Kid-Friendly

5 Places to See Chicago’s Legendary Blues … Without a Babysitter

Want hear kid-friendly blues in Chicago? Head to Kingston Mines. (Photo: Ten Photos)

No visit to Chicago is complete without listening to live Chicago blues, its gritty rhythms stream from clubs and bars all over the city. Typically, the dimly lit, liquor-soaked atmosphere of a good blues club doesn’t qualify for family friendly fare, but the city supplies some exceptions. If you want to “pitch a wang dang doodle” with kids in tow, visit these spots for a taste of Chicago blues before bedtime:

  1. Chicago Blues Festival. As the world’s largest free blues festival, the opportunities to hear blues in all its variations are endless at this annual event. Held the second weekend of June in Grant Park, the blues fest offers the perfect family friendly blues outing. The music kicks off at 11 a.m. and goes all day on three different stages. Pack a picnic lunch and sprawl on the lawn while the music swirls around. You’ll be able to move from stage to stage to check out different artists but it’s a must to check out the Blues Kids tent, where a host of young people from the Blues Camp program perform. The details: Admission is free and the schedule runs from 11 a.m-10 p.m. but the easier times for families is early afternoons until 5 p.m., after that, crowds (and drinking) get heavier.
  2. Buddy Guy’s Legends. This is the place to hear the best blues musicians from around the world and it’s always packed with fans and tourists. Luckily, families have the chance to experience this legendary blues club filled with memorabilia from Buddy Guy and other stars. Head to the free acoustic sets at lunchtime and dig into Cajun specialties while enjoying live blues. Don’t miss expert blues guitarists Fruteland Jackson on Fridays and Mike Wheeler on Saturdays. The details:The acoustic lunch sets generally run Wednesday-Sunday, noon-2 p.m. The menu focuses on Cajun dishes but also offer burgers, chicken tenders and mac ‘n’ cheese for picky eaters.
  3. House of Blues Back Porch. This concert venue holds a range of late night concerts but families can enjoy dinner at the Crossroads restaurant (which is separate from the nightclub) and listen to a variety of blues acts. The Back Porch stage features more intimate shows that are great for kids. The show times vary so check the schedule and try to catch the early performances at 6:30 or 8 p.m. The details: Although it’s not required, make reservations to guarantee seating.
  4. Randolph Street Market. This street market festival serves up non-stop fun with eight acres of vendors, eateries and entertainment. Held the last weekend of every month from May through September, it’s basically Chicago’s rowdy answer to European outdoor markets. The live music line-up changes but blues is always featured on at least one day. Look for Low-reen and the Maxwell Street Market Blues Band on Sunday afternoons. The details: Tickets are $8 in advance online or $10 at the gate. There’s also a family package for two adults and up to four kids with a snack for each, for $25. The market is outdoors and indoors, with a children’s area inside. The market runs from 10 a.m-5 p.m.
  5. Kingston Mines. This landmark Chicago blues joint allows underage visitors with parents because of its restaurant license. However, we recommend older children, 12 and up since this is a loud, potentially wild, late night offering. Visit on Sundays, Mondays or Tuesdays when crowds are thinner and easier to manage. Check out blues masters Linsey Alexander, Nellie “Tiger” Travis or Carl Weathersby. The details: Cover is $12 per person, music starts at 6 p.m. on Sunday and 8 p.m. during the rest of the week.