14 Spontaneous Kid-Friendly Outings Near Oak Park and River Forest

I can vividly remember the first time one of my children made a softball-sized dent in the drywall with his forehead. It was my 3-year-old, and he overshot his landing on the couch with help from a two handed shove from his older brother. He shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and announced, “I’m okaaay!”

It is safe to say that there are days my kids are literally “bouncing off the walls.” With endless other examples of terms my kids have given literal meanings to (s%*t has hit the fan,” for one), I’m a huge proponent of spontaneous outings.

Oak Park is about nine miles from the loop, with the Green Line and Metra trains running straight through it, so you don’t have to be a resident to enjoy these sanity-saving changes in scenery.

Here are two full weeks of (mostly) indoor ideas to get you through the season.

River Forest Community Center

This is such a great little hidden gem in River Forest. We stumbled upon it after a Mom and Tot class last year and it is a constant on our rainy day activity list. The play land is only a few dollars per kid, and the ball pit is a huge hit with my little dudes.

8020 Madison St, River Forest

Wonder Works

This is the perfect place for little learners. Different play areas feature different themes, and all kids will find something they love. Drop-ins are welcome at $7 a person (kid and adult) and there is also a year pass for just $85.

6445 West North Avenue, Oak Park

Monkey Island

While this is the priciest drop-in spot on my list, it is worth it. There is a smaller space for kids under 3, with smaller jump houses, swings and toy kitchens. The larger spaces feature a huge jungle gym, larger jump houses and even an arcade. You can order pizza, drinks and snacks, which makes this place super convenient. My kids almost always fall asleep on the way home. Admission is $4.70 per adult and $8.90 per child.

2100 N 15th Ave, Melrose Park

Oak Park Public Library

This is one of our favorite places to go when I need a quick fix after a long day trapped indoors. There is a fish tank the kids love to visit, computers, storytimes, baby and toddler meet-ups, crafts and more. My babes love playing with the Legos, train sets, play kitchens and reading on the comfy couches.

834 Lake Street, Oak Park

River Forest Public Library

This library is a lot smaller than the Oak Park Public Library, but it definitely holds its own. There are fun weekly events including Mother Goose Café (coffee for moms!), toddler storytimes and crafts. There is also a play space for little ones to color, read and enjoy playing with puzzles and toys.

Fun tip: Donuts for Dads (All caregivers welcome) takes place on Saturday mornings at 9:30 a.m. and is a great way to meet new families.

735 Lathrop, River Forest

Junction Diner

I have come to terms with the fact that I will not dine quietly with my crew until they’re teenagers plugging headphones into their ears. We gladly head to “the train restaurant” when finishing a meal and keeping our sanity are top priority. The kids can ride an electric train, play with toys and draw on a massive chalkboard while waiting for their food to be delivered by toy train. The food is very good, and you may actually be able to make it through your entire meal while the kids run around and play.

Fun tip: They serve alcohol, too.

7401 Madison St, Forest Park

The Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor


Every Thursday at 11:30 a.m., Senor Ruben sings and tells stories in Spanish. Just try to make it past the smell of homemade waffle cones toward the back room. Coffee, hot chocolate and baked goods are a nice addition to an hour or so of entertainment so you can actually finish that cup of coffee while it’s still warm.

7347 Madison St, Forest Park


Gymnastics Recreation Center of Oak Park (GRC)

My kids beg to go to GRC on a weekly basis, so know you will not be disappointed when bringing your kids here. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays there are preschool playtime hours ($6 per visit) for kids 1-6 so they can play and not get bulldozed by the big kids. There are also family hours for bigger kids (ages 1-17). Check out their website for more hours and pricing.

21 Lake St, Oak Park

Tri-Star Gymnastics

While I hear great things about their gymnastics classes, we have loved doing our own thing at their open gym hours. A climbing rope, fun kids music, trampolines (with a strict one kid at a time rule), balance beams and uneven bars make this a really fun outing for kids of all ages. “Family Fun” is Monday through Thursday from noon to 1 p.m. and Saturdays from 4:30-5:30 p.m. and is $5 per kid.

1401 Circle Ave, Forest Park

Brookfield Zoo

The zoo is always hosting free admission days, and while this is my only outdoor spot, sometimes getting bundled up to see the monkeys is exactly what a mundane day calls for. I hear the baby Orangutan is a little slice of heaven.

8400 W 34th St, Brookfield


This is the perfect spot for giving your little ones a creative outlet. You can drop in with the kids, pick your pottery pieces, paint them and they will fire it up for you. My kids have loved doing this on a rainy day, and it’s always fun to see the pieces glazed and finished when we pick them up.

7512 Madison St, Forest Park

Trailside Museum of Natural History

This museum provides nature-inspired stories, snacks, crafts and fun at designated times. Nature Story Time only happens twice a month, so put it on your calendar and if it falls on a day you need to make a run for it, it is definitely a good change of scenery.

738 Thatcher, River Forest

The “CubHouse” Indoor Playground

This is a great play space for kids 5 and under. There is a designated infant area, daily crafts, story times, toys and tunnels.

Tip: The Park District uses a universal pass system, so you will need to check in at customer service to obtain one. Drop-in hours are Tu-Sa: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. They are closed Sundays and Mondays.

Stevenson Center, 49 Lake St., Oak Park

Oak Park Conservatory

While they are always hosting fun events and holiday gatherings, the conservatory is a fun place to just go and explore new sights and sounds. George, the yellow-headed Amazon Parrot, gives a welcome hello, and whistles if you don’t stop to say hi back. The flowers and plants are cool enough for my boys to take note of while we complete laps in this tiny jungle.

615 Garfield, Oak Park

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