Kids’ Play: The best places to take children in Chicago

MaggieDaley3From the Saturday, Sept. 19, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

Your kids have probably already motored about the Museum of Science & Industry. Odds are they’ve pressed their faces up against the glass at Shedd Aquarium to watch the underwater wildlife. And they may have marveled at the stars spread across the ceiling at Adler Planetarium.

Perhaps they want to do all again.

Or maybe they’d like to try something different in Chicago – and you would too. If that’s the case, here are a few of the best places to take kids in the city, some of which you may not know about.

Maggie Daley Park

My wife and I don’t have kids. But we do have nephews. And on Labor Day weekend, we took them, along my brother and sister-in-law, to Chicago’s new downtown playground covering the swath of land between Millennium Park and Lake Shore Drive.

Maggie Daley Park (337 E. Randolph St.) is quite the wondrous space, especially for kids, as it offers a Play Garden with attractions designed for ages 2-5 (The Watering Hole and The Harbor), ages 5-12 (The Sea and The Slide Crater) and all ages (The Wave Lawn and Enchanted Forest). There’s also a climbing wall and a roller skating ribbon that becomes an ice rink during wintertime. With wide green spaces, a food cart and incredible views of the Chicago skyline, your family could easily while away an entire afternoon.

For more information, visit

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How to get ready for October in Wrigleyville


From the Saturday, Sept. 26, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky


It’s not October yet. But we can see it from here.

And for Chicago Cubs fans, there’s nothing more tantalizing than the thought of seeing the ivy turn red at Wrigley Field – while the team is actually still playing in front of it.

Now, whether that happens this fall with postseason games at the corner of Clark and Addison remains to be seen. But if the playoffs indeed do happen at Wrigley, the scene around the ballpark – if not inside it – almost has to be seen by any Cubs fan worth his or her pinstripes.

And if you’re among the die-hards that want to get a taste of October in Wrigleyville next month, here are my tips on how you can best do it.


When the Cubs made their epic (and tragic) 2003 postseason run, I was fortunate to have press passes to all six home games – Bartman’s included. This year, thanks to my season-ticket package, I’m blessed to have a seat in the bleachers for at least one game per round.

But even if you don’t have already an “in” at Wrigley, you can still get in to Wrigley in October. The best chance is by visiting and registering for an opportunity to purchase postseason tickets. If that doesn’t work, other options do remain, including StubHub, Craigslist and Wrigleyville scalpers – most of whom prowl around the bleachers entrance or along Addison west of the ballpark.

Be prepared: Sticker prices likely will be shocking.

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Butting Illini helmets on Saturday SportsTalk

WDWSLegendary Champaign News-Gazette sports columnist Loren Tate believes that embattled Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas is the best option to make the Illini’s next football coaching hire.

I disagree.

And this past weekend on Saturday SportsTalk on WDWS 1400 in Champaign, we butted helmets about our differences of opinion on that topic, while also sharing our similarities of opinion on some other issues as we waded through the wild world of Fighting Illini football along with WDWS co-host Michael Kiser.

If you’d like to listen to the podcast of our discussion, you can do so by clicking here.

My checklist for the future of Illini football

Billionaire alum Shahid Khan speaks at the dedication of the Khan Annex at University of Illinois.

Billionaire alum Shahid Khan speaks at the dedication of the Khan Annex at University of Illinois.

From the Saturday, Sept. 5, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky


The Illini football season was supposed to have kicked off last night.

But, really, the action started last week when Illinois’ embattled athletic director Mike Thomas booted embattled head coach Tim Beckman just seven days before his team was scheduled to battle Kent State.

The stunning firing was the result of a preliminary external review alleging Beckman influenced medical decisions and pressured players to play hurt, but there had long been ample reason to fire him for his on-field failures.

And that’s what should have happened last October when Illinois lost to Purdue, dropping Beckman’s Big Ten record to 1-17. Had Thomas simply replaced Beckman then and named offensive coordinator Bill Cubit interim coach – a move that I strongly encouraged 11 months ago – the messy saga that’s unfolded since could have easily been avoided.

Alas, Thomas chose to hitch his wagon to Beckman’s star. That was foolish. And as a result, Thomas needs to hit the road too so an untarnished AD can lead the coaching search and department makeover.

I expect that’s likely to happen once Illinois names a permanent chancellor. And if (or when) that new AD is hired, here’s my checklist of what should be done to finally get the Illini football program on track.

And avoid future embattle scars.

1. Ask admissions to relax

Illinois’ admissions standards for athletes are more stringent than the minimum requirements established by the NCAA, which has long been used as an excuse for Illini football struggles.

I think the bigger problem has been poor coaching hires. But that said, it would behoove an AD to ask the new president and chancellor if a small number of marginal qualifiers could be admitted each year. That could help the school’s athletic reputation without harming its academic one.

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Chicago’s summer doesn’t stop in September

JazzFestFrom the Saturday, Aug. 29, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky


In case you missed the photos on Facebook, everyone’s kids are back in school. But, you know, that hardly means that the summer is over. Up in Chicago, for example, it’s still going strong all September long.

And if you’re able to sneak away to the city during Labor Day weekend or any other weekend after that, here are some entertainment options that you and the family could enjoy.

Sept. 3-6: Chicago Jazz Festival

Since 1979, the Chicago Jazz Festival has declared as its mission on Labor Day weekends “to showcase Chicago’s vast jazz talent alongside national and international artists to encourage and educate a jazz audience of all ages.”

This year’s incarnation – and education – kicks off from noon to 4:30 on Thursday, Sept. 3., with performances at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.) before moving to Millennium Park that evening and for the remainder of the weekend.

For a full schedule and lineup of artists, visit

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U. of I.’s athletic house in need of a cleaning

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 9.22.48 AMFrom the Saturday, Aug. 22, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

Thursday was Campus Move-In Day for incoming freshmen at the University of Illinois. Over the next several months that will be followed by Campus Move-Out Days for big names in the school’s athletic department.

At least, that’s my suspicion.

And, honestly at this point, probably Illinois’ best hope.

Anyone who knows me online, in real life or through this newspaper column knows about my passion for U. of I., from which I graduated in 1998. If you cut one of my wrists, it will bleed orange. If you cut the other, it will bleed blue (both Illini and Cubbie). I love my alma mater.

But I’m disappointed in it. I’m frustrated with it. And I’m not alone.

I want to see Illinois get its house in order. And in regards to its athletic department, that may require completely cleaning it, as in recent months its revenue sports programs have metastasized from vexing underachievers into full-blown embarrassments.

This past March in a piece for, I wrote that, “In a perfect Illini world, Tim Beckman would roll to a Rose Bowl next January and John Groce would follow up with a Final Four run in March. But as any University of Illinois fan knows all too well, we don’t live in a perfect Illini world. Instead, we live in the one created three years ago by athletic director Mike Thomas. And right now, it’s in a world of hurt.”

Five months later, that’s become an entire universe.

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Chicago’s suburban poaching a push at best for Illinois

aonFrom the Saturday, Aug. 8, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

With the announcement that Kraft will uproot its headquarters from Northfield to the Loop, Chicago clearly has established itself as Illinois’ Big (Mac and) Cheese when it comes to attracting business these days.

But for our state, is this trend of corporations decamping from suburbia to for Chicago’s soaring skyscrapers just a hunk of Swiss?

As in, it has a bunch of holes?

Last week, following the Aon Center lease agreement signed by the recently merged Kraft Heinz, Chicago Tribune columnist Melissa Harris decreed this “The Decade of the City,” writing, “The suburbs are so over.”

Harris went on to list 34 reasons why the Windy City is blowing up, including the recruitments of Motorola Mobility and Sara Lee from Schaumburg and Downers Grove respectively, as well as Walgreens’ talks last year to uproot its HQ from Deerfield to Chicago.

That corporate flirtation wasn’t consummated, but plenty of others have been. Since 2007, at least 46 companies based in the suburbs have relocated part or all of their operations to Chicago gobbling up 3.4 million square feet of office space, according to data from real estate firm CBRE.

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There’s more than Lolla in Chicago this August

AirShowFrom the Saturday, Aug. 1, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

It’s Lollapalooza weekend in Chicago.

Traditionally, that means hordes of hipsters, soaring temperatures and a blanket of sweltering humidity have rolled into town usually accompanied by an entourage of torrential downpours.

This year looks like it may be no different – although, hopefully the rain gets lost on the way.

But either way, August in Chicago offers much more than just the big music extravaganza in Grant Park. So, if you’re taking a trip to the city this month, here are a few additional options that might be music to your ears.

Saturday & Sunday: Taste of Latin America

Now in its third year, the Taste of Latin America again brings fare both eclectic and the exotic to the Windy City in a culinary celebration of the Southern Hemisphere.

Held from noon to 10 p.m. both today and Sunday on West Armitage Avenue from Central Park Avenue to Avers Street, you’ll find everything from fish panades and empanadas to Brazilian sausage and fried plantains.

For more information, visit

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Wisch List on the air …

LOGOFINAL2Last Friday afternoon, my pal Michael Carpenter — filling in for my other pals, Jeremy Werner and Lon Tay — had me on as a guest for ESPN Radio’s Tay & J Show in Champaign-Urbana to talk Cubs baseball, Illini basketball and football and U2 (yep, U2).

Quick roundup: So far my expectations have been exceeded by the Cubs —and U2! — while my expectations aren’t particularly high for Illinois on the gridiron or hard court and

If you’d like, you can listen to the segment just by clicking here.

Olympic-sized questions still loom over Chicago

Chicago-2016From the Saturday, Sept. 25, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

Come next summer, while Brazil is strutting its scantily-clad stuff down in Rio during a steamy Carnival-themed Opening Ceremony for the 2016 Summer Games, Chicago will find itself sitting out in the cold.

Just figuratively, hopefully.

However, if you agree with the critics of the Windy City’s failed bid to host the 2016 Olympics, perhaps it’s for the best that we’ll just be chilling.

Chicago Tribune business columnist Phil Rosenthal argued as much last weekend when he wrote that the bad news was that we didn’t get the Games, while the good news was that we didn’t get the Games.

“Whatever Chicago felt about six years ago when International Olympic Committee voters quickly ousted it from finalist contention, ultimately selecting Rio de Janeiro, imagine if they had actually chosen this city,” Rosenthal wrote forebodingly. “The legacy of Olympics for hosts is that of unneeded venues, debt and tightly focused short-term economic boosts that are hard to discern long-term.”

Rosenthal did acknowledge that Chicago 2016 undoubtedly would have been a point of civic pride, a temporary engine for job creation, exciting for many and profitable for a few, but argued that the Summer Games also would have effectively served as a pair of cement shoes for a cash-strapped city just trying to keep its fiscal head above water.

Now, I was a proponent of Chicago 2016 and still believe the Games would have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and an opportunity to promote this beautiful city in a way that no global ad campaign ever could. But at the same time, I don’t disagree with Rosenthal.

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