Now its my turn to tell you why I love raising my kids in the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood.
Despite its reputation as a hangout for twenty-and-thirty-something hipsters, Bucktown and Wicker Park are actually home to many young families -- mine included.
Of course, Bucktown and Wicker Park have fabulous restaurants, a bustling art scene and lively nightlife, but local parents know a different side of this Chicago neighborhood. Most Bucktown and Wicker Park parents that I know spend hardly any time deciding between the scallops and the skatewing during romantic dinners at Spring or standing in line for two hours in pursuit of a custom cocktail at The Violet Hour.
For the parents in Bucktown and Wicker Park, it is all about the parks, playgrounds, kid-friendly lunch spots, boutiques with stroller ramps and the newest kid's music and art classes in our neighborhood. Here are some of my family's favorite neighborhood spots to play, eat, shop, and learn.
Parks. My neighborhood is dense with open play areas. We love Wicker Park for its variety and size. For my kids, the dog park is an attraction all onto it's own. On Sunday mornings during the summer and fall, the whole neighborhood comes out for the great farmer's market -- occasionally featuring live music. We also love the newly rebuilt Dean Park for its water feature and open field for playing soccer or baseball. It's cul-de-sac location means that most of the neighborhood doesn't even know about this quiet gem. We love Walsh Park for its roller slide (and again, more dog watching), Holstein for t-ball and swimming, Ehrler Park for its sandbox, and Pulaski and Holstein Parks for summertime swims.
Eat. Just because you have kids doesn't mean that you have to skip out
on eating at some of the tastiest restaurants in town. I have found
that most local eateries welcome little ones -- from brunch at Hot Chocolate to dinner at Las Palmas, we are always made to feel at home with our three kids. For breakfast, we love muffins on the back patio at Letizia's, pancakes from Milk & Honey (if you get there early enough to beat the lines), and quiche at Cafe De Luca.
For a picnic lunch at the park, try a sandwich from the new Bagel on Damen or pick up something delicious from the Goddess and Grocer. If you are meeting other families out for dinner, I recommend the back patio at Crust
-- the atmosphere is casual and the food is quick, tasty and all
organic. If you want dinner to-go, you could always pick up something
tasty from Penny's Noodles or grab made-to-order tacos from the take-out window at Big Star. And then of course, there is Caffe Gelato (a word of advice: get the stracciatella).
For dates nights, parents can walk to some of the best restaurants in the city. Mado has amazing offerings (and is BYOB). Moms and dads can safely grab a drink at The Bluebird without fear of being the oldest person at the bar.
Learn. There is lots ot do to keep your kiddos busy close to home. The popular Lil' Kickers soccer program now offers classes at Wicker Park. The Ukranian Village Children's Center has creative class offerings such as "Pirate School." The Easel Art Studio on Milwaukee is home to budding artists. Art Reaching the Children of Chicago (ARCC) has two Bucktown locations for the petite prima ballerina in your life.
I am not sure where else in the city a parent can set off on foot (likely with a kid in a stroller) and have access to the range and quality of stores and
boutiques that we have right here in Wicker Park and Bucktown. If you need to pick up
a kid's birthday present, try Psycho Baby or Building Blocks. For kid's clothes, I love Bullfrogs & Butterflies, The Red Balloon Company, and Grow. Diane from Crosell & Co. told me that she is going to be offering a new children's line soon as well.
Bucktown and Wicker Park are quite simply -- alive. I love that fact that interesting people, places and things await just outside my front door. It is good for me -- and it is great for my kids. Stop by for a stroll with your kids and you will instantly know what I mean.
Up next week: Raising a family in Logan Square.
Do you want to tell Wee Windy City readers why you love raising kids in your Chicago neighborhood? Email me to discuss writing a guest post.