$20 playdate—Niles and Morton Grove
Take the kids on an international expedition via the Northwest Suburbs. Start out in Niles, with a visit to the king-sized Korean Super H-Mart (7801 N Waukegan Rd, Niles; 847-581-1212). This mega grocery store/mini mall/food court rolled together transports you to a world of new sights, smells and flavors. Start by strolling through the bright, colorful boutiques selling all manner of imported tchotchkes. Don’t miss the wee Fancy Pencil Land shop so that each kid can score an Angry Birds mechanical pencil ($3 each).
The mall’s plentiful sampling stations on weekends give kids a chance to taste everything from sautéed mushrooms to slices of sashimi-grade tuna. Make a mental note of the stunning seafood and rock-bottom prices for a future lobster-dinner date night, too. Meanwhile, the kids can check out the live eels zipping around in their tanks.
Before everyone fills up on samples, head to What a Dumpling! in the food court to share a plate of mandoo, traditional Korean dumplings ($7 for eight pieces). Then let the kids pick a sweet treat to enjoy on the ride home from the endless aisle of Asian cookies and crackers at the market. Our fave: the cutesy mushroom-shaped “Choco-Boy” cookies (99 cents).
Craving a little fresh air (and maybe a mint or three)? Take a quick ten-minute drive to nearby Miami Woods (Caldwell Rd at Oakton Ave, Morton Grove, 800-870-3666) to stroll the meandering trail along the North Branch of the Chicago River. You might spot a few deer quietly grazing among the majestic oaks or witness a great blue heron looking for his own snack in the water. As you head home, the kids can tear into the chocolate-capped fungi treats for a sweet ending to a tasty playdate.