While indoor playrooms abound for the toddler crowd in the Chicago area, once a kid gets to be about 5 or 6, they’ve often aged out of most indoor play venues. So what’s a family with older children to do on those rainy spring days where the kids are itching to get out of the house? We have five hot spots where big kids rule.
Don’t let the name fool you. The Evanston location of this popular play place has an area designated for “Big Beans” with a basketball court, floor hockey and, best of all, the Big Beans Ninja Warrior Course for ages 4-12. Between taking on the obstacles and zip line, kids can nourish themselves at the adjacent café with paninis and pizza while parents rev up with Intelligentsia coffee and free Wi-Fi. Before heading home, kids might want to belt out some tunes in the Karaoke Room. Day passes are $14, but there are sibling discounts, punch cards and yearly memberships.
The sky’s the limit at this gigantic facility in Niles where wall-to-wall trampolines invite kids to jump to their heart’s content. From a rope swing into a foam pit to a huge dodge ball arena staffed with referees, hours of fun (and sweat) await families of all ages. Even teens and adults can’t resist bouncing. Basketball enthusiasts should check out the Sky High Hoops section where, thanks to trampolines, kids can make Michael Jordan-esque dunks. There’s also a separate arena for ages 6 and under. Make sure to sign the online waiver prior to arrival to speed up the check-in process. Expect to pay $20 for two-hour sessions, but check out the monthly specials for discounts.
Gamers, rejoice! With lights blazing and a casino feel at the four Chicago area locations (Addison, Chicago, Orland Park and Vernon Hills), kids can fuel their game cards (no coins needed!) to use at hundreds of games from Wheel of Fortune to roulette to Star Wars Battle Pod. Reward points are tallied via the card that can then be used at the onsite store filled with stuffed animals, books, board games and some kid-pleasing slime. Caution: this place is addictive, as kids try to gather as many points on their cards as possible for the prizes.
Perhaps one of the best kept secrets in Chicago is the old-school pickup soccer games that the 38,000-square foot Futsal Academy hosts for kids 6-13 on weekends and some school holidays. No need to sign up—just show up. With three indoor fields, players are divided by age and organized games are played with a running clock and a Futsal supervisor. Kids 14 and up are welcome to play in the adult pickup games; schedules for both are listed online. At only $10 per player for the typically one-hour sessions, it’s also a bargain. Tip: leave the cleats at home (they’re not permitted on the turf fields).
With four locations in the Chicago area (Chicago, Northbrook, Oak Brook and South Barrington), this chain brilliantly combines bowling, bocce ball and upscale dining for a great experience for the entire family. From gourmet flatbreads and house-made pastas to grilled chef specialties, this is not your typical bowling alley fare. Make sure to plan your visit around a mealtime to experience the bistro featuring Italian-American cuisine. Game prices are reasonable, starting at $5 per person per hour for bocce and $5 per person per game for bowling. Check online for specials such as family days and weekday playtimes for kids under 12.