Blogger series: Our perfect summer Sunday

Soaking up the sun in the backyard, hitting up Shedd Aquarium or rockin’ out to a concert at Ravinia. How would you describe your perfect Sunday?

My perfect summer Sunday: Northern suburbs

There’s something about Sundays, you know? Growing up, Saturdays were errand days for my family. We’d get through our list of groceries, the post office, visiting a long lost aunt. Sundays, though. Sundays were for fun with a side of lazy.



This has carried over to my adult life, and my son knows it. Saturday evenings he asks, “Is it still the weekend?” When I tell him yes, that we’ve got one more day, his eyes become bright. “Tomorrow is Sunday?” he asks. He knows there’s something about Sundays.



Here are a few of our favorite ways to spend a summer Sunday in the northern suburbs.



A Place to Eat


Salsa 17


My Arlington Heights peeps kept telling me about this place before I finally stopped in for a margarita … whiskey sour … sangria … anyway. Stay for apps and dinner, too–especially the tableside guacamole.



17 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights



A Place to Play


Techny Prairie Park and Fields


With nearly 110 acres of space to play, everyone in the family will easily find a way to while away the afternoon. Four ball diamonds, six batting cages, fishing stations, a playground, plenty of picnic areas and a nine-hole golf course are just the beginning.



1750 Techny Road, Northbrook



A Place for a Rainy Day


Rockin’ Jump


If you’ve taken your kids to an indoor trampoline park, you know it’s a one-way ticket to an early bedtime (goals). An open-jump arena, dodgeball “field,” foam pit and slam-dunk zone will keep kids active no matter what’s happening outside.



950 Busch Parkway, Buffalo Grove



My perfect summer Sunday: Andersonville/Edgewater

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test Comedy Podcast co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood  of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 4-year-old daughter Viva, who enjoys all several days of summer in Chicago.



I enjoy summer too much. I’m so excited to be wearing light clothing and walking in the sun that I feel an almost immediate melancholia that summer is ending, beginning around Memorial Day. But I’ll suffer through.



There are a couple of downsides to summer–you’re sweaty and smelly all the time (Well, I am. Okay, you are, too. Sorry.) and you can’t refrigerate your lunch and snacks in your car, but other than that, hey, summer!



I think the recipe for a perfect Sunday is a three step plan of Food, Activity and Snack. Now, you need to eat more than once, but one should be special. The rest you can throw away. Let me illustrate.


A Place to Eat


Brunch is what separates us from the animals. It keeps Norah Jones in album sales and antelope growers in business. You get two meals in one, your wife will be thrilled (Chicks dig brunch, bro. Seriously. It’s got mimosas.), your child will become civilized and you get a big, protein-y meal. Our pick to click is m. henry on Clark. (Expect a wait, so bring a child distraction item.)



If you don’t want to spend the money on brunch (crème fraiche don’t pay for itself), scramble an incredible, edible egg and eat it on your own steps, balcony, deck, parkway or in a park–just eat it outside. Add a fruit cup, play some Alison Krauss and call it a fancy brunch.


A Place to Play


If there’s a street fest (like this summer’s Midsommarfest), hit it up. Usually there’s kid-friendly stuff on Sunday. If there’s no fest, you can either do an ambitious Chicago destination (Maggie Daley, US Cellular Field, The Lincoln Park Zoo) or a modest Chicago destination (a beach or a park). You really can’t go wrong, except for staying home watching “Never Buy Another Rake” infomercials on cable. (Spoiler: They want you to buy a leaf blower.) I like Loyola Beach (Rogers Park) because it’s got a snack stand, and I like Berger Park because it’s got the Waterfront Cafe. There’s also Senn Park, which has a water feature. (As does Indian Boundary Park to the west, or hike at the new-ish West Ridge Nature Preserve. Bring food, or grab something from a nearby quick place (like the excellent Pete’s Pizza on Granville.) because

My perfect summer Sunday: Oak Park/River Forest

When I think of summer breaks as a child, I remember long days at the community pool, sleepaway soccer camps and chasing down ice cream trucks with my brother. There was nothing better than being a kid out of school, and nothing was more magical than summer.



Fast forward to motherhood. My kindergartener got out of school exactly two weeks ago and has exactly ten weeks to go. I have roughly 70 days to fill our first real summer break with enough ice cream, friends, water and memories he won’t soon forget.



With summer break underway, I’ve learned the more we explore our community, the happier we are. With two Sundays down, and ten to go, here are some of our favorite ways to celebrate summer on a Sunday with the whole family.



A place to eat


The Junction Diner


The kids can draw on a massive chalkboard, ride an electric train, take photobooth photos and watch their lunch de-board a choo-choo train in front of their eyes. Oh, they also serve donuts, veggie wraps, burgers and wine. I’d say it’s safe to label the diner parent friendly as well.



7401 Madison St., Forest Park



A place to play


Ridgeland Commons pool


There is a separate (gated) kiddie pool with a baby slide and fountains. If your kids are a bit older, the larger pool is perfect for relaxing and socializing while you enjoy fun in the sun.



415 Lake St., Oak Park



A place for a rainy day


Gymnastics & Recreation Center


The GRC has a lot of open play hours for the kids to enjoy. I almost always run into familiar faces, so it is social for parents as well.



21 Lake St., Oak Park

My perfect summer Sunday: Rogers Park/Evanston

For my perfect summer Sunday, I like to keep it hyper local and on-foot. Luckily, living in Rogers Park gives me plenty of nearby options to keep me and the kids entertained (until naptime, that is).



A place to eat


Growling Rabbit


6981 Sheridan Rd., Chicago



First, we’ll head over to the Growling Rabbit for breakfast. It’s a beloved neighborhood cafe that lives by the farm-to-table credo as closely as it can.



A place to play


Leone Park Beach


1222 W. Touhy Ave., Chicago



After lunch, I’ll take the kiddies to Leone Park Beach for a little lakeside action. When we get sick of getting sand stuck in every crevice, we’ll head over to the inland jungle gym.



A place for a rainy day


Little Beans Cafe



430 Asbury Ave., Evanston



Rainy days can be pretty grueling when you have a rambunctious toddler to keep entertained. Lucky for me, Little Beans is less than 10 minutes away. It’s a great indoor play place designed for parents and kids alike. The unlimited coffee refills keep me comfortably planted while my son runs around in circles with other kids just a few feet away.



A place to grab a treat


Joy Yee’s Noodle Kitchen


521 Davis St., Evanston



You want to know the shortest distance to my heart? Bubble tea. Specifically, taro root-flavored bubble tea. With multiple locations in Evanston and Chinatown, Joy Yee is known for its superior bubble tea magic. It’s a fast, fun and cheap way to indulge.



My perfect summer Sunday: Southwest suburbs

For the longest time Sundays have always been reserved for our family fun days. While we lived in the Southwest suburbs, it was a blast trying to find things to do to fill those days. Here are a few of our favorites and hopefully they will become some of yours too!



A place to eat


All Aboard! Family Dining and Amusement


20831 S. LaGrange, Frankfort



Visiting this train-themed restaurant is always a hit with our kids. And who are we to argue when the kids happily scarf down the food brought to them by train? Waiting for food is no problem either–kids are kept busy in the train playroom. The hard part is trying to get them to leave!



A place to play


Centennial Park


15600 West Ave., Orland Park



We love exploring parks, so on a perfect day we would grab our bikes and explore a new trail. Centennial Park, with its lakefront trail, is easily one of our favorites. Even after a long bike ride, the kids usually still have energy so thankfully the park also has an awesome sports-themed playground.



A place for a rainy day


Odyssey Fun World


19111 Oak Park Ave., Tinley Park



When we have to move the fun indoors, we stick to Odyssey Fun World. With arcades, games and a huge indoor playground, the kids can stay here for hours.



A place to grab a treat


Creative Cakes Bakery and Café and Plush Horse Ice Cream Shoppe


16649 Oak Park Ave., Tinley Park and 7903 W. 171st, Tinley Park

My perfect summer Sunday: Naperville

A place to eat



To me, easy like Sunday morning means that I’m not working in the kitchen. My ideal of Sunday fabulousness includes some sort of breakfast or brunch to fuel you for a day of fun.



The Riverwalk Café opened just last month and is already a big hit. It opens at 7 a.m. so it’s great if you have early risers. The breakfast menu isn’t large, but the muffins are. They also offer items like egg and cheese bagels and sausage burritos, as well as fresh fruit and yogurt.



If you visit later in the day, there are more lunch and dinner offerings and you can even enjoy a glass of wine or beer. I also love that there’s a section of the menu for dogs. Sitting outside near the Millennium Carillon is lovely if it isn’t too hot. (There are Millennium Carillon concerts at 4 p.m. on Sunday.)



Places to play



There are a few different ways to hit the water in downtown Naperville.



It’s a ton of fun to take a paddleboat or kayak on the Paddleboat Quarry, which is located along the Riverwalk, southwest of the corner of Jackson Avenue and Eagle Street. From 10 a.m. until an hour before dusk, you can rent them. You can find more information on watercraft rentals here.



If you’re looking to get in the water, hit the beach. Yes, there’s a beach in Naperville. Centennial Beach is located at the historic stone quarry at 500 W. Jackson Ave. It starts with zero depth and goes as deep as 15 feet, and it’s big, holding 6.2 million gallons of water.



Places for a rainy day



I love when children’s authors come to Anderson’s Bookshop. My daughter still talks about getting to meet Kate DiCamillo, one of her favorite writers, there. You can check their schedule here or just pop into 123 W Jefferson Ave. and pick up a schedule.

My perfect summer Sunday: Chicago bike path

At the first hint of warm weather this year my husband and I added some new members to our family: bicycles.



This might not seem like a big commitment to some, but as a member of the “cheap enough to get outrageously angry about the difference in the number of brats vs. brat buns in the packaging”* camp, spending a relatively big wad of cash on bikes/helmets/locks/toddler seat was a yuuuuuuge commitment. (Here’s hoping The Donald doesn’t sue me for copyright infringement here.)



After almost a full summer now (What?! Didn’t it just stop snowing?!) I am relieved to say that biking around the city has had one of the greatest payoffs imaginable. Biking miraculously doubled the distance we could go without the help of a train/bus/car, it’s exercise, it’s in the fresh air, and, in case you had forgotten, there’s this really cool “bike path thing” right along this “lake thing” our beautiful city sits on. Often our family activities now involve planning around places to bike, which is why our perfect summer Sunday is often comprised of stops along the lakefront path in the city.



A place to eat


Green City Market


It seems almost cliché these days, but biking down the Green City Market at Lincoln Park is great. There are samples, great local farmers selling their goods, as well as sandwiches, crêpes, smoothies, and any other assorted edibles available. Be sure to bring your backpack for all the great goods you’re bound to want to bring home!



South of the Lincoln Park Zoo every Wednesday and Saturday



A place to play


Public beaches


The first time we biked to Montrose Beach I was actually embarrassed at how easy it was. No parking, no walking from the nearest bus stop, we just rode up and hit the sand. Biking to the beach was a game changer; we no longer bragged to our friends outside Chicago about having beaches in the city, we were those people who went to the beaches in the city. Whether it’s Montrose, North Ave., Oak Street, or any other of our great public beaches in the city, try and hoard your time on them like Gollum holds onto his precious, because winter is coming. (There is also not a single person who can stop the nerd reference mashup that just took place there. I regret nothing!)



A place to grab a treat


Bobtail Ice Cream



My perfect summer Sunday: North Shore

A place to eat




Homemade donuts. I repeat, homemade donuts. Get them! Guildhall’s Sunday brunch also features Croque Monsieur, Lemon Ricotta hot cakes, Eggs Benedict and even Pain Perdu (vanilla custard-soaked brioche with fresh fruit). Bonus: They have the swankiest high chairs I have ever encountered and a bundle of outdoor seating for little ones who like to people watch.



694 Vernon Ave. in Glencoe



A place to play


Hubbard Woods Park & Splash Pad


This park was made famous during the filming of Home Alone in 1990 (scenes include a wild police chase across a skating rink with gazebo backdrop). Newly renovated, this place has a little bit of everything for everyone: swings, slides, bocce ball courts and spray/splash fountains. Bonus: Given the intimate footprint of the park, this is a prime spot for making friends with other families and kiddos.



939 Green Bay Rd. in Winnetka



A rainy day option




This toy store is a dreamy, whimsical fantasyland. Life-sized toy soldiers guard the entrance and Thomas the Train chugs along on a ceiling-mounted track. The most magical part? Patrons are actually encouraged to play with the toys displayed! Bonus: Check out the back of the store for a curated selection of bedtime stories and oversized playhouses for exploring.



654 Central Ave. in Highland Park



A place to grab a treat


Black Sheep General Store


Every warm summer day should conclude with a sweet treat, and this store has my sugar fix covered. My son and I love raiding the gorgeous candy jars and packaging up a goodie bag to go. Bonus: After the sugar wears off, walk over to nearby Friends Park.



346 Park Ave. in Glencoe



My perfect summer Sunday: Chicago and the suburbs

Sunday is usually a do laundry, clean the house, get groceries and be lazy in between all of those chores type of day for my family, but during the summer we make exceptions. After all, we do live in Chicago and we have to take advantage of any delightful weather that comes our way.



A Place to Eat


Thai Little Home Café


638 E. Golf Road, Arlington Heights



Want to know where the best Thai food in Chicago is? Arlington Heights! I grew up eating at Thai Little Home Café when they were on Kedzie and Lawrence in Chicago. My family would go there every Sunday! We absolutely loved the place, but then they moved all the way to Arlington Heights.



Our favorite dishes there for the kids are chicken egg noodles, fried rice, chicken satay and beef tomatoes with bell peppers. Mmm, so good. I also love their Thai iced coffee, red curry and spicy shrimp fried rice. You also have to try their fried whole red snapper with green chilies! My mouth is watering just thinking about it!



A Place to Play


Indian Boundary Park


2500 W. Lunt Ave., Chicago



One of my favorite places to take the kids on a summer Sunday is Indian Boundary Park. I grew up going to this park every few weeks so we always looked forward to it since it wasn’t just our local neighborhood park.



The playground structure is made of wood and resembles a castle, giving it a unique look. The kids love it because there are lots of hiding places in it making it perfect for a game of hide-and-seek! The park is fairly large with lots of open space for flying kites or throwing a Frisbee around without getting in anyone’s way. There’s also a small pond which usually has turtles and ducks swimming around in it.



Best of all during the summer though, is the sprinklers. My kids love to run in the water, get soaked and then dry up while playing in the park again. Ahhh, the life of a child.




My perfect summer Sunday: Lincoln Park/Diversey Harbor

If I had to describe summer for our family in one word, it would be: boating. We recently made this our main summertime family activity. My husband and I realized quite quickly after having kids that our sports car was no longer a good fit for us. (The car seat can be strapped to the roof right? I’m kidding!) So he suggested we find something that incorporated the whole family.



That brought us to making the decision to purchase our very own boat. Boys and their toys.



After the purchase, the question was, where did we want to dock? After careful consideration, we decided on Diversey Harbor; mostly because of the plentiful activities that our family could take advantage of both on land and on the lake. Follow me along on what we consider our perfect summer Sunday.



A place to eat


Standard Market Grill


You can only fill up on so much chips, dip and other appetizer fare on the boat. Our favorite place to go to within a short walk is Standard Market. This place is our standard go-to, but their food is so not standard. (See what I did there?) What I love most about their menu is that they have healthy options (My favorite is the Four Farmers Salad.), comfort foods (Their hand-cut truffle French fries are to die for!) and a kid’s menu. They also have small plates which equally doubles as great kids’ entrées. We love to sit in the bar area with the patio windows open and enjoy a nice cold craft brew.



444 W. Fullerton Pkwy



A place for a treat


Stan’s Donuts


Mmmmm doughnuts. (Saying that in my best Homer Simpson voice). But, not just doughnuts, they also have gelato. Yes, this donut shop slings delicious, piping hot gourmet doughnuts AND creamy, dreamy gelato. I’ve considered making my very own ice cream sandwich with the two.



The shop’s offerings include a variety of yeast and cake donuts, and pockets, which are doughnuts filled with scrumptious offerings like peanut butter, Biscoff and Nutella. Nom Nom Nom. They are great any time of day, as a breakfast of champions or an after dinner treat.



2800 North Clark Street



My perfect summer Sunday: Lake County

In our home, Sunday is family day. With a full house of kids with different interests it can be easy to get overbooked and overwhelmed with things to do. As we tell our kids, “There is always something to do!” We started our tradition of keeping Sundays open on the calendar and reserved for family when our first two were little, and while it is harder now that the kids are older and have school, friends and opinions, we still stick to it!



A place to eat



In summer we throw out a lot of our rules and loosen up on the 80/20 rule we usually abide by. There is nothing as sweet as a perfect ice cream cone dipped in chocolate on a hot summer day. And summer wouldn’t be summer without a nightly campfire in the backyard and homemade s’mores. Our favorite grown up indulgence is to get homemade marshmallows and graham crackers from Cacao Sweets & Treats in Grayslake for an amazing treat you won’t want to share with the kids.



Don’t have a firepit? Check out the Old-Fashioned Campfire (registration required) at Heller Nature Center, Highland Park. The next one is Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. and costs $9 per parent/child pair. Or you can visit the Greenbelt Cultural Center’s FREE Community Campfire Friday Nights. No registration is necessary, just bring a blanket or chair and enjoy various activities and roasting marshmallows.



A place to play



Anywhere can be a place to play when you bring your own playmates! With four kids it’s not hard for us to find fun. We love visiting new-to-us playgrounds and exploring the neighborhood on family walks. My husband and I have been known to steal the kids scooters and take off! Currently, our favorite playgrounds are Bowen Park in Waukegan, Betty Russell in Gurnee and Heron Creek in Lake Zurich. They all provide plenty of fun for toddlers to big kids!



A place for a rainy day



The fun doesn’t end just because it rains! Our family loves to beat the weather blues with games at Pinstripes Bowling and Bocce. We visit the Northbrook location but they also have locations in South Barrington, Oakbrook and Chicago. On Sundays you can play Bocce all day for $5/person/hour. Bocce is an Italian

My perfect summer Sunday: Chicago

I love living in Chicago. Summer is, arguably, Chicago’s greatest season. And what’s the best day to enjoy the greatest season in finest metropolitan area in all the land? It’s obviously Sunday.



Here’s how my family does Sunday up right in a town that’s never lacking in awesome:



A place to eat


The Phoenix


If it’s a wide open kinda Sunday, we make it our mission to head down to Chinatown–even though it’s pretty much the polar opposite direction, city-wise, from our Irving/Albany Park borders. For any dim sum novices out there, don’t be cowed; it’s instant gratification in the form of rolling cart tiny food. You will overeat, and you will have pleasant dreams about whatever that incredibly delicious thing was that you ate after pointing to its picture on a laminated menu. My fave is The Phoenix and my kids totally agree with me … or will, once they put down the chopsticks and come up for air.



2131 S. Archer Ave.



A place to play


North Park Nature Center


Lest you think that a nature preserve in the midst of an urban area smacks of oxymoron, I assure you that the North Park Nature Center is a very real, very clover-scented thing. Kids can race down actual trails, spy legitimate wildlife and take advantage of some terrific, hands-on programming. Best yet? This place is free–as a bird. (Or a deer or any other unfettered and frolicking woodland creature.)



5801 N. Pulaski Road



A place for a rainy day


The Art Institute of Chicago


Raining? Chilly? Muggy as heck? You know I’ll be at the Art Institute. We’ve got a family membership (which, honestly, everyone should, since it’s incredibly affordable for the programming and access you’ll get), but even drop-in visits are wonderful and prorated for Illinois residents. Whether you’re enjoying the tried n’ true (Impressionists Gallery, Thorne Miniatures) or catch ‘em before they’re gone galleries (America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s), this place

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