Gather: An Urban Retreat

Evanston is one of my favorite neighborhoods because of the way it celebrates culture and community.  So it is no wonder that it is the home of the stunningly creative and whimsical play space, Gather.  But to be honest, it is so much more than simply a play space:  it is a safe haven to learn, grow, build relationships, and of course, play!


Gather has been the talk of the Chicagoland mom-crowd for the past three years because of its focus on creativity and child directed play.

Upon entering the welcoming and beautiful play space, there are so many different materials, programs, and various spaces that encourage learners of all ages and abilities to engage in meaningful learning and exploration that you know that you found a great way to spend the day, rain or shine.

Unique artwork by local artisans is showcased on the walls on a rotating basis, and you can learn more about the featured artists on the Gather website.

The mission of Gather is to maintain an urban oasis for families to simply relax and create, thereby overcoming any obstacles that might get in the way (time, supplies, inspiration, etc.).  By the time you leave Gather, you and your little ones will not only have an adorable craft or piece of art work to display at home, but also a sense of confidence and accomplishment.  They will probably be pretty tuckered out, too, since there are so many innovative activities to choose from.


Gather is not simply focused on art, however.  There are three main rooms in the play space for your little ones to explore.  The front room is focused on “messy” activities such as having a snack (bring your own or purchase from Gather) and completing art projects.

The middle room encourages creativity through real life play and other popular toys such as train tables, blocks, and more.  The vast amount of puppets were a huge hit with my boys and I must admit that I had a blast discovering the unique blocks and other play structures.

Lastly, “The Nest” is a sanctuary for quiet play, such as reading and completing puzzles, and is a great space to nurse or feed your baby.  It is such a welcome relief to find a more tranquil space within a play space when you child just needs some time to relax and take a break from all of the fun.

As mentioned earlier, Gather is a great neighborhood space because of all of the classes and events it hosts to promote wellness for families.  Every day there is something unique scheduled, from musical story time sessions to yoga play classes and puppet classes for kids…even caregiver resources as well.  Be sure to check the website for updated information.


In addition to the vast amount of classes for families, Gather also runs special programs throughout the year.  What makes their summer camp unique is that they welcome younger campers than most other programs (ages 2-5), and the camp is scheduled for the late afternoon so that your kids can benefit from some creative and fun structure while they gear up for the evening at home.  Each week has a different theme to explore, and each one sounds so fun I truly wish I was a kid again!

We all know that planning a birthday party can be stressful (thanks, Pinterest) so Gather has four different birthday party packages to choose from to make life easier for moms and dads.  Spend your time enjoying your birthday child, family, and friends, while the Gather staff create a memorable and fun event for you and your guests.


Bring socks from home!  Gather supplies socks for $2 if you forget.

Caregivers, be sure to enjoy some of the delicious and complementary water, tea, and coffee.

Feel free to bring snacks.  If you forget, there are some healthy options available for purchase. 

Since creating can get messy, play clothes are best for when you take a trip to Gather. 

If you are looking for more of an individual play experience, visit Gather in the afternoons.  Mornings are the busiest times, but also some of the most fun and the best time to make new friends.

Check out my favorite spots for indoor play, as well as the best Chicagoland play spaces for toddlers.

Looking for other places to play? 

Happy Playing!


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  1. Robin Masshole mommy says

    That sounds like so much fun. Wish we lived closer because my kids would totally love that.

  2. AnneMarie Leblanc says

    Nice place to spend the day with the kids. I love the way kids can engage in activities that foster their creativity, as well as a quiet place to indulge in brain activities.

  3. Rosey says

    I like that you added mornings are busiest but the best for making friends. I like some places to be busy too. 🙂

    • amandasimkin says

      Sometimes we want to have some alone time, though, so it is nice to know when there are different paces to a play space.

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