Chicago

Things To Do in Chicago This Weekend with Kids: Open House, Arts in the Dark, Halloween Parties

It's a big weekend for Halloween parties around Chicagoland, as little ghouls and ghosts prepare for the big night of trick or treating. Join the free neighborhood Halloween party fun at Bloomingdale or Roselle, dress up for Monster Madness in Lisle, do the monster mash at the Mr. Dave Baby Rave, or dive in to a Halloween pool party. York Center in Lombard transforms into Hogwarts for a Potter-themed Halloween party, and Bolingbrook rolls out its annual free trunk or treat event. There's even a deliciously scary Halloween event for bigger kids only in Naperville

There's still time to pick your future jack-o-lantern at pumpkin patches around Chicago, plus a few in the city this weekend at Sheridan Park and Humboldt Park. And kids will love watching glowing gourds take to the water at the free Pumpkin Flotilla Fest in Glen Ellyn.

On Saturday, bring the kids to Maggie Daley Park for the big fall festival, followed by the eerie enchantment of the moonlit Arts in the Dark parade. Fall harvest festivals are cropping up (see what we did there?) in Naperville and at Jesse White Park this weekend, too. 

And this is the weekend Chicago's landmarks and famed buildings open their doors for free exploration as part of Open House Chicago—note that some locations require free advance registration to visit. The Open House Chicago Family Festival at Pritzker Pavilion makes a helpful home base for exploration.

For more ideas, see our weekend event roundup below, and our ever-growing event calendar

Easy Halloween Treats for Kids and Classroom Parties

Candy bars aren't the only Halloween treats to hand out this October 31. School kids across the country are getting ready to celebrate with Halloween parades and classroom parties, meaning you might be on the hook for homemade Halloween treats.

But there's no need to fear the sign-up email headed your way. I've planned more than a few Halloween parties and have put together a list of easy Halloween treats to help parents skip the last-minute scramble. These tried-and-true spooky snacks transform pretzel sticks into ghouls, mandarins into pumpkins, and make enough Monster Mash Brownies that will turn the entire class into sugar monsters.

100 Things To Do in California with Kids Before They Leave The Nest

Whether your kids are leaving the nest in one year or in ten years, there are at least 100 things to do in California worthy of any family's bucket list. From San Diego to Crescent City and every town in between, there are amusement parks, great hikes, drives to the mountains, adventure activities, and so much more!

Did you know that California has 58 counties? Okay, maybe your bucket list doesn't need to cover all 58, but we have awesome family excursions covering over 30 counties across California's 163,696 square miles. How many have your kids experienced?

Columbus Day Weekend Things To Do in Chicago with Kids: Peppa, Sesame, Daniel Tiger, Pumpkins

Brace yourselves, kids of Chicago (and pace yourselves, Chicago parents): Not only does Columbus Day weekend bring a veritable seasonal onslaught of festive fall fun, there's also an invasion of beloved kids' characters on the calendar.

Whatever your preschooler's into, chances are their hero will be in town: There's Sesame Street Live at the Rosemont, Peppa Pig Live at the Chicago Theater, and Daniel Tiger at the Garfield Park Conservatory, plus The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Elephant and Piggie continue their extended stays. Meanwhile, older kids who love the Indiana Jones films can dig into a film festival celebrating the mild-mannered archaeologist.

With the approach of Halloween, it's a good time for (kid-friendly) ghost stories told around a campfire at the Chicago Campfire Festival in the Park. Your pet can also test-drive a costume at the Chicago Botanic Garden's Spooky Pooch Parade. There are illuminated pumpkins to peep at Navy Pier, Goose Island, and Lisle's Sensory Playground, pop-up pumpkin patches to explore at the Cosley Zoo, Skinner Park, Bell Park, and Hale Park, and even glass pumpkins to admire at the Morton Arboretum, in addition to a cute Scarecrow Trail. Over 100 handmade scarecrows will be on display at this weekend's St. Charles Scarecrow Festival, or if you're looking to build your own, visit Long Grove's DIY Scarecrow Day.

On Monday, there's the big parade, of course, as well as Indigenous People's Day programs at the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian. The Theater on the Lake is also hosting a FREE day-long drama workshop and festival, or girls can take part in a full day of free activities just for them at Merrimac Park's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun event. Plus, Monday is a free-for-Illinois-residents day at the Adler Planetarium.

And that's just the start of a long list of fall fun happenings this weekend. Good thing there's an extra day—you'll need it. Looking for more things to do with kids? Don't miss our ever-expanding event calendar and our roundup of Free Things to Do This Fall with Chicago Kids.

The Best Trick or Treat Neighborhoods in Chicago

Halloween is your annual excuse to get the family dressed up, sugared up, and out for a spooky adventure. You’ve got the perfect Halloween costume and trick-or-treat bag (plus an extra bag for when that one gets full). Now, you just need to find that extra-special Chicago neighbor giving out the full-size candy bars. 

Whether you’re looking for haunted mansions, festive parades, live entertainment, or over-the-top decor, we have the best neighborhoods in Chicago for trick-or-treating and Halloween fun for families. If you strategize, you can even hit up multiple events for maximum returns on that costume.  

Easy Pumpkin Carving Stencils and Ideas for Halloween

If your family pulled out the Halloween decorations well before the first pumpkin spice latte sip of 2019, then we're sure you're looking for great pumpkin carving ideas now, too.

The cornerstone of any great Halloween display—the jack-o-lantern—is always one of our favorite things to do with kids in the fall, right after the apple picking and pumpkin patch outing, of course. Pumpkin carving is one of those rare activities that every member of the family can enjoy equally. Little kids love the mess, big kids love the chance to wield a knife, and parents love to show off our creative skills.

We’ve rounded up 12 of our favorite pumpkin carving stencils, all of which include a link to the FREE pumpkin carving design. With a little practice and plenty of options, we're sure you'll find the pumpkin design that captures your family's Halloween vibe, from Baby's First Halloween sweetness to Cyclops to superhero character themes. So read on to step up your Halloween fun (and game).

Best Things To Do in Aruba with Kids: The Beach and So Much More

At less than 70 square miles, Aruba might be a small island, but it packs in a lot of kid-friendly activities for a Caribbean family getaway. Snorkel or splash in the bright blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, explore breathtaking natural parklands, dig in to a wide variety of tasty restaurants and food options, support Aruba’s wildlife sanctuaries, or just stake out a spot on the powdery sand beaches to watch the kids build sandcastles. With its mix of beach beauty and easy-access family attractions—and a relatively protected location south of the main Atlantic hurricane corridor—Aruba is a kid-pleasing choice for a sunny school-break vacation. 

Perhaps best of all, Aruba has a well-deserved rep for being one of the friendliest places on Earth, even by popular vacation destination standards. As my awestruck 9-year-old daughter exclaimed, “Everybody is so generous!” (Well, she is from Brooklyn.)

Whether you’ve got an active crew in search of some new adventures, or you’re just looking for a fabulous hotel pool to sink into for a few days, here are the best things to do in Aruba, as well as where to eat and what to see with kids.

Best Pumpkin Patches for Kids Near Chicago

Did you know that Illinois is the number one pumpkin-growing state in the country? So it should come as no surprise that the Chicago suburbs and exurbs boast dozens of locations for intrepid jack-o'-lantern enthusiasts and pie bakers to pick their own pumpkins. Many pumpkin patches also offer an array of additional autumn-themed activities like apple orchards and corn mazes for kids.

Before selecting a pumpkin farm, families should decide how far they want to travel, whether they want to pick their own or choose from preselected pumpkins, and what other attractions they might want to visit while on their pumpkin picking excursion. Many farms offer hay rides to their pumpkin patch, but the patch itself may be muddy or vine-covered, so parents with young children should check to see if the pumpkin patch is stroller-friendly. Some pumpkin patches also offer late night activities for bigger kids.

Here are a few of our favorite pumpkin patches within a two-hour drive of the Loop.

50 Best Kids' Movies for Family Movie Night

Some of the best kids' movies were made decades ago. If you're looking for the perfect flick to please everyone tonight, we suggest putting the new releases aside for now and introducing kids to these classic family movies.

Get the popcorn popped, the kids snuggled up on the couch, and now you're ready to peruse this list of our top 50 kids' movies sure to win over the pickiest of film critics. From The Wizard of Oz to Sandlot and everything in between, it’s time to turn down the lights and enjoy some quality time with the entire family.

Things To Do in Chicago this Weekend with Kids: Apples, Pumpkins, Circus

With October's arrival, harvest festival season is in full swing for Chicago families, with apples, pumpkins, corn mazes, scarecrows, and even a bit of early Halloween candy. This weekend sees the return of the big Lincoln Square Ravenswood Apple Fest with music, a kids' zone, and all the apple pies you can eat. Meanwhile the Chicago Women's Park and Gardens hosts its yearly Applepalooza for even more apple-themed fun.

Already over apples and ready for some pumpkin action? Naper Settlement's Oktoberfest features kids' games and professionally carved pumpkins. Pier Pumpkin Days light up Navy Pier with a FREE exhibit of glowing Jack o'Lanterns, and Jack's Pumpkin Glow at the Sensory Garden Playground in Lisle is worth the later bedtime. Cosley Zoo in Wheaton starts its monthlong Pumpkin Fest, and "Pumpkins in Space" is the fun twist on the usual patch at Pumpkin Palooza in Aurora, with friendly alien pumpkins, pumpkin UFOs, and even a hay ride through a pumpkin solar system.

On Saturday, there's scarecrow building, a straw maze, and more fall fun afoot at the Lemonster Days fall festival, and a chance to kick off Halloween early with a candy hunt and pumpkin painting at the Lombard Fall Fest. Kids can run off that candy the next day at the Morton Arboretum's Fall Color Run 5K and Kids Dash, with an after-race party for participants and families.

All this, plus the Universoul Circus rolls into town with jawdropping, high-energy performances starting this weekend, and Luchadora, a new play for younger audiences presented by the Theatre School at DePaul, celebrates girl power and family bonds.

Feeling that Fall spirit yet? If you're looking for more, be sure to check out event calendar, updated daily.

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