Friday, 2:30 p.m.
Take a free tour of The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Money Museum with a chirpy guide who plays games: “Can you spot the counterfeit?” “Who knows who’s on the two-dollar bill? Yep, the two-dollar bill.” (Last year produced a bumper crop of counterfeit $2 bills, museum poobahs say.) You’ll get your picture taken with it. Your kiddo could even come away with a bag o’ money. True, it’s shredded—but, hey, she could have thousands! Quite a deal, considering the tour is gratis.
Friday, 5:30 p.m.
If you expect the siren song of the Magnificent Mile or American Girl Place will prove too strong, the downtown Embassy Suites Chicago is where you want to drop your bags. The rooms are extra large (so everyone has elbow room), there’s an indoor heated pool, and it’s adjacent to a bowling alley and a movie complex. Perk alert: a free cooked-to-order breakfast for all.
Saturday, 9:30 a.m.
Take the Metra line to Des Plaines. Three blocks from the station is Dad’s, a slot-car race-track emporium. The ’50s experience is made complete with Dad’s soda fountain. And bring your kid’s report card: For every A, he gets 15 minutes of free play time.
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Segue from cars to trains at the Choo-Choo diner, on your way back to the Metra stop. An electric train winds around the joint, delivering your humongous Chicago-style hot dogs in baskets. “It’s one of my children’s all-time favorite places to go,” says Jamie Bartosch of Arlington Heights. She recommends the turkey chili
Sunday, 10:20 a.m.
It’s hard to find a more enchanting place for littles to blow off steam than Oz Park. Dorothy’s Playlot is a favorite playground of resident preschoolers. Take a stroll through the roses in the Emerald Garden and you’ll be greeted by statues of the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and Dorothy & Toto.