board
•11:30 am - Samba 1 Dance Group
•12 pm - Jamaican One Man Band
•1 pm - Cirque Shanghai: Cloud 9
•1:30 pm - McNulty School of Irish Dance
•2 pm - Indonesian Performing Arts Chicago
•2:30 pm - Japanese Culture Center
•3 pm - Halau ‘O Manulani
•3:25 pm - Las Guitarras De Espana (The Guitars Of Spain)
•4 pm - Everyone Loves a Story! Interactive presentation of Oba-Tales for the entire family
•4:30 pm - Dahnyeekah African Dance Troupe
•5 pm - Urban Flamenco Arts Project
•5:30 pm - Building Bridges – African Folk Tales with Drum…A wonderful celebration of human spirit and the family of mankind
•6 pm - Jamaican One Man Band

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - Little Rockers Day presented by 93XRT
•11:30 am - XRT Show
•12:30 pm - The School of Rock
•1:30 pm - Rock For Kids
•2:30 pm - XRT Show
•3:30 pm - Old Town School of Folk Music presents Young Stracke All-Stars & Friends
•4:30 pm - Old Town School of Folk Music presents The Dreamtree Shakers Quartet
•5:30 pm - 2nd Thought

Thursday, July 1, 2010 - Healthy Kids Day presented by United Healthcare
•11:30 am - Stretch-n-Grow, Fabulously Fun Fitness for Kids!
•12:20 pm - Family Bootcamp with Dewayne Montgomery, Kobra Fitness (cardiovascular, calisthetics & core exercises for all fitness levels)
•1:10 pm - Hip-Hop Yoga with Mindful Practices
•2:15 pm - You Are What You Eat! Join Greg Christian, Chicago’s Conscious Caterer, to learn about identifying and cooking with local and organic foods!
•3 pm - Healthy Kids Challenge: Ready, Set, Cook, Eat (cook-off)
•4 pm - Miss Lori and The CAMPUS Kids – Awesome Health Tour
•5 pm - ComedySportz
•5:45 pm - PKay’s Health & Fitness Hoop Aerobics (hula hoop fitness)

Friday, July 2, 2010
•11:30 am - Mr. Singer & the Sharp Cookies
•12:45 pm - CircEsteem, The Chicago Youth Circus
•1:30 pm - Recess Monkey
•2:45 pm - ComedySportz
•4 pm - 3rd annual Battle of the Bands (finalists ages 13-19 compete for prizes)

Saturday, July 3, 2010
•11:30 am - Recess Monkey
•12:30 pm - Six Flags Great America presents the Mr. Six Dance Party – Dust off your dancing shoes and get ready to boogie!
•1:30 pm - Super Stolie and The Rockstars
•2:30 pm - Six Flags Great America presents the Mr. Six Dance Party – Dust off your dancing shoes and get ready to boogie!
•3:15 pm - Radio Disney AM 1300 Road Crew (games, music, prizes)
•4:30 pm - ComedySportz

Sunday, July 4, 2010
•11:30 am - Justin Roberts & The Not Ready for Naptime Players
•12:30 pm - Max Lulich (2009 Taste of Talent All-Star)
•12:55 pm - Chi-Town Cheerleaders (2002 Taste of Talent All-Star)
•1:20 pm - Amy Lowe Trio
•2:20 pm - Justin Roberts & The Not Ready for Naptime Players
•3:20 pm - Chi-Town Cheerleaders (2002 Taste of Talent All-Star)
•3:30 pm - ComedySportz
•4:15 pm - Jesse White Tumbling Team

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chicago Father's Day Ideas for the Family

Happy Father's Day, Dads! There are lots of ways that kids can help celebrate dad's special day here in Chicago.

Wagner Farms Father's Day Dairy Breakfast: On Saturday, Wagner Farms hosts a Father's Day Dairy Breakfast & Farm Day. Your family can feast on a delicious farm style breakfast, complete with fresh dairy items and farm tours, demonstrations, hay rides and hands-on farm activities.

Father's Day at Arlington Park: Take the family out to the park this Sunday for a day full of fun features a petting zoo, pony rides, and arts and crafts.

Father's Day Barbecue: Give dad a break from doing the barbecue work and let him be treated instead. On Sunday at Brookfield Zoo your family can chow down on an all-you-can-eat barbecue held at noon in The Pavilions, and then you can walk around the zoo grounds. Registration required.

Dad & Me at Iron Oaks: If you want to spend time with dad enjoying the outdoors, this could be the event for you. Start on Sunday at the Iron Oaks Vollmer Road Lot and enjoy a nature hike, climb the tower, and do a craft together. Registration required.

Father’s Day Brunch at Lamb's Farm: If dad loves to eat, here's where you can take him for a hearty buffet on Sunday featuring country favorites made from scratch. Feast on our country fried chicken and breakfast favorites including french toast and omelets-to-order. Delicious homemade desserts round out the meal. Reservations required.

Father's Day Pig Gig at Heritage Prairie Farm: This farm hosts a Father's Day Pig Gig on Sunday from 1-4pm. There will be lawn games for the whole family including horseshoes, bags, kickball and croquet. You'll also enjoy live music, local beer and wine, BBQ, farm animals and more! Call for tickets.

You can find more Father's Day event by searching our calendar at
www.chicagokids.com/calendar/. Have fun, dads!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Printers Row Lit Fest

The Printers Row Lit Fest (or as I still call it, Printers Row Book Fair) is taking place this Saturday and Sunday in Printers Row, around Dearborn Street from Congress to Polk. This event is the largest free outdoor literary event in the Midwest.

This may sound like an event for adults, but the family entertainment is reason enough to bring the whole family on down for this one. The family fun at Lil' Lit Park is presented by Navy Pier, and includes music performances, kids theater shows, and appearances by some of Navy Pier's favorite characters. The fun kicks of on Saturday with a performance by local kiddie rock legend Justin Roberts. He's playing a 45 minute set with the Not Ready for Naptime Players starting at 10:15, and a few more concerts during the course of the festival.

The entertainment lineup:

Sunday, June 13

10:15 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players perform

11 a.m.to 11:15 a.m.
Patch& Pickle Show: Extreme Pirate Make-Over

11:15 a.m. - 11:45 p.m.
Carolyn Crimi, author of "Henry and the Crazed Chicken Pirates"

11:45 a.m. to Noon
Patch Pickle Show: MasterPatch Theatre

Noon to 12:45 p.m.
Susan Meddaugh author of "Martha Speaks"

1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Peter Yarrow performs "Songs For Little Folks"

2 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.
Patch & Pickle Show: Extreme Pirate Make-Over

2:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Pam Allyn, author of "What to Read When" will read from various children's books

2:45 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Patch & Pickle Show: MasterPatch Theatre

3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players perform

3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
World Kids Show

Sunday, June 13

10:15 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Patch & Pickle Show: Extreme Pirate Make-Over

10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
World Kids

11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players perform

12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.
The Radio Disney AM 1300 Road Crew

1:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Patch & Pickle Show: MasterPatch Theatre

1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.
The Dot & Susan Show

2:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Tom Lichtenheld, author of "Shark vs. Train"

2:45 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Patch & Pickle Show: Extreme Pirate Make-Over

3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players perform

3:45 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
W. Nikola-Lisa author of "How We Are Smart"

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Little g Band at Do Division Festival

This weekend is one of my favorite kid-friendly festivals - Do Division Family Fun Festival, on Hoyne in the block north of Division Street. The festivities go from noon to 6pm, and the family entertainment includes arts and crafts, cookie decorating, entertainment, a petting zoo on Saturday and ponies on Sunday. I'm bummed that I'll be missing the event this year (although not too bummed, as I'll be checking into a downtown hotel for a girls weekend with some college friends!)

If you make it to the festival, make sure you check out some of the youngest little rock n' rollers you're ever going to see, with the Little g Band. Brother and sister duo Emi and Louis Garnier, ages 5 and 7, along with mom and dad, will be belting out rock hits from groups like the Beatles, Bob Marley, U2 and more.

For these kids, learning and playing music with mom and dad is a their 2-hour per day after-school activity. And they're the stars - Mom and Dad are just back-up.

You can get a sample of their talent here:

A $5 donation at the door for the Do Division festival will help support local public schools including Pritzker and LaSalle II.

Learn more at www.do-division.com.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Get ready to Boogie Down

There's a big party taking place this weekend for your entire family, brought to you by one of my own favorite local resources, NPN (New Parent Network.)

It's NPN's Annual Wake Up & Boogie Down Family Festival Fundraiser, taking place this Saturday June 5 at the Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison St.

The event features:

- Live musical performances by the Happiness Club, Bubbles Academy, and Miss Shana
- Face painting, balloon twisting and family friendly activities
- Healthy and fun snacks for parents and kids
- Exciting instant win raffle prizes
- Dancing, giveaways, and fun for the whole family

You can find more details on NPN's web site at http://www.npnparents.org

If you don't already know about NPN, you should check them out. I'm a member and I've been to their great preschool fair, and have used the discussion boards for advice (toddler sleep issues!) and even to help find childcare. The discussion boards are SUPER active, so it's a great place to connect with other local parents and to learn about great community resources.

The party this weekend runs from 9:30am - 12:30pm, and tickets are $20 adults, $10 kids; or $50 for a family of four. Under one year is free.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kids Day America and Mayfest

The summer street fests are underway, and this weekend's Mayfest in Chicago's Lakeview area is starting off by featuring "Kids Day America" that your whole family can enjoy. From 10am - 1pm, before the regular Mayfest activities begin, you can bring the kids out for a fair that will be fun and will also educate and teach kids about health and safety.

Your family can enjoy free food, fun, face painting, balloons and prizes, and you can also take part in free health screenings and safety demonstrations. There's also a "Kids Day America Healthy Habit Contest" that your kids can enter.

After the family fest, your whole family can enjoy the rest of Mayfest with great food and live music going on all day.

On Sunday morning at Mayfest, it's the Mayfest Pet Parade. I checked this out last year, and it was was fun celebration with dogs everywhere! Pet owners and their pets took turns on the big stage, vying for titles such as "Best Looking," "Largest," "Owner Look-a-Like" and more. There's even a "Pet Trick" feature that your kids will love!

The festivities take place around the intersection of Ashland (1600W) and Barry (3100N).

Friday, May 14, 2010

Japanese Garden Children's Festival

This weekend, the Chicago Botanic Garden presents Japanese Garden Children's Festival, a unique festival that lets kids learn about children's celebrations in Japan. Activities run from 10am - 3pm each day, and families can listen to koto harp and shakuhachi flute music, enjoy traditional folktales, observe a karate demonstration, watch a tea ceremony and make special projects at hands-on stations.

The schedule:

10 a.m. – 3 p.m. — Family Activities
10:30 a.m. — Tea Ceremony Demonstration by Dr. Seiko Nakashima and Students of the Urasenke School
11:30 a.m. — Shakuhachi Flute Performance by Michael Chikuzen Gould
12:30 p.m. — Karate Demonstration by Karate Can Do Dojo
1:30 p.m. — Storytelling by Anne Shimojima
2:30 p.m. — Koto Harp Performance by the Chicago Koto Group

The Chicago Botanic Garden is a great place to introduce kids to the wonderful world if plants. My daughter Mia had her first experience there just a couple of weeks ago, and she had a great time checking out all the colorful flowers (she just turned 2) They offer lots of programs and events for kids (and adults!) of all ages.

Here's Mia enjoying the tulips:

Find more information online at http://www.chicagobotanic.org.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hands on History - Civil War Days

While it's one thing for kids to read about history, it's another for them to enjoy a completely immersive experience where they can feel like they're living it. This weekend is Naper Settlement's annual Civil War Days, where visitors can watch more than 300 Civil War re-enactors act out a day from the past.

You'll get to see troops camping on site, and at 2:30pm a bugle will sound to wake them up and summon them to battle. Complete with rifles, cannons and even surgeons attending to the injured, it's an interactive history lesson that kids can't get in school.

The weekend fun also offers food, and shopping for Civil-War era reproduction products and books and merchandise.

The event runs from 10am - 4pm this Saturday and Sunday, and is $12 adults, $11 seniors and $8 for kids 4-17. Visit the web site for a full schedule of events, www.napersettlement.org

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New! Great Bear Wilderness at Brookfield Zoo

I have a real soft spot for Brookfield Zoo, as my very first full-time job was in the zoo's marketing department back in the early 90's. So I'm really excited to hear about a new exhibit opening up that will be the largest exhibit the zoo has ever had - Great Bear Wilderness!

The new exhibit opens to the public this weekend on May 8, and will offer visitors a "National Park-like experience," with exhibit space designed to replicate prairie, temperate forest and tundra landscapes. This naturalistic 7.5-acre habitat will feature iconic North American animals — polar bears, grizzly bears, Mexican gray wolves, bald eagles, bison, and a raven — and will teach guests about the animals’ past, present and future, their deep cultural significance, and the survival challenges they face.

There's a special opening day celebration being held this Saturday from 10am - 3:30pm, starting with a Native American blessing from members of the American Indian Center of Chicago. Then at 11am with be the grand entry with a procession of Native dancers in full regalia, followed by intertribal dancing.

Other special activities on opening day include:
11:35 to 11:50 a.m. - Native American flute music
Noon - 12:25 p.m. - Native American dancing and presentations
12:30 to 12:50 p.m. - Storytelling about bear families
1:00 to 1:25 p.m. - - Native American dancing and presentations
1:30 to 1:50 p.m. - Native American flute music
2:00 to 2:25 p.m. - - Native American dancing and presentations
2:30 to 2:50 p.m. - Storytelling about bear families

And all through the celebration, visitors can enjoy special appearances by polar bear, grizzly bear, Mexican gray wolf, bald eagle, and bison costume characters.

Find out more on Brookfield Zoo's web site at: http://www.brookfieldzoo.org