Autumn will soon be here — so make like a tree and leaf the house. (Tell that joke to your kids.) There are so many places you can go, from a fairy tale play to a children’s film festival to a symphony for the whole family. Take a peek at our must-do’s and save the dates!


photo: Story Pirates


Story Pirates
The Story Pirates are on stage, but the kids in the audience are the stars. Stories are collected from young viewers and become fodder for an original sketch comedy musical created on the spot. Kids can watch their imaginings (anything from tickle monsters and gravity-defying pets) come to life with sweet tunes and gut-busting jokes. These pirates “steal” material all the time, which means you’ll never hear the same story twice.

McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage
Fawell & Park Boulevards
Glen Ellyn
Date: October 4, 11 a.m. & 1 p.m.
Cost: $16/adults; $14/kids
Ages: 5-13

Goldilocks & the Three Bears
Your favorite childhood fairy tale pops up on stage to delight your own kiddos. You know the story: When Goldilocks goes frolicking in the woods, she encounters a bear home, makes herself at home and learns about respect. Expect big, Broadway-style songs and lots of giggle fits when Mama Bear asks, “Who’s been eating my porridge?”

Emerald City Theater at Apollo Theater
2540 N Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Park
Date: October 4-January 3; times vary (check website for details)
Cost: starting at $15/person
Ages: 3 & up


photo: Leo Lionni’s “Frederick”  / Al Zayed

Leo Lionni’s “Frederick”
Leo Lionni’s much loved book, Frederick, is getting a musical makeover by Chicago Children’s Theater. Most mice are concerned about storing enough munchies for the winter, but Frederick is no ordinary rodent. He spends long summer days relaxing, but has something special up his sleeve for the next polar vortex. Let six talented actors, who also happen to be skilled musicians, take you on a journey with their special blend of folksy blues. Everyone can enjoy this show with American Sign Language performances and an autism friendly show in early November.

Ruth Page Center for the Arts
1016 N. Dearborn St.
Gold Coast
Date: October 15-November 16; times vary (check website for details)
Cost: $38/adults; $28/children
Ages: 3 & up

Princess and the Pea
It’s time to find out if Penelope has what it take to be a princess. Discover what happens when you combine a would-be princess, a pea and stack of mattresses. The little ones are going to love, and probably be pretty jealous of, the 12-foot-high bed and its 20 colorful mattresses. Laugh until it hurts on this journey to princess-hood with Penelope and her friends, staged by Chicago Kids Company.

Beverly Arts Center
2407 W. 111th St.
Date: October 16-November 26; 10:30 a.m. weekdays & Nov. 8, 1 p.m.
Cost: $12/person
Ages: 2-12


photo: Emerald City Theater

Hansel & Gretel: A Wickedly Delicious Musical Treat
You may think you know this story, but you’ve never heard it like this before. Rock out with Hansel & Gretel as they trounce through the Forbidden Forest to find their mother, discover a candy cottage and learn about the power of love. In a story full of dreaming, thieving and candy, what more could a fairy tale fan want? The wicked tunes of Grimm Brother’s Band, of course! Under the guidance of kindie rock hero, Justin Roberts, and his partner in crime, Eric Nolan, you can’t go wrong with this new spin on a kiddie classic from Emerald City Theater and Broadway in Chicago.

Broadway Playhouse
175 E. Chestnut St.
Date: November 22-January 4; times vary (see website for details)
Cost: Varies

Museums & Attractions

The Lionel Train Adventure
It’s time to see Lincoln Park Zoo at a totally different speed. Take a break from giraffes, lions and gorillas, and pop over to the old-fashioned brick train station. Zip over a country bridge, through the evergreen woods and down into a precarious canyon. This electric train is complete with a coal car, passenger cars with room for 28 adventurers, and even a caboose. Choo-choo, everyone!

Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark St.
Lincoln Park
Date: Opens October 2; daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: $3/ride; free for zoo members from Oct. 2-5

Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze
Discover how naturally fun math can be in a maze filled with mirrors that will help kiddies unlock the beautiful symmetry of the natural world. Kick things off with a film that presents how fractals, spirals and “golden ratio” are woven into our lives. Then take a whirlwind trip through the mirrored maze of triangles, and race to find a secret room with even more math-tacular secrets inside.

Museum of Science and Industry
5700 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Hyde Park
Date: Opens October 8, daily from 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Cost: Free with general museum admission ($18/adults; $11/children 3-11; $17/seniors 65 & up)

Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti
You might think you know what Vodou is, but the truth will be revealed at this new exhibit. Practitioners will share personal stories about the spiritual pursuit, while kids experience what really happens during a ritual possession ceremony and even take a peek inside the workroom of a Vodou secret society. Let the “Lwa” (spirits) of love, warriors and everything in between guide you on a journey of faith and understanding.

The Field Museum
1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Museum Campus
Date: October 24-April 26, daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: Free with general museum admission ($31 adults; $21child; $25students & seniors)


photo: Chicago International Children’s Film Festival / Anatole’s Little Saucepan


Chicago International Children’s Film Festival
It’s a week of amazing movies aimed at mini cinephiles! Whether you’re into animated adventures, documentaries with a message, cool bite-sized short films or even pieces produced by other kids, this is the place to be. Stick around after the shows for special Q&A sessions and stop by educational workshops throughout the week. You might even run into special celebrity guests!

Facets Multimedia
1517 W. Fullerton Ave.
Lincoln Park
Date: October 24-November 2 (see website for complete schedule)
Cost: $6/children (2-18); $9/adults

Cantigny Park Civil War Re-enactment
Hang out with Honest Abe and Mary Todd when the whole fam takes a trip back in time. The Civil War is alive and kicking in Cantigny Park, and your little history buffs get to be part of the action. Experience a dramatic battle between the Union and Confederate soldiers, period music from the Battlefield Balladeers, and activities reflective of the times.

1S151 Winfield Rd.
Date: October 4 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. & October 5 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Cost: Free


photo: Chicago World Music Festival / Boban & Marko Markovic Orkestar

Concerts & Performances

Chicago World Music Festival
So many sounds from across the globe converge at this annual free jubilee. More than 80 countries represent a variety of styles, whisking you from Nigeria to Mali to Costa Rica to India to Hawaii. The lineup includes the best brass band out of the Balkans, Boban & Marko Markovic Orkestar, on Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at Thalia Hall. Needless to say, your gang is going to be grooving non-stop.

Held at various locations throughout Chicago; check website for details
Date: September 11-21
Cost: Free

Downtown Sounds Family Concert
Let your kiddo’s imagination wander to far off places with the help of some pretty famous names. You’ll trot from one composer’s favorite city to the next via the musical stylings of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Travel to Paris with Gershwin and Ibert, listen to the gushing water of the Trevi Fountain with Respighi, and walk with Smetana along rivers in Bohemia.

Symphony Center
220 S. Michigan Ave.
The Loop
Date: November 22, 12:45 p.m.
Cost: Varies


photo: UniverSoul Circus

UniverSoul Circus
A global circus explosion is coming to town! Your host, Lucky, keeps the party rockin’ and gets everyone on their feet. Bend, flip and fly with the Zhen Jiang Acrobatic Troupe from China, giggle with the prancing fluffies of Chile’s own Olate Dogs, go on a crazy ride with the Globe of Death from Columbia, enjoy the magic of the Caribbean with Soul Illusions, and so much more.

Washington Park
5531 Martin Luther King Dr.
South Side
Date: September 24-October 19
Cost: $19-$31/person

Which of these events are you MOST looking forward to? Let us know in the Comments!

— Natasha Davis