Where the Big Kids Play in Chicagoland

We have reached the point that I truly didn’t believe would ever happen. It started with the first eye roll I received when I suggested that we spend the day at our favorite play space. Yes, you read that right, I got an EYE ROLL when I offered to pay for us to play and eat at one of our favorite play spaces. Was it just a pair of crabby kiddos? No. I knew this was coming but never thought it would happen so soon. My kids are officially too old for play spaces so my bag of tricks is now null and void. GULP. So if you are in the same boat as us and scrambling to figure out fun places to play, here are my recommendations for where to take kids too old for play spaces in Chicagoland.


Although it takes a bit more planning than a simple drop in play space, these fun city and suburban classes will encourage your older kiddos to learn, create, play and grow with peers of their own age.


Cook, Cork and Fork—Palatine

Get the family together and head over to Cook, Cork and Fork in Palatine to improve your culinary skills. Their “All in the Family” class is set up for a family of four to come together and make a variety of recipes, from family brunch to fresh pastas. There are also cooking camps and classes available for junior chefs. Even better? It might inspire your kiddos to take over dinner duty every once in a while.


The Laboratory—Chicago

This science academy in Wicker Park hosts workshops, day off camps, and classes, What makes The Laboratory unique is that the instruction combines science elements such as chemistry and physics along with imaginative stories. Current class themes include “Ice Cream Alien Encounters,” “Real Secret Super Powers” workshops and much more. And hooray for parents, many of these programs are part of their pizza nights, so kids can create while you enjoy some much needed time to yourself.


Hot Ground Gym—Various locations

Looking for a unique way for your kids to burn off all that endless energy? Then head to Hot Ground Gym in Northbrook, Vernon Hills, or Arlington Heights. You can expect a kid focused comprehensive program that implements five core pillars (fitness, leadership, critical thinking, leadership, and discipline). I recommend utilizing the free trial class promotion so your kiddo can experience the rigorous program before committing to a class membership.



Perfect for those rainy days when your kids are whiny and bored, we love these drop in play options for the older crew.


Pinstripes—Various locations

I love Pinstripes for their weekday tot bowling, but that time simply doesn’t work for us since my kids are busy learning in school when we used to be rolling gutter balls. The next best thing? Sunday brunch as a family at Pinstripes. Kids under 10 eat free at most locations and older kids can even try their hand at bocce, a game of finesse that is a mature upgrade from traditional bowling.


Little Beans Café—Chicago and Evanston

Yes, I know…technically this is a play space. But did you know that Little Beans Evanston hosts a Nerf Nights? These fun Friday nights are for 8-12 year olds and include pizza, drinks, and obstacle course based play.



Climb, climb, and climb some more at this fun Glenview spot. Read my review here to see what all the fuss is about and to for tips on booking online and bringing the whole family to Funtopia.


Play and Spin—Niles

This family friendly entertainment center in Niles is SOOOO much fun, but it can be a bit pricey so go there with a game plan and stick to it. Play options include go-kart racing, manicures/pedicures at the nail salon, endless arcade games, and my personal favorite version of cardio, laser tag. Just be sure that your child is 54” tall if he or she wants to go-kart independently.


Cat and Mouse Games—Chicago

This mom owned game shop in the West Loop is the perfect place to spend some time checking out the newest and most creative puzzles and games available. Cat and Mouse Games also hosts Pokemon leagues (kids league Saturday morning and open play Sunday afternoon) and other fun events such as story times and Tuesday Night Board Game Happy Hour. Check their online calendar for an updated list of events.


Woodcrafters DIY Studio—Arlington Heights

This spacious shop is a great spot for artistic kiddos to express themselves—all while helping you decorate your home. There are hundreds of cute sign templates to choose from, and with a variety of wood stains and paint colors, the creative options are infinite.

So now that I’ve shared our favorite play spots for “big” Chicago kids, share your favorite stomping grounds in the comments section.

And if you have kiddos of multiple ages, this post is for you. You’re welcome!

Happy Playing!
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  1. candy says

    Perfect for those living in Chicago. Always great to have someplace to go when you live in the city and can’t get outside much. Helps the kids burn off all that extra energy they have this time of year.

  2. Alison Rost says

    So many fun places for the big kids in Chicago! It’s definitely going to be great for families who are planning a trip there and would like for their children to enjoy the different activities available!

  3. sara lafountain says

    We are planning a trip to Chicago this summer and I just put some of these locations on our calendar! Thank you for sharing these at the perfect time.

    • Amanda says

      Totally agree. I am doing everything I can to make sure my kids don’t grow up too fast. Childhood is too great to speed through.

  4. Marysa says

    These sound like fun places to take the kids, especially when the weather is bad. I live in Upstate NY and I can relate to wanting to get the kids out of the house and burning off some energy!

  5. Emily says

    These all seem like great places! I live just outside of Milwaukee so we go to Chicago often, it is a great weekend trip. There is so much to do there for my kids, I will have to check out some of these places!

    • Amanda says

      It’s just so nice that there are options other than typical play spaces. My kids can only play with faux kitchens for so long! 😉

    • Amanda says

      We are going bowling tomorrow with our family and I can’t wait. It is so nice to act like a kid every once in a while!

  6. Cyn Gagen says

    So many fun things to do! I would pick the Cook, Cork, and Fork one first. That sounds like such a fun thing to do as a family and something a little bit different.

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