In recent years, the South Loop has transformed
from a mob-loving danger zone to a stroller haven. With that
transformation, the abandoned warehouses and empty lots were turned
into parks, play areas and funky family-friendly restaurants.
There are weeks when I never feel the need to leave the
South Loop, and my 3-year-old and infant are completely content
with all the kid-friendly activities here.
It's also the perfect place for a day trip. I had a
mini-meeting with my preschooler and baby, and we've come up with
our absolute favorite South Loop spots.
Women's Park and Gardens
1801 S. Indiana Ave.
In the spot that formerly housed the Vietnam Veterans
Museum, a free indoor play space is our go-to spot for colder,
rainy days. It's a large room boasting a play kitchen, play house
and plenty of climbing areas. Did I mention that it's completely
gratis? If it's sunny, go outside, where the massive gardens and
gravel roads are perfect for toddlers and tricycles. Our favorite
hideout is the kid-size house near the two other historic homes in
the gardens. Let your children literally play house inside. Before
you leave Women's Park, grab a slice of thin crust pizza at Café
Society (same address), adjoining the park.
1454 S. Michigan Ave.
This newbie is an eco-friendly playspace destined to
become a toddler and preschooler obsession. What's especially cool
about Sprout is that kids will find things here that they've never
seen before because many of the toys and the décor were custom
created for the playroom by local artists. And parents will love
that kids are playing in a room filled with reclaimed wood,
recycled cork flooring, low VOC paint and super-bright natural
light. Bonus: The owners tell us that kids classes and birthday
parties will be offered ASAP.
1400 S. Michigan Ave.
This newish addition to the South Loop has people
traveling from the `burbs just to get a taste of the waffles, which
satisfy every tooth-sweet and savory. Choose between the Mexican
Chocolate waffles (our fave), the red velvet waffle and the savory
fried chicken and bacon waffle, among others. Yes, they've got
other stuff on the menu, but we stick to what they do best. We also
love their hot chocolate flight, which offers four different
shot-sized hot chocolates. Plan to spend a while there, especially
if you come on a Sunday, when the wait time can be upwards of 45
44 W. 15th St.
Want to play in the sand? They've got a great sandbox with
toys. Want to swing? Or slide? Or play soccer? They've got it all.
BYO lunch, and eat it on the picnic tables-or throw a blanket down
on the grassy field. We love stopping at Panozzo's Italian Market
(1305 S. Michigan Ave., 312-356-9966) and grabbing a few meatball
subs and a tub of gelato to bring to the park. Once you're done
eating, grab a ball and head to the massive green space for a
start-up baseball or soccer game. The South Loop has at least five
playgrounds-but this one is our favorite. Fuel yourself for a long
afternoon here by hitting up Overflow Coffee Bar (1550 S. State
St., 312-949-0877), where they serve eco-conscious,
farmer-friendly, fair trade coffee, cookies and sandwiches in a
large, open space.
Put It On
1319 S. Michigan Ave.
When all the families flooded the South Loop, we all knew
what would follow. And finally, this spring, a boutique clothing
store owned by a South Loop mom of three that sells women's and
children's clothing made its appearance. Pop in for gift
items (we love the cute kids' aprons and the hair accessories),
baby and kids' clothing (a typical outfit costs about $25) or
women's fun outfits and accessories.
Danielle Braff lives with her two daughters and husband in downtown Chicago.
See more of Danielle's stories here.
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