What to do? You’ve spent $57 on Dippin’ Dots, cotton candy and hot dogs. Even your iPhone can no longer entertain the kids. And it’s only the second inning.
Sound familiar? Just because you’ve spent $200 (if you’re lucky) on seats, doesn’t guarantee your kids are going to have fun at a sporting event. After a few innings of sitting, your Thomas the Tank engine obsessed toddler is going to whine, even if the bats are swinging at Wrigley.
But the wee ones’ inability to keep track of RBIs and HRs doesn’t doom you to playing my “educational” games, like build a tower with the plastic beer cups or spot the mommies who shouldn’t be wearing spandex. Most sports venues offer family-friendly alternatives. Here are our favorite options.
The Chicago White Sox
U.S. Cellular Field is a modern stadium complete with a Jumbo-Tron scoreboard, but the big draw for kids of all ages is the 15,000-square-foot Comcast Fundamentals area. Even toddlers can clock their velocity in the pitching cages, field ground balls on the replica diamond and race against life-sized cutouts of the speediest White Sox.
The Chicago Cubs
Even the new owners acknowledge the limitations of Wrigley Field as a kid-friendly venue. But if you bleed Cubbie blue, nothing beats watching baseball among the ivy with your family. Molly Sullivan, a Wilmette mother of three, including a 12-year-old baseball fanatic son and a 3-year-old daughter, tackles their divergent interest levels by sending her husband and son inside to catch the first pitch (once you exit the park, there’s no re-entry) and then cruises the neighborhood with her toddler—checking out the old fire station on Grace Street and the Cubs-themed McDonalds—until about the second inning. By the time they go in, the game is just about the right length for a toddler.
Looking for broken-down gamblers smelling of smoke and booze at the racetrack? Read a Walter Matthau novel, because at Arlington Park, you’re more likely to find 4-year-olds wearing Lily Pulitzer. There’s plenty of pink and green floral, especially on Family Day Sundays. With pony rides, a petting zoo, and a Junior Jockey Club for all things equine, you can keep your entire family entertained for hours at Arlington.
The best thing about a Chicago Fire game is that most North Shore kids have played soccer at some point. And even if they tire of the on-field action, Toyota Park offers plenty of room to roam, including the patio deck for great barbeque.
Chicago Red Stars and Chicago Sky
Not surprisingly, these two professional women’s sports franchises—soccer and basketball— bend over backwards to accommodate families, including access to the players at pre- and post-game autograph sessions and photo opportunities. Go online and join the Kids’ Clubs for special in-game promotions.