Best of 2022 - Chicago Kid Edition: Top Openings, Happenings and Other Awesome Stuff We Loved
2022 in Chicago was a fun year. From museum openings to new exhibits and play spaces, there were some great additions to the Chicago kids space this year. To help ring in 2023, we’ll take a look back at some of the top openings, happenings, and other stuff we loved about 2022 in both Chicago and the rest of the country.
If you didn’t get to visit some of these great new spaces, they are great additions to your bucket list in 2023. For more kid-friendly fun in the new year, check out our round-up all things family in Chicago here.
New Kid-Friendly Openings in Chicago in 2022
Art of the Brick photo courtesy of the Museum of Science and Industry
In February of 2022, the Museum of Science and Industry opened The Art of Brick exhibition featuring over 100 art pieces made entirely out of millions of LEGO bricks. If you have a LEGO lover in your family, this exhibit is sure to impress. The Art of Brick requires a separate admission ticket. For more LEGO fun, the Brick by Brick exhibit is a great space to find your inner builder.
West Chicago is home to a newly opened play space called Kids Empire. Kids Empire opened its doors in February and boasts a huge play space for kids. There’s drop-in play and spaces for events and birthday parties as well. Kids can climb, slide, jump, and explore in this awesome kids playground.
Color Factory photo courtesy of JC Anderson
In June of 2022, the immersive experience, Color Factory, opened in the lower level of Willis Tower. This interactive art museum features immersive rooms curated and inspired by the city of Chicago. Kids from age 2+ can enjoy a jump in the green ball pit inspired by Chicago’s tradition of dying the Chicago River green on St. Patrick’s Day.
The Museum of Ice Cream started bringing joy to little sweet tooths in the summer of 2022. Is there any other place on earth where you can sample unlimited amounts of ice cream from all over the world? That’s right, we said "unlimited," as in all you can eat. Try different ice cream flavors from across the globe as you explore this immersive ice cream experience. One of the coolest features is the museum's pink Sprink-L-line which we think you’ll find a little cooler than the L line you board to work.
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum recently opened their Nature’s PlaySpace this fall. Children up to 7 can climb, crawl, and splash their way through this new play space. There are over 25 interactive nature experiences. Check out the wetlands, lakes, rivers, dunes, the prairie, and more. This play space is free with admission to the museum.
For Chicagoans near Oak Park, the amazing Clubhouse Indoor Playground re-opened for play time in October. This forest-themed play space includes an indoor playground, infant room, space to read and places to make art. This space is designed for kids five and under. You can purchase one-time admission or buy a season pass.
The Chicago Kids Company opened their Three Little Pigs show at Beverly Arts Center in October 2022. The show is fully kid-friendly and tailored for a young audience. If you didn’t catch the Three Little Pigs in 2022, the show runs through March 10th.
Harry Potter Magic at Play photo courtesy of the event
Potterheads rejoiced at the opening of Harry Potter Magic at Play, which opened in November of 2022. Wizards young and old can explore and interact with magical moments throughout this interactive experience. Catch the train to Hogwarts, take in a Quidditch game, and more.
The Sloomoo Institute entered the Chicago kids scene in 2022. With interactive slime experiences for all the senses, kids and adults can touch, smell, and create hundreds of different slime combinations. If you’re brave enough, you can even get slime dumped on your heads at Sloomoo Falls. This museum of slime is completely interactive and timed tickets allow your group plenty of time to interact and play with slime in a variety of cool and interactive spaces.
The Lion King tour made its way to the Cadillac Palace Theatre in November. The curtains are up and limited tickets are available while this iconic Disney masterpiece runs in Chicago through early 2023. Enjoy this incredible journey to Pride Rock with Simba and the gang from Broadway in Chicago.
Coolest Kid-Friendly Openings in 2022 Around the Rest of the Country
If you’re visiting friends or family, or just taking a family trip to other parts of the country, there are some other new openings well worth seeking out and putting on your next itinerary. Don’t forget, we’ve got whole sites dedicated to the best things to do with kids in most major US cities you can check when you travel, including reviews of all the newest attractions and local calendars packed with events. Here are a few of the coolest things to open across the country this past year.
1. Mommy Poppins Launched in San Francisco and Miami
Our little family grew this year as we added San Francisco and Miami to the world of Mommy Poppins. Our two new sites join NYC, Long Island, New Jersey, Westchester, Connecticut, DC, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston, Orlando, and Atlanta. Also expanding: the cool things you can do on our site. We recently redesigned our search pages with a cleaner, easier-to-use design and new functionality. You can now find camps and classes on your local calendar of events and even buy tickets directly from our website — if an event has a red "Book It" tag, you can purchase tickets immediately, with no added fees. Oh yeah, in our spare time, we also created a new Earth Kids Guide and newsletter. Since the environment is one of the most critical issues facing our children’s futures, we wanted to think and talk about new meaningful and fun activities to engage children and families with sustainability each month.
2. Sloomoo Institute — NYC, Atlanta, and Chicago
The slime lover's paradise didn't just open in Chicago this year. After starting life as a pop-up in NYC, it’s now a permanent 8,000-square-foot space your kids will want to visit again and again. Sloomoo also opened in Atlanta this year. With the massive popularity of the idea (we’ve had editors visit in all three locations, and all their kids agree this is fun to the 9th degree), we suspect there will soon be outposts everywhere.
3. Rise NY — NYC
A brand new experience has opened close to Times Square that takes visitors on a breathtaking simulated aerial tour of New York City. With your feet dangling from the full-motion seats, you soar and swoop through the city, its landmarks, and all its seasons in RiseNY’s awe-inspiring love letter to the Big Apple. Hit all the tourist destinations at once…
Think you can only strap on skates at Rockefeller Center at Christmas? That's no longer the case, and we got the scoop on summer skating at Rockefeller Center. (Also, here are the best restaurants near Rockefeller Center, so your family won't wander into a tourist trap and can get some actually tasty eats.)
5. There's a Brand New Sesame Place — San Diego
One of our LA writers visited the park before it opened and got the inside story on what kids love about the country's newest theme park. There's a water park element to the place, too, which is open year-round, and it's definitely one of the best amusement parks in the US for kids under 5.
6. Dig World TX — Houston
This construction-themed adventure park opened this year near Houston. Here kids can operate the equipment instead of just watching: drive skid steers, dig dirt with excavators, and more. (Now Diggerland in NJ isn't the only construction-themed theme park!)
7. Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex — Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island, FL
This new, 50,000-square-foot, multi-level attraction at Kennedy Space Center opened in March. It gives space fanatics of all ages first-hand views of modern-day spacecrafts such as a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster and Orion Crew vehicle. The main concourse features a 4D motion theater offering four different journeys. It's as close to outer space as you can get without paying for a ride on a tech billionaire's rocket.
8. Stranger Things Experience — Atlanta and Los Angeles
Any teen parent will tell you that finding the outings that they will not only agree to go on (with parents, not friends), but will rave about afterward, are few and far between. Well, this is one outing tweens and teens love. It consists of a walking adventure with an interactive storyline told by the cast of the TV show, a 3D VR adventure that just might make you scream, and a trip to the Starcourt Mall, where you can enjoy Scoops Ahoy ice cream and very cool photo ops.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Marino Walters
9. Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience — Westchester and DC
Harry Potter fans, rejoice! Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience is a magical walk-through that takes guests along a nighttime woodland trail filled with creatures, characters, and scenes from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films. Spectacular lighting and sound effects, mist, and interactive elements make visitors feel like they've truly stepped into the Wizarding World.
10. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Experience — Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando
At this one-of-a-kind hotel experience, guests stay aboard a starship for a two-night adventure. The journey begins on a launchpad with a simulated blast off into space. The launch paddocks at the Halcyon starcruiser, where guests have their own passenger cabin complete with bunk beds and a galactic view. Young Jedis can get a sneak peek of the inner workings of the ship, encounter stormtroopers in the ship's atrium, wield a lightsaber, and navigate the ship with the crew's help. Cheap? No. An incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience? Yep.
11. The Dr. Seuss Experience — Traveling show
This traveling show is one our Houston editor caught when it was there, and she said it’s as if the books have come to life. The show moved to Colorado and will continue touring the US from there. The experience gives kids a chance to see, hear, feel, and experience their favorite settings from nine of Dr. Seuss’ stories as they go from room to room to interact with each installation.
Did we miss any of your favorite new openings? Let us know on Facebook!