Spoil your inner child with these top 20 Chicago spots


They say youth is wasted on the young (ain't that the truth!), but we really are just big kids at heart, right? So, don't let kids have all the fun. You're only as old as you feel, so let down your hair and throw caution to the wind. No one will probably push you around in a stroller when you get too tired, but it's time to let that inner child out to play anyway.

1. Woolly Mammoth Antiques
Okay, so perhaps you wouldn't want your child to have a taxidermy giraffe, but for adults this place is a veritable wonderland of oddities that even Lewis Carroll wouldn't have been able to dream up. Drink some tea with the Mad Hatter and then head over to Woolly Mammoth for eccentric ephemera, strange medical specimens and other cabinets of curiosities to decorate your humble abode and make your next dinner party just a tad more intriguing.

2. Aloft Loft Circus Arts
Have you dreamed of running away and joining Cirque du Soleil? Then it's time you headed to the little church sanctuary in Logan Square that is actually a big top in disguise. Try your luck at tightwire, partner acrobatics or aerial silks (leave the monkey bars for the kids!). While you may not end up running away and joining the circus after taking a class, you will find that your body is a lot stronger than you give it credit for. Plus you'll have some pretty sweet bruises to show off to co-workers and friends.

3. Dylan's Candy Bar
The minute you walk into this Dylan's dreamy world of delicious delicacies you might expect Willy Wonka himself to materialize out of thin air singing "Pure Imagination". If you dreamed that you could jump into the Candy Land board game and wander through Lollipop Woods or slide along the Gumdrop Pass then Dylan's Candy Bar will certainly tickle your sugary fancy. With a candy-themed bar serving up candy-centric cocktails, you can even host your next big-kid party at Dylan's (because what's better than candy and booze?).

4. Lickity Split
Harken back to those simple childhood years with this old-timey Edgewater ice cream shop that is sure to conjure up images of Norman Rockwell. With staff that's just as sweet as the treats they dish out you'll feel like you were zapped into the Pleasantville show (poodle skirt not included). Choose from frozen custards, icing-lathered cupcakes and refreshing concretes, or get one of each (just don't blame us for the tummy ache).

5. Flying Fox Conservation Fund
If you're someone who just can't get enough animal videos on YouTube then it might be time you get up close and personal with some furry friends. Flying Fox Conservation Fund provides a fun and interactive way for both kids and adults to learn about fun critters such as sloths, foxes, mouse opossums and fruit bats. While fruit bats may have you envisioning old Dracula movies, these gentle creatures far prefer a mango to the taste of blood (don't we all?). Steal a friend's kid for the day or turn your next boring corporate shindig into something that's more Into the Wild than Wolf of Wall Street.

6. Adler Planetarium
While a planetarium might scream school field trip, you may be surprised to hear that Adler After Dark is an event meant only for those big kids 21 and older who still wish on shooting stars. Every third Thursday of the month starting at 6 p.m. you'll enjoy learning about astronomy the cool way (and possibly with a drink in hand). Take a friend or a potential date and "Ooh" and "Ahh" over the magnificent night sky (it's way better than those days of camping out in your backyard).

7. Trapeze School New York
You can now fly through the air with the greatest of ease (thanks to a harness and a strong man pulling your safety lines, that is). You'll climb what feels like a never-ending ladder to get to the top. You'll look over the netted precipice (don't worry; someone is holding onto you), and just like the woman on the mast of a ship, you reach out, grab that trapeze bar and take flight. You may not feel as graceful as a bird as you try your first knee hang, but you'll certainly have a great burst of adrenaline and an awesome opener at your next party. During the summer months, enjoy a little outdoor flight at Montrose Harbor.

8. Brick by Brick at Museum of Science and Industry
Remember when you used to build cities out of LEGO®? Yea, this is nothing like this. Museum of Science and Industry has turned one of your favorite childhood toys into an engineering marvel of epic proportions. Witness a 60-foot Golden Gate Bridge or the Colosseum made entirely out of these colorful plastic blocks, and then take a chance at building your own Wonder of the World (just remember, even LEGO® Rome wasn't built in a day).

9. EL Ideas
If dining out with your parents as a child was an uptight, stuffy experience complete with cloth napkin-bibs and a proper way to eat, toss all those rules out the window (along with that embarrassing napkin bib) when you visit this Douglas Park restaurant. This 26-table dining extravagance offers just one seating time per evening. Once everyone is seated then the culinary show begins. With quirky presentations such as meals specifically designed to be licked off the plates and courses presented in baby bottles, you'll feel like you just got invited to the oddest dinner soiree ever.

10. Toy De Jour
Remember those weird stuffed Care Bears that you could scratch and sniff? Couldn't get enough of those pizza-loving Ninja Turtle action figures? Then relive your childhood when you step inside Toy De Jour. You'll wander the aisles being flooded with memories of childhood birthday parties and those simple days when figuring out what trouble your GI Joes would get into was the toughest decision of the day (boy do we wish!).

11. Shedd Aquarium
If you would have chosen the antics of Flipper over Lassie any day then perhaps you also dreamed of being a marine biologist when you grew up. You might not have become a marine biologist but you can still appease that disappointed inner child by heading to Shedd Aquarium. It's the underwater adventure you always wished you could have. You can pet belugas and penguins, learn how to feed sharks and even shadow a marine mammal trainer for the day.

12. Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co.
If you always dreamed of being a spy but the closest you came was wearing a nice suit to the office, then you may be looking for something fun to break up the tedium of adulthood (besides watching "Archer" reruns). It's time to turn to Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co. to throw a little adventure into the mix. Find incredible gadgets that every good spy should have such as special disguises, rearview spyglasses and even an emergency bowtie (for that covert formal affair mission). What purchases you make to support your secret spy habit will also fund writing programs for Chicago students.

13. Headquarters Beercade
Have you spent nights at the bar with friends starring at your phone playing a game instead of being part of the party? Well, instead of just being anti-social head to a place where it's socially acceptable to play games while also imbibing in some boozy nightlife. Knock a few back, try to beat your old "Frogger" high score and challenge your friend to a game of "The Simpsons" pinball (the loser buys a round of drinks!).

14. Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze
The funhouses you remember from those old-school amusement park days are still around, but have gotten a bit of a makeover. Housed within the often tourist-laden Navy Pier is a not-to-be-missed funhouse that boasts over 4,000 square feet of mazes, mirrors and tunnels to confuse, excite and even scare you. Your bouts of giggle-induced fits mixed with surprising screams will make you feel like a kid in a haunted house again.

15. AceBounce
Are you looking to do more with your Saturday night than watch reruns of "Frasier" (not that there is anything wrong with that!)? Do you think the chances of finding a unicorn would be greater than finding a locale that would make all your coworkers happy? Enter AceBounce. You'll come here to get all your workweek frustrations out on a good old fashion game of ping pong but you'll be pleasantly surprised that this downtown hotspot all has some pretty mind-blowing eats and delicious cocktails. Put away that Pie Face Game and take the big kids in your life to a much more satisfying and probably less messy evening.

16. Whirlyball
Chicago can't seem to get enough cocktail-slinging, game-playing hangouts, and we couldn't be happier about it. If you loved bumper cars as a kid and you know your way around a game of hockey, then you might just find that your hidden talents lie in Whirlyball. You'll scoop. You'll whiffle. You may even seek bumper car-style vengeance on an opposing teammate. Once you've successfully kicked some Whirlyball butt, it's time to get your gluttony on with dishes like Mexican mole street tacos and stout style Reubens, as well as specialty cocktails that you can share with the group or keep all for yourself.

17. Cheesie's Pub & Grub
Did you ever go to Chuck E. Cheese's as a kid? This place is exactly like that except there's no creepy mascot mouse and no hordes of screaming children hopped up on sugar. So you might say this place is actually heaven. Choose from a variety of delicious, cheese-coma-inducing grilled cheese sandwiches to quell that big-kid appetite. And don't forget to wash it all down with a Capri Sun (blast from the past, right?) or a Not Your Father's Root Beer because, adulthood.

18. iFLY Lincoln Park
Does the idea of jumping out of a plane at 13,000 feet have you hiding in a corner chewing your own hair? So you're probably not going to put daredevil on your resume anytime soon but you can still get to experience of skydiving without the heart-stopping, vomit-inducing jump out of a plane. Sport an ever-flattering helmet and jump into the wind tunnel to discover your next addiction without the fear of soiling yourself in the process.

19. The Great Room Escape
If you want to feel like a character in "The Walking Dead" or uncover conspiracies Jack Bauer-style, we are pretty sure your evening should begin at the Great Room Escape. Gather a gaggle of friends together, choose your experience and then be ready to beat the clock to reveal necessary clues. You'll feel like Nancy Drew on peyote. You'll feel like Sherlock Holmes on...oh wait, never mind.

20. Windy City Skaters
You might not believe it but skateboarding and roller blading are still very much alive and well in the Second City thanks in part to the Windy City Skaters. Anyone can join in wheel-bound themed city tours or skating workshops to brush up on those skills you lost back in the 90s. You'll experience a fit of nostalgia and forget why you ever stopped rollerblading in the first place. Plus, you'll get to take in the awesome sites and sounds of the city while getting a bit of exercise (forget those lame treadmills).


Stephanie Andrews has called Chicago home for 10 years. When she's not eating...err, writing...you can find her stunt doubling for film/TV or making her own cocktail bitters.