If You Go
n By train: Take the CTA Brown Line to Montrose, Damen or Western
n By car: Take the Kennedy Expressway (I-90 West/I-94 West) to the Fullerton Avenue/Western Avenue exit and park in one of the neighborhood’s pay-to-park lots. With a stroller and kids in tow, this may be your best option.n Parking: The most accessible parking facility is the pay-to-park lot near the intersection of Sunnyside Avenue (4500 north) and Lincoln. There are ample parking spots and the lot is only a few blocks from both the park and the historic brick-paved center of Lincoln Square. Parking will cost you $2 if you stay the maximum of two hours.
If you suffered through this past year’s wet and soggy weather, then chances are you got little use out of your stroller. But with the sun shining more days than not, now is the time to dust off your four-wheeled kid carrier for a stroll around town.
Whether you have a baby or school-age kids who will sit still, pushing a stroller outside is the perfect activity to keep you and your children entertained.
Living in the nation’s third largest city makes stroller touring an easy feat. Chicago is known for its diverse neighborhoods, which can make choosing the right blocks to tour more challenging than the walk itself.
However, the neighborhood of Lincoln Square makes a good destination for introducing your kids to the wonders of strolling. Located about seven miles north of the Loop, Lincoln Square encompasses the blocks between Foster, Montrose and Damen avenues and the Chicago River. A quaint area with parks, shops and restaurants in abundance, Lincoln Square can keep even the most curious of visitors occupied.
You should first tour around Lincoln Square’s most central park, the 15-acre Welles Park (2333 W. Sunnyside Ave. at Lincoln Avenue). With a circumference of about a half mile, you can easily do laps around the park to break a sweat or walk leisurely with stops in the park’s recreation center or children’s play lot.
When you’re worn out by Welles Park’s wonders, head north up Lincoln Avenue toward the heart of Lincoln Square, between Leland (4700 north) and Lawrence avenues (4800 north). The walk from Welles Park to Lawrence Avenue is about a half mile, so you can easily take your time and see sites along the way or walk briskly for a good workout.
The sites along the central Lincoln Avenue corridor of Lincoln Square range from upscale dining and local hangouts to music stores and women’s boutiques. A main attraction is the Old Town School of Music, a music school that teaches programs with the philosophy "music is for everyone." You can try out a class or stop in the school’s gift shop and pick up a maraca for your little one. There’s no music like stroller music.
If pushing your kids around is making you thirsty, stay hydrated and caffeinated by stopping at one of Starbucks’ newer outposts (4553 N. Lincoln Ave). Should you and your family need more than a swig of a Grande latte and biscotti, Costello’s (4647 N. Lincoln Ave.) a couple blocks north offers tasty sandwiches for adults and kids at reasonable prices. Kids’ meals come with a cookie, fruit or chips and a drink.
Satiated, you’ll be ready to stroll a few more blocks north towards the gem of Lincoln Square, where the brick-paved section of Lincoln Avenue makes the neighborhood feel more like 1908 than 2008.
Welcoming you to the retro-northern block of the neighborhood is a newer addition, the famed Chicago-based restaurant, Potbelly (4709 N. Lincoln Ave.). Your family can re-fuel with an Oreo yogurt shake and listen to some live guitar before treading over to The Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln Ave.), where both kids and parents alike can browse the shelves for the latest titles and local reads. If you’re walking around Lincoln Square on a Friday morning The Book Cellar offers a kids’ story time session with "The Storybook Mom," Nili Yelin, at 11 a.m.
Kid-friendly merchants abound on this stretch of Lincoln Avenue. The boutique Hanger 18 (4726 N. Lincoln Ave.) sells trendy trinkets, women’s clothing and hand-sewn stuffed animals. Timeless Toys (4749 N. Lincoln Ave.) offers wood-based creative toys for kids of all ages, plus a handsome Brio train that the little ones can play with while you shop.
With a pair of comfortable shoes and some storage space underneath your stroller, Lincoln Square on foot makes for hours of enjoyment for you and your family.
Sara Fisher lives in Chicago where she is a freelance writer and mom. You can also find her on the internet at her blog, Self-Made Mom (http://selfmademom.net).