My Neighborhood - Family Fun in Albany Park

Written by: Elisa Drake

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:  Albany Park with Elisa - All aboard!  And then explore our other NPN Neighborhoods

When my husband and I moved to Albany Park, I was eight months pregnant with my first daughter. We had to get out of our dark, rundown apartment in East Rogers Park. We spent several months looking at condos in our price range all over town, and when we walked into our newly rehabbed two-bedroom, two-bathroom on the eastern edge of Albany Park, we both uttered a collective, “Ahhhh….yes. This is what we’re talking about!” It is spacious, bright, has a covered garage and is just a 10-minute walk from the Brown Line. We figured we’d stay for a couple of years, then move on, but, well, the economy has kept us here for nearly six years and we’re happy with that.

Albany Park is no Lincoln Park, but what it is, is a multicultural, family-oriented, fascinating neighborhood. We hear people speaking Polish, Spanish, Korean, and various African languages. We meet people outside walking dogs and at the playground, and I appreciate that my children are experiencing true diversity.

Our place is just a block from the Chicago River, which boasts a rolling biking and jogging path, as well as plenty of river scenery—my girls could watch the river forever, spotting ducks, canoes and kayaks, and tossing in sticks to watch them float away.

We realize that we’re kind of “the other side of the tracks” when it comes to the enclave of Ravenswood Manor directly to our south, and we consider the park their, our park. We call it “wood chip park” for its ground cover, but it’s technically Ravenswood Manor Park, a shady playground with picnic tables, swings, and always a “paleta man” or two, jingling their bells to announce their sales of popsicles and ice cream.

Our other nearby park packs in all kinds of fun. Just across the river, the aptly named River Park has a fieldhouse that hosts camps, preschools, and adult programming (like basketball in the gym). Outside activities include a popular pool, brand-new spray park and new playground with rubber turf, plus seven tennis courts, a huge open expanse of grass that’s often used for soccer games, and plenty of old-growth trees that provide shade for family picnics and barbecues.

Besides the ice cream, dining out in Albany Park is a global experience. One of our favorite spots is Semiramis (4639 N. Kedzie), a Lebanese restaurant for amazing falafel, shwarmas, and kabobs. We often order in from Wok Cuisine (4554 N. Kedzie), an unassuming Chinese takeout house in a small strip mall (where there’s also a Starbuck’s). A significant Mexican population gives us our quirky Lindo Michoacan Supermarket (3142 W. Lawrence), selling all kinds of exotic fruits and veggies and parts of animals I probably will never be brave enough to try.

The other indie grocery nearby isn’t technically in Albany Park, but just a few blocks east of us; it’s HarvesTime Foods (2632 W. Lawrence), a cheerful and petite store with a variety of international and organic foods. For a fresh selection of produce, it’s the friendly Andy’s Fruit Ranch (4733 N. Kedzie), where I also find the best packaged European cookies. One place I haven’t tried yet, but will one day because the window displays are so mouthwateringly tempting is Jaafer Sweets (4825 N. Kedzie), offering baklava, date-filled cookies, sesame squares and even sugar-free options. Over near North Park University is the scrumptious Tre Kronor Swedish Restaurant (3258 W. Foster) where you better arrive early for breakfast or expect a wait.

Experience the melting pot of Albany Park. Give us a call and we’ll meet you over at wood chip park.

Boundaries—East: Chicago River, North Branch; west: Pulaski Avenue; north: Foster Avenue; south: Montrose Avenue

Proximity—8 miles northwest of the Loop

Public Transportation—Brown Line El: Francisco, Kedzie, and Kimball stops; #81 bus

Info—Albany Park Chamber of Commerce, (773) 478-0202,www.albanyparkchamber.org; Albany Park Community Center, (773) 583-5111, www.apcc-chgo.org

 

   Insider tips to kid-sized Chicago:  We love the water playground at River Park.  It is perfect for toddlers, since it does not have a slide.  In addition to the great diverse suggestions above, here are a few more family-friendly places to play and learn with the wee ones in Albany Park:

Despicable Me is playing at River Park (5100 N. Francisco Ave.) as part of the Chicago Park District’s Movies in the Park on August 24th.  Movie starts at dusk and is FREE!

Ecology of the River at River Park (5100 N. Francisco Ave.) is part of the Chicago Park District’s Nature Oasis program.  Families with kids over 10 will enjoy canoeing, history of the Chicago River and discussion on water quality and habitat survey on September 17th at noon.  Cost is $5 per person, and registration is required.

Albany Park Library (5150 N. Kimball Ave.) regularly has events for teens and younger children.  Check their site for a current list of events and story times.

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

Posted on August 04, 2011 at 3:52 PM