Favorite Things To Do with Kids in Roscoe Village and North Center
The Loop is great... for going to work or being a tourist. But for those looking to see some of the other 76 neighborhoods in Chicago, we've got the inside track on more fun things to do with kids. Just west of Wrigleyville and north of the hipstery Bucktown neighborhood are two of our favorite neighborhoods in Chicago: Roscoe Village and North Center. Bounded by Ashland Avenue to the east, Belmont on the south, Montrose on the north, and the Chicago River on the west, these neighborhoods have a slightly funky, retro feel, and they're a great place for young families to live. There are also a few fun new venues and restaurants in the area that appeal to more adventurous families.
Whether you're looking for bikes, books, brunch, or bowling, Roscoe Village and North Center have plenty of well-kept secrets and family favorites. We hope they become some of your favorite neighborhoods, too! For more things to do in our favorite Chicago neighborhoods, check out our Visitors Guide.
Directions and Places to Stay in Roscoe Village and North Center
Located 30-40 minutes from the Loop on the Brown Line, these neighborhoods are near the Paulina, Addison, and Irving Park stops. You can also take the Ashland, Damen, or Lincoln buses to the neighborhood. Street parking is easier west of Lincoln Avenue—look for spots on side streets instead of on Belmont, Roscoe, Addison, or Irving Park.
Roscoe Village and North Center are truly residential neighborhoods, so overnight rooms can be hard to come by. In recent years, a few interesting places have popped up to stay in the neighborhood, like The Leavitt Street Inn and Tavern and Roscoe Village Guest House. Lakeview and Wrigleyville are walking distance away and offer more choices, like the new-ish Hotel Zachary on The Wheelhouse Hotel on Clark Street.
Fun Activities in Roscoe Village and North Center
1. Visit Horner Park to enjoy a variety of sports and outdoor activities.
A playground, baseball diamonds, soccer and football fields, tennis courts, a sled hill, a recreation building, and a jogging path: Horner Park has it all! Visit around Easter for the doggy egg hunt or see the middle school cross country championships in the fall.
Check out a local toy store in Roscoe/North Center. Photo courtesy of Building Blocks Toy Store
2. Shop local at Building Blocks Toy Store.
The densely packed playthings purveyor has a helpful staff to assist in picking out a new favorite toy, or you can pick up a surprise bundle for $75-$150.
3. Celebrate summer with each neighborhood's signature festival: Retro on Roscoe and North Center Ribfest.
Retro on Roscoe celebrates simpler times with bands playing the oldies, antique car and motorcycle shows, midway games, inflatables, crafts, and old-fashioned treats. Ribfest shows off the city's best barbecue, with a contest for the best ribs and also featuring plenty of other grilled goods and fun music.
Rent a bike for your own tour of Roscoe. Photo courtesy of Roscoe Village Bikes
4. Look for a new bike, fix up your old bike, or rent a bike for a day at Roscoe Village Bikes.
This small business has all kind of new and used two-wheelers to scoot around town on. Big kids might be able to make it to the 606 or the Lakefront Path for a spin.
5. Scale the walls at ClimbZone Chicago.
Climbing is just the beginning at this newly open play zone in Roscoe Village. Families can also enjoy a high ropes course, laser tag, bumper cars, arcades, and a soft play area for the little ones.
6. Roll a turkey at Waveland Bowl or Timber Lanes.
Two of the oldest, kitschiest bowling alleys in the city are in North Center. Timber Lanes still requires you to know how to keep score manually, while Waveland Bowl looks exactly like the alleys where we first learned to bowl in 1991.
Photo courtesy of Roscoe Books
7. Find a good book at Roscoe Books or Belmont-Lincoln Library Branch.
Roscoe Books is one of the city's last small independent book stores, still rife with handwritten recommendations from shopkeepers, while the Belmont-Lincoln Library Branch is one of the newer and more modern branches, serving many north side communities with a wide selection of titles.
8. See an all ages or kids show at Beat Kitchen.
This small and character-filled concert venue and bar has weekly all ages shows along with occassional kid-centered musical or comedy performances.
9. Buy some fruit, veggies, meat, or empanolis at North Center Farmer's Market.
One of the oldest farmer's markets on the North Side has farm-grown and hand made goods from the standard produce to handmade soaps to one booth that serves a combination of empanadas and raviolis, know as empanolis.
Urbs in Horto Mural by Louise "Ouizi" Jones, located at 3637 N. Southport Ave, photo courtesy of Lakeview Public Art Program
10. Check out public art on bus stops, L Stations, and underpasses as a part of the Lakview-Roscoe Village Public Art Project.
New colorful murals have sprouted up in the neighborhood throughout the past several years, providing more unique images than the standard advertising on and around public transit.
Photo courtesy of Windy City Ninja
11. Test your ninja warrior skills at Windy City Ninja.
Obstacles abound for kids (and grown-ups) to run on or through, jump over, climb, and even break down to burn off some energy and challenge their strength and agility.
12. Play on the playground at Fellger Park.
The small soft-surface playground is perfect for little ones, and within walking distance of some of our favorite restaurants for a takeout picnic. The park also has a fun sprayground feature for hot summer days.
Kid Friendly Restaurants in Roscoe Village and North Center
1. Bad Apple4300 N. Lincoln Ave.
This burger bar has plenty of fun beer taps for grown-ups, and it has two rooms, one with only low-top tables that becomes the family room on Friday and Saturday early evenings.3905 N. Lincoln Ave.
Featuring family-friendly brunches and traditional Irish music, this classy Irish pub also has plenty of patio seating.
The retro-inspired brunch joint serves chicken and waffles, green eggs and ham (with pesto) and Tang. Or Tang-tinis for grown ups.
Two of our favorite Chicago brunch items are from Orange: Pancake flights- a plate of four small pancakes each topped with different indulgences within a theme, and frushi-- adorably cut pieces of fruit rolled in sushi rice.
5. Village Tap2055 W. Roscoe St.
The dozens of picnic tables lined up on the patio and the easy menu of burgers, sandwiches and fun apps appeal to the kids while the tap list as long as your arm is fun for grown-ups.
Chicago's oldest Chinese restaurant, photo courtesy of Orange Garden, Facebook
Famous for being Chicago's oldest Chinese restaurant, Orange Garden has simple, classic Chinese-American dishes in an old-fashioned setting.
A glowing beacon on a wintry night! Photo courtesy of Dinkels
At 100 years old, this huge Bavarian bakery serves a wide variety of European sweets from stollen to paczkis to cakes. Kids will have a hard time deciding between all the delicious treats.
8. Cookie Spin4350 N. Leavitt
You've heard of deep dish pizza, but what about deep dish cookies? This new concept on the north edge of North Center has dozens of flavors of soft, thick cookies with or without ice cream.
9. Xurro3927 N. Lincoln Ave.
The name kind of says it all-- this fun snack stop has cinnamon sugar coated Mexican pastries, plain or filled with chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, cream cheese, or flavor of the day. You can pair them with hot chocolate, with or without spices, atole, or horchata.
Photo courtesy of Lou Malnati's
10. Lou Malnati's4340 N. Lincoln Ave.
Come on, you didn't think we'd have a roundup in this town that didn't include hot dogs, pizza, or Italian beef, did you?