Cure That Covid Cabin Fever with These Wacky Roadside Stops in Chicago

Spring has sprung here in Chicago, but with COVID-related restrictions in place, breaking free from cabin fever isn’t very easy these days. Here’s a solution: Pick up a copy of 111 Places in Chicago That You Must Not Miss with Kids, by Amy Bizzarri, from your favorite local bookstore that offers shipping or curbside delivery and get ready for adventure! Many of the historic and wacky places featured in the book can be easily and safely seen from the comfort of your car to accommodate social distancing, and your kids just might think you’re slowly turning into Mrs. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus.

photo: Maria Chambers

Giant, Green Hairy Monster at the Door

A big, hairy, green monster resides in on Racine Avenue in the West Loop: whenever he senses the smell of an approaching little kid, he heads straight to his massive front door and glares from behind the windowpane, hoping to scare any potential toy robbers away with his gruff, green hairy stare.

Chances are you or your kids have played with a toy that grew out of the minds of some of the non-monsters that work in this playful building: Big Monster Toys designs, engineers and prototypes toys and games for big names in the toy biz—Mattel, Moose, Fisher Price and Hasbro to name a few.

Founded in 1988 by three former partners of the legendary, Chicago-based toy design firm Marvin Glass & Associates, Big Monster Toys stands as one of the few remaining toy manufacturers operating in the city. Their unique door is a brilliant reminder of the unexpected, unrequited joy of toys.

Find it at: 21 S. Racine Ave., West Loop

photo: Maria Chambers

Hebru Brantley Murals

Hebru Brantley's gallery is the city of Chicago. His iconic, superpower-charged characters pop up on unsuspecting walls across the city, from north to south, east to west.

“Flyboy,” a little boy with vintage aviator goggles always on the brink of flying into an adventure, appears often in Brantley's Work. Inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen, Brantley told DNAinfo in 2013 that he created the character "out of a need to have heroes of color, whether black, Asian, or White, European.”

Flyboy Uptown seems as if he's flying right on past the Uptown Broadway Building. A group of five fly kids explore the world beneath the bridge at 1800-1802 Pratt Blvd. A Flygirl with neon pink pigtails and bright, blue googles gazes towards the future from a mural at 1395 North Wood.

Born and raised in Bronzeville, Brantley's used art to keep himself focused, avoiding gang life. Today he's recognized nationally for his public works and solo shows. Icons like Chance the Rapper, Lenny Kravitz and George Lucas are fans of his work; Jay-Z bought one of his paintings on the spot at Art Basel, for $20,000.

See how many of his pop-art, comic-book style, grand-scale murals you can spot around town.

  • 2001 S. Carpenter St.
  • 1800-1802 W. Pratt Blvd.
  • 1407 N. Milwaukee Ave.
  • 151 N. Ogden Ave. (shown in featured photo)

Tip: Check out this interactive Chicago mural map to find all the amazing murals by Brantley and other large-scale mural artists.

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