5 ways to get to know Naperville

Q-BBQ in Naperville

About an hour west of Chicago sits Naperville, a quaint suburb with a super walkable downtown, a lovely lake stroll, arguably the most kid-friendly beaches in the

 

Chicago area and a Land of Nod outlet.

 

Take some time to get to know this western suburb.

 

Stop in for lunch at Q-BBQ

 

Q-BBQ is a mouth-watering barbecue joint in the center of town. The kids can order the homemade mac-n-cheese with a side of cornbread, while you pile your plate high with brisket burnt ends, Carolina pulled pork, baby back ribs and the smoked Texas brisket.

 

Q-BBQ earned a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin’s renowned restaurant guide—and it’s a fast casual spot (order at the counter, and they’ll bring the food to the table).

 

Explore the Riverwalk

 

One of the best parts of Naperville is its Riverwalk, which really shows off the changing seasons (it’s also a great spot for photo shoots). Grab the family, and wander along the river to see the paddleboats go by, to feed the ducks or to simply be.

 

Or, take part in the action by renting a paddleboat or kayak. Rentals are available at the Paddleboat Quarry, southwest of the corner of Jackson Avenue and Eagle Street. The kayaks and paddleboats are available through early October, but only on non-school days—so don’t think about playing hooky with your kids to go for a ride.

 

You can also BYO picnic along the Riverwalk, as there are plenty of spots to plop down and have a little munch. The river is perfectly calm. The farther you walk from downtown, the quieter it’ll get, and the more you’ll realize that you’re not in Chicago anymore.

 

Hang at the Centennial Beach

 

The north side of the Riverwalk hugs Centennial Beach (500 W. Jackson Ave.), which is a must-see, as long as the weather obliges. It’s unlike any other beach in Illinois because it’s basically a beach/pool mix, or technically, a quarry. The town made the beach by digging it out to make a pool-like setting, with a zero-depth entry for a little ones, and a fabulous slide, diving board and dock for the adventurous swimmers. It really offers the best of the beach and pool worlds (though be warned: it’s not heated). It’s $10 per day for non-residents.

 

Play all day at Ball Factory

 

If it’s not beach weather, head over to Ball Factory, a relatively new indoor play space that is one of the rare places that truly caters to kids ages 1-12. In the baby, toddler and preschool area, they have a massive sectioned-off space that has soft mats, a small slide, plenty of soft toys and a comfy couch for adults. But the real fun starts when you leave that spot.

 

There’s a trio of 30-foot-long fast slides so you can race, and there’s an entire room for soft ball-blasting, where kids can shoot the balls at each other. In another area, there are plenty of pedal tractors and there’s even an interactive virtual balloon popping area (jump on the virtual balloons and they’ll pop). Of course, a fantastic indoor play space wouldn’t be complete without a ball pit, and they’ve got that here, too.

 

Parents aren’t neglected at Ball Factory, either: the couches are comfier than mine are at home, there’s free Wi-Fi, and the coffee is nice and strong. It costs $9-$14 per child depending on the age of the child and the day of the week.

 

Shop ‘til you drop at Land of Nod Outlet

 

It’s difficult to take a trip to Naperville without a stop at the wonderful Land of Nod Outlet. Everything is usually at least 20 percent off, and if you know what you want ahead of time, you can call and make sure they have it. If they do, they typically will hold it for the day. They also tend to have tons of sales, so you could get a LON rug for as little as $80 if you’re lucky.

 

Next door to the LON outlet is a Crate and Barrel Outlet, so this really could turn into a major Naperville shopping day.

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