Family Neighborhood Guide: Visiting Tinley Park with Kids

Get to know this south suburb full of fun for families.

No matter what type of adventure you’re looking for, Tinley Park has it down to a “T.” The community known as a historically key junction point for train and road travel celebrates 130 years this year. I’ve explored every nook and cranny of the community for my blog, Tinley Park Mom, and always marvel at the treasures I find. So here are just some activities kids enjoy, food options that families will appreciate and places to keep the entire family engaged.

Getting There:

With access points to four major interstate highways, it’s no coincidence Tinley attracts visitors from near and far. It’s about a 35-minute drive from downtown Chicago and also offers two major train stops, including an Express commuter train.

EAT

Frankie’s Ristorante

Address: 9501 W. 171st St., Tinley Park

Frankie’s Ristorante is easily one of the top restaurants for every occasion in the Chicago Southland. It’s one of the rare restaurants this far from the city that brings the high-dining experience to the suburbs and can go toe to toe with upscale downtown restaurants. What I think charms people and makes Frankie’s so popular is how they make this upscale traditional Italian restaurant family-friendly. I also appreciate how the chef and his team take chances with avant-garde choices on their menu each season. My first taste of what they can do was a surf-and-turf entrée of elk and shark! The desserts are especially killer for your taste buds.

Before summer is over, grab a seat in the pergola to eat al fresco; you’ll thank me for that sunset view to your west when the light kisses the trees of the Orland Grasslands Forest Preserve into shining gold beacons.

80th-train-station
Photo credit: 80th Train Station

Local One Station

Address: 80th Avenue Metra Station

For traditional American cuisine, you will thank me for trying the gastro pub at the Tinley Park 80th Avenue Train Station. Local One Station is a spinoff of the Local1 Bistro located in the new EVEN Hotel, which adjoins the Tinley Park Convention Center. So not only will you be dining in this timeless Romanesque Tinley Park landmark, with its signature 50-foot-high clock tower, you’ll also be getting a taste of elevated American and BBQ cuisine being prepared by Chef Deni Ehmig’s staff over at Local1. It’s a truly beautiful location — Metra Chairman Brad O’Halloran called the Train Station the “Taj Mahal of the system line” at its opening in 2012.

Grab a bite of lunch outside and enjoy the view of Veterans Park, the library or while doing some people watching; your kids will get a kick out of the stone fireplace and the 5,600-square-foot space to explore. When it comes to eats, the kids will love the hand-battered tenders in buttermilk and the BBQ smoked brisket mac & cheese. For parents, try the Mardi Gras linguine. The entire menu is like a love letter to BBQ and you can’t go wrong with anything on it.

Plush Horse Ice Cream Shoppe

Address: 7903 W. 171st St., Tinley Park

Plush Horse is an institution in Tinley Park — they also aren’t strangers to winning consecutive Best Of awards for the Chicago Southwest Suburbs. If you’ve never been and it’s your last day on Earth, I highly recommend the Waffle Sundae. It’s just any Belgium waffle — it’s a thick churro Belgium waffle! Topped with your ice cream flavor of choice and toppings, I recommend going classic and choosing vanilla ice cream, pecans, and caramel drizzle with a cherry on top—whipped cream optional. For the little ones, Plush Horse’s Monster ice cream is the best I’ve had in Illinois. For parents, you will appreciate the pints to go. The cream is made on site by hand, fresh each day, and there are 70 flavors! Plush Horse also makes custom ice cream cakes, ice cream cake rolls and brownies — and you’ll love the classic 1950s American soda shop vibe, with classic black and white checkered floor.

Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant

Address: 6911 159th St., Tinley Park

If you’re looking to live la vie de loca, give Pepe’s a try. And the best part for us parents is that you can order margaritas to-go. The family has been in business 55 years now. It’s one of a rare few family-owned restaurants that has earned having a chain of restaurants across Cook County (and some in Northwest Indiana). You may have seen a Pepe’s before, but the one in Tinley people drive for. Delicious food, generous portions, no cutting corners and their margaritas are diabolical. The best dish for kids is their quesadillas. For parents, I highly recommend ordering anything off the Asador section of the menu, such as the Carne Asada a la Tampiqueña. What strikes me every time, though, is how the servers and Miguel, the owner, take the time to get to know you, and are so friendly and patient.

Tandoori House

Address: 7982 167th St., Tinley Park

In the last five years more diverse ethnic restaurants have been popping up in Tinley, and the one I recommend is Tandoori House. Those new to Indian food: order Chicken Tikka Masala and mix with Basmati rice—the combination is even better the second day warmed up! Indian cuisine is all about mixing multiple things into amazing combinations. If you like chicken, the Chicken Makhani is next level to the more familiar Tikka Masala. If you want to get a little more fancy, get the Lamb Tandoori Seekh Kabab—with a side of masala sauce and garlic naan! If your children are not used to spices, order fresh vegetables like tomato slices and cucumbers, naan bread and tandoori chicken. When all else fails, ask the server for other accommodations. They also may love the Paneer Tika Masala—our 4-year-old loves it, and she’s cautious about trying new things. If you’re ordering take out, you’ll wait at least an hour, but it’s worth the wait!

EXPLORE

Forest View Farms

Address: 16717 S. Lockwood Ave., Tinley Park

For more than 50 years, Forest View Farms has welcomed horse lovers of all ages, whether they’ve been riding all their lives or want to enjoy their first rides. It’s a cute local horse farm and petting farm, fairly priced and the staff is so patient and gentle with the little ones. Be sure to bring cash if you don’t want to pay for an extra credit card processing fee. You’ll meet pigs, chickens, sheep, geese, ducks, llamas, goats and a mini horse ($5 per person, animal feed extra). Pony rides start at $10 for 15-minute increments while horse rides are a better fit for kids 9 and up through St. Mihiel Woods-East (reservations required). A one-hour private horse ride for two or more riders is $38 per person or $40 credit per person. Riders are paired with a horse at the rider’s skill level, so new riders do not feel overwhelmed. The owner, Jim Larson, shared with me that they also have Mommy and Me lessons.

explore-library-board-walk

Tinley Park Public Library

Address: 7851 Timber Drive, Tinley Park

This is one of the most beautiful libraries I’ve visited. Check out its impressive boardwalk that takes you through the preserved wetland and prairie land the library shares. Inside, the entire second floor is for kids offering a play area full of Legos, soft blocks and puzzles for the youngest kids to board games and felt sets for toddlers and young children to booths for tweens and teens for chilling. Make sure to reserve a spot in advance at one of the Outdoor Storytimes or Steam Ahead science-based activities.

Of special note is the library’s digital media studio, with equipment and computer software and hardware programs that will be especially valuable to students or people on a budget, who may be just getting started with content creation.

Tinley Park Roller Rink

Address: 17658 S. Oak Park Ave., Tinley Park

It’s the kind of time capsule that is worth visiting. The owners are lovely and well-intentioned. The Tinley Park Roller Rink is a touchstone for the village, a tradition for generations of families — very Litwak’s Arcade à la the Pixar movie “Wreck-It Ralph.” They even have a disco ball, which is a nice nostalgic 1970s touch.

White Water Canyon Water Park

Address: 8125 W 171st St, Tinley Park

There are two large pools and a sprayground for babies and toddlers. It also has a sand play area full of buckets, scoops, shovels and a triple sand and water play table. The pool, which features two tall side by side slides, has a 600-foot-long lazy river that wraps around. For the older kids the big main pool on the other side is where they can jump off diving boards and swim. For me, it’s beautiful to see families where multiple generations are having fun together. The huge lounge chair areas with a backdrop of trees and nature outside the fenced in park makes you forget where you are. $10, $20/nonresidents.

PLAY

It could be argued that a good place to raise your kids should be measured by its parks and playgrounds. I didn’t realize how true that is until I became a mom. Here a few of my favorites:

Freedom Park

Adjacent to the Tinley Park Library, Veterans Parkway, a stationary train caboose, Express Metra Station (with Local 1) and a lovely wetlands boardwalk around the perimeter of the library, the 15 acres land of Freedom Park is a no-brainer choice of playground before you go home. And the view from the top of the playground tower sums up the village’s personality perfectly.

Freedom Park plays off the patriotic part of Tinley’s personality—with Veterans Parkway’s light poles decked with banners of veterans who sacrificed for their country, leading you out to 183rd Street. The interactive red, white and blue children’s playground is ideal for ages 6 and up.

Next to it is a state-of-the-art synthetic football and soccer field, a regulation baseball field, softball field, concession building. There is a fully accessible parking lot right in front.

kiwanis-park
Photo credit: Kiwanis Park

Kiwanis Park

If you have more time or are closer to the west side of Tinley, the next best park to check out is the six-acre Kiwanis Park, nestled between St. Stephens Church and Prairie View Middle School. The playground is perfect for kids 5 and up, smaller than Freedom Park but a little more quiet. And there’s a huge recreational field between the playground and the ball field, so your kids have a ton of wide open space—with parking right there on 175th (north of the playground) or you can park on the street on Bishop Road, right in front of the playground.

Tinley Park Dog Park is just under one mile away from Kiwanis Park as is the hidden gem of Town Pointe Park, which is a great opportunity to enjoy nature at its most majestic. Town Pointe is easy to miss. Located at 8400 179th St., a boardwalk winds you through a marsh/wetland, where you’ll see all types of wildlife. The park features a playground with a climbing structure, picnic tables, a pavilion and a soccer field.

Pottawattomie Park

On the far west side is the second largest park in the Tinley Park Park District, and that is Pottawattomie Park, named after the original inhabitants of the area. There’s a playground with a picnic shelter and a half-mile pathway that encompasses the park — I think Pottawattomie is the chillest of Tinley’s parks, great for a tranquil walk, run, jog or bike around this picturesque suburban setting.

St. Boniface Park

Last but not least, if you’re in downtown Tinley, take a few mile drive north up Oak Park Avenue to St. Boniface Park. It’s across the street from Village Hall and just a few blocks south from 159th Street, which marks the start of the more commercial side of Tinley.

The same size as Kiwanis (just 6 acres), it was completely renovated last year and its playground is what I would call the most badass of Tinley’s playgrounds. The main play-set has the tallest tower of any of the nearby playgrounds in the Chicago Southland — the climb makes it more appropriate for kids 7 and up. It’s a striking play structure that instantly makes you think of a Tarzan tree house. Parents will want to go up and slide down, too. Because it is elevated, you get an absolutely beautiful view of the sunset whether you’re up that tower lookout or below at the balcony with the xylophone fence with beautiful music note art. The parking lot, baseball diamond and basketball were also a part of the renovation, along with the addition of a pickleball court.

SHOP

Greco Nut & Candy Outlet

Address: 7950 167th St., Tinley Park

Inside is very much a blast from the past, but you’ll find a whole host of candy types you’ve never heard of, and every classic and current one you can’t forget. Parents will like that the large variety of candies and paraphernalia sold go for as low as 10 to 25 cents. Watch its Facebook page for specials.

Rubino’s Italian Imports

Address: 16635 Oak Park Ave, Tinley Park

Every town has that little store where you can get those special ingredients and food goods from Europe, and Rubino’s Italian Imports is Tinley’s store. I am surprised every time I make a pilgrimage there to find things I thought I’d never see in America. For me, the challenge is not getting their party tiramisu in a sheet pan. And you have to try Rubino’s for a quick grab-and-go at its walkup deli at the far back wall of the store. One word: mortadella from Italy! Put it between Italian sub bread with mayonnaise spread, and you have yourself a proper sandwich. And if you don’t know what a corona bread sandwich is, you must order one — it will feed your family for lunch. The store celebrates its 28th anniversary Aug. 27 with fun merch and giveaways.


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