1. Lincoln Marsh Natural Area Geocaching Treasure Hunt
Yes, you can just let kids run wild in the woods: With the aid of GPS, they’ll hunt for toys hidden among the trees and walk away with a goodie bag full of ’em.
Best for:Ensuring a good night’s sleep for your 10-year-old
Potential pitfall:Mosquitoes in summer, snot-nosed tykes in winter
From $125 for 15 kids. 1001 W. Lincoln Ave., Wheaton
2. Give Me Some Sugar
Put the kids to work baking their own cake (or doughnuts or cupcakes) in a two-and-a-half-hour class where you’re responsible for zero cleanup.
Best for:Surrendering to a 6-year-old’s sugar-fueled fever dream
Potential pitfall:Packing hyped-up kids into a room full of electric mixers
From $450 for six kids. 2205 W. Belmont Ave., Lake View
3. Second City
Fine-tune your kid’s Blippi impression into something that doesn’t make you want to claw your eyes out with kid-centric improv games run by Second City instructors. Optional: $5 tickets for a G-rated Saturday evening performance.
Best for:Encouraging 11-year-old future YouTube stars
Potential pitfall:Herding a group of hammy tweens along North and Wells
From $500 for 20 kids. 230 W. North Ave., Old Town
4. GameTruck Chicago
It’s like Pimp My Ride: Rec Room Edition: thumping music, a wall of monitors, a line of ultracushy chairs — and 60-plus video games. The truck pulls up wherever you want, so you can have a party close to home without actually having kids in your house.
Best for:Giving in to your 7-year-old’s screen time habit
Potential pitfall:Party time ending just as the birthday kid is leveling up
From $460 for 20 kids, gametruckparty.com
5. MSA & Circus Arts
MSA covers all the Barnum & Bailey basics: swinging on trapezes, twirling on silks, and balancing on huge rubber balls. And you don’t have to worry about anyone kicking over a lamp in your living room.
Best for:Embracing your 8-year-old’s crazy
Potential pitfall:Stilt-walking-induced bumps and bruises
From $350 for 20 kids. 1934 N. Campbell Ave., Logan Square
6. Chicago Pediatric Therapy & Wellness Center
It’s not just a physical therapy office, it’s a cool PT office — so cool that it started moonlighting as a party venue. And why not? Rock-climbing wall, indoor swings, a zipline into a ball pit — it’s a wild child’s dream. Bonus: All the equipment is designed to be extra safe since, you know.
Best for:Injury-prone toddlers
Potential pitfall:Raised eyebrows from parents when they see the invite
From $695 for 16 kids. 1739 N. Elston Ave., West Town