Our Fave “Place to take a kid”

“Chicago is for Kids,” and if that’s not the official motto of our city, then it f’in outta be. Chicago is full of great places for kids, but we wanted to take a look at places that might be thinking-out-of-the-kid-box*: anybody can take a niece to Navy Pier, it takes a CMBer to put a fake mustache on her and sneak her into a bar*.

Jennifer says:

One of the world’s largest scrap metal shredders devours junked cars, rebar and washing machines behind the Best Buy on Clybourn. I drive over, roll down the windows and my five-year-old and I gawk as huge three-pronged cranes pluck and dump mangled messes onto a street-sized conveyer belt. We once watched a whole semi-truck trailer get crushed like a pop can before our very eyes.

It’s all very cool and not exactly lacking in danger. You have to park carefully to stay out of everyone’s way, and you’re wise to stop by for only a few minutes at a time, but it reminds me of the days when my grandfather used to take me to the steel mills in Pittsburgh where he worked. Real industry is real interesting.

The story behind General Iron is even better. At the beginning of the last century, a woman who lived where the Home Depot now sits became widowed. All she had was a spare wagon so she sent her kids out with it to pick up scrap metal. General Iron is now run by her grandson, whose name I think is Howie, because he stopped by to say hi to us one day when we were watching the cranes.

Anyway, the sad part is that I think we’re just a few years away from a showdown between the retail congestion/pressures of the Clybourn Corridor area and the needs of the trucks and the shredder. North Avenue is a gnarled traffic nightmare and those trucks that come into the neighborhood fully loaded have a tough go of getting in and out safely. When push comes to shove some retailers and pedestrians are going to bawk at having to deal with those trucks. But, I say that a scrap metal shredder’s a way better neighbor to have than a damn Circuit City or Best Buy anyday. I’m so sick of the mallification of that neigborhood. I’m rooting for the widow’s shredder all the way.

Lauren says:

Thrift Shopping!

My little brother and sister love coming down to the big bad city and hitting up the great thrift shops. They are much higher quality than the crapholes in the suburbs (obvs), and the kids are always overly excited by how far $20 will take them.

Alana says:

My 3 year old and I love going to the Museum of Science and Industry. She’s had quite a few quotable moments in that place. Like the time she thought the Body Worlds exhibit was “gross” and demanded to see a manager. She is convinced that she has actually taken a train ride on the Zephyr, that the mule was real, that she’s mined for coal, and cut down rows of corn. It’s a beautiful place to see a little brain’s imagination take off at lightning speed.

Nikkos says:

Having no children of my own, nor any close friends with children, I must fall back on my own childhood memories, which are populated with many a scene of childlike frolicking at the local Chuck E. Cheese’s. As a child, I was absolutely delighted by the crappy animatronics and terrible pizza.

From “the balls” (that tank of plastic balls that you jump into) to the maze-like structures under the animatronic stage you could run around in to good ol’ fashioned skee-ball and USA vs. USSR bubble-domed hockey- what’s not to like?

Today’s kids, no doubt, are far more sophisticated, and would probably delight in the camp value of Chuck E. Cheese’s. I picture today’s over-scheduled, multi-tasking, wired, educated kid staring in genuine horror at the animatronic beasts of the late 20th century, mouth agape, disbelieving that this is what passed for FUN in the not-too-distant past.

Rob says:

The Brown Line is my favorite place to take my niece and nephew. It’s cheap, they love it, and it’s cool to know some things can hold their attention as strongly as TV. My second favorite would have to be Sweet Occasions on Damen just to see their eyes bug. Besides, it’s the uncle’s official duty to get the kids cracked out on sugar just in time to hand them back to their parents.

Fuzzy says:

Union Station. And I don’t really take kids there, I meet my godkids and their dad there when they’re changing trains on their way from Minnesota to Ohio (or back). We chat, we have a smoothie (they make the trip often enough they have frequent-smoothie cards), they get on a train. The last time they were through, a man trying to avoid the police sat down with them at a table to try and blend in. Welcome to Chicago, kids!

Chuck E. Cheese’s
5030 S Kedzie
773-476-0500

1830 W Fullerton Ave
773-871-2484

and suburban locations

General Iron
1909 N Clifton Ave
773-327-9600

Museum of Science and Industry
57th Street and Lake Shore Drive
773-684-1414

Sweet Occasions
4639 North Damen
773-293-3080

and three other Chicago locations

Union Station
210 S Canal St

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