No School Today—Now What?

Martin Luther King Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Parent/Teacher Conference Day, Professional Development Day: running out of ideas about what to do with your kids during all those school holidays?

Forget the usual suspects—your kids have been there, done that. Why not use the one-day vacay as an excuse to try something new? Interesting adventures, all less than two hours away, await.

Hop aboard a film tour bus.
Your film-loving tweens and teens will be fascinated by this two-hour tour of Chicago on the silver screen. From Wrigley Field to Union Station; The Biograph Theater to Marina City; tour the locations where they filmed movies such as “The Dark Knight,” “Public Enemies,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and more. As you drive by, watch the scenes come to life on flat screen monitors installed on the bus. Weekday tours ($30) are Thursdays and Fridays, but private groups of 30 or more can be accommodated on any day, with North Shore pick up/drop off service available. For more information, go to chicagofilmtour.com

Travel to Chinatown.
Kids of all ages will be entranced by exotic Chinatown, located on Chicago’s near South Side. Old traditions live on in this neighborhood, where restaurant and shop signs along Wentworth Avenue are still written in Chinese and a pair of lions, meant to scare off evil spirits, flank many of the local businesses. Sign up for a free tour of the area with the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce (chicagochinatown.org), shop for colorful toys and unique gifts, and cap it all off with a delicious and inexpensive family-style lunch at Emperor’s Choice, one of the oldest restaurants in Chinatown.

Batter, batter, up! Rain or shine, your kids can play baseball at Frozen Ropes (frozenropes.com/chicago, a 30,000 square foot indoor baseball facility in Chicago featuring a 90-foot base professional infield, pro batter hitting tunnels and a staff that boasts major league baseball players. Drop in for a day of hitting, fielding and throwing (like the Jonas Brothers did recently when they were in town) or sign up for a special school holiday camp, such as the Columbus Day Camp or Thanksgiving Drop and Shop (they play; you shop).

Saddle Up. Imagine horseback riding with your kids through a winding trail of endless autumn splendor. Sound like a fantasy? Actually, it’s more than a fantasy: it’s Fantasy Hills Ranch (fantasyhillsranch.com), a mere hour and a half drive away in Delavan, Wisconsin. Kids ages 7 and up will enjoy the scenic 50-minute trial rides, priced at $32. Helmets are available free of charge and lunch options abound nearby.

Try a Cooking Class. Put your kids to work without them even knowing it. Sign up for the parent and child “make and take” class at Corner Cooks in Winnetka on Monday, Nov. 8 (Veteran’s Day) and you’ll leave with three appetizers (a dozen each), an apple pie and a pumpkin pie, ready to pop in the freezer until Thanksgiving. Cost is $65 for a parent and child pair, $30 for each additional child. Mature teens are welcome to come without parents.