photo: Lindsay Williams
Storytown brings fairytales to life.
As the holidays subside, reality sets in; winter in Chicago can be downright brutal, especially with kids at home. While you may be perfectly happy lounging on a warm couch reading a book, kids go stir-crazy pretty quickly. Luckily, Chicago was built to withstand the winter blues and offers plenty of ways to beat the bitter cold.
Escape the harsh reality of a Chicago winter by indulging the kids in some make-believe.
January 16-31 at Winnetka Community House; $10
Wake up from your own hibernation by taking the little ones to see this Especially for Kids musical that takes place in the Kingdom of Colorland. The kids can get in on the fun as they join a dragon, three colorful fairies and a wise owl on an exciting journey about the power of love. After the show, children get to meet and talk to the actors.
2 p.m. Saturdays at ComedySportz Theatre; $8
Got a kid that would rather be on the stage than watching it? Take the fam to see ComedySportz4Kidz, as some of Chicago's finest improvisers allow the child audience to be a part of the show. While it's especially great for birthday parties, families of all sizes will have a blast.
10:30 a.m. Saturdays at IO Theater; $5
Fairytales come to life in this kid-based production. The interactive arts experience combines improvisation, music and storytelling into a make-believe theater event. Each story is woven together based on suggestions from kids three to 10 years old. Children can choose the costumes for the characters and draw the backdrop for the stage.
Winter offers a welcome respite from the long lines that plague the museums in the touristy summer months. Check out your local library for free passes.
Field Museum of Natural History
The Field is the perfect place to spend a winter day for a family with mixed-age children. For little kids there's the new Crown Family PlayLab, where youngsters can excavate dinosaur bones and bang on drums. Bigger kids get a kick out of the perennial dinosaur favorite, Sue.
Chicago Children's Museum Admission: $10
What's not to love about the Children's Museum? Children clamor to climb on emergency vehicles (as part of the new "Play It Safe" exhibit) or splash in the water exhibits. The museum is free on Thursdays from 5-8 p.m. and on the first Sunday of each month.
A jewel in Chicago's crown, the Shedd is one of the most fascinating and wonderful ways to spend a chilly day. Tickets are normally $24.95 for adults and $17.95 for kids, but there are a few discount days left this year. Stop by on Jan. 4, 5, 11,12, 25 and 26 or Feb. 1, 2, 8, 9, 22 or 23 and get general admission for free.
Just because it's cold doesn't mean you should spend all of your time indoors. There's plenty to do outside as well.
Fifth Annual Polar Adventure Days
January 23 and February 20 at Northerly Island; free
Get your little cubs out to meet some real live animals at Polar Adventure Days. Attractions include Nadeau's Ice Sculptures, an arctic camping demo, Siberian huskies and adventurers (who will talk about their Iditarod dogsled race experiences), live entertainment including storytelling, arts and craft tables for making nature-inspired creations and free snowshoe rental for exploration of the island.
Snow Days Chicago
January 29-31 at Grant Park; free
The second annual Snow Days Chicago festival features the impressive Snow Sculpting Competition. Sculptures will be created by 15 teams of artists, including participants from China and Canada and several U.S. states along with two Chicago squads. The teams begin on January 27 and finish January 30 in time for voting. In addition, 12 teams representing Chicago Public Schools will design and complete sculptures for display only. Also on hand are the Green Valley Dog Drivers providing dogsled demonstrations and snowboarders from the Raging Buffalo Snowboard/Ski Park USASA Team. Expect to find plenty of kids' activities.
Daley Bicentennial Plaza
Admission: Free (skate rental $6)
A nice view and great lights make this a great spot to take the kids ice skating this season. The 80-by-135-foot outdoor rink is open through March.
Just need to burn off some energy? Take the kids to one of these fabulous play areas.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
From butterflies to frogs, kids will find much to hold their attention at this Lincoln Park wonderland of nature. Little one can spend hours in the museum's small, but exciting, playroom.
Garfield Park Conservatory
When it's dark, cold and dry, this West Side haven offers a sunny, warm and humid break. On Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., you’ll find special programming dedicated to teaching children about nature. On Wednesdays from 3-6 p.m., kids can get dirty in a discovery dig and every Monday morning from 10 a.m. to noon, they can explore the Conservatory's play area, make projects and listen to stories.