With its famous deep-dish pizza and hot dogs on practically every corner, Chicago is already a kid’s kind of town. Still, these stores, which are tricked out with a milk and cookie bar, a massive toy train and the best selection of organic baby goods around, will make the shopping experience even better for the entire family.
In this bright, brick-walled shop—decorated with a teepee and pull wagon—owners Mike and Melissa Salvatore custom-build Bennett Balance Bikes (made from recycled milk jugs) for kids nine months and up. Also on sale are made-to-last helmets, bells and baskets. Beyond bikes, there’s a well-stocked milk and cookies bar and in-house photo studio (Melissa is also a children’s photographer).
2868 N. Lincoln Ave., heritagelittles.com, 773-242-9008
Frankie’s On The Park
Frankie’s is a tween shop as sophisticated as any adult boutique. In a modern, minimalist building in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, owners Lisa Rolfe Burik and Mary DeRose Carter stock Splendid, JBrand, Chaser LA and Ragdolls & Rockets, as well as their own Chicago-produced formalwear line 4th Charm. The hunt for an ideal dress for bat mitzvahs, graduations or school dances ends here.
2322 North Clark St., frankiesonthepark.com, 773.248.0400
Open since 1998, this stalwart children’s furniture store is known for its handmade, personalized wares, including their signature decoupage toy chests and hand-painted music boxes. More ways to trick-out your kid’s room include height charts and wall clocks that you can get emblazoned with their name. Or, if you’re searching for something more suitcase-sized, they also sell superhero capes.
1940 N. Damen Avenue, theredballoon.com, 773.489.9800
The Chicago location of this San Francisco standout stocks the same top-shelf natural and organic children’s gear, including baby shampoos, clothing, toys, crib mattresses and other nursery items. Choose from noted nontoxic brands such as Duc Duc, Kate Quinn Organics, Oeuf, Bloombaby and Nook. And, if you’re lucky, you might show up for one of Sprout’s widely praised story hours or music classes.
1943 West Division St., sproutsanfrancisco.com, 773-489-0009
Oakridge Hobbies & Toys
Often called “kid heaven,” this football field-sized family-owned shop—where a toy train chugs around a ceiling-mounted track—sells both ready-to-go toys (they have the largest selection of stuffed animals in the Chicago area) and DIY kits of all kinds. Whatever the hobby, supplies abound, including sets for model trains, dollhouses, remote-controlled helicopters and racing cars.
7511 Lemont Rd., oakridgehobbiesandtoys.com, 630.435.5900