Tips for tackling the Taste of Chicago with kids

With a little advance planning you can navigate the food fest like a pro—and cultivate a child with a palate to rival all.

Visit during Kids Eat Chicago

The made-for-kids event hosted by Chicago Parent on July 14-15 is the perfect place for families. With bounce houses, musical performances, games and more, your kids won’t want to leave. Plus, this year, there is a ticketed zipline, climbing wall and spider mountain.

Go early

It’s important to get there before all the tourists or lunchtime attendees. Plus you’ll be able to scope out great areas to sit once the sun of high noon hits.

“My recommendation would be for families to get here earlier. It’s a little less crowded and it’s a great time to experience the festival. Come for the food, stay for all the family fun,” says Chris Carrino, director of public relations & marketing at City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.

Get that map

Seriously, grab it. No matter how adventurous you want to be, once you pass up that booth with the alligator, it will be hard to remember exactly where it was in the sea of people. Add in a hungry child and you’ll want to blow your top. Having the map is a great planning strategy because you can mark off exactly which booths you want to visit immediately. The map also shows the kids’ areas and bathrooms. And it will show kids where to go in case you get separated.

Get that app

The Taste of Chicago app lets you plan your menu, create your own schedule and even sends you helpful reminders when events are happening. Available free in the App Store and Google Play. “Do your homework before you come,” Carrino says.

Babywear if you can

You may think that a stroller is the way to go, but it’s not—especially the huge double seaters that so many folks bring. If a stroller is a must, consider getting an umbrella stroller.

Bring a small crossbody bag to hold valuables

Big purses and diaper bags only make the outing more cumbersome. Plus, security is searching bags as you walk in. Scale down and only include absolute necessities (this includes wet wipes and sanitizer). You need your hands and arms free to hold hands and your strips of 14 Taste tickets. BTW, a strip of 14 tickets are $10 each. The Taste takes both cash and credit cards. 

Eat up

This year, the Taste has more than 300 menu items offered by more than 70 vendors. “So we really have something for everybody, from tacos to thai. If your little ones are so inclined, we have pizza and grilled cheese, but if your tastes are more diverse, we have all sorts of offerings. We have vegan chicken wings this year.”

Embrace spontaneity

This year, the Taste has more than 300 menu items offered by more than 70 vendors. “So we really have something for everybody, from tacos to thai. If your little ones are so inclined, we have pizza and grilled cheese, but if your tastes are more diverse, we have all sorts of offerings. We have vegan chicken wings this year.”

Sit on a curb and eat. Take in the street performers. Don’t sweat getting barbecue sauce on shirts. Little ones will be a lot less anxious about the Taste of Chicago if you are. The best part is all the people watching and the opportunity to eat good food.

Shake that booty

Check out the music because there is something every night at the festival. If the headliners at the Petrillo Music Shell are too late, check out the Goose Island Stage where there is music all day long by Chicago area musicians. Use it as an opportunity to dance.

Learn while you have fun

While at Taste, learn about the food and beverage experience there. heck out the Humana food to festival experience where people of all ages can learn where their food comes from.  Plus, don’t miss the horticulture experiences and experiences where painters are doing live mural painting and other art activities.

Grownup fun

Stop by the Stella Rosa Wine Garden, the Goose Island Backyard Brewery as well as the ch Vodka Cocktail Lounge. 

Find easy parking

Getting to the Taste is super easy on public transportation, but if you drive, we think the easiest, most convenient place to park is Millennium Garages. Find details @ParkingGarages on Facebook. We particularly like Grant Park South since it is so close to Kids Eat Chicago’s space in Grant Park.

Natasha C. Nicholes contributed to this story.

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