6 ways to enjoy the Taste of Chicago with kids (without losing your mind)

The Taste of Chicago opened today and over the next four days people from all over will descend on downtown Chicago to try the wide array of food our city has to offer. The great thing about the Taste is the fact that you can dine at seven different restaurants in one afternoon, and not feel like you are committing one of the seven deadly sins.

Most people I know feel like the Taste is not a place for children. But it’s actually the PERFECT place to take children who are a bit adventurous with their food — and even those who may not be. With a little planning ahead you can navigate the Taste of Chicago like a pro, and cultivate a child with a palate to rival the pros.

Go early

This may seem to be a common sense tip, but honestly, it’s the most important tip ever. GO EARLY. You want to be able to have children that aren’t super tired of walking and it’s important to get there before all the tourists or lunchtime attendees get there. Plus you’ll be able to scope out great areas to sit once the sun of high noon hits.

Get that map

Seriously, grab it. No matter how adventurous you want to be, once you pass up that Taste booth with the alligator it will be heck trying to remember exactly where it was in the sea of people. Add a hungry child in there and you’ll want to blow your top. Having the map is a great planning strategy because you can mark off exactly which booths you want to visit immediately and those booths where you want to be a bit more adventurous. The map also shows you where Port-O-Potties are located (since most downtown establishments close bathrooms to the public), and where the kids’ areas are that you may want to enjoy — or avoid. It will also show kids where to go in case you get separated.

Bonus tip: Don’t forget wet wipes and hand sanitizer, AND take a photo of all of your children WITH you before heading out so you can show it to authorities in case they lose you.

Babywear if you can

You may think that a stroller is the way to go, but it’s not. Especially the HUGE double seaters that so many folks bring. If it’s not necessary and you have babywearing apparel, break it out. If a stroller is an absolute MUST, consider getting an umbrella stroller so that you aren’t constantly slamming into the back of other people’s ankles when the crowds get thick.

Bring a small crossbody bag to hold valuables

Big purses and diaper bags only make the outing more cumbersome. If a backpack is the way you’d like to go, scale down and only include absolute necessities. Leave the big camera at home and use your cellphone if you want to capture memories. This will leave you free to hold hands and work your way through the crowd. You’ll be able to hold your tickets, cash (the way to go because credit cards have a convenience fee) and those wet wipes I told you about.

Choose the perfect portions

A good rule of thumb for children is to share larger portions, and divvy out who gets to get what. We let each child pick a small taste portion to enjoy on their own. We usually buy eight sheets of tickets with our family of six. Our plan of action is to not get stuffed, but to be able to try a little bit of everything. If you need to be full, it might be a good to buy two sheets per person.

Embrace spontaneity

Sit on a curb and eat. Take in the street performers. Don’t sweat getting barbecue sauce on shirts. Little ones will be a lot less anxious about the Taste of Chicago if you are. I know that lots of people can be overwhelming, but if you take it as part of the background, you should be able to enjoy yourself. The Taste of Chicago is not supposed to feel like a restaurant, but a food festival where you get to walk around while eating with your hands (or fork, if you can snag one) and take in the sights that Chicago has to offer. The best part about the Taste of Chicago is all the people watching and the opportunity to eat more food.

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