Guest Post: Family Living in Avondale

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I am excited to present another installment in my "Neighborhood Spotlight" series here on Wee Windy City. Regular readers might remember Shylo Bisnett's recent guest post about raising a family in Albany Park.

The next family-friendly neighborhood in the spotlight is Avondale. I am pleased to welcome guest author Kathleen Reynolds who lives in Avondale with her husband and two daughters (ages 1 and 4). When she's not drinking coffee at the Curio Cafe, she
can be found teaching ESL or working in her garden.
Read on to learn why Kathleen loves raising her family in the Avondale neighborhood.

My neighbor once called Avondale, our neighborhood, "a suburb of Logan Square."  Long-time Chicagoans may know our area as "Polish Village."  Located north and a bit west of Logan Square--near the stretch of Milwaukee that's home to many Polish restaurants and shops--our working class neighborhood of 43,000 people has a lot to offer families, including mine.

The first stop on any kid-friendly tour of Avondale has to be the Curio Café (3400 N. Lawndale).  Named "The Best Place to Take a Toddler" by The Chicago Reader, Curio is a paradise for parents with young children. This spot features a play area with small table and chairs, toys, and a blackboard, a great kids' menu, and friendly owners and staff.  My only problem?  When we go to other restaurants, my kids want to know where the toys are! 
Other kid-friendly neighborhood restaurants include the Irish pub Chief O'Neill's
(3471 N. Elston), which has a grassy patio area with space for bubbles
and chalk drawing while waiting for food to arrive.  Our favorite
Polish restaurant is Red Apple, Czerwone Jabluszko
(3121 N. Milwaukee), which offers a giant all-you-can-eat buffet heaped
with meat, potato dishes, pierogies, blintzes, and more--you can find
something for your pickiest eater, and sample some new dishes, too. 
Bonus: it's attached to a laundromat, so multitask away!  Thai Aree
(3592 N. Milwaukee) is another friendly spot. The owner always brings us
extra rice, steamed broccoli, or cucumber for our daughters -- even when
we order take-out.

No kids in tow?  Check out Hot Doug's (3324 N. California) for world-famous hot dogs or Kuma's Corner (2900 W. Belmont) for the best burgers in Chicago (and the world?)--but be prepared to stand in line!  For adult beverages, try Alice's (3556 W. Belmont), the Late Bar (3534 W. Belmont), or the Square Grill (2849 W. Belmont).

Recreational and enrichment activities for kids abound in Avondale. Avondale Park
(3516 W. School) has one of the best gymnastics centers in the city,
with reasonably-priced classes for tumblers as young as 18 months. 
Dance and sports are also on offer.  At Athletic Field Park
(3546 W. Addison), an awesome new playground and sprinkler area are the
result of hard work and fundraising efforts by a group of local parents
and neighbors. My older daughter attends preschool there three
mornings a week--a few hundred dollars for a year of fun and caring
teachers can't be beat!  Athletic Field also has a ceramics studio with
classes for older children and adults.

For classes and fun outside the park district, friends and neighbors recommend Danzology (3043 W. Belmont) and Miss Geri's School of Dance (3446 N. Milwaukee) for aspiring ballerinas, tap dancers, and hip hoppers.  Multilingual Chicago
(2934 N. Milwaukee, Suite C), a new language school, offers Spanish,
French, Mandarin, and other language classes for children ages 1-5, and
for adults--in addition to free open play times and other events. 
Bonus: there is a language café in the back with free coffee, tea, and
wifi for parents to relax (or work!) while the kids are in class. Finally, Concordia Avondale
(3300 N. Whipple), in addition to being a NAEYC-accredited child care
center, recently started offering kids' music, dance, and drama
classes.  We can't wait to check them out!

Last summer was the first year for the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival,
which offered live music, art events, and local vendors along Milwaukee
in Avondale and Logan Square.  My girls loved the free trolley ride,
and we appreciated the chance to support local artists.  We also hear
rumors that the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance is hoping to open a Puerto Rican/Latino cultural center in Avondale--how exciting!

Another recently formed neighborhood group is the Avondale Parents' Network--a
way for parents to connect socially, share information, and advocate
for our families and our community.  New members are always welcome so move to Avondale and join us... or at least come to visit.  We hope
to see you over a cup of coffee at the Curio or say "hola" in Spanish
class!

Would you like to write a guest post about why you love raising a family in your Chicago neighborhood? Email me and we can chat about it.

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