Little Beans Evanston is every kid’s dream

When I walked in to Little Beans Café Evanston, the brand-new offshoot of the Chicago favorite, my first thought was that it looked like a kid had designed it – in the best possible way. No, there’s nothing juvenile about the design or workmanship, which is obviously top-of-the-line. It just seems like, if you’d asked a group of kids to tell you what they wanted in an indoor playspace, Little Beans Evanston would be the result.

If you go

Little Beans Cafe Evanston

The spacious facility, located in a former supermarket, is centered around the Little Beans play area for kids 0-6, a mini-village that boasts a Kids Clubhouse (“No Adultz Allowed”) with twisty tunnel slide, grocery store, vet’s office (sharp-eyed parents will get a chuckle out of the name), and even a throwback RV with a play grill. No matter your child’s interests, they’ll find something in this shoe-free spot, whether it’s the reading corner for your little bookworm, luxury ride-on cars for the gearheads, or a sturdy train table for the most thoughtful little ones. There are also designated areas for infants and crawlers, safe from the chaos that can happen when you get a bunch of hyper kids together in one room. We also liked what we dubbed the “dark room,” which features dancing colored lights my 2-year-old nephew loved to chase.

For my money, the most unique aspect of Little Beans Evanston is the designated Big Beans area for kids 5-12. Most playspaces top out at kindergarten age, so it was refreshing to see some fun for all the big siblings out there. The centerpiece (and definite hit with my ninja-obsessed 5-year-old nephew) is the Ninja Warrior obstacle course, a custom-designed course that carries echoes of the popular show “American Ninja Warrior.” Kids navigate up walls, across cargo nets, and through swinging rings before enjoying a ride on a zipline over a pit of foam. While our visit on a holiday meant longer lines for the school-age set, we definitely agreed it was worth the wait. Older kids can also enjoy a karaoke room, air hockey and ping pong, and an interactive floor gaming system called EyePlay.

Of course, Little Beans Evanston is also designed with parents and caregivers in mind. Upon check-in, kids are given color-coded nametags that clearly identify which of the play areas is for them. In addition, the main Little Beans play area is rimmed with a number of tables and chairs. I can imagine that on a quieter day, it would be a great spot to sip a coffee and enjoy small talk with a friend while your kids play together. The Café itself features a full drink menu (my café au lait was superb) as well as pastries, snacks and lunchtime treats. Germ-conscious parents will be grateful to see bins for dirty toys. And the large family-style bathrooms made an emergency clothing change much easier to navigate on our end.

Although the play spaces are the clear highlight, Little Beans Evanston also is home to a half-court gym that’s ideal for basketball or floor hockey, classrooms for classes like dance, yoga and baby sign language, and a library and craft room.

See what I mean? Ask your kid what they want in a playspace, and chances are, you’ll find it at Little Beans Evanston.

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