Chicago’s Northcenter neighborhood is definitive proof that the best things come in small packages. Known as the heart of the North side, this little nook is home to a vibrant community of kid-friendly restaurants, hipster hangouts, indoor and outdoor play spaces and one of the most beloved summer fests in the city. And though this ‘hood be but little, it is a fiercely fun summer stomping ground.
A sunny spot to chill on even the cloudiest Chicago day, this new indoor play retreat already is a favorite among Northsiders. A welcoming space geared toward the 5 and under crowd, Present Place focuses on exploration and socialization. Tots can climb and play, while parents enjoy the complimentary coffee, tea and Wi-Fi. It’s a drop-in play spot more than worthy of a stroller-side trip or two this summer.
3701 N. Ravenswood Ave #247–248
You know those days when you’re just so hungry, you need real, hearty sustenance? (And possibly a drink … or two.) Those are the days when you go to The Bad Apple. This quirky kid-friendly find has some of the best burgers around and an impressive selection of 25 beers on tap and more than 200 bottle and can options. And don’t even get us started on the cheese curds, which rival any Wisconsin restaurant we’ve ever tried. Yeah, we went there.
4300 N. Lincoln Ave.
Consistently voted the No. 1 festival in the area, Ribfest Chicago features some of the best, sauciest, smokiest eats ever. Messy hands and faces are pretty much required. It also hosts the ever-popular Kids Square, which sports live entertainment, inflatables, free activities and games for kids of all ages. This year’s fest is June 8-10, and all suggested entry donations are used to support the Northcenter community. What a BBQ sauce-covered win!
Lincoln Avenue at Irving Park Road
Date night plans, done. This neighborhood watering hole is also the tap room of one of Chicago’s favorite breweries. You might just be hankering for one of your favorite local brews like Daisy Cutter or Pony Pilsner, but if you wanna get crazy, try a flight or dive into one of their weekly food or dessert specials, which are often inspired by the time-tested family recipes of the chefs.
4257 N. Lincoln Ave.
Have time to spare? Check out this classic, nostalgia-inducing bowling alley that—luckily—participates in the Kids Bowl Free program. Via the program, after registration, parents score a week’s worth of free bowling coupons. The alley’s kid-friendly Cosmic Bowling is a summer must-do, complete with black lights, a fog machine, neon everything and groovy tunes. Is that righteous or what?
3700 N. Western Ave.
It’s a proven fact that diners have the best breakfast foods, and this locally cherished spot is no eggs-ception. Brunch it up with their yummy buttermilk pancakes (gluten-free options available), genius brioche French toast and egg dishes that will make a second meal of the day totally irrelevant.
2012 W. Irving Park Road
Every good ‘hood needs an uber excellent park to run, play and get the wiggles out. The oh-so-peaceful Revere Park has a cute and tranquil picnic area, a playground area, a fieldhouse, football and softball fields, a gymnasium and tennis courts. Just try to get bored here, we dare ya.
2509 W. Irving Park Road
This adorable little cafe is sweet in more ways than one: As a nonprofit organization, Blue Sky Bakery provides transitional employment to homeless and at-risk youth. The precious outdoor seating and delectable freshly baked pastries, sandwiches, soups and quiche and espresso are just a fabulous bonus.
3720 N. Lincoln Ave.
Get your nerd on! Galaxy Comic Zone has been a Northcenter staple for more than 15 years. This funky storefront regularly hosts Pokémon, Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments as well as theme-based birthday parties, which means that your little gamer can socialize at the same time that they’re catchin’ ’em all.
3804 N. Western Ave.
This article has been updated with the most recent information. It was originally published on June 5, 2017.