Tasting Chicago

The Taste of Chicago is one of the big, beautiful joys you get from living in or near such a big, beautiful city. Or so I thought until I had kids and the thought of dragging them through the teeming masses overwhelmed me.

But it’s possible to take the Taste with kids. Here are a few pointers to make it work:

Go early. The Taste, June 30-July 9, opens daily at 11 a.m. and weekdays are usually less crowded. True, there are fewer headliners entertaining, but that means fewer people, so it’s easier to walk and the lines, whether it’s for food or rides, are shorter.

Travel light, or not. I prefer to take only what fits in my backpack and we do without. But some can’t cope, such as the family we saw that brought a cooler, folding chairs and a tent, which they pitched in one of the rare shady spots near a stage. It was probably a pain to carry it all in but once it was set up—the kids played, napped and ate in the coolness of the tent while the adults sat outside and grooved to the cool music.

The essentials. Bring plenty of wipes to clean dirty hands before—and after—eating drippy ice cream cones. Don’t forget the high-octane sunscreen, hats, comfortable walking shoes and a collapsible six-pack cooler with water bottles. (It’s $2 or more a bottle at the Taste, so bring your own and refill them at the fountains. Pack one frozen and let it keep the others cold.)

Stroller? If you bring the stroller rather than the baby backpack, make it the heavy-duty one, not the lightweight umbrella stroller. It will do triple duty—hold the child, carry equipment and offer protection from the people who will, without a doubt, walk into the stroller.

Bring money, or don’t. Admission is free but food tickets are $7 for 11. This year, city officials promise all the more than 60 vendors will offer two or three ticket"tastes.” Still, it can get expensive. Bring your own food, have a picnic and enjoy the free music, crafts, presentations and the people parade.

Plan ahead. Look for discount tickets in the weeks before the Taste opens. The daily schedule and a Taste map are available at www.cityofchicago.org. Scope out the acts you want to see, the crafts your kids want to do and the food you’ll want to eat ahead of time.

Be adventurous. I always encourage my kids to try new foods and the Taste is a great place for that. Each of us picks a food we want to try and everyone shares a bite or two.

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