Chicago Parent Bracket Battle: City vs. Suburbs Edition

We’re joining in on some of the basketball madness this month with our very first bracket battle. In collaboration with local blogger, Amanda Simkin from Queen of the Land of Twigs ‘N Berries, we’re having the ultimate city vs. suburbs showdown between the best family-friendly spots in Chicagoland.

Our bracket is here! Take a peek here and print out your own copy to write down your bracket predictions. If you fill out a bracket, be sure to tag us on Instagram @ChicagoParent and @queenofthelandoftwigsnberries and use #CPBracketBattle. The voting will take place on our Instagram Stories, so be sure to tune in there. Here’s the timeline: 

  • Round 1: March 13-16 (Results: March 17)
  • Round 2: March 21-22 (Results: March 23)
  • Round 3: March 26 (Results: March 27)
  • Round 4: March 29 (Results: March 30)
  • Round 5: April 2 (Results: April 3)
  • Round 6: April 4 (Results: April 6)

Wondering who made the list? Let’s start off with the city bracket side: 

  • Homeslice: We love pizza (duh) and this place doesn’t disappoint with their interesting sauce choices. Take their spicy upgrade of Hawaiian pizza, covered with barbecue sauce, and topped with pulled pork, pineapples and jalapeños.  
  • Carbon Arc Bar & Board: Located inside Davis Theater, this restaurant knows how to cater to families with their weekend morning cartoon brunch series. Locals also enjoy their family-friendly drag shows. 
  • Eataly: The Chicago location offers plenty for families. Kids can make their pizza and eat gelato. Parents can clink their wine glasses and enjoy a variety of Italian dishes. It’s a win for everyone! 
  • Safehouse Chicago: We can’t say no to a themed restaurant, especially one that’s about spies. They take it seriously too — you’ll be asked for a password before you walk in or else you need to go through a series of “tests” to make sure you’re not a double agent. 
  • Tuco and Blondie: For families who brunch, this Tex Mex restaurant needs to be on top of your list. There are plenty of options — even for your picky eaters — and you must save room for their churros. 
  • Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams: With eight locations across the Chicago area, their unique flavors make us want to come back more. Wildberry lavender? Boston cream pie? Salty caramel? Yum! 
  • Green City Market: A weekly visit to this farmers market is a must — and they even have an indoor option during those cold Chicago months!
  • Downtown Hyde Park Farmers Market: When summer rolls around, you’ll want to head down to Hyde Park to get your produce. The 2019 season also provided fun kids activities organized by local influencer, Mama Fresh

  • Giddings Plaza: This plaza is center of the best shops and restaurants in Lincoln Square. There’s plenty of space near the fountain for kids to run around too. Don’t miss on their annual summer concert series starting again on June 4. 
  • Navy Pier: You can never run out of things to do with kids at Navy Pier. Plus, we love that you can take a ride on the The Centennial Wheel all year round. 
  • Lakefront Trail: Spanning from Ardmore Avenue to 71st Street, the trail gives us breathtaking views of our lake and city. Take a stroll, bike ride or run to enjoy all that it offers. 
  • Montrose Beach: There are plenty of Chicago beaches to enjoy, but local families think Montrose Beach is worth nominating. 
  • Millennium Park: We know your kids are counting down the days until they can splash around at Crown Fountain. 
  • Chicago Riverwalk: This stroller-friendly path has become a beloved family attraction in downtown Chicago. 
  • Cloud Gate: We know this iconic Chicago art sculpture as “The Bean” and we can’t imagine the city now without it. 
  • Garfield Park Conservatory: There is so much for kids to enjoy at this free nature center. One of our favorites? The Juicebox series, perfect for your little ones. 

  • Lincoln Park Zoo: The free zoo has been around for more than 150 years and it still offers plenty of kids attractions ranging from riding the Lionel Train Adventure or monkeying around at Treetop Canopy Climbing Adventure.  
  • Maggie Daley Park: Kids (and parents) can definitely burn out their energy when exploring this ultimate playground. Other activities include mini golf and rock climbing during the warmer seasons. 
  • Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum: The city’s nature museum is always a delight for kids with their special exhibits (they’re currently holding Dragons Alive!), storytimes and of course — everyone’s favorite — the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven. 
  • Chicago Children’s Museum: Located at Navy Pier, the museum is always changing to provide cool things for kids to do and learn. One of their latest attractions is their brand new climbing structure, Cloud Buster
  • Sod Room: We know how much our families love indoor play places and it doesn’t surprise us that Sod Room made the top of the list. 
  • Mr. Dave Music: Kids can sing and shout all they want thanks to the songs provided by Mr. Dave. 
  • Old Town School of Folk Music: It doesn’t matter how young or old your child is — there’s a perfect music class for them at this North Side establishment. 
  • Bubbles Academy: Not only does Bubbles Academy provide excellent classes in the arts for kids, they also host so many great special events. 

  • Building Blocks Toys: There are so many great toy stores in the Chicago and suburbs, and Building Blocks Toys is on parents’ shopping rounds. 
  • American Girl Place: Located in Water Tower Place, some children’s eyes instantly light up as soon as they walk in this iconic dolls store. 
  • Shedd Aquarium: You can spend hours looking at turtles, penguins, fish and other fascinating creatures at this exhibit. 
  • Adler Planetarium: Learn all about universe and more at Adler. Their newest exhibit is Chicago’s Night Sky
  • Museum of Science and Industry: MSI never fails to jumpstart our curiosity. We can’t wait until their new Marvel exhibit opens this fall. 
  • Art Institute of Chicago: The best part about this amazing art museum? Kids under 14 and Chicago teens under 18 enter for free!
  • Wrigley Field: Baseball season is just around the corner and some families enjoy flocking to Lakeview. Go, Cubs, go! 
  • Willis Tower: There’s plenty of family fun offered inside this skyscraper including a new food options like Shake Shack and Do-Rite Donuts & Chicken, and of course, you receive the best views at the Skydeck.

And here are the final nominees for the suburbs:

  • Hometown Coffee & Juice: This neighborhood spot in Glencoe offers great beverages that both kids and parents can enjoy. 
  • Hoosier Mama: The pie shop’s Evanston location never disappoints with their sweet and savory pies. 
  • The Choo-Choo Diner: Train restaurants are always fun, especially when a model train delivers food to your table. 
  • The Junction Diner: OK, we get it, Chicago families really love trains! You’ll go choo choo over this one, too.
  • Capannari Ice Cream: Here’s a unique ice cream spot that lets you taste four flavors at once thanks to their ice cream flight. 
  • Central Continental Bakery: Sometimes all you need is a classic bakery to enjoy some sweet treats with the entire family. 
  • Barnaby’s: While they’re known for their pizza, this local restaurant offers plenty of the classic dishes. 
  • Pilot Pete’s: Watch planes come and go on the runaway while you’re eating a meal. 

  • Skokie Lagoons: You can rent canoes and kayaks to explore Skokie Lagoons’ waters. 
  • Little Red Schoolhouse: Visit the live animals or take self-guided trails at this nature center in Willow Springs.
  • Brookfield Zoo: This suburban zoo brings in special exhibits to get families excited every year. Dinos are coming this May! 
  • Oak Park Conservatory: Considered as a hidden gem to some families, this conservatory is worth the visit if you’re looking for something free thing to do with kids. 
  • Waterlemon: This boutique also includes an indoor play place, which has become a new favorite for locals.
  • The Book Bin: Who doesn’t love spending time at an independent book shop? 
  • Ball Factory: With two locations in the Chicago ‘burbs, kids can have double the fun. 
  • Little Beans Cafe: The Evanston location seems to be a favorite play spot for the younger kid crowd. 

  • Exploritorium: Thinking of something to do on the next rainy day in Chicago? Your kids will stay busy at this Skokie spot. 
  • Kohl Children’s Museum: This museum is built for kids and we can spend the entire day exploring their various exhibits and activities. 
  • DuPage Children’s Museum: Here’s another children’s museum that families will love to visit again and again.  
  • Funtopia: Reach new heights with the ropes courses and climbing walls at Funtopia. 
  • The Zone: With an artificial turf field, warp wall, climbing rope and more, there’s plenty for kids to do here. 
  • Ultimate Ninjas: If your children love watching American Ninja Warrior, then you have to take this challenge. 
  • Chicago Dogs: Is your family obsessed with baseball? Add a Chicago Dogs game to one of your next family outings. 
  • Chicago Wolves: The Wolves offer a variety of activities and themed nights to make their hockey games even more exciting. 

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