Long before Wii and iPads came around, there were slot cars — and kids would race them for hours. Aching for the good old days? Resurrect 1960s fun and get to know grandma and grandpa’s old favorite hobby at Dads Slot Cars in Des Plaines. Armed with hand controls (and squeals of excitement) you power miniature cars on a slotted track. Then top it off with a cone from the onsite ice cream parlor. It’s old-fashioned entertainment at its best.
What It Is
Dads Slot Cars is a family-owned biz (the owner goes simply by “Dad”) and has been open since 1991. Family members are the only employees and you’re likely to run into Dad himself, who may cajole you with stories from his old slot car racing days. (You can also check out his vintage car collection in the display case.) If you’re a newbie, it’s no problem. Slot car racing is like operating remote control cars — only you control the speed, not the direction, of your vehicle. The mini plastic cars fit into grooves in the track and are electrically powered via a hand-held control.
Two Tracks to Try
For $10 you get a half-hour of play on two tracks, which are replicas of the tracks Dad used to play on as a kid. One is a basic slanted oval and is great for beginners; the other has a few extra swerves, plus a bridge, and requires more control and practice. On each track, eight people can race at one time, and the fun is challenging each other to see who can cross the finish line first. Kids of any age, even toddlers, can play. But those ages five and up are likely to get the most out of it, having the coordination and motor skills that it takes. Beginning racers shouldn’t get discouraged; it takes a while to get the knack — the lightweight cars fly off course if you take a turn too fast. Moms and dads, expect to chase wayward cars while you cheer from the sidelines.
The Ice Cream Parlor & Student Perks
All that driving could make you work up an appetite, and luckily there’s a charming little ice cream parlor tucked in the back of the room. It sells old-timey concoctions like malts, sundaes and phosphates (a bubbly flavored soft drink). Ice cream flavors range from wild cherry to cookie dough to chocolate, and there are also Good Humor ice cream sandwiches and popsicles.
The ice cream parlor is a hangout for neighborhood kids. And there’s another draw for youngsters from all over to head to Dads: They give you 15 minutes of free track time for every “A” on your report card.
Plan Your Visit
Dads Slot Cars is open Tues.-Sat., noon-8:30 p.m. & Sun., noon-5 p.m. A half-hour of track time is $10 (includes the track time, rental car and rental controller). If you bring your own controller and car, you pay less.
You’ll find Dads about five minutes west of I/90-94, exiting from Dempster Street. It’s in downtown Des Plaines, a block from the train station. If you want to make a day of it, also plan a trip to the nearby Mystic Waters Family Aquatic Center, which has tube slides, a zero-depth pool and a lazy river. And stop for dinner next door to Dads at Via Roma, a cozy Italian restaurant with a back patio.
Dads Slot Cars
700 Lee St.
What do you think of this nostalgic spot? Let us know in the Comments!
— Kelly Aiglon