A Day Out in Chicago's Lincoln Park

by Elaine Glusac
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Planning to visit Chicago with your kids? While you're there, why not do as the locals do and check out one of the city's best-known neighborhood's for free family fun -- Lincoln Park.

Why families love it:

Its 1,200 acre lakefront park and adjacent tony residential area with handsome Victorian greystone buildings make for inspired strolling. Lots of free and fun entertainment options, from playgrounds and parks to Lake Michigan beaches.

How to get there:

Drive (free or metered street parking is competitive; try the lot run by the Zoo on the side nearest to the lake); or take the L, or elevated train. From here, you can walk or bike over to the Brown Line and pay about $2 each to ride around town at canopy level (you can go out and back for the same one-way fare). Admire the greenery and the architecture as you fly by two stories up in the sky.

Elaine's Lincoln Park picks:

1. Farm-in-the-Zoo

2001 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614

Kids get a kick seeing the old-fashioned red barn at the Farm-in-the-Zoo just across the street from residential high-rises. Even more charming are the hands-on activities that allow city kids to play farmer from feeding the dairy cows and churning butter to petting the goats and climbing on a John Deere tractor. Read more...

2. Cummings Playground

Dickens Ave. at Stockton Dr.
Chicago, IL 60614

Across the street from the Lincoln Park Zoo, Cummings Playground is a popular place to let the kids loose physically after filling their minds with animal facts. Regular mommy and daddy groups meet up here and there's a strong bias towards the youngest kids with bucket-style swings, a large sandbox and bronze animal sculptures to climb on. Read more...

3. Lincoln Park Conservatory

2391 N. Stockton Dr.
Chicago, IL 60614

No matter what the famous Chicago weather outside, it's perpetual, blissful summer at the Lincoln Park Conservatory where palm trees tower, exotic flowers bloom, koi fish swim and waterfalls trickle. Approach it like a hike through the jungle and you'll have most fun following your kid through numerous walkways and microclimates. Read more...

4. RJ Grunts

2056 Lincoln Park West
Chicago, IL 60614

Across the street from the Lincoln Park Zoo, RJ Grunts combines a bohemian vibe (it's proud of its 70's roots) with a laid-back affection for families who frequent it. Huge, juicy burgers and fries appeal to the kids while moms dig the vast, make-a-meal-of-it salad bar. Proof of its sense of humor: the daily soup is priced based on the temperature outside. Read more...

5. Barnes & Noble Booksellers

1441 W. Webster Pl.
Chicago, IL 60614

The chain bookstore that has endeared itself to the neighborhood, Barnes & Noble is a regular stop on the stroller route. A generous children's and young adult's section on the second floor includes a train table, pint-sized seats and regular storytime readings for the littlest kids. Older readers appreciate hand-written recommendations of staffers well-versed in YA books.

Freelance travel writer Elaine Glusac lives with her husband and baseball-obsessed son in Chicago, walking distance from Wrigley Field.

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