Guest Post: Family Living in Lincoln Park (Part One)

illinois-lincoln-park-zoo.jpg

One of Lincoln Park's most famous residents.

Hey, remember the Neighborhood Spotlight Series from last spring? It's baaack! Just to review, so far we've covered: Albany

Park, Avondale,
Bucktown/Wicker

Park, Logan
Square
and Oak Park/River Forest,
Andersonville, and River North/River West.


Today, I am thrilled to welcome Toni Hargis, an expat Brit, writer, wife and mother of three children plus one unruly dog. She has lived in the Lincoln Park neighborhood for twenty years. Toni is the author of "Rules, Britannia; An Insider's Guide to Life in the United Kingdom" (St. Martin's Press)  and blogs regularly as Expat Mum.

Here is Toni's take on the very best FREE offerings for families in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. She'll be tackling the not-so-free stuff in a subsequent post.

The best thing about the Lincoln Park neighborhood is the abundance of free stuff available for children. You can literally spend a whole day entertaining your family for free.

  • The Chicago Park District's largest park in Lincoln Park is Oz Park,
    officially located at 2021 North Burling, but accessible from Webster,
    Larrabee and Dickens. With baseball diamonds and large grassy areas,
    this park is big enough for a giant run around. Dorothy's Playlot
    provides play equipment for children of all ages in a safe, fenced off
    area. In the winter, on the south side of the park, one of the area's
    only hills provides much sledding fun in the winter. Adams Playlot, tucked away at 1919 North Seminary, boasts a fun, fenced off water park open during the summer months too. Lincoln Park has many free parks with fun play equipment for kids of all
    ages. See the 

    Chicago Park District web site
    web site for more details.

  • Probably the best known freebie is the Lincoln Park Zoo, located just
    west of Lake Shore Drive on Stockton Avenue. There is a large parking
    lot to the east of the zoo accessible from Fullerton Avenue.  The zoo
    has both indoor and outdoor exhibits so is perfect for year round
    visiting. Educational demonstrations are offered throughout the day,
    where zoo keepers perform wellness checks on the animals and explain
    their work to audiences. Check the web site for daily schedules. Because
    of its relatively small size and compact layout, exhibits are situated
    close together making Lincoln Park zoo perfect for smaller children. In
    the Children's Zoo section, (an indoor facility) there is a large
    climbing tube which can keep little ones occupied and warm for hours.

  • There
    are several farmer's markets located in Lincoln Park (Lincoln Park
    High School, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the park area at the
    North and Clark intersection). Obviously they are all free, but many
    also provide activities for children too. The Green City Market offers Club Sprouts, a
    program that encourages young people to try new, locally grown
    sustainable foods, and is offered at every market. Tastings are
    available at the information table every Wednesday and Saturday. Chef
    demos and cooking classes for children are offered on Wednesdays at 9:30
    a.m. during the summer. Edible Gardens is a partnership between
    Green City Markets and Lincoln Park Zoo. It is located across the street
    from the market in the zoo's Farm-in-the-Zoo. The gardens are open to
    the public from April through mid-November on Wednesday and Saturdays,
    10am - 1pm. They provide kids and adults with hands-on gardening
    experience and activities, demonstrating how local foods get from the
    farm to our tables. For more information, e-mail
    sarah@theorganicgardener.net.
  • The Nature Boardwalk. Brand new in
    2010, this 14-acre pond and prairie habitat on the South side of the zoo
    is not only beautiful, but a great place for little ones to watch
    ducks, turtles and over two hundred species of birds. Zoo educators host
    daily talks and tours at the Boardwalk, many specifically geared toward
    children.
  •  Lincoln Park Conservatory (2391 Stockton Drive) is a
    short walk north from the main zoo entrance and offers four  display
    rooms of plants ranging from giant ferns and banana trees to seasonal
    exhibitions. During holiday seasons the Conservatory is decorated
    Halloween style or with a delightful model railway and village in the
    winter months.  Free tours are available at weekends. (For more
    information call the Lincoln Park Conservancy at 77/ 883 7275.)

 

  • Across
    the road and north a little is the Alfred Caldwell Lilly Pool, which is
    truly an urban oasis. Located on the south side of Fullerton Avenue,
    just west of the zoo parking lot, the entrance is a little hard to find
    but well worth a good search. Children will feel like they're hiking
    through woodland in this beautiful hideout, while the lily pool is great
    for bird-watching. Free tours are offered at weekends (May through
    September). Call the Lincoln Park Conservancy for more details at 773/883
    7275.

 

  • Let's not forget the wonderful beaches in Lincoln Park,
    all of which are public and free. North Avenue Beach (1600 North Lake
    Shore Drive) is perhaps the best known and is accessible from Lincoln
    Park via a bridge over the Drive. While the beach parking lot is small,
    many visitors park at the south end of the zoo lot and walk over the
    bridge; Chicago Public Transport can get you close or pretty close. (See
    the web site www.transitchicago.com - to plan your route.) The Beach
    House, shaped like an ocean liner, has bike, chair and volleyball
    equipment rentals plus restrooms and snack vendors. Upstairs there is a
    casual restaurant, Castaways, serving burgers, salads, wings and
    drinks.  The beach tends to get crowded on summer weekends, but the
    large sandy area and fabulous city views make this a great place for
    family fun.

Lesser known freebies to keep kids entertained include:

  • The
    Whole Foods, Lincoln Park store
    (1550 N Kingsbury St.) - which partners
    with Bubbles Academy several times a week for half hour tot story and
    singing sessions.  Visit the web site or call (312 587 0648) for more
    information.
  • Borders at 2817 North Clark St. hosts Story time with Anne, at 10.30 am every Monday, Thursday and Saturday mornings.
  • The Lincoln
    Park branch of the Chicago Public Library
    (1150 W. Fullerton) offers half hour story time
    sessions for babies (0-18 months) and pre-schoolers (3-5 years). Check
    web site for specific times. The Teacher in the Library program provides
    a structured, after-school learning environment in the library where
    library teachers assist both students and parents.

Are you interested in writing a guest post about why you love raising kids in your Chicago neighborhood (Roscoe Village, Lakeview, Lincoln Square, South Loop parents -- where are you at!)? Email me and we can chat about it.

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