Looking for something to do with the kids that’s fun, educational and free? Chances are you live within walking distance to a place that fits the bill — your local firehouse! Introduce your little ones to a few real-life heroes and go behind-the-scenes to learn how they keep our city safe. Read on for our picks for some of the friendliest fire stations around Chicago.
Engine Co. 98
Located in the heart of Chicago’s most popular spots for tourists just off Michigan Avenue, Engine Co 98 is rich with our city’s history. Built in 1902, the building was constructed of the same limestone that forms the neighboring historic water tower and old pumping station. Little known facts: the crew at this station still uses the brass fire pole, the kitchen was originally a stable and the old hayloft is now a workout room. Take a break from shopping at Water Tower place and stop in to hear some cool stories and check out the equipment. BONUS: There’s a great park right next door!
202 E. Chicago Ave.
Engine Co. 103
If you’re in the West Loop, stop into this friendly firehouse if its fearless fighters aren’t on a call. Most famous for its mascot “Freckles,” a dalmation with his own Facebook page and Twitter handle, Engine Co 103 has an open door policy for neighbors, families and their own dogs. Insider Tip: If you get there early enough, you can watch Freckles bring in the morning paper!
25 S. Laflin St.
Engine Co. 110
Ask any kid in the know around the Lincoln Square neighborhood and they’ll give it to you straight: the firefighters here are super nice. They’ve been known to invite kids for lunch on slow days, let them climb aboard the truck and give great tours of the station.
2322 W. Foster Ave.
Engine Co. 22
The next time you‘re strolling down Armitage after brunch with the fam in Lincoln Park, stop by this station between Larabee and Howe. Chances are the firefighters will be out front chatting with each other and anyone who walks by. Is your child curious about how they decide who drives the fire truck or how fast they can get ready for a call? He’ll get answers and you’ll get a great pic to post on Instagram!
605 W. Armitage Ave.
Engine Co 18
Are you a fan of “Chicago Fire”? Engine Co 18 is one of the hit show’s primary shooting locations. Take the kids to learn about this company’s history as the oldest company in Chicago – organized one year after the Great Fire of 1871 – and stay to catch a scene in action. Insider tip: late morning and afternoons are the best times to visit if you’d like a tour.
1360 S. Blue Island Ave.
University Village / Little Italy
If your trip to the local station has only fueled your family’s fire (pun intended), check out these hotspots for a deeper dive:
Survive Alive House
It’s not something anyone likes to think about, but will your kids know what to do if there’s a fire in the house? Take that worry off of your plate with a visit to Survive Alive House in the South Loop. Here your child will be taught fire safety by a real fire fighter in a classroom setting, followed by a simulated house fire complete with non-toxic, artificial smoke, heat-panels in bedroom doors and an outdoor meeting place with a telephone. Call in advance to set up a group tour (they do them for second to fifth graders). The house also sends its fire safety trailer out to student groups (kindergarten to 3rd grade).
1010 S. Clinton St.
Fire Museum of Greater Chicago
Once a month this little-known cultural gem opens its single bay door and takes visitors back in time. Located in what used to be Engine 123’s quarters and built in 1916, the Fire Museum of Greater Chicago houses some of the earliest fire-fighting equipment still in existence: leather water buckets, a hand-drawn horse cart and beautifully restored trucks dating back to the 1920’s. But that’s nothing compared to the stories you’ll hear from the retired firefighters who volunteer their time at this small but historically rich museum. Open houses are held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on the fourth Saturday of each month (December excluded).
5218 S. Western Ave.
O’Leary’s Fire Tours
If your firefighter-in-training liked sitting behind the wheel of the rig at your local firehouse, then he’ll LOVE this! O’Leary’s “hottest tour in town” gives your child a tour of Chicago he’ll never forget, from the back of a real fire truck! Go as a family or get a group together for this fun-filled adventure that’s a little bit of history and a whole lot of fun. Choose from a tour that focuses on the Great Chicago Fire, or one that ends with watching Navy Pier’s fireworks from the truck. Book a tour for your kid’s next birthday party, or have O’Leary’s bring the fun to you … they’ll park a real fire truck in your driveway, complete with Brady the Fire Dog (yes, he’s a dalmation!).
1250 Marion Court
Have you taken a firehouse tour with the kiddos? Let us know in the Comments section below.
— MaryKate Hickey