Been there, done that?
Try these off-the-beaten-path,
Does your family have a case of the winter blahs? Sick of crowds, long lines and the same old stuff? Check out these finds for a cure to the monotony blues.
If your kids are tired of the offerings at the big children's museums, take them to Andersonville, where a Viking ship and a 20-foot-long steamer are waiting to take their imaginations for a ride at the recently refurbished Children's Museum of Immigration (5211 N Clark St at Foster Ave, 773-728-8111). Tucked up on the third floor of the Swedish American Museum, the interactive exhibits aimed at 3- to 12-year-olds also include a replica of a Swedish farmhouse and a pretend farm replete with vegetables for picking, a fake cow ready for milking and all the pots and pans your kids need to make a feast. Tue–Fri 1–4pm; Sat–Sun 11am–4pm. Admission $4; kids, students and seniors $3.
Young theater buffs from all over the city can take performing-arts classes and check out the productions offered by Chicago Kids Company (4101 N Nashville Ave at Irving Park Rd, 773-205-9600, www.chicagokidscompany.com), a 14-year-old nonprofit group formed to expose kids to all aspects of musical theater. Classes are conducted at the company's headquarters, and original musicals based on fairy tales are performed at both the Beverly Arts Center on the South Side and St. Patrick Performing Arts Center on the Northwest Side. Sleeping Beauty runs through March 17; performances of Goldilocks and the Three Bears begin February 8. Plays run Mon–Fri at 10:30am and most Saturdays at 12:30pm. Admission $8.
For 65 years, teachers have been heading to the Learning Tree (4419 N Ravenswood Ave at Montrose Ave, 773-769-3737) to stock up on reasonably priced art supplies, toys and games with an educational bent. For parents, the store is a treasure trove of rainy-day projects you can't get at typical mass-market stores, not to mention the go-to spot to find everything you need to create—er, help your child create—that science project. Mon 9am–7pm; Tue–Fri 9am–6pm; Sat 10am–3pm.
Almost every weekend of the year, Kline Creek Farm at Timber Ridge Forest Preserve (County Farm Rd between Geneva and St. Charles Rds, Winfield, 630-876-5900) offers family programs that demonstrate how people had fun on the farm back in the 1890s. Families can learn to make butter or sausage by hand, join a taffy-pull party or partake in re-creations of historically authentic weddings, funerals and holidays. Winter activities include horse-drawn sleigh rides and ice-fishing workshops for kids. Self-guided tours of the farm, which houses sheep, cattle and chickens, are also available. Thu–Mon 9am–5pm. Free, though some programs require a fee and advance registration. Visit www.dupageforest.com/education/klinecreek.html for a schedule of events.
When you've got a big event coming up and can't score an appointment for your shaggy-headed squirt at one of the chain salons specializing in kiddie cuts, visit Julie Hull at JRH Kids Cuts (2123 W Irving Park Rd between Hamilton and Hoyne Aves, 773-404-8144). Hull's been specializing in quick, no-nonsense children's haircuts for more than ten years. She worked at Snippet's before opening her own salon, which has all the obligatory bells and whistles, such as race car–shaped chairs, a library of videos and plenty of toys. Walk-ins are welcome, and there's rarely a wait. Tue–Fri 10am–6pm. Haircuts $16, bang trims $5.
Those requisite goodie bags parents have to hand out at kids' birthday parties can tip an already expensive little soiree over the edge. Head to U.S. Toy Co./Constructive Playthings (5314 N Lincoln Ave, Skokie, 847-675-5900), and you'll score a bounty of quirky, out-of-the-ordinary novelties for every party theme from prehistoric (3-D dinosaur puzzles for $2.95 a dozen) to Wild West (kid-size cowboy hats, $1.19)—without breaking the bank. Mon–Fri 9am–8pm; Sat 9am–6pm; Sun 11am–5pm.