Wrigleyville – the hard-partying neighborhood around Wrigley Field – has undergone some major changes since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016. But it’s still a family-friendly place and a fun Chicago neighborhood to visit, whether the Cubs are playing or not. Read on to learn what to do with your kids in Wrigleyville.
8 Things to Do with Kids in Chicago’s Wrigleyville Neighborhood
1. Photo op in front of the Wrigley Field marquee
2. Hang out in Gallagher Way (the park next to Wrigley Field)
3. Tour Wrigley Field
4. Go to a Cubs game
5. Go to Sluggers sports bar’s batting cages
6. Fly the W flag
7. Eat at kid-friendly restaurants in Wrigleyville, Lakeview, and the North Side
8. Stay at the new Hotel Zachary
Wrigleyville might be full of bars and bros, but it’s still a great place for families to visit, and it’s one of Chicago’s most popular, lively neighborhoods.
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We’ve taken our kids here a lot over the years, and they love it. We always find fun things to do. Even so, for me, Wrigleyville is best enjoyed with an over-21 crowd. When you’re with young kids, you can’t hang out in sports bars or dance to live music, which is a big part of Wrigleyville’s scene.
I lived in Wrigleyville back in the 1990s, when the Cubs were terrible and the bars were grungier (think picnic tables and oversized $5 cans of Old Style). It’s much different today. After the Cubs won the World Series in 2016 and are now regular playoff contenders, Wrigley Field, and the Wrigleyville neighborhood got a $1 billion makeover. Sleek, new restaurant bars now line Wrigleyville’s streets, offering visitors craft beers and $17 burgers.
Fortunately, Wrigleyville’s family-friendly features were salvaged during the makeover, along with some legendary old school bars like Murphy’s Bleachers, Bernie’s, Cubby Bear and Metro. And it’s still a unique location – a major league ballpark set in a residential neighborhood – that sets it apart from other stadiums in the United States.
Here are some of my favorite fun things you can do with kids in Wrigleyville, plus some tips for taking kids to Cubs games.
1. Take a photo in front of the famous Wrigley Field marquee
This is a must-do. The iconic red sign, at the corner of N. Clark St. and W. Addison St., has been fronted this historic ballpark since the 1930s.
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2. Hang out at Gallagher Way
Families can sit on the lawn and watch games on the big screen, play catch, or buy food at the new restaurants in this open-space park area alongside Wrigley Field. Even when it’s not baseball season and on non-game days, the park hosts all sorts of events, including a farmer’s market, movies, fitness classes, and free live music. If you have little ones, try to catch Wiggleworms, an awesome kids’ show put on by Chicago’s famous Old Town School for Folk Music.
It’s possible to see the Cubs’ 2016 World Series trophy at Gallagher Way, and it’s a free activity that you don’t need a game ticket for. But the trophy’s availability is sporadic. It’s located in the Motorola Trophy Room, on the first floor of the Cubs Front Office building (1101 W. Waveland Avenue). The room is technically open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, but the hours and availability can change without notice. When the trophy is there and available for viewing, “Trophy at Gallagher Way” will appear on the homepage of GallagherWay.com. Cubs fans waited 108 years to have one of these, so it’s a highly respected treasure in Chicago!
3. Tour Wrigley Field
Early on game days, or when the Cubs are out of town, you can go on a 75-90 minute tour of “the friendly confines,” as Wrigley Field is nicknamed. The tour includes all sorts of history and fun facts about the Chicago Cubs. You get to go into the press box, the visitor’s clubhouse, the famous Wrigley Field bleachers beneath the scoreboard, and onto the field. You’ll see why this is one of the most famous ballparks in the United States. See this link for details.
4. Go to a Cubs Game
Going to a Cubs game is by far the most fun – and most expensive – thing to do in Wrigleyville with kids. But it’s worth it to go to the Cubs game and:
- See Wrigley Field’s century-old manually operated scoreboard in center field and its iconic ivy-covered brick walls in the outfield.
- Listen to a live organist play rally chants.
- Sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch, and “Go Cubs Go” after the game (if they win).
- Keep score the old school way – with a paper-and-pencil scorecard.
- Eat authentic Chicago hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jack (or my kids’ favorite, the chocolate malt cups, sold by the vendors walking through aisles). International visitors I’ve taken to Wrigley love this, and find it very “American.”
- Take boys to the men’s bathrooms, where large troughs are used as urinals. They’re disgusting (I’m told), but they’re also a famous Wrigley Field feature and something men seem to find novel and memorable. At least the first time.
TravelingMom Tips for Going to a Chicago Cubs Game
- To save money, bring your own sealed bottled water and snacks, like bagged peanuts, which can be purchased from vendors outside Wrigley Field on game days. Bottled water inside the park is $5.25!
- The kids might be able to get autographs from Cubs players before or after the game. If you go early, during batting practice (which ends 45 minutes before the game begins), kids 12 and under can go to the Magellan Kids Corral, in Section 12. After the game, a Kids’ Corral area is set up near the Wrigleyville fire station on Waveland Avenue (exit the park on the left field side). Sometimes, the Cubs players stop at the corral and sign a few autographs on the way to the player parking lot.
- If it’s your child’s first Cubs game, stop by the First-Timer’s Booth. It’s on the main concourse, near Section 133. They’ll give you a little “My 1st Cubs Game” certificate.
- Be careful not to buy tickets with obstructed views – there are a handful of seats in Wrigley Field that have a post directly in front of them. Check the fine print, or maybe Google search the seat before you buy the tickets.
- After Sunday afternoon home games, kids ages 13 and under and go on the field and run the bases. The experience is open to the first 1,000 kids ages 13 and younger who get a wristband at the Wrigley Field gates upon entry. So don’t forget to ask about that when you arrive.
- On certain Sundays, the Cubs give out youth-friendly merchandise like hats, toys or stuffed animals to the first 5,000 kids. Check here to see the promotions schedule.
5. Go to Sluggers batting cages
Sluggers sports bar, a block from Wrigley Field (3540 N. Clark St.), is like that college bar you used to go to that was kinda gross but always a good time. That’s the case here. The second floor of this bar is filled with family-friendly skeeball, batting cages, pop-a-shot, and arcade games. It’s a fun place to stop with kids before the game, but I wouldn’t recommend it post-game, as the bar gets really crowded.
6. Fly the W flag
You’ll see white “W” flags all over Wrigleyville. It’s the Cubs “win” flag. In pre-cell-phone days – and when most baseball games were played in the afternoon – Wrigley Field would raise a W flag on the flagpole to show people riding by on the Red Line train if the Cubs had won that day. It’s very old school – and very Chicago. You can buy a W flag at any of the huge souvenir shops in Wrigleyville. If you’re at the game, and the Cubs win, W flags pop up over the ballpark. Cubs fans wave them around and sing “Go Cubs Go.”
7. Eating at Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Wrigleyville
There are many good restaurants in this neighborhood, and the adjacent Lakeview neighborhood, but not all of them are kid-friendly. One of our favorites is Uncommon Ground, at 3800 N. Clark St.. It’s not a loud sports bar, but rather a cozy, coffee-shop vibe where they serve organic “contemporary comfort food.” Just a few doors down from Wrigley Field is the beloved burger-and-shakes chain, Shake Shack (3519 N. Clark St.). It’s fast food, and the line will be long, but it moves. For some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had (and that says something), stop at Jeni’s Ice Cream (3657 N. Clark St.). No matter how long the post-game lines are, it’s worth the wait. For a tin full of Chicago popcorn (a cheese and caramel mix), go to Nuts on Clark (3830 N. Clark St.).
Just on the outskirts of Wrigleyville is Crosby’s Kitchen (3455 N. Southport Ave.), known for its rotisserie chicken and warm skillets with cornbread or cookies. To get a snack for the ride home, walk over to the cute, retro candy store Candyality (3737 N. Southport Ave.). Ask the person ringing up your order to give you your Candyscope – an assessment of your personality based on your candy purchase.
Also just beyond Wrigley Field is Milt’s Barbecue for the Perplexed (3411 N. Broadway Ave.), an upscale, kosher barbecue place that donates all of its proceeds to local charities. Note: It is closed every week between 2 p.m. Friday and 11:30 a.m. Sunday, in observation of the Jewish Sabbath.
Finally, for other kid-friendly restaurants around Chicago, see a list of 17 of my family’s favorites.
8. Stay at the new Hotel Zachary
Location, location, location! This 1-year-old boutique hotel (3630 N. Clark St.) is literally across the street from Wrigley Field. You can see into the ballpark from some rooms! Read what TravelingMom Editor Cindy Richards wrote about her stay at the Hotel Zachary in her “Weekend in Chicago” story.