Go (north)west, young man: The best spots on Chicago’s northwest side for kids and families

Inmy last post I talked a bit about my ‘hood, but I think the entire far Northwest side deserves a shout-out. Sauganash, Edgebrook, Norwood Park, Edison Park. They’re like the wallflowers of the urban parent world: unassuming and not necessarily dressed to impress, but totally cool in their own right. Need proof? Here are just a handful of my favorite places and reasons why I think the Northwest side is worth a long-term relationship.

1.North Park Nature Village Center. It’s like Chicago’s secret garden. The waterfall, wetlands, and densely wooded trails are the stuff of fairy tales. Come to think of it, the number of animals you spot at close range is pretty Snow White-esque. Free programs are offered all the time, like bird watching, crafts, and beeswax-candle making; plus, the annualMaple Syrup Festival is right around the corner. It’s a welcome break from confined quarters and don’t-touch, don’t-run, don’t-get-dirty rules.

2.Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream. I don’t quite understand the Jurassic Park meets haunted house décor, and I’m a little afraid to ask. But the velvety ice cream makes up for it (get Zanzibar, no question), and the service is the type that restores your faith in humanity: The owner once overheard my little guy pleading for seconds and came out with a full scoop of their newest flavor, on the house. Comfy, colorful chairs dot the sidewalk for lazy summer lolling.

3. Affordable, hidden-gem preschools likeSauganash School for the Young Years,North Park Cooperative Preschool,Wonder Montessori, andAll Aboard Learning Express. The first two are half-day options, the latter two full-day. My now-kindergartener attended one of these and learned to sing the 50 states and point them out on a map within his first three months there. (Clearly, I need to sit in on that lesson!) Academics aside, each of these schools have small teacher-student ratios and get rave reviews on websites and via word of mouth.

4.Once Upon a Child. It’s a resale store, so go in with eyes wide open–but I’ve bought books, puzzles, pull toys, and baby essentials for dirt cheap (think Bundle Me for $7). Legend has it that Learning Towers and Tripp Trapps have been sighted here.

5.Superdawg. ‘Nuff said.

These barely scratch the surface, sofeel free to chime in with your suggestions. What are your favorite haunts or hotspots in these parts of Chicago?

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