If you think you have to travel to Santa’s workshop to scope out the latest and greatest toys — think again. The Chicago Toy & Game Fair, held November 18 and 19 at Navy Pier, gives guests a little taste of the North Pole’s specialty: toys, toys and loads of toys. The largest event of its kind in the U.S. lets you touch, see and explore the goods, plus meet your favorite characters and game inventors. Here are our picks for best in show.

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Play and Test the Hottest Toys
ChiTAG provides the perfect opportunity to touch, play and test the hottest toys on the market pre-holiday. You’ll want to pop into the Demo Area where you can get your hands on LEGO playsets, Build or Boom, Shark Bite, Catch the Fox, Rummikub Twist, Fish Food, all new Doggie Doo, Greedy Granny, Ultra Dash, Marbleocity, Automoblox, Magformers, Tileblox, Clicformers, Ice Cool, King Frog, Reef Route, Woo-Hoo, Flower Fairies, Peter Rabbit Secret Garden, 8-Bit Art Mario and many more toys and games.

Inventor Meet and Greets
Ever wanted to meet the inventor of BopIt? Operation? Jenga? Meccano Meccanoid? Shopkins? You can say “hello” and get inside knowledge from all — they’ll be in booths at the Fair. Also, meet up-and-coming inventors and take their products for a spin. You’ll be able to say you knew them before they were hot!

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Pitch your Game Idea
If you’ve got an idea for the next hot game or toy, here’s your chance to pitch it to the pros: The ChiTAG New Inventors Track is a hot workshop held during the show. Budding inventors have the chance to pitch companies such as Hasbro, Spin Master, Mattel, Bandai, PlayMonster, Asmodee and many more from around the world, while also learning more about how to develop, license and market new toys and games. Space is limited, so register to attend.

Yo Yo Yo! Enter the Yo-Yo Championship 
On November 18 at 9 a.m., yo-yo champs will battle it out at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair. Test your yo-yo skillz and battle it out with the pros by entering the Illinois State Yo-Yo Championship. All you need to do is pre-register and upload your accompanying yo-yo tunes. Not a yo-yo pro? This is a battle that’s a blast to watch.

Meet Princess Etch-A-Sketch
Jane Labowitch is an artist you’ll want to meet. Her medium? The amazing, iconic Etch-A-Sketch! She’ll be making appearances throughout the fair. Check out some of her time-lapse Etch-A-Sketch masterpieces!

Compete in the National Rummikub Tournament and Win a Trip to Israel!
Rummikub is a quick-action board game that combines the thrills of rummy and Mahjong. If you think you have what it takes to play against the best Rummikubbers in the nation, pre-register for the National Rummikub Tournament. The winner will receive a free trip to Israel to compete in the 2018 World Rummikub Championships.

Young Inventor Challenge
The Young Inventor Challenge gives kids the chance to show off their very own toy & game inventions to toy & game industry professionals, the media and other kids. Kid inventors (ages 6-18) will need to pre-registerCheck out original toy and game creations, meet their kid inventors and vote for a winner during the Challenge, which takes place on November 18 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

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Need Your Favorite Star Wars Characters
If you’ve ever wanted to high-five Darth, here’s your chance. The characters from Star Wars 501st Legion: Vader’s First will be wandering around the fair waiting to meet their fans and pose for photos.

Special Needs? Check Out the Super Power Sensory Hour
On both Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m.-10 a.m., Neighborhood Parents Network will be hosting a Super Power Sensory Hour providing early access to families of children with special needs. Since this special event starts before the doors of ChiTAG fair opens to the public on both fair days, kids with special needs will be able to see, touch, feel and experience all the wonders ChiTAG has to offer, minus the sometimes overwhelming crowds. Pre-register here for this free event.

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Don’t Miss…

    • The Good Time Kids, Élan Dance Company, Improv by Kevin Reader and Chicago Kids Media are live on stage Saturday and Sunday. Check the fair schedule for performance times.
    • If your kids love YouTube unboxing videos, they’ll love ChiTAG’s LIVE Unboxing with toy and game unboxings from the fair’s Play Influencer team.
    • Giveaways! Many exhibitors will be giving away toys and games throughout the day.
    • After playing your way through ChiTAG, head to Michigan Ave for the Festival of Lights.

Chicago Toy & Game Fair
Held Nov. 18, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. & Nov. 19, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Tickets are $15/adults; $8/children ages 3-12
Navy Pier, Festival Hall A
600 E. Grand Ave.
For more info, go online to chitagfair.com

Have you been to the Chicago Toy & Game Fair? Tell us what you think in the Comments section below!

— Amy Bizzarri

Photos: Courtesy of Chicago Toy & Game Fair