The best places in Chicago to play make believe

At some point, your child might include being a mermaid/knight/princess/superhero/rock star/ninja to their aspirations. Let your littles embrace their imagination and discover their true selves at these dream-come-true Chicagoland spots.


Your child’s dream: Be a mermaid 

Best for: Ages 7-12

Little girls can channel their inner Ariels at AquaMermaid, Chicago’s first mermaid school. Held at various UIC Sports and Fitness Centers, swimmers will learn how to swim with grace through games and challenges. After mastering the technique of swimming with a tail (a hip and ab workout in itself), budding mermaids will enjoy mermaid dances, acrobatic movements and synchronized swimming techniques. They’ll get to do handstands, dive for treasure, and high-five with fins. Plus, there are lots of great opportunities for photos. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that world?

UIC Sports and Fitness Center, 828 S. Wolcott Ave and 901 W. Roosevelt, Chicago

Forteza Fitness & Martial Arts

Your child’s dream: Be a knight

Best for: Ages 8-14

Want to fight like a knight? Forteza Fitness is bringing back the lost martial art. In this class, junior knights can learn the basics of swordplay. Classes are based on the chivalric virtues of the medieval night and interweave physical training with teamwork exercises and lessons on medieval and Renaissance history. Of course, the fun part: students will also get to duel with iconic weapons, including longswords, rappers and polearms.

4437 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago

Pampered Princess Spa

Your child’s dream: Be a princess

Best for: Ages 2-12

Stepping into Pampered Princess Spa is like entering a fairytale. The Tinley Park spa for children and tweens offers unique spa packages for five or more guests. Princesses in training can don a pink robe for services that include a mini mani, pedi and facial, and a makeup application. Girls can choose the theme of their party (Pajama Party, Doll Party, Royal Tea Party, etc.) or customize their own enchanted day. Pampered Princess Spa also brings their carriage on the road with a mobile spa.

8005 W. 183rd St., Suite D, Tinley Park

Pow Gym

Your child’s dream: Be a superhero

Best for: Ages 2-7

Whether it’s stretching like Elastigirl, using arm strength like the Incredible Hulk or sprinting as fast as Flash, little supers can bust out their masks and capes and learn what it takes to save the world. This hour-long class is filled with games, drills, obstacles and missions that teach important skills that kids can practice and master. Balance, jumping, running, strength, self-defense, and core work are all key exercises that are used in class. Teamwork is also an important theme, as kids learn how to take turns while working together to outsmart the villains.  

310 S. Racine, 1st Floor, Chicago

School of Rock

Your child’s dream: Be a rockstar

Best for: Ages 5-13

School of Rock is a chart-topping franchise, with more than 200 locations around the globe. Chicagoland locations give little rockers as young as age five a progressive curriculum, which begins with Little Wings, a group class where they learn fundamentals like chords, rhythm and song structure, and experiment with multiple instruments. Higher-level classes focus on the instruments of choice and stage presence. Dedicated musicians who advance to the Performance Program (ages 8 and up) get to hone their skills at local music venues in front of live audiences. School of Rock also offers private guitar, drum, singing, keyboard and piano lessons.

Multiple locations in Chicago and the suburbs

Windy City Ninjas

Your child’s dream: Be a ninja

Best for: Ages 2-13

If your child wants to be the next American Ninja Warrior, Windy City Ninjas will whip them into shape. The 10,000 square-foot gyms in Roscoe Village and Elmhurst offer a variety of programs that build self-confidence, body awareness, balance and strength. Using concepts from the American Ninja Warrior show, children engage in warm-ups and then complete multiple circuits and obstacle courses to work on different areas of the body. They run up walls, swing from bars, climb ropes and more. Younger age groups start out with floor-based exercises. As they move up in age, the classes teach new skill sets.

Multiple locations in Chicago and the suburbs

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