This morning I was part of a Bump Club and Beyond panel of "city moms" talking to a packed room of new mamas and their little ones about bringing up baby in Chicago.
I was in good company, joining Kelly Aiglon and Lindsay Gladstone of Daily Candy Kids, Samantha Lande from Eater Chicago, Cindy McCarthy of On the Go Chicago, Rebecca Little of Pinwheel and my bestie and business partner Sara Fisher of Self-Made Mom fame. We talked about everything from family-friendly restaurants to navigating the CTA with a stroller and the best places to buy high-end kid's resale.
I spoke a little bit about finding activities that meet my two pieces of criteria. First, I love a free, quality activity when I can find it (if you read Wee Windy City, you already know this about me). In addition, I also love an outing where both mommy and the kids get something out of it. With those two things in mind, I recommended the following urban activities and destinations.The Culture Club:
Take advantage of the local cultural institutions. Yes, you can do this -- even with your baby. One of the reasons that I wanted to raise my kids in the city was proximity to the many cultural opportunities and experiences. Sometimes I get lazy and I have to remind myself to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
- The Art Institute. The Art Institute offers free admission to kids under age 14 every day (and there are also free admissions days for Illinois residents that you can take advantage of to make the whole visit free). We love the interactive, hands-on activities in the Ryan Education Center (which you can access without paying admission to the museum). We also recently made a trip to see the Roy Lichtenstein Retrospective and my kids absolutely loved it -- lots of colors and cultural references in this highly engaging and visually stunning exhibit. Your little one will enjoy and you will feel like an actual real adult for visiting a real museum!
- The Nature Museum. This lovely spot offers free admission every Thursday. I find the Butterfly Haven to be a perfect antidote for a crabby day.
- The Museum of Contemporary Art. This is a really underutilized resource. Try a free stroller tour or take your older kids to a Summer Studio Session during free family days. If everyone is behaving, grab lunch at Puck's!
- The Garfield Park Conservatory. Can't beat this spot on a cold or gray day. Strollers can be kind of difficult to deal with here, so I would use a baby carrier if you can. As your baby becomes a toddler, the Morning Glory drop-in activities on chilly winter mornings are a godsend (lots of fun plus a project to take home with you all for a $1 donation).
- Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. Grab your stroller and recruit a friend for a free walking tour of the lovely gardens in Millennium Park. You're going to be taking baby for a walk anyway right? Might as well learn something about local flora while you are at it.
The Best Kind of Fun is Free:
Raising kiddos in the city can be an expensive proposition. Why not take advantage of a good free opportunity when you can, right? These are some of my go-to activities when my creativity level and bank account balance are both . . . low.
- The Lincoln Park Whole Foods Music offers from music from Bubbles Academy on Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Rock out with your little one and then pick up your groceries for the week in one stop. Take about efficiency.
- You can find a free story time at a local bookstore or children's boutique nearly every day of the week. My tips is to basically stalk Nili Yelin, The Storybook Mom. She offers a free story time at Little Threads, Urba Baby, Psycho Baby and more every week. Check out her website to find out when she is at a store near you.
- Mr. Singer at the Farm-in-the-Zoo at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Kids go wild for this guy. Head over the Farm-in-the-Zoo on a Wednesday morning. Start your day at the Green City Market (go ahead and get yourself a crepe -- you deserve it!). Stock up on your produce and then cross Stockton and head over to listen to some live tunes courtesy of Mr. Singer. And do not forget to take a peek at the baby piglets at the Farm-in-the-Zoo. They are truly the cutest. Wear you lululemon clothes for this excursion and pick up the pace when you are pushing your stroller and this counts as exercise too!
If you are looking for classes, concerts or other activities, I highly recommend visiting my friend Cindy's site On the Go Chicago as a resource for learning about all that this great city has to offer families. Happy exploring friends.
Filed under: Art Institute of Chicago, Bubbles Academy, Bump Club and Beyond, Cultural Experiences for the Kiddos, Free museum days, Fun for the Whole Family, Garfield Park Conservatory, Green City Market, Lincoln Park Zoo, Millennium Park, Museum of Contemporary Art, Nili Yelin The Storybook Mom, Parenting Experts in Chicago, Peggy Notebaert Natuer Museum, The Best Kind of Fun is Free
Tags: Bump Club and Beyond, Cindy McCarthy, cultural experience for kids in Chicago, Daily Candy Kids Chicago, Eater Chicago, Kelly Aiglon, Lindsay Gladstone, Nili Yelin The Storybook Mom, On the Go Chicago, Pinwheel Chicago, Rebecca Little, Samantha Lande, Self-Made Mom, the best kind of fun is free, tips for raising kids in the city