Unexpected family-friendly festivals and markets

The term family-friendly festival is usually associated with things like pony rides and face painting. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with those kiddie faves, the Chicago area is home to many fall markets and festivals that may not necessarily frame themselves as family festivals but have a lot to offer kids nonetheless.

Randolph Street Market

What: European-style, indoor-outdoor urban antique market

When: Sept. 29-30 (indoors and outdoors); Oct. 20-21 (indoors only); Nov. 17-18 (indoors only/holiday market). 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Washington St.

Cost: $10 at the gate, $8 in advance; free kids under 12.

Family-friendly highlights: It offers live music, fun food and treasure maps to encourage kids to explore the market. Sally Schwartz, founder and executive producer of the Randolph Street Market, notes, “We have a wealth of history lessons here and it is a great way to get parents talking about their childhoods through artifacts found.” Be sure to leave enough time for the popular balloon artists and chalk art.

Tips for making the most of your visit: “Be sure to explore both the inside and outside of the building,” says Schwartz.

Dose Market

What: Year-round, monthly market featuring fashion and food vendors.
 When: Oct. 14, Nov. 11 and Dec. 9
 Where: River East Art Center, 435 E. Illinois St.
 Cost: $10 at the door,$8 in advance, free kids 12 and under.

Family-friendly highlights: “We set up a cafe along the river walk where parents can grab a seat and get everyone fed with the best food around. We generally feature at least one Doser who is making kids’ products-either clothes, toys or educational tools, and lots of fun food vendors to pick up great pantry items for snacks. And our lounge has color-on tables that have been a total hit with the kids,” says founder April Francis.

Tips for making the most of your visit: Take advantage of the different monthly art-making stations for kids and grab a photo in the “smilebooth.” “Getting there at 10 a.m. is a good strategy for making the most of the day,” Francis says.

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