Tasting Chicago

A 101 guide to the city’s food festival

The Taste of Chicago is one of the big, beautiful joys you get from living in or near such a big, beautiful city. Or so I thought until I had kids and became overwhelmed with the thought of dragging children through the teeming masses.

But it’s possible to do the Taste with kids. Here are a few pointers to make it fun for all of you:

Go early. The Taste, June 30-July 9, opens daily at 11 a.m. and weekdays are usually less crowded. There is less quality entertainment, but it’s easier to walk, and the lines for food and the rides are much shorter.

Travel light (or heavy). I generally prefer to travel light, taking only what fits in my backpack. But others travel heavy, such as the family that brought a cooler, folding chairs and tent, which they pitched in one of the rare shady spots near a music stage. The kids played, napped and ate in the comfort and coolness of the tent while the adults sat outside and grooved to the music.

The essentials. Bring plenty of wipes to clean dirty hands before—and after—eating that dripping ice cream cone. And don’t forget the high-octane sunscreen, hats, comfortable walking shoes and a collapsible six-pack cooler containing a blue ice pack and bottles of water. (Yes, you can buy water there, but it’s $2 or more a bottle, so bring your own and refill them at the water fountains in the park.)

To stroller or not to stroller. If you bring the stroller rather than the baby backpack, choose the heavy-duty one, not the lightweight umbrella stroller. It will do triple duty—hold the child, carry the equipment and offer more protection from the people who will, without a doubt, walk into the stroller.

Bring money (or not). The Taste can be expensive. This year the city promises all of the more than 60 vendors will offer "tastes" for two or three tickets each this year. Or, if you don’t want to spend much, bring your own food and just enjoy all the free music, crafts and presentations.

Plan ahead. Look for discount food tickets in the weeks before the Taste opens. The daily schedule and a Taste map are available at www.cityofchicago.org. Scope out the acts you want to see, the crafts your kids will want to make and food you’ll want to eat ahead of time. That way you won’t already have spent your tickets when the kids finally spot the place that sells the turkey drumsticks.

Be adventurous. I have always encouraged my kids to try new foods and the Taste is a great venue for that, even if that only means trying the barbecue rib sandwich from a new restaurant. Each of us picks a food we want to try and everyone shares a bite or two.

Cindy Richards


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