The Run Down

Do you recall your first live theater show? Maybe it was on a school field trip to watch The Nutcracker, or perhaps it was a big Broadway production later on in life. No matter the age, there's something magical the first time you see the lights turn down and the show begins. For this guide, you're taking the kids to a nationally-acclaimed children's theater known for its original shows and high-value productions. Before that, you'll visit a Saturday farmer's market hosted inside a park where your kids can grab some eats and burn off some energy before the show.

1. Eats @ Green City Market

2. Show @ Chicago Children's Theatre

1. Green City Market

Every Saturday, from late Spring through the Fall, Green City Market takes over Mary Bartelme Park, a nearly 3-acre park and playground located in the center of West Loop.

This is your first stop for some pre-show eats and to get in a little bit of playground time. Here are some things to keep in mind.

– The market runs from 8 am – 1 pm every Saturday (May through November). Here’s their website for details.

– Easy to get to via the Blue Line train, with the UIC-Halstead station just two blocks away.

– When the farmer’s market isn’t running, here are a few nearby alternative spots to grab a bite before the show: Meli Cafe and Juice Bar, a traditional brunch spot for pancakes and breakfast bowls; Do-Rite Donuts, a more casual experience for donuts, breakfast sandwiches, or their combined donut breakfast sandwich.

Fresh produce vendors line the park’s sidewalk, and at the top of a small hill in the center is Jacobson Family Farm, a staple at nearly every farmer’s market you’ll see in the city.

Aside from produce vendors, you’ll also have fresh baked goods and food trucks lined up just outside the park if you’re looking for things like breakfast sandwiches, coffee, and tacos.

Inside the park is this giant playground for the kids to burn off some energy before the show. The only challenge — getting them to leave. 

2. Chicago Children’s Theatre

We’re on to the main event. Chicago Children’s Theater is about two blocks from the farmer’s market and housed in a former police precinct turned world-class children’s performance space. Here are some notes to help you plan your visit.

– Shows are typically held on Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 am and 11:30 am

– Check their website for details on the current season, show dates, and guidance on age appropriateness for each show

Before the show, you’ll gather in the lobby and wait right outside the theater.

It’s open stadium-style seating with a good view from any seat in the house.

To give you a sense of the production values, the show we attended featured live music, singing, and puppet actors performing in front of cameras that streamed the show onto a giant movie screen.

But hands down, the best payoff of the entire experience was watching my kid totally engrossed by the story and belting out huge laughs throughout the performance.

Things aren’t finished when the show ends. After the show, there’s usually a meet and greet with the performers in the lobby and some additional interactive programming.

There’s also swag for sale, so be prepared when your kid guilts you into buying that giant replica puppet they just saw in the show.