Chicago’s North Shore has a tremendous amount of things for families to see and explore, including several newer hidden gems. From a trendy toddler boutique in Highland Park, to a to-die-for bakery in Highwood, to a rockin’ coffeehouse-slash-music school in Wilmette and Glenview, there’s something special waiting to be discovered. Read on for the scoop.

toddler photo: Toddler

Toddler
After endless begging from customers, owners Vicki Kriser and Kay Schwartz have finally opened Toddler a few doors down from their baby store, Babydreams. Now North Shore boys and girls can pick up their duds where Babydreams leaves off with clothing sizes from 2T all the way up to 8 years old. Toddler carries everything from unique cotton girls’ Frozen tie-dyed shirts and adorable boys’ Blackhawks long-sleeve tees, to monogrammed gifts, books, toys and accessories.

458 Central Ave.
Highland Park
847-432-4704
Online: toddlerhp.com           

Backyard Grill
The BYG (Backyard Grill) might be best known for authentic gyros, but this place is so much more than delicious Greek food. With a menu of kid-friendly foods, from burgers to wraps to hot dogs, you might want to go online and pick out your meal before you actually get to the restaurant so you don’t spend your time being “that” customer when you go to order. Unless you think you can decide between Italian, backyard BBQ, salads, and all the rest on the spot. And they also have a kids’ menu and offer take-away Family Packs, complete with utensils and plates, for folks who could use a night off in the kitchen. 

1825 2nd St.
Highland Park
847-681-8400
Online: eatbyg.com

 bent-fork  photo: Bent Fork Bakery

Bent Fork Bakery
This all-butter bakery makes their goodies fresh daily, so ditch your diet because their cookies, bars, pies, candies, cakes and more will make all your sweet dreams come true. While they don’t claim to be totally allergy-free, they do offer some gluten-free treats and even have a few vegan options on the menu for animal-friendly folks. Need a birthday cake? Ask for a custom-designed cake in the flavor of your choice, but make sure to place your order 2-3 days in advance. Trust us, each bite will be worth the wait.

335 Waukegan Ave.
Highwood
847-926-4438
Online: thebentfork.com

Rock House
Rock House is one part coffee house and one part music school. Instead of jetting off to run errands during the kids’ music lessons, stick around for a cup of joe (or an adult beverage, if you have a designated driver) and some live music on the Rock House stage. Or shake things up a bit, and join in the fun — all while your kids rock out with one of the Rock House programs like Rock ‘N’ Roll Summer Camp, Intro to Music (starting at age 5), or private lessons, release your inner musician with their Soccer Mom to Rocker Mom class.

1150 Central Ave.
Wilmette
847-256-7625
&
1742 Glenview Rd.
Glenview
224-616-3062
Online: therockhouseinc.com

sing-out

photo: Sing Out!

Sing Out! Music Together Family Music Class
Join Michaela Marchi as she leads parents and children, ages newborn thru 5, in a super entertaining and completely international music class. During each session, kids will learn about different sounds, melodies and languages while engaging in playful activities. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself making music with your kids at home — that’s kind of the point of this parent ed. class, but you’d never expect learning to be this much fun! Classes are currently held at Gather and Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston, and Reach Yoga in Glencoe. Spring session runs from April 14-June 7. Call 888-701-6475 for more information and to register.

Gather
602 Davis St.
Evanston

Noyes Cultural Arts Center
927 Noyes St.
Evanston

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Reach Yoga
688 Vernon Ave.
Glencoe

Online: singoutchicago.com

Jelli Goods
Need adorable personalized apparel, accessories, and gifts with a lot of heart(s), peace signs, or any other designs on your stuff? Look no further than custom clothing boutique Jelli Goods in Deerfield. Refreshingly unique and nothing less than totally creative, Jelli Goods can produce whatever you’re looking for — from summer camp sweatshirts, to customized backpacks with your kid’s name on it, to adorable Mr. Emoji tees. Bring in your own ideas or flip through their books of artwork for a little art-spiration.

829 Waukegan Rd.
Deerfield
847-948-8722
Online: jelligoods.com        

rocket-fizz

photo: Rocket Fizz

Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shops
Bring the kids to Rocket Fizz in the Glen and watch them tear through the place like, well, kids in a candy shop! With more than 500 different kinds of sodas and over 5,000 types of candy, Rocket Fizz is more than your average sweet shop. We’re talking about unique sodas that taste like peanut butter and jelly, ranch, s’mores and bubble gum. And with retro and hard-to-find candies that’ll take you back to your childhood, your kids won’t be the only ones who can’t wait to return!

1859 Tower Dr.
Glenview
224-661-3142
Online: rocketfizz.com           

North Shore Center For The Performing Arts
The Youtheater is a North Shore staple for K5’ers-12th graders, so if you haven’t brought the kids to one of their performances, run, don’t walk to a box office near you! With kid-friendly, captivating productions like The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley (April 14, 2015) and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (May 14, 2015), you won’t mind if the typical North Shore weather keeps your family indoors throughout the spring months.

9501 Skokie Blvd.
Skokie
847-673-6300
Online: northshorecenter.org

reach-yoga

photo: Reach Yoga

Reach Yoga
Find your kids’ happy place at Reach Yoga in Glencoe where children 4 to 14-years-old can take fun-filled classes that encourage self-esteem, improve concentration, promote physical health and help build a positive body image. With twisty, bendy, fun-filled programs like Little Yogis, Tween Yoga, and Itty Bitty Yogis, kids will most definitely be a little more zen after each session … can we get an OM-en?!

688 Vernon Ave.
Glencoe
847-786-4211
Online: reachyogaglencoe.com

Hot Ground Gym Northbrook
Instead of making kids to drop and give them 20, at Hot Ground Gym’s Junior Boots program, kids ages 6-14 are inspired through positive encouragement. Kids take part in fun and physically engaging “missions” that include activities like rope climbing, tire jumps, crawling, wall climbing, or monkey bars. Looking for a new North Shore birthday party hotspot? Celebrate with an action-packed, 90-minute American Ninja Warrior-style birthday party that includes up to 35 kids. Hot Ground Gym parties start at $250.

1938 Raymond Dr.
Northbrook
847-897-6688
Online: hotgroundgym.com

Do you have any North Shore secrets to share? Spill them in the Comments!

— Jo Aaron