Sunday, September 27, 2009

Monday 9/28 - Sunday 10/4

Thought of the Week: Apple Picking Near Chicagoland

Last year we waited until mid-October for our apple-picking adventure and I was disappointed that the Honey Crisp trees were bare.  So this year we headed out earlier for our Fall Farm Fiesta.  My criteria for a good apple farm are: a variety of u-pick apples, a u-pick pumpkin patch (I refuse to buy mine at a grocery store), and perhaps some kiddie entertainment. I researched several farms and here's the ones that looked the most interesting to me in our area.   
Illinois: Between 60-80 miles outside of the city I found two farms that sound awesome.  We went to Kuipers this weekend.  Kuipers is located between Naperville and DeKalb - so it is WAY out there but well worth the drive. I was nervous that this farm was going to be over the top Disneylandish, but it was not.  We were there for 5 solid hours and did not have a chance to partake in all the offered activities.  We did apple picking (awesome as the trees were low so the kids could reach the apples), u-pick pumpkins (great selection and cool tractor ride to the pumpkin patch), sand boxes filled with corn, a huge inflatable "pillow" the kids can jump on, a tractor playground, feeding farm animals, a picnic, and some shopping in the bakery/store.  There are also pony rides, a corn field maze, a tractor tire mountain, train rides, and more. We felt like we were hundreds of miles from Chicago (which we practically were) in a beautiful farm setting which is not overly crowded.  I can't say enough good things about it.  The Little Man had a BLAST. If you prefer to head northwest, another IL farm that receives excellent reviews is Edwards Apple Orchard.  Edwards does not have a website and their phone seems to ring busy almost all the time, so information on this farm can be tough to come by.  Regulars give rave reviews online though and when I finally got a hold of someone from the farm, I got a really good vibe from the woman I talked to.  There is a u-pick pumpkin patch, pony rides, horse drawn wagons, a play area with tractors, farm animals, and a bakery that sounds outstanding.  The hours are 9a-5:30p daily.  If you want a shorter drive, and you are ok with no-frills apple picking, check out Heinz Orchard.  Heinz is about 45 miles north of the city and only offers u-pick apples.  For a lovely afternoon in the country, bring a picnic blanket and have lunch in the orchard when your are done picking.  A WCT reader told me that she went last weekend and it was not overly crowded, only took 45 mins to get to from the city, and it was the perfect place to take a small child who doesn't need all the bells and whistles the other farms above offer.  Indiana:  Only 50 miles south of the city is the very popular County Line Orchard.  Aside from apple and pumpkin picking there is a plethora of family activities including hatching chicks, a barnyard designed for pre-schoolers, the Moo-Choo (a cute cow train), and a bee barn.  This farm looks adorable without being over the top.  Wisconsin:  Last year we went to a wonderful apple orchard just south of Madison called Eplegaarden.  This farm if focused more on the picking and less on the amusement park type of activities.  We picked apples, pumpkins, and raspberries, enjoyed live music and yummy food.  I recommend it if you are going to be in the Madison area!


Crittercam at the Notebaert:  The Nature Museum's National Geographic Crittercam exhibit, which lets visitors get a look at wildlife through small cameras mounted on the backs of animals, started this last weekend.  The exhibit includes a sea turtle section, a whales section, a penguin section, and land animals section.  Visitors will learn how National Geographic has used the cameras to help learn more about wild animals and allows kids to see through the point of view of their favorite creatures.  Harrison, the museum's box turtle, will be wearing a turtle cam and kids can keep up with his adventures post-visit by checking out his You Tube page.  While at the museum, kids can crawl through a tunnel to the penguin pod and get close up to a live penguin wearing a crittercam.  When they crawl out, they'll then get to see the film of themselves from the penguin's cam.  
When: Daily 9/26/09-4/11/08
Where: Peggy Notebaert 2430 N Cannon Drive

Wild Wednesdays: On the last Wednesday of the month, Garfield Park has a live animal show-and-tell with professional animal handler Scott Heinrichs. This week, kids can get a close-up look at lizards and turtles, participate in a scavenger hunt as well as other animal-themed activities. FREE.
Where: Garfield Park Conservatory • 300 N Central Park Ave
When: Wednesday 3p-6p (drop in anytime)

Long Grove Apple Festival: I love cute, downtown Long Grove and this weekend's Apple Fest provides a great reason to check it out.  Parents can enjoy a caramel apple latte or martini while kids of all ages can chow down on treats like apple cider donuts, taffy apples, pies, etc.  There is a Kids Expo featuring crafts, pony rides, games, and entertainment.  $5 per person entrance fee.
When: Friday-Sunday 10a-8p 
Where: Just north of the intersections of Rt 53 and 83, Long Grove

Eli's Cheesecake Festival:  Are you kidding me?  I wish I never knew this existed.  I certainly shouldn't be allowed within several miles of this fest as I'm on track to gain 40 lbs during this pregnancy.  But I digress.  Perhaps you can justify pigging out at this festival as it benefits the Greater Chicago Food Depository and the New Horizon Center.  There is a kids' fest featuring a family entertainment stage, a cheesecake eating contest and an antique car show.  Bring a donation for the Food Depository and receive a free slice of cheesecake.  Admission is free and so is parking. 
When: Sat 9a-5p and Sun 11a-5p
Where: 6701 W Forest Preserve Drive, Chicago 

Ravenswood Art Walk:  This weekend there is another great local festival where parents can check out local artists and kids will enjoy entertainment in the Kids Activity Tent.  You can check out work by over 150 emerging local artists and your kids can pop into the art tent to create musical instruments from recycled materials.  There is also a music tent featuring kids' entertainment by Wiggle Worms instructors and various other performers.  Free admission. 
When: Sat-Sun 11a-6p
Where: Ravenswood between Lawrence and Cornelia

Little Miss Ann: she's performing a free show at the Land of Nod at Northbrook Court this weekend.  A great pit stop with the kids if you have other shopping to do!
When: Sunday 1p
Where: Land of Nod 2171 Northbrook Court


The Alder Planetarium  The Planetarium is currently showing One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventure in which Big Bird, Elmo, and a friend from China, discover fun facts about the stars, planets, sun and moon. Weekday shows are at 1p and 2:30p and weekend shows are 12n and 3p. The cost of entry plus the show is $19 for adults and $15 for kids ages 3-14.
Where: 1300 S. Lakeshore Drive, Chicago.
When: Mon-Fri 10a-4p • Sat-Sun 10a-4:30p

Barnes and Noble Story TimeAre you looking for a free activity for a rainy day? You can enjoy a latte while your kids enjoy story time at one of the Barnes and Noble city locations. 2-3 times a week the city locations offers a story time activity for children ages 0-3 years.
Where: Webster Place (1441 W. Webster) or State and Elm (1130 N. State)
When: Webster- Every Mon, Tues, Thurs 10am / State- Every Mon & Sat 10am

Brookfield Zoo: In the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit, the Brookfield Zoo has created a Jurassic Park experience minus all the scary stuff. Kids can touch and control the movement of life-sized dinosaurs along a wooded path in an outdoor forest setting. The exhibit also features a dig site that allows visitors to find replica dinosaur fossils. General zoo admission is $12 for adults and $8 for children 3-11. Admission for Dinosaurs Alive! is an additional $5 for adults and $3 for children 3-11. The exhibit runs through October.

Chicago Botanic Garden -Model Railroad GardenStarting this week, the Botanic Garden is featuring an area devoted to model trains. Seventeen trains travel across bridges, through tunnels, and around various American landmarks in a miniature garden setting. Admission to the Botanic Garden is free but there is a $20 per car parking fee. There is an additional fee of $5 for adults and $3 for kids for the Railroad exhibit.
Where: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe
When: Daily 5/9-10/25 • 10a-8p

Garfield Park Conservatory: Every Wednesday through the fall is Little Green Thumb Wednesdays at the conservatory. Little gardeners can unite to dig in the soil, plant pretend veggies, play with wheel barrels, and other gardening activities. No registration required. FREE!
Where: 300 N. Central Park Avenue, Chicago • Outside in the Demonstration Garden (moves indoors to the Children's Garden in bad weather)
When: Every Wednesday through 10/28 • 3p-6p

Green City MarketVisit Chicago's largest Farmer's Market in the heart of Lincoln Park every Wed and Sat through October 31st. Be sure to stop by the Growing Home booth for your organic produce. My son loves to run around the park and boogie to the live music while I shop for our groceries.
Tip: if you are not a zoo member, consider becoming one. why would i pay to join a free zoo, you ask? zoo membership gives you free parking adjacent to the zoo and a short walk to the farmer's market (as well as a short walk to the nature museum, the beach, etc). plus zoo membership is tax deductible. we usually get an early start on saturday mornings and hit the farmer's market and then make a stop at the zoo. this makes for a full morning of outdoor activities that the entire family can enjoy!
Where: The south end of Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton.
When: Every Wednesday and Saturday 7a-1p

The Kids' Table offers cooking classes for 2-3 year olds almost every day of the week. Classes for 4-6 year olds, 7-10 year olds, and 11-16 year olds are offered several days a week as well. The classes for toddlers and kids are one hour and cost $25. The classes for teens are 1.5 hours and are $110 for a series of four. 2337 W. North Avenue.

Lincoln Park Zoo's Edible Garden: Don't have room for a garden on your back deck? Bring your little ones to the Farm-in-the-Zoo's Edible Garden where kids get hands-on growing, weeding, compost making, and harvesting practice. Your kids may leave with an understanding that corn and tomatoes are grown somewhere other than Jewel.
Where: Lincoln Park Zoo Farm-in-the Zoo • 2200 N Canon Drive, Chicago
When: Garden is open Wed and Sat 10a-1p

Museum of Science and Industry: Bring your kids to see the Harry Potter exhibit, the Green Home exhibit, and to see live science experiments. June through October the museum will host a free farmers market on the first and third Fridays of the month from 7a-2p. The museum will always have free admission on farmers market Fridays. Otherwise, general admission is $13 for adults and $9 for kids ages 3-11.
Where: 5700 S. Lakeshore Drive, Chicago
When: Mon-Sat 9:30a-5:3op / Sun 11a-5:30p

Pump It Upwhen it is too hot or cold to play outside, Pump It Up offers indoor play in Chicago and the suburbs. Kids can jump, slide, and climb on giant inflatables during Pop-in Playtime on the weekdays. The city location also has a separate area designed for little kids age 1-4. Pop-in playtime is $8 -$10 for 1.5 hours. Hit their website for hours and the address of the location nearest you. Locations include: Chicago, Glenview, Elmhurst, and Vernon Hills. Don't forget socks!

Tots on Tuesdays at the Shedd: Every Tuesday the Shedd Aquarium offers activities devoted to toddlers and pre-schoolers. There are story times, crafts, animal touch programs, videos and costumed characters.
Where: The Shedd Aquarium • 1200 S. Lakeshore Drive, Chicago
When: Tuesdays • 9a-5p

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