Sometimes you just want to act like a kid. Luckily, the Chicago gaming scene can accommodate. While the city has plenty of grown-up joints, like hidden speakeasies and world-class restaurants, there are also plenty of places to let your inner child run free. Whether you’re craving retro classics or something new, Chicago has you covered.
A good place to start you playdate is Sluggers, a Chicago watering hole just steps away from Wrigley Field. Don’t beeline for the bar, though—head upstairs for the real fun. What’s your poison? Skee-ball? Air hockey? Pinball? The correct answer: the batting cages. When you’re in one of the country’s premiere baseball neighborhoods, Sluggers’s Upper Deck is the perfect place to put on a helmet, pick up a bat, and swing for the fences.
When you’ve had your fill of home runs, head south to Headquarters Beercade in Lakeview. Here, it’s time for retro gaming with your old friends Ms. PAC-MAN and Q*bert. Headquarters has more arcade games than you can shake a joystick at, so grab plenty of tokens. There are also dozens of pinball machines that can help to erase an afternoon in the blink of an eye. Plus, this is a beercade, after all, so if you need to give your aching thumbs a break, check out the taps—or grab a cocktail, lean against a tufted leather wall, and backseat game ’til your friends agree to pick up the next round.
Hopefully, you’ve saved some energy because the last stop on your Chicago gaming tour takes the most talent and skill. Even trickier, it involves a game you’ve probably never heard of. Welcome to Whirlyball in Bucktown. Whirlyball is a cross between basketball, hockey, and lacrosse—but you’re driving a bumper car (surprise). With a scoop in hand, competitors on two teams try to chuck a Wiffle ball into their basket while avoiding the inevitable collision. You have to see it to believe it. If you’d rather not join a competitive game, it’s just as fun to watch a match in action through the glass walls of one of the three courts. Either way, enjoy some truffle fries and an artichoke caprese slider once you’ve enjoyed enough of the mayhem.
After that, you’re headed home for a nap. You’ve had your fill of childlike fun, which reminds you that your childlike energy is mostly spent. But it’s still fun to pretend.