When I first moved to Chicagoland – 12 years ago this week! – I was completely taken with the charming boutiques and shops that you can find in most suburban downtowns. (Believe it or not, those were an anomaly where I grew up on the East Coast.) Wheaton’s downtown is the best of the best, especially for young families who want to support local businesses – and take a break from all that shopping with some treats.
This pink-hued ice cream shop is open year-round and offers delicious, unique homemade flavors that are quickly become favorites for the locals. (I recommend the Parent Trap – vanilla ice cream with a ribbon of peanut butter and Oreo pieces.) Each day features its own special, such as half-off scoops for kids on Mondays and a free sparkle cone upgrade on Wednesdays for anyone who shows off their bling. 109 E. Front St.
Blink and you’ll miss it! This tiny store – it’s only four feet wide – has been a Wheaton landmark since 1921, and the out-the-door lines prove that it’s still beloved. The shop sells freshly popped popcorn by the bag and an assortment of nostalgic candies (they cost more than a penny, but not much). And if nothing else, you’ll get a kick out of being able to touch both walls of the store at the same time. 111 1/4 Front St.
It might be a Michigan staple, but Kilwins is right at home in downtown Wheaton. The shop sells creamy Mackinac Island fudge, made right in the store, in addition to a huge range of hand-crafted chocolates. The ice cream is also popular, especially if you’re up to indulge in a freshly made waffle cone. Some flavors, like Peppermint and The Perfect Apple Pie, are limited edition, but you’re still sure to find something to satisfy your sweet tooth all year long. 100 N. Hale St.
Chocolate lovers, beware. The main location of Graham’s is in Geneva, but this smaller outpost has the same sweet appeal. The store sells homemade candy and fudge (including fun seasonal offerings), hand-dipped ice cream, toasty (and tempting) hot chocolate and drool-worthy chocolate-dipped strawberries. In nice weather, nab one of the outdoor seats to enjoy your treats. 119 W. Front St.
This southside gem (it’s just a couple blocks from the Metra tracks) carries all your “natural” baby essentials, including cloth diapers and baby carriers – and inexpensive classes on how to use them. The store also sells popular gifts, toys and clothing, if you’re not quite ready to take on the natural baby care trend. 130 W. Willow Ave.
What’s got two wheels and is ready to take on the nearby Prairie Path? The answer is your kid, at least once you visit this long-time community staple. The shop sells a range of bike brands and accessories (even skateboards!), and also can fix bikes, trikes and wagons in need of a tune-up. Not ready to purchase just yet? Adult bike rentals are available, making your next family adventure a bit more possible. 117 E. Front St.
If sharing is caring, this store is the most compassionate one out there. The mom-operated business is focused on consigning quality kids’ clothing brands, plus toys, books, baby gear and furniture. Not sure what to do with your kids while you go on a good old-fashioned shopping spree? The store has a play area with movies for your littles. (Told you it was run by moms.) 139 N. Hale St.