Best places to come down with a case of the giggles

These places around Chicagoland know how to bring out the LOL’s.

Laughter is the best medicine and these places around Chicagoland know how to bring out the belly laughs.

Playful performances bring out all the sillies and smiles, no matter your age.

Emerald City Theatre Company

Brace yourselves for squeals of delight at Happy Play Cafe.

New play space brings together kids, birds and bunnies

Kids can play with bunnies and parakeets to their hearts’ content at the newest play space to hit Chicago.

Happy Play Café was created by two sisters, both parents themselves, on the theory that pets need a loving environment and most kids love playing with pets.

“Everybody loves the concept of having animals and a play space,” manager Amelia Milton says.

One hundred parakeets fill the bird room, and if you and your child stand quietly (and lure them with a bird feed stick), the friendly birds will land all over you.

The play space includes three rooms that appeal to different ages. The toddler room, for ages 6 months and up, includes ball pits and a small train table. The next room, a room for pretending, holds four wooden houses and a teepee, with lots of kitchen tools, a grocery store and a lawnmower. A third room, the train room, features a big train table, Hot Wheels cars and a marble run.

“I really, really love seeing the kids’ responses to the animals. I’ve always loved kids and animals, so it’s great to see a kid get excited about the animals,” she says.

“… You just see them light up.”

Bonus, if your child gets really attached to one of her new long-eared or feathered playmates, you can adopt it.

10 reasons to visit Pump It Up

Now that my son attends school full-time, it’s a bit of a challenge to find activities that don’t involve us staying home building tents or pretending to be ninjas. When Friday comes, it is especially liberating to do something fun together.

Unfortunately, most museum hours don’t make the cut and by the time we even think about visiting our favorite play rooms, traffic gets in the way, again interfering with us getting there before closing hours.

Luckily for moms of full-time school-aged kids, there is Pump it Up–An indoor giant inflatable filled play area.

What could be more liberating than jumping all of our energy out?

Here are 10 reasons I’ve fallen in love with the place:

You can feel like a kid again

Whether it’s going through the obstacle course, trying the slippery slope or the rock climbing wall, going down the many slides or playing with the imagination blocks, there is amusement every step of the way for both you and your children. Did you know? Adults get in free! No longer do you have to witness the fun. You can join right in. If you enjoy the background music as much as your kiddo, dance away! Bonding quality time? Check!

It offers after school hours

With awesome Open Jump hour spots ranging from 5-7:30 p.m., I’d say it’s a plus for working parents and school-goers. They don’t call if After-School Jump for nothing.

Fun galore for kids of all ages

You have the option to attend Open Jump for all ages or Open Jump for those 42” and under, mostly happening before 5 p.m.. My son has outgrown some places. With a toddler and school kiddo, Pump It Up is one place you can never grow too old for and  always have fun, no matter your age.

Ideal for winter

Staying warm while having fun and combating cabin fever, yes please.

Family Open Jump

Everyone is welcome on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Grandparent playdate anyone?

Glow in the Dark Jump

This special event with FX lighting is one you can’t miss


Sketch comedy done hilariously right.

Stage 773

The perfect place if fun is right up your alley.

Kings Bowl America opens in Chicago

Is it possible to have an exceptional evening out with the whole family? Kings Bowl America seems to think so, and my clan would wholeheartedly agree.

With decor befitting a cool cat lounge and facilities impressive enough for even the most serious bowler, Kings Bowl has a heck of a lot that appeals to the younger set. Foosball? Air hockey? Laser bumpers set to show up on your child’s turn to bowl? (Or yours; they won’t judge.)

And if you’re worried about wrangling a larger group for a child’s birthday, fear not; the new Kings Bowl in Lincoln Park has a semi-private (and roped-off!) pair of lanes at the back of the facility. This spot, however, keeps you within a stone’s throw of Kings’ impressive bar.

Its executive-chef designed menu is top notch, too; the buffalo wontons and Southwestern spring rolls were so good that my husband and I didn’t even want to share them with the kids. (Thankfully, their thin crust pepperoni pizza was so off-the-charts the kids couldn’t have cared less what we were eating.)

Everyone—from the doorman to manager to server—was incredibly friendly and welcoming. The attached parking in the NewCity plaza is a major draw as well. (City parents, can I get an amen?)

Lincoln Park’s Kings Bowl is a must-visit (and must-chill, must-play and absolutely must-return).

Maggie Daley Park is ready for all the playtime you can throw at it.

4 Chicagoland playgrounds we’re loving this summer

These four great parks bring a fresh look to playtime. And the best news is that they are more than ready for summer adventures!

Maggie Daley Park

337 E. Randolph St., Chicago

(312) 742-3918

This $60 million park-for-all-seasons embraces the warmer weather with roller skating in the Skating Ribbon. The 40-foot climbing structures in the center of the ribbon will be the city’s first rock climbing park. Both experienced and novice climbers can take hold with instruction and supervision from park staff.

If you’ve wondered what those upside down trees are, wander the Alice in Wonderland-inspired Enchanted Forest. Play tea party or discover the Kaleidoscope mirror maze.

The three-acre Play Garden is wonderfully whimsical. Even really big kids have been known to holler “this is awesome!” as they embark.The playground can accommodate up to 600 kids. Each section is labeled for age. Most equipment is geared toward ages 5-12.

The Sea’s metal play ship is irresistible, with nets and ladders. The Slide Crater is a climbing and sliding bonanza with spiral, wide and rail slides. March along the tower suspension bridge or play tag on the Wave Lawn.

Even the swings are unique—some are nests! The Lagoon, featuring three animal figures, and The Harbor, home to wood boats and a boardwalk, are the best options for kids 2-5.

Without a doubt, this park honors the former first lady of Chicago’s legacy of helping children.

Harvard Early Learning Playscape

Naper Settlement

523 S. Weber St., Naperville

(630) 420-6010

The 10,000-square-foot, award-winning playscape at Naper Settlement is a must-visit. Kids 2-7 will love making a deal at the trading post, playing on the fort-themed structure and exploring Illinois’ natural history with hands-on activities. Climb and slide into new adventures.

“Children and parents who participate in the playscape are embracing our vision of ‘Live History and Inspire Our Future,’” says Sally Pentecost, chair of the Naperville Heritage Society.

Opportunities for physical, social and imaginative play abound within the 12-acre Naperville Settlement museum campus. Starting May 1, Naperville’s only splash pad will run on days when temperatures are over 70 degrees. The splash pad admission is included with museum entry.

“We hope kids will develop a love of history that stays with them forever,” says Rena Tamayo-Calabrese, Naper Settlement president and CEO.

Woodscreek Park

1420 Willow Tree, Crystal Lake

(815) 459-0680


There’s nothing funnier or more magical than the imaginations of kids.

Barrel of Monkeys

Spend the entire day making playful memories. (And then come back tomorrow.)

Room-by-room: Exploring Little Beans Café – Evanston

I’d been to the original Little Beans Café in Lincoln Park/Bucktown a few years back. It was cozy, quaint and a great hangout for toddlers and children under the age of five. The concept–combining food with children’s activities in one safe, centralized location–was perfect.

I had heard lots of great things about the new LBC location in Evanston. Not only was it bigger, but it also offered a variety of activity rooms to accommodate a wider age range (infants to children up to the age of 12).

So naturally, I was excited to take my two children, 5-year-old Deen and 3-year-old Jennah, for a visit.

Pulling into the parking lot, I was surprised at the very unassuming store front. I probably would have missed it had I not used my GPS to get us there. However, after walking in, it was a completely different experience. We were greeted by smiling faces at the register that welcomed us as the concept of LBC and the waiver process were explained.

My kids clung to me when we first arrived, then shortly after getting the lay of the land, they made it very obvious that an escort wasn’t necessary. Keeping a close eye on them anyway, I explored room by room.

In addition to the café, there are seven rooms:

Little Beans Playspace

This room was built with toddlers in mind. The playroom allows children to explore and use their imagination, whether it’s dressing up in a costume or riding along in a toy car. There’s also a small gated area for crawlers and an infant room for those who want some quiet time with their little ones.

Big Beans Activity Center

This room includes a ping-pong table and a mini air hockey table alongside a row of tables and chairs for parents to keep an eye on their children playing. There’s also an interactive projection system on the floor that allows children to jump and kick interchanging objects which is loads of fun.

The karaoke room

This room is adorable. Complete with a sparkling disco ball, a stage and props, it really makes your little one feel like a star.

The gym

There is a large basketball court that also doubles as a hockey rink and/or soccer field. You will find parents (like me!) here as well, shooting so

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