$20 playdate West Loop
Avoid the crowds cooling off at the lakefront and instead chill out at recently renovated Mary Bartelme Park (115 S Sangamon St, 312-746-5962), a full-city-block space where a five-framed steel sculpture sprays a playful mist as you walk underneath. Then make your way to the inventive playground, built with sloping hills designed with strollers and ADA compliance in mind. It’s teeming with options for bouncing, climbing and channeling your kids’ inner Spidey. The park is on the site of a former UIC infirmary, and remnants from the old building have been incorporated into the walkways here.
Fuel up after running around with a short walk east to Artopolis Bakery & Café (306 S Halsted St, 312-559-9000) in Greektown. Order the Tiropita, a flaky savory pie filled with kasseri and feta cheeses (big enough for two kids to share) and served with a Mediterranean salad (for you), $8.45. On your way out, stop at the bakery counter and treat everyone to kourambiathes, Greek butter cookies swimming in powdered sugar (75 cents each).
Dust off, then head a few doors over to the Athenian Candle Shop (300 S Halsted St, 312-332-6988), which has been around since 1961 and has a very cool neon sign to prove it. Make your way past the myriad candles (many still made in-house), herbs and potions that promise luck, money, love and the warding off of an impressive array of evil jinxes. At the counter near the cash register, each kid can pick out a cool metal Zodiac Talisman Medallion ($2.95 each), which includes lucky numbers and predictions such as “Travel is in your near future.” Maybe you’ll get one that’s about the location of your next playdate.