My Neighborhood - Family Fun in Bucktown

NPN connects families in neighborhoods across Chicago.  Get inspired to check out a new part of the city or discover something fabulous just around the corner.  This stop: Bucktown with Carly - All aboard! And then explore our other NPN Neighborhoods.

Bucktown is my neighborhood and my daughters and I love to check out different playgrounds and play spaces, plus grab grub at some kid-friendly spots on the way. 

Each year at this time, when all my neighbors are emerging from their winter cocoons, I love to walk down Damen Avenue, from North Avenue towards Webster, and take in all the comings and goings of storefronts.  Sometimes a lot can change in a few months!  There are plenty of new places to check out, as well as old favorites that get better with an increase of temperature and sunshine.

On our quiet walk west on Cortland Avenue, just past Damen, there is a new organic juice bar, Green Corner (1880 N. Damen).  The fruit and veggie drinks are made to order and, while a little pricey, look refreshing for all ages.  Maybe my 4-year-old will share one with me on our way to Erhler Park (2230 W. Cortland).  This park has good shaded areas for picnicking, a reasonably clean sandbox and an open grassy area for chasing bubbles or soccer balls.  Just around the corner is Easel Art Studio (1911 N. Milwaukee Ave.), where they host Open Art classes for kids mid-day Mondays through Fridays.  This is a great spot for your kids to get creatively messy and you don’t have to clean up afterwards!  Engine 35 Fire Station (1901 N. Damen) is on our walk home and, as long as there are no emergencies, the firemen are happy to show off their fire trucks and let the kids get a mini-tour of the place. 

When we are feeling adventurous, I take both kids and hop on the North Avenue bus (#72) and head west to Leavitt.  Bake (2246 W. North), a wonderful family-owned bakery, has toys for your tots and a serene patio for enjoying one of their many tasty treats.  I love the Metropolis coffee there and my kids, naturally, will take cupcakes or cookies anytime.  Just across the street is my beloved The Kids’ Table (2337 W. North) where kids are making magic!  This pint-sized kitchen offers wonderful culinary classes year-round, including some camp programs worth checking out.  Their small retail section up front is great for picking out gifts for all those summer birthday parties.

Some other Bucktown faves, just down Milwaukee Avenue, that are worth mentioning here include Red Hen Bakery (1623 N. Miwaukee) – try their gourmet sandwiches for your next picnic!   We love the cranberry chicken salad and dense, yummy muffins.  Also, believe it or not, we love family dinners at Silver Cloud (1700 N. Damen).  Go for lunch or early dinner, sit outside, order their sloppy Joes with a side of peas and tater tots, and enjoy the people watching (since your kids will be quietly eating, right?). 

How do we cool off in Bucktown?  A walk around the hood is usually topped off with a stop at Miko’s Italian Ice (1846 N. Damen).  Their hours and fresh fruit flavors vary, so check their website or follow on Twitter. Further down Milwaukee Avenue is the glorious, historic Margie’s Candies (1960 N. Western Ave.).  They have the best hot fudge ice cream sundaes ever.  This institution is a regular hang out for our family year-round (try it for lunch one day, there is less of a line and they have grilled cheese and PB&J!). 

As far as shopping goes, Damen Avenue boasts many fabulous clothing boutiques and hip fashion outlets.  If you are looking for great kid stuff we all know Psychobaby (1630 N. Damen) has outrageously unique clothing, toys and gifts.  Also, there are games galore at Cat and Mouse (2212 W. Armitage Ave).  Not to be overlooked for great gift ideas is Virtu (2034 N. Damen) for lovely paper goods and sweet tokens of appreciation – I got my babysitter a handmade birthday gift here.  I love Paper and Print (1940 N. Damen) for creative, fairly priced, print-at-home invitations or thank you cards.

Don't forget about Little Beans Cafe (1809 W. Webster), just a few blocks from Damen.  Little Beans is a great kids play cafe - grab a coffee or a treat and let your kids play, learn and create in their interactive indoor village.

Whew!  That seems like a lot, but I know there is so much more that Bucktown offers, I can’t possibly list them all here. I am always on the lookout for great kid-friendly spots…rumor has it that Tipsycake is opening on Damen soon and my kids are already pointing and salivating.  Well, maybe I am too. 

For more info on the neighborhood:


  Insider tips to kid-sized Chicago:  Great suggestions Carly! If you have a school aged little one and they received an A on their report card, bring it in to Margie’s Candies for a free ice cream!  Don’t miss Psycho Baby’s story time with the acclaimed Storybook Mom every Wednesday at 10:30.  In addition to the great suggestions above, here are a few of our favorite places to eat, play and shop with the wee ones in Bucktown:

The T-Shirt Deli (1739 N. Damen Ave.) is a fabulous place to pick up a gift or make a custom t-shirt for your wee one.  They have an wide selection of onsies, shirts and more that you can customize with everything from Elmo and Ms. Pac Man to your own original design.

Feast (1616 N. Damen Ave.) boasts 15 highchairs, a kid’s menu and an amazing patio.  Their salads are delicious, but be prepared for a bit of a wait on weekend mornings.

The Red Balloon (2060 N. Damen Ave.) has a wonderful collection of clothes, shoes, unique toys and books.  They are famous for their initial tees and sweaters. Don’t miss their giant warehouse sales held at least twice a year.  You can get some serious bargains.  They also have a program where they will donate money to your school for shopping with them.

Goddess and Grocer (1646 N. Damen Ave.) is casual but delicious.  The seating is very limited at this Bucktown eatery, and primarily limited to one giant farm table.  They only have one highchair and no changing station, but the cupcakes make up for what they lack in family amenities.

Bellydance Maternity (1647 Damen Ave.) carries everything from Bellabands to the perfect dress for your shower.  They also have an impressive collection of maternity work attire.  Be sure to join their mailing list for special discount offers.

Toast (2046 Damen Ave.) offers a fabulous selection of breakfast foods including their famous French toast stuffed with mascarpone cheese and strawberry puree.  They also serve delicious salads and paninis for lunch.  They have changing stations in both bathrooms, six highchairs and a kid’s menu. Expect a LONG wait on weekend mornings.

For more tips on where to go eat, play, learn and shop in Chicago, visit!

Posted on June 21, 2011 at 9:32 AM