December 29, 2005

 The LaSalle Bank Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier

This looks just beautiful. Several years ago, we hit this festival and there was nothing wondrous about it. It felt as though an ice rink, a few inflatables and a stage were thrown into a warehouse. Not anymore. The whole place is now filled with magical touches, including decorated trees everywhere and a blue sky effect that highlights the twinkling snowflakes hanging from the ceiling.

And it is bigger and better than ever, with many more inflatables, a rope obstacle course, cookie decorating, a carousel and two types of trains—one that shuttles kids through a little village, and another train display that you watch wind through nostalgic Midwest landscapes.

While the festival is bigger than ever, so are the waiting times. And that is the drawback here. I took seven children with me, ranging in age from 10 to 17. The consensus? It looks lovely, but can we please get out of this line? We spent the whole two hours we were there waiting. We could only interview people about the rope obstacle course, which looked cool, because after 20 minutes of waiting, we gave up and went to see the show. And the venue wasn’t very crowded, either. Most of our crew managed to get on three activities or rides. The lines were shorter for the little people activities.

So, we recommend that Winter WonderFest is best for the 11-and-under crowd. They will enjoy the magical atmosphere and the little people rides. The older ones will enjoy the skating. Susy Schultz

10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. 10 a.m.-11:45 p.m. New Year’s Eve. Through Jan. 7. Families. Free to enter. $12 activity wristband, $14 with ice skate rental. Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. (312) 595-5225,

 King Kong

Take heed of the PG-13 rating on the hot new movie, “King Kong.” It is a wonderful cinematic experience—for adults and mature children. But for kids under age 13, the scary natives, humongous attacking bugs and vicious dinosaurs can be overwhelming. The experience is magnified by the big screen and the intense surround sound. My kids, ages 9 and 12, recommend taking no one under the age of 10 (although my 9-year-old would have been angry had I suggested she was too young for this movie). Also, I found it would have been helpful to have reminded my kids, who have seen the old black and white “King Kong,” that the ape dies in the end. They left the theater very sad and angry about his demise. Having said all of that, this is an incredible movie (albeit a little overly long at three hours) and worthy of a trip to the multiplex, assuming your kids are ready for such an intense film. Cindy Richards


Product Review

 Side Rider Sunshine Kids Juvenile Products, $9.95

I’ve always wanted something in our truck to organize my 2-year-old son’s things and the Side Rider, which attaches to a child’s car seat, looks as though it may do the job. It is made out of a strong, lasting material and large enough to hold my son’s books, toys, sunglasses and his pacifier. My son is used to putting his things in the basket, so it saves us lots of time looking around for what would otherwise have dropped beneath the back seats. There are a few problems, such as: The clips that attach to the car seat are strong but difficult to handle. Also, the basket seems to droop and hang away from my son, which makes it difficult for him to reach smaller things while he’s strapped in to his seat, no matter how I attach it.

I recommend this product if you have children age 2½ or older. And I see myself eventually purchasing another one for my younger son when he’s a little older. Jennifer Brzezinski, mom of Samuel, 2 and Adam, 1, Lombard

Editor’s note: The company does not sell from its Web site,, but you can call them with an order at (888) 336-7909 or buy online through the catalogue company, One Step Ahead,

Kids Eat Chicago

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