Get Your Bounce On at Monkey Joe’s in Wheaton, IL

Bouncing off the walls…seems like kids could, literally, do this all day.  My son could easily spend an entire day bouncing on inflatables.  I have no idea how those tiny little legs don’t give out from bouncing around, but they don’t and my boy loves it.  Monkey Joe’s is one of our go-to spots when my son needs to let out a little bit of pent-up energy.  We enjoy Monkey Joe’s so much, we also visited the Crystal Lake location.

Monkey Joe's_Wheaton

Monkey Joe’s is just one of those places where, as a parent of an active child, you just can’t go wrong.  Kids jump from attraction to attraction, looking for the thrill of the bounce.  And Monkey Joe’s definitely delivers the thrill.

Monkey Joes_Slide

The Wheaton location is set-up much like the Crystal Lake Monkey Joe’s.  When you walk in, the party rooms and tables/chairs are in front of the wide-open area where all the inflatables are.  There’s a Mini Monkey Zone for younger kids too.

Monkey Joes_Overview

The biggest draw at this location for my pirate-loving boy was the huge pirate ship inflatable.

Monkey Joe's_Pirate Ship

I enjoyed the comfy chairs and big TV’s in the parents area.

Monkey Joes_Parents Area

There’s also a nice arcade area when the kids need a break from all the bouncing around.

Monkey Joes_Arcade

My only gripe with this Monkey Joe’s was the number of broken attractions when I was there. Granted, I’m sure this isn’t an everyday occurrence, but we were bummed seeing all the deflated ones on the ground.

Monkey Joe's_Deflated

My son didn’t seem to notice (or care) that a few of the attractions were down.  He was having way too much fun at Monkey Joe’s in Wheaton with all the other amazing inflatables.

Monkey Joes_Castle Climb

Monkey Joe’s is located at 286 E Geneva Road in Wheaton.  They are open M-Th 10am-5pm; F-Sa 10am-8pm; and Su 11am-6pm.  Admission is $9.99 3 and up; $5.00 2 and under (if playing).  Adults are free.

Where do your kids like to bounce around?

Chicagoland with Kids: The Chicago TreeHouse

Venue: The Chicago TreeHouse

Website: http://www.thechicagotreehouse.com/

Location: 985 S. Rand Road, Lake Zurich, IL  60047

Hours: Summer Season Hours through the end of September:

Monday: 10am – 5pm
Tuesday: 10am – 5pm
Wednesday: 10am – 7:30pm *subject to change
Thursday: 10am – 5pm
Friday: 10am – 5pm
Saturday: 10am – 4pm
Sunday: 10am – 4pm

Admission:  Kids ages 1-15: $10.50; Adults and children under 1 are FREE.

Parking: The Chicago TreeHouse is located in a strip mall (right next to the Aldi), so parking is free and plentiful.

The Chicago TreeHouse

Our Experience:  I visited The Chicago TreeHouse with my toddler son and husband.  I have heard so much about this place lately that I knew we had to check it out.  My first impression of the place was that the play structure was HUGE!

The Chicago TreeHouse Playground

Although it might look crowded in the photo, it really wasn’t – especially considering the fact that there were FOUR birthday parties going on while we were there.  And, speaking of birthday parties, I really liked how each party was given their own “corner” if you will, so each party seemed more intimate to me than a big room with parties going on right next to each other.  Nice touch!

The Chicago TreeHouse Party Space

But, of course, The Chicago TreeHouse is really known for the massive tree play structure.

Chicago TreeHouse

My son loved the three “really fast slides”, as he called them, and I felt comfortable enough letting him explore the play area on his own.  (For those of you that know me personally and know how much of a “Helicopter Mom” I am, you’ll also know that that’s huge for me.)

Chicago TreeHouse Slide

He mainly went down the slide himself, but I love this pic of him with daddy!

It’s also important for parents to know that the platforms throughout this play structure aren’t too high for smaller kids to climb on.  For the most part, my 2-and-a-half year old could climb through the entire area on his own.  That was especially helpful for me because at most other play areas the platforms are too high and I end up having to crawl through the whole thing myself (leading to some very bruised up knees!).  The entire climbing structure has swinging bridges, enclosed slides, padded mats and ramps, swings, and a soft basketball court.

The Chicago TreeHouse also has a small toddler area for children up to 24 months.

Chicago TreeHouse Toddler Area

Parents will love the café area that serves a variety of healthy snacks, sandwiches and coffee.

The Chicago TreeHouse Cafe

I got a kick out of the “warning” posted above the café:

The Chicago TreeHouse Cafe Warning

The Chicago TreeHouse aims to keep parents as comfortable as possible with plush seating throughout and even a large magazine rack featuring tons of reading material.  They also offer free WiFi so you can get a few things done while the kids let off some steam.

Chicago TreeHouse Collage

Overall, we really loved The Chicago TreeHouse.  My husband even said that it was his favorite play area we’ve visited so far – and we’ve been to A LOT!  With a testimony like that, you’ve got to check out The Chicago TreeHouse!

Chicagoland Spots: Brookfield Zoo Dinosaurs Alive!

Venue: Brookfield Zoo {Dinosaurs Alive!}

Website: http://www.brookfieldzoo.org/CZS/Dinosaurs-Alive

Location: 8400 W 31st Street, Brookfield, IL  60513.

Hours: M-S: 9:30am to 6:00pm; Su: 9:30am to 7:30pm

Admission:  Adults: $15.00; Seniors 65 and Over: $10.50; Children 3 to 11: $10.50  Dinosaurs Alive! admission: Adults $5.00; Children 11 and under $3.00; Seniors 65 and over $3.00; Children under 3 are FREE

Parking: Non-Members: $10/car; $12/van

Brookfield Zoo Dinosaurs Alive

Our Experience:  My son is a typical toddler boy.  He likes cars, trains, animals, and…dinosaurs!  He loves dinosaurs so much that he even has different “roars” for each one.  (I can’t tell them apart, but he’ll say “That’s my stegosaurus!” or “That’s a T-Rex!” after every growl and roar.)  We were so excited to hear that Brookfield Zoo opened a new Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit – we knew he’d just love it!  (Last year’s special exhibit was Extreme Bugs so, being the scaredy cat that I am, I wasn’t too inclined to visit that one.)

We are members of Brookfield Zoo, so our admission for the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit was discounted by 50%, otherwise it’s an extra cost {see admission prices above} to enter the exhibit.

Brookfield Triceratops

As you roam a winding wooded trail with many life-like animatronic prehistoric creatures, you can hear the dinosaurs make sounds and some of them even move!  My family was impressed by their size and how real they looked and even learned about a few dinosaur species we never even heard of.  Have you heard of a Kosmoceratops?!?!  (And I’ll admit that I had to add a photo of the display because, well, it just made me chuckle.)

Kosmoceratops Facts

Another neat part of the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit that we loved was the Feathers & Fossils tent.  Inside the tent were real dinosaur artifacts on display and the tent showcased some recent paleontological findings.  For example, did you know that scientists now believe that some younger dinosaurs were born with feathers, and shed them once they got older?  Cool, right?  To learn more of these fun facts, you’ll just have to check out the exhibit at Brookfield Zoo!

Brookfield Zoo Dinosaurs

The Feathers & Fossils tent is also home to the Dino Dig Station.  My son got a kick out of “finding” dinosaur bones!

Brookfield Dino Dig

The Brookfield Zoo Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit runs through October 27th, 2013 – come see it before it’s gone!

I received no compensation to write this review, this was simply a family outing I wanted to share.

Chicagoland Spots: Pioneer Farm

Venue: Pioneer Farm {Lambing Days}

Website: http://www.enjoypioneerfarm.com/

Location: 17N400 Big Timber Road, Hampshire, IL  60140.

Hours: Open March-May; Sa & Su 9am – 3pm

Admission:  $5.00 per person; $11.00 for a family of 4

Parking: Free

Enjoy Pioneer Farm Hampshire

Our Experience:  I’ll say it first here that we were a bit skeptical when we pulled into the driveway at Pioneer Farm.  Make no mistake – you are visiting an actual, working farm, not some Disney version of what one should look like.  There was stuff lying everywhere and some homemade contraptions in various spots on the property.  My husband even contemplated turning around and driving back home.  But once I saw the sheep in a pen ahead of us, I knew we had to give it a shot.  I figured that the cost is low enough that we wouldn’t be losing out on too much, ya know?  And I’ll be forever thankful that we stayed.

As we stepped into the barn we were greeted by Carol, one of the farm’s owners.  She was so sweet and kind and I knew I’d like her immediately.  If there’s one thing you need to know about Pioneer Farm, it’s that you are about to have an experience, and not just a glimpse of the animals from afar.  My 2-year-old was completely drawn in by the sights and sounds of the animals.  And – he needed help, of course – was able to hold a baby chick, a bunny, a lamb, and a goat.  He also got up close and personal with a chicken and a duck.  He was thrilled!  The very best part of our visit – he got to feed a calf with a bottle all by himself!  It was slobbery and messy, but my son had a blast!

Pioneer Farm Collage

We even got to see Lane, Carol’s husband, shear a sheep (which is a lot harder than it sounds – trust me!).  The owners went into great detail about the process of shearing sheep and even showed us the lanolin secreted by the sheep that is used in lotions and lip balms.  They were happy to answer all of our questions and just made our visit all the more enjoyable.  We had such a great time and can’t wait to go back!

Helpful Tips:

  • No need to plan an entire day at Pioneer Farm.  An hour or so is sufficient time to see it all.
  • Feeding the calf is an extra $1.00 charge.
  • Don’t judge a book (or a farm) by its cover.  Pioneer Farm has a lot to offer, and the kids will have a great time.

Hope you get to Enjoy Pioneer Farm for Lambing Days (weekends through May)!

Chicagoland Spots: Kohl Children’s Museum {Review}

Venue: Kohl Children’s Museum

Website: http://www.kohlchildrensmuseum.org/

Location: 2100 Patriot Boulevard, Glenview, IL.  Approx. 45 minutes from Chicago.

Hours: Mon–Sat 9:30am – 5:00pm; Sun 12:00pm – 5:00pm

Admission: $9.50 per person, kids under the age of 1 are free

Parking: Free – plentiful

Kohl Children's Museum

Our Experience: Kohl Children’s Museum of Greater Chicago offers 17 interactive, hands-on exhibits for children ages birth to 8.  We tried to visit them all, but you would really need to plan to spend the entire day to do that – there’s just SO MUCH to do!  Here’s what we thought about the exhibits we did get to see:

Kohl Eggs to ChicksAdventures in Art: I was surprised to see that the art studio at the museum was fairly large. We were lucky when we visited the museum. because the Adventures in Art exhibit also housed the Eggs to Chicks exhibit (temporarily on display through May 13, 2013). My son was mesmerized watching the baby chicks take their first steps under the heat lamps, and all the Adventures in Art activities centered around the baby chicks.  There were coloring sheets as well as educational activities for some of the older children.

All About Me: Unfortunately, we didn’t spend too much time at this exhibit as my son was immediately attracted to the large trains (part of the City on the Move exhibit) on the other side of the room.  There was, however, a pretty cool scale you could hop on to tell you how many gallons of milk you weighed, but with both my husband’s an my recent weight gain, we were a little scared to see how much we would amount to. Smile

Baby Nursery: Again, we didn’t spend too much time here, but this exhibit allowed the kids to play “doctor” to some baby dolls.  There were even some x-rays you could view on a light box that I thought was pretty neat.

Kohl Car CareCar Care: This was our first stop at the museum. My toddler loved testing out the tracks with the numerous trucks the museum provided. He must’ve thought that was all we were there to do because he resisted when we tried to redirect him to some of the other activities this exhibit offered.

As a family, we enjoyed walking through the car wash together, although the look on my son’s face prompted my husband to say, “I think he would freak out if he was in the car and we were at a real car wash.” On this I most definitely agree with my husband – the noise would likely scare him! Overall, the trucks and race track in this exhibit delighted my son and we loved watching him have a blast!

Kohl Race Track

City on the Move: We probably spent most of our time at this exhibit.  How could we not, with the train-loving toddler we have?!?!  I loved how this exhibit was centered around the city of Chicago with trains, skyscrapers, and the ability to create city scenes using shapes! (Although my toddler’s obsession with “order” only caused him to organize the shapes by both type and color – but he sure had fun doing it!)

Kohl El Train

The main draw of this exhibit for us was the giant train table – complete with holes in the center so kids could play from multiple angles. My son loved it (possibly a little too much since he cried when it was time to go).

Cooperation Station:  This was a fun one!  On one activity, kids worked together – either by peddling, pushing buttons, or pulling handles – to inflate a balloon-like structure.

Kohl Grocery CartDominick’s: This grocery store exhibit was a big hit for my son.  He enjoyed pulling all his groceries off the shelf (just like mommy!) and pushing his grocery cart around the store.  It was nice seeing my son act a little bit like a grown-up. And he got a kick out of all the different fruits and vegetables on display.

The best part of the exhibit for me, was watching my son interact with his “cashier”. I enjoyed watching my little one interact with a complete stranger – and the boy was a fantastic cashier!Kohl Museum Checkout

Habitat Park: We visited the museum in the winter and, unfortunately, this exhibit is weather-dependent and was closed.

Hands On House: This was another exhibit that we saw, but just didn’t spend a lot of time on.  Next time, for sure!  Kids could participate in constructing a house and decorating it on the inside!

Nature Explorers: This exhibit allows kids to explore different plants and animals. My son had fun “digging” for different insects and worms (much to my dismay – I hate bugs!)  He kept holding them up close to his eye to get a better view.  Boys will be boys, I guess! Smile

Kohl Museum Insect Dig

Pet Vet: This was another fun one!  We have a dog at home so it was interesting to watch him care for the animals, brush them, and put them back in their crates. Just wish he’d show a little more interest at home. Winking smile

Kohl Museum Pet Care

Play Library: There were plenty of books for us to browse through, but she best part of the Play Library for us was the computer pre-loaded with my son’s favorite book, Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom. I swear he can recite the entire book!

Potbelly Sandwich Works: We didn’t visit this exhibit on our visit because we were a bit pressed for time, but it looked like a fun one where kids could build their own sandwiches – just like at the restaurant!

Powered by Nature: Honestly, I don’t think we even noticed this one. From the pictures on the website, it looks like this was near the trains so, again, it’s really no surprise that we didn’t get to explore this one – we were too busy playing choo choo!

Ravinia Festival Music Makers: What kid doesn’t enjoy making noise?!?! There were so many instruments here and I think my son experimented with each and every one!  But why his mouth was open in every single photo I took of him playing the drums is a mystery to me. Guess he was letting out his inner rock star! LOL

Kohl Museum Ravinia Drums

Kohl Museum Water WorksWater Works: Of course the water exhibit would be a favorite for most kids.  It was a bit too “wet” for me because I was concerned that his clothes would be too wet to step back out in the cold weather, but my fears were unfounded as he was totally fine.  Just mesmerized by the droplets of water falling from the many tubes in this exhibit.

Overall: We did have a great time at the Kohl Children’s Museum, BUT it was a little too crowded for my taste.  Granted, we did visit on a Saturday morning, but I would probably prefer to visit during the week.  We still have tons more to see at this museum so I’m sure we’ll be back real soon.  For those of you that may be planning a visit, it might be helpful to know that there is a restaurant on-site, Cosi Café, that sells items like pizza and sandwiches.

Disclaimer: I received complimentary admission to the Kohl Children’s Museum to facilitate this review.  However, all stories and experiences are 100% my own.

Chicagoland Spring 2013 Bucket List

This extended winter we’ve been having in Chicago has me feeling a little blue.  I heard on the radio this morning that last year at this time the weather in Chicago reached a high of 82 degrees.  Today, on the first day of spring, temps are struggling to make it out of the 20’s.  To say that I’ve been afflicted with a case of Cabin Fever would be an understatement – I want to go outside!!!  And my son – poor child – has been begging every day to “go bye-bye in the car”.  (I think he caught the cabin fever too!)

Since today marks the first day of spring, I thought it would be appropriate to list my Spring 2013 Bucket List of a few things we can’t wait to do this spring (and I hope we get to do them all before it gets too hot out).

  • Visit a new park.
  • Go to Brookfield Zoo.
  • Take a long walk.
  • Visit the Morton Arboretum.
  • Head back to the Discovery Center Museum to play in the Rock River Discovery Park.
  • Visit Cosley Zoo in Wheaton for the first time.
  • Pick fresh eggs at a local farm (I already have my eye on a venue!).
  • Head to a local farmer’s market to purchase some fresh fruit and veggies.
  • Spend an afternoon drawing on the sidewalk.
  • Take the drive to Chicago to visit Navy Pier.

Navy Pier Chicago

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can knock each and every one of these activities off the list in the coming months.  My son, for one, will be thrilled!  And I can’t wait to log some mileage to my BRITAX BOB Stroller!  I received a jogging stroller thinking I was going to run all the time, get in shape, lose weight, etc.  While none of those things have happened yet, it doesn’t mean that they never will.  (My 2013 Resolutions set-back will be coming to an end!)  BOB – I’m comin’ at ya this year!

How’s your spring planning shaping up?  Got any ideas I can add to my list?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post as a Britax Latina Advisory Board Member and Blogger. As always, all opinions, ideas, and stories stated here are clearly my own.

Chicagoland Spots: FireZone {Review}

Venue: FireZone Schaumburg

Website: http://www.firezonefun.com/

Location: 1100 National Parkway, Schaumburg, IL. Located near the intersection of Golf Road and National Parkway.

Hours: Varies.  Check the website for Drop In Activity and KidVentures times.

Admission: $9.00 per child ages 1 and up, $3.00 per adult. Party packages are also available.

Parking: Free – plentiful

FireZone Schaumburg

Our Experience:  I have been dying to tell you guys about this place ever since we visited two weekends ago.  This place is absolutely AH-MAZE-ING!!!  I could ramble on and on about all the things we loved about FireZone…seriously, we liked it that much!  Here are just a few of the highlights.

FireZone Schaumburg Jacket

  • Admission is limited at FireZone Schaumburg.  Each child gets to don a firefighter jacket while exploring at FireZone, so I’m guessing that once all the vests are used (30-40), entry is no longer permitted.  (I wouldn’t worry about it too much though because I saw people getting there 15-20 minutes after they opened and there was still space.)

FireZone Schaumburg Fire Truck

  • Kids will love this place.  There’s the big fire truck to climb on, an ambulance to explore, and Timmy’s House (a small house on “fire”).  Kids enjoyed driving the fire truck and hanging out in the back of the ambulance the most.  Timmy’s House was a bit dark so my son didn’t spend too much time there.

FireZone Schaumburg Photo Op

  • There are a bunch of photo op spots here.  This one was a fireman-themed backdrop in front of a fire hydrant and a real fire hose.  Kids loved pretending to be a fireman.

FireZone Schaumburg Dummy

  • The little boy dummy was a little creepy…at least to my son.  He kept staring at it, a little wary to get too close.

FireZone Schaumburg Breakfast

  • We attended a KidVentures activity, which is a 1.5 hour play time that includes a light breakfast, story time, instruction from a real fire fighter and a craft.  The breakfast wasn’t too shabby either…Yum!

FireZone Schaumburg Expansion

  • FireZone recently expanded, and the new play area will be open in about a month.  We can’t wait!  We’ll definitely be back to check it out.

Overall, your kids will have a blast at FireZone!  I felt that, although you only get to stay for an hour and a half, your time (and money) are well spent here.  I’d say there were mostly smaller kids here (maybe 4 to 5-years-old), but kids up to 7 or 8 would really enjoy the activities at FireZone.

Have you been to FireZone?  Let me know what you think!

Chicagoland Spots: Exploration Station Exclusive Coupon

Here’s another local spot to take the kiddies to:

Exploration Station…a children’s museum.

explorationstation

Come Explore 10,000 square feet of hands on learning. Fix a tire in our Wreck Resort Auto Center, serve a sundae in the Lickety Split Soda Shop, shop for groceries in our Shop-a-Lot Market, and set the table in My House. Children and parents can get lost in imagination and time in our 2 story Castle. For our younger visitors they can explore and climb in our New Little Squires Toddler area for ages 2 years and under. Don’t forget to take to the sky in the Exploration Station Airliner, and dig for Dinosaurs in Dino Tracks. Our Museum is known for creating an environment where children get lost in imagination. Come Join us and experience it for yourself. Admission: $6

Got Cabin Fever! Get out of the house and explore in the Exploration Station…a children’s museum. My readers can save $1 off Admission with this exclusive coupon!

Exploration Station is located at 459 Kennedy Drive in Bourbonnais as part of the Bourbonnais Township Park District.

I plan on heading there too so I’ll be sure to post a review on what I find. :)

This is an exclusive offer brought to you by WindyCityKidsGuide!

Chicagoland Eats: Burnt Toast Restaurant

Venue: Burnt Toast Restaurant (Elgin)

Website: http://www.btrestaurant.com/

Location: 2942 N. Randall Road, Elgin, IL  On Randall Road, just north of I-90.

Hours: Mon–Sat: 6:30am – 2:30pm; Sun: 7:00am – 2:30pm (just open for breakfast & lunch)

Parking: Normally I wouldn’t mention parking for a restaurant, but it’s important to note that if you head here on a weekend, parking could be hard to find.  The lot (used by both Burnt Toast and an adjacent restaurant) was almost full and cars park haphazardly throughout the lot.  I arrived at 1:00pm on a Sunday (close to closing time) and it was hard for me to find a spot.  Be prepared to drive around for a while looking for parking.

My Experience: What initially drew me in to try Burnt Toast Restaurant in Elgin was the building.  The restaurant exterior reminds me of a quaint family home in the mountains.  Like something I would see on an episode of House Hunters on HGTV.  The outside intrigued me enough to check it out.

Burnt Toast Elgin

The waiting area was full, of course, but thankfully most were large parties and I was just having lunch with a friend.  Within 10 minutes our table was ready…not bad for such a packed house!

When walking into the main dining area, my first impression was “Whoa – this place is HUGE!”. By the looks of the building on the outside, I had no idea that the restaurant was so spacious!  This photo shows only half of the dining area.

Burnt Toast Elgin Inside

The menu at Burnt Toast definitely caters more to the breakfast crowd with a wide variety of pancakes, eggs, waffles, crepes, skillets, and such, but they also offer a moderate selection of lunch items like salads, sandwiches, burgers, and the like.

While perusing our menus. I happily sipped on my giant cup of coffee.  Loved the cup size, but one drawback for me was that they don’t offer any flavored creamers. Sad smile  I love my coffee, but I love it a lot more when it tastes like French Vanilla.  Winking smile

Burnt Toast Elgin Coffee

What happened next, though, was probably the biggest letdown of my experience.  While still trying to decide what to order, we all heard a load BOOM*CRASH and the entire restaurant went silent.  A waitress dropped a plate of food as she was delivering to a table just a few tables over from us.  The dropping of the plate is not what bothered me – mistakes happen, I get that – but the waitress’ attitude about the whole thing was really disgusting.  Instead of quietly turning to the couple (whose plate of food now lay on the floor) to profusely apologize, she instead bent down to pick up the mess from the floor, rolling her eyes the entire time!  She looked as though she were trying to call attention to herself, rather than try to diffuse the situation.  Even though my plate wasn’t the one all over the floor, I felt really bad for the couple as they sat in their seats, dumbfounded.

Anyhow, our waitress was attentive enough and quickly took our order.  I decided on the Cobb Salad, while my friend ordered the potato pancakes.  (The same girl that dropped the plate a few minutes earlier delivered our food, but this time – THANKFULLY – without incident.)

Burnt Toast Elgin Cobb Salad

Notice how much bacon is on my Cobb Salad?!?!  I think there must’ve been 10 slices of bacon crumbled on top!  The salad came with lots of meat and lots of cheese with a side of warm cornbread.  I liked the salad well enough, however, the yolks of my eggs were a little soft in the center.  (No worries, I still ate it. Smile)

Overall, my experience at Burnt Toast Elgin was decent.  Nothing bad enough happened that would deter me from visiting again – although next time I’ll likely opt for a breakfast item.

Have you ever visited Burnt Toast in Elgin?  I’m curious to know what you thought.

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