For parents of winter babies, we feel your pain when it comes to birthday party options. While summer baby parents have both indoor and outdoor options (the park! the pool!), those of us with children born in colder months (or even fall and early spring), need to find a space where kids can run off all that pizza-and-cake energy. Enter: mega play spaces.
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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.
Getting lost is never as much fun as when you’re in a corn maze, and farms around Chicagoland offer a cornucopia of opportunities for fall fun on the farm. Mazes throughout Illinois and Indiana present creative themes and different ways to navigate the twists and turns, so children of varying ages can join in the challenge. Some corn mazes even host 5K races or flashlight corn maze nights.
Before or after your corn maze adventure, families can enjoy plenty of harvest time fun, including apple picking, pumpkin patching, corn bins, and even Halloween-themed outdoor movies. Many of the farms listed on our corn maze list also host fall festivals throughout the season. Read on for our top picks for corn mazes near Chicago.
The Chicago school year has hardly begun, but fall harvest season is already in full swing at several orchards throughout Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. Families willing to take a one- or two-hour drive can get away to enjoy country life for a day, with hay rides, petting zoos, corn mazes, and apple picking. Some orchards even offer pumpkin picking and other fruits throughout the season.
We’ve picked out a baker’s dozen of the best apple orchards within a two-hour drive of Chicago for your picking (and, perhaps, pie-baking) enjoyment. Kids can play farmer for a day without breaking the bank at these 13 orchards.
Who says you need an ocean to go to the beach? Chicago families can get their swimming fix at a good old-fashioned beach by taking advantage of the “Midwest Coast” of Lake Michigan, or the many smaller lakes and even repurposed former quarries dotted throughout the suburbs.
The best beaches for families include easy parking, bathrooms with changing facilities, concession stands for little snackers, and maybe a playground or other attraction for when kids get tired of the water. Many of the Chicago Park District beaches are accessible by bus for families who prefer public transit.
Here are some of our favorite family-friendly beaches in Chicago and the suburbs.
Get your calendars ready. Here are the top 12 things to do with kids in New York City this January, four of which are FREE.
While January traditionally is a mellow time—especially when compared with the nonstop action of the holidays—there's no way you can hibernate all month, not with kids around. Luckily, you don't have to. Our January GoList is packed with annual favorites such as the Three Kings Day Parade in East Harlem, Central Park's Winter Jam sports fest, plus some new shows, concerts, and other special experiences for kids. Don't forget that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is coming up, too, and the Brooklyn Children's Museum and others will host events just for families.
Find more seasonal fun in our NYC Winter Guide for Families.
Santa isn't the only one making a list and checking it twice. Our carefully curated December GoList is packed with the absolute best things to do with kids in NYC throughout the month. Our top picks include holiday traditions like the quirky Unsilent Night musical procession in Greenwich Village; great holiday theater like the Cirque Dreams Holidaze; and cool family activities like PaleyLand, screening classic holiday television shows and movies all month.
Many festive picks from our November GoList continue through December too, including the Dyker Lights holiday displays, Macy's Santaland, and the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show—plus various Nutcracker performances around the city.
It's no secret that all of us here like "FREE." We're always on the lookout for free activities around NYC, play spaces, and even summer camps. But Luna Park's March 24 opening day event at Coney Island, Brooklyn, makes the four-letter word all the better, as almost all proceeds from donations will serve the Girls Scouts' 6000 troop.
Read on to find out what's included in this almost-FREE day and who you'll be helping with your small donation.