Teen, Tween, Volunteering

Cookie Knows! 2020 New Year’s Resolutions

It’s not just a new year, it’s a new decade! This is a great time for teens to think about forming new routines and habits and trying new things. Here are five  New Year’s resolution to share with your children.

  1. I’ll watch more live theater. With the Teen Arts Pass, teens can experience live arts performances around Chicago for just $5. There’s even an app for that!
  2. I’ll tell someone if I’m experiencing persistent sadness and loss of interest in friends and activities. And I’ll encourage my friends to get help if they need it. NAMI Chicago provides support, information, and resources through their hotline: 312.563.0445. 
  3. I’ll find a new way to incorporate exercise and outdoor adventure. You can start with snowtrekking at Northerly Island!
  4. I’ll help my community by volunteering for local aid organizations. Thrillist has an excellent roundup of local volunteer opportunities. Be sure to check for any age restrictions. Most organizations allow minors to volunteer as long as an adult is present.
  5. I’ll eat more healthy fruits and vegetables. Several Chicago farmers markets operate year round including  Green City Market, Logan Square Farmers Market and the 61st Street Market.
Camps and Classes, Teen, Tween

Winter Break Camps and Activities for Tweens and Teens

Winter Break is a great time to follow an existing passion or learn a new skill! Check out these interesting winter break camps and activities for tweens and teens in Chicago.

The Second City
Work on improv skills, stand up, clowning or learn to make an improvised movie.
Great for kids and teens age 6-18.

The Chopping Block
Hands-on cooking classes where teens work on simple but sophisticated recipes that they can recreate at home.
Great for tweens and teens age 12-16.

During day off camps, kids build mobile games, create robot obstacle courses, 3D print and more at the Codeverse studios in Lincoln Park.
Great for kids and tweens age 6-13.

JASC Taiko Drumming
Not exactly during winter break but this is too cool to leave out! Learn the art of authentic Japansese Taiko drumming during this week long class.
Great for kids and adults age 8+.

REI Moonlight Winter Hike 
This is a guided winter hike through Indiana Dunes National Park.
Great for teens and adults age 14+.


Science Fair and History Fair Resources

It’s that time of year again…time for parents to work on those Science Fair and History Fair projects! Just kidding. Middle school and high school students are supposed to do these projects themselves. But the burden usually falls on the parents to drive them around to stores and libraries. 

My parents were troopers, taking turns driving me to libraries around the city as I hunted for articles on microfiche to perfect my research on many CPS history and science fair projects. Pre-internet research was rough.

I’ve put together a handy list of places to go in the city for research and materials along with some online sources for history research.

Good luck parents 😉

Science Fair

American Science & Surplus
This is the ultimate place to find materials for almost any kind of project. Thermometers, magnets, petri dishes, beakers…you name it and they probably have it. It’s also a great place to find novelty gifts. On a recent visit I saw rubber chickens, Star Trek lunchboxes and ant farms among the well-stocked shelves.
5316 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60630

Edgewater Workbench
A makerspace with access to laser cutting and 3D printing. Daily access or monthly access fees apply.
1130 W. Thorndale
Chicago, IL 60660

Robot City Workshop 
If you are building or repairing a robot, this is your place. Batteries, LED lights, motors, fasteners and all the other robot-making good stuff.
3226 N Sheffield
Chicago, IL 60657

Northwestern Cutlery
Working on a project that’s food or baking science-related? Check this place out for scales, thermometers, measuring cups and more.
810 W Lake Street
Chicago IL 60607

CED Chicago Electrical Supply
Straight up electrical supply company. 
1721 W. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622

Henry’s Sports & Bait
Need live worms, crickets or other creepy crawlies? Henry’s is open seven days a week.
3130 S. Canal St
Chicago, IL 60616

Chicago Tool Library
Did you know that Chicago has a community nonprofit dedicated to providing equitable access to tools? Membership required (sliding scale) and only open on  Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 3 pm.
1048 W 37th St
Chicago, IL 60609

History Fair

Research Center at the Chicago History Museum
The mecca for Chicago history research. I remember going there in high school and being in awe of the beautiful (and quiet!) library research room. Appointments can be made for students in grades 6-12 only. The Research Center hours are Tuesday-Friday, 1:00-4:30 PM; Saturday, 10:00 AM-4:30 PM. www.chicagohistory.org/research-center-appointment-history-fair-students/
1601 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60614

Newberry Library
To use the library, you must register as a reader. The Newberry welcomes readers who are at least 14 years old or in the ninth grade. All requests for Newberry materials are made through our online request system, Aeon.
60 W. Walton St
Chicago IL 60610

Online Resources
WTTW Chicago Stories
WTTW Geoffrey Baer Tours
Encyclopedia of Chicago
Chicago Landmarks Historic Resources Survey
Chicago Architecture Center Online Exhibits

Presenting my project at the 1988 Chicago Public Schools City Science Fair
at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Teen, Volunteering

Fall 2019 Volunteer Opportunities

Is your teen looking for ways to give back this holiday season?  Check out these options for tried-and-true volunteer faves and a few that you might not have seen before! 

1. Be a Part of the Light 2019
Join My Block, My Hood, My City in decorating 8 miles of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive with holiday lights and decorations. They need lots of volunteers that want to spread holiday cheer! Sign up here.

2. Working Bikes
Working Bikes gives donated bicycles new life by providing transportation to people in homeless transition, refugee resettlement, and youth empowerment programs in our own community. They also donate thousands of bikes each year to global partners. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in their warehouse. No mechanical experience necessary!

3.Free Geek Chicago
FreeGeek Chicago is a not-for-profit community organization that recycles used computers and parts to provide functional computers, education, internet access and job skills training to those who want them. Volunteers participate in “Open Build” times which provide an excellent opportunity to get tons of hands-on experience with a wide variety of computer hardware and to learn first-hand the challenges and satisfaction of building a working system.

4. Cradles to Crayons
Cradles to Crayons helps to provide babies and children living in low-income and homeless situations the essential items they need to thrive through donations and community support. Volunteer at their Giving Factory and help sort, quality check, and pack donated items for distribution. 

5. Shedd Aquarium
This one is a bit more of a commitment but it sounds really cool. Be an exhibit interpreter and connect with guests, share animal stories, and inspire conservation! Tweens as young as 12 can participate (with an adult).

Travel Guides

Summer 2019 Cookie Knows! Guide to Door County

Door County is one of my favorite vacation spots near Chicago and I recommend it often to friends, family and anyone that will listen. Here is a rundown of my absolute can’t miss restaurants, activities and places to shop on the Door. I’ve thrown in a few that I haven’t personally experienced (yet) but I’ve done the research and I’m pretty confident they are up to my personal high standards 😉 I’ll be there later this summer and I hope to find some new faves to share!

Use this guide to plan a last-minute trip now or plan ahead for summer 2020! Door County is really a year-round destination so I hope to publish another list for fall/winter. I’ve never been in the fall to see the colors change but it’s supposed to be gorgeous.

Where to Eat and Drink

View this post on Instagram

These guys! Back at it tonight!

A post shared by Wickman House (@wickmanhouse) on

Wickman House11976 Mink River Road, Ellison Bay
My favorite restaurant in Door County. Not in a “I’m on vacation so I’m pretending this is really good” way. Wickman House is the real deal. Go early, pop inside to the bar for one of their excellent cocktails, and then sit outside and enjoy the view of the gardens and grounds. Reservations must be made in advance (months if you can) and definitely ask to be seated in the enclosed patio that wraps around the restaurant. Can’t get a rez at Wickman House? Try their cute wine bar in Ephraim, Trixies. They’ve also opened a casual taco place I can’t wait to try.

Old Post Office10040 N Water St, Ephraim
No trip to Door County is complete without witnessing a fish boil. Old Post Office is across from the waterfront so time your visit with sundown and ask to be seated outdoors. Save room for the excellent cherry pie! If you are staying in Fish Creek and you want to walk to dinner, White Gull Inn also has an excellent fish boil.

Czarnuszka Soup Bar9922 Water St, Ephraim
This hidden gem is a delightful place to stop for a quick, inexpensive and satisfying lunch. There’s a rotating menu of four different soups and there’s always vegan and gluten-free menu options in the mix.

Cloud Nine Juice Bar + Cafe2570 County Road Q, Sister Bay
The best smoothies on the Door plus a full menu of coffee, sandwiches, breakfast items and salads. Also a cute place to work (nope nope, you’re on vacation!) or read.

Not Licked Yet4054 Main St, Fish Creek
After your dinner at Wild Tomato head here for some of the tastiest frozen custard in Wisconsin. You’re in luck if the Flavor of the Day is Door County Cherry Vanilla. Get it in a sundae with hot cherries and fudge and then go plant yourself in a chair by the creek. There’s a small playground for the kiddos and they sell bags of popcorn to feed the ducks that gather nearby.

View this post on Instagram

Saturday night is pizza night 🍕🔥

A post shared by Wild Tomato Fish Creek (@wildtomatofishcreek) on

Wild Tomato4023 State Hwy 42, Fish Creek
Sometimes we will go here twice in one trip because the wood fired pizza is so good. Three locations but this one is my favorite. Get there early and expect to wait for a table (the outdoor bar makes the wait a little easier). Every month they offer a different Donation Creation, with a $1 from each special pie sale going to a local nonprofit.

Door County Creamery10653 N. Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay
Great spot to pick up sandwiches for a picnic lunch. They raise their own goats (there’s usually a few goats hanging out in a pen in front of the shop) and make some of the freshest chevre you’ll ever taste. I’ve never done a tour of their farm but it sounds like a fun way to spend a few hours. We also love to stop in here after dinner for their goat milk gelato.

Shoreline Restaurant12747 Hwy, Gills Rock
At the tip of the door, this place has to-die-for smoked whitefish dip. It’s one of our more recent discoveries but we will be back. There’s a few cute gift shops nearby and Charlie’s Smokehouse if you can’t get enough smoked fish.

What to See and Do

Peninsula State Park9462 Shore Rd, Fish Creek
Our trips to Door County aren’t complete until we’ve biked the 10 mile Sunset Bike Route. There are several great waterfront lookout points to stop and enjoy the view (or pant heavily if you haven’t biked in a while). There’s also a beach along the route with one of my favorite souvenir shops. You can bring your own bikes or rent them from Edge of Park located right at the entrance to the park.

The Ridges Sanctuary8166 State Hwy 57, Baileys Harbor
We love taking self-guided hikes through this beautiful and peaceful protected state natural park full of wildflowers and wetlands. Ask in the nature center and they’ll tell you which trail will take you to the beach.

Peninsula School of Art3900 County Road F, Fish Creek
I’ve never been here because the offerings never line up with my trip. But it looks like a fabulous art studio that offers workshops for all ages.

Cana Island Lighthouse8800 E Cana Island Rd., Baileys Harbor
Who doesn’t love a lighthouse? Water flows over the causeway to the island so you can wade there (ankle deep usually) or you can take a haywagon ride across.

Washington Island Various
The island really deserves its own post but I’ll try to cram it all into this paragraph 😉 Start by taking the ferry in the morning (the earlier the better, plan on spending all day). You can drive your car or bikes onto the ferry and then you’ll have your own transport once you are there. If you bike, be prepared for about a 20 mile ride if you want to see everything. Another option is riding the ferry and then taking the Cherry Train tram tour. Must see and do: Schoolhouse Beach, Stavkirke Church, Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm, Farm Museum, Albatross Drive-In, Nelsen’s Hall Bitters Pub, Mountain Park Lookout Tower, Fair Isle Books.

Door County Kayak ToursVarious
Kind of embarrassed to admit I’ve never kayaked in Door County. But I’m planning to rectify that soon with a tour of Cave Point County Park. I chose this tour company because they offer professional photos of your group. They also offer stand-up paddle boarding and quad bike rentals.

Northern Sky Theater10169 Shore Rd, Fish Creek
This is an amphitheater located inside Peninsula State Park. Most of the shows are original, family-friendly musicals. Bring bug spray (they also provide some) and blankets since it can get chilly at night.

Sail Door County10707 North Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay
This experience will be another first for my family, Door County or anywhere. We’re planning on taking a sunset trip on the Edith Becker, a 65-foot schooner that’s sailed around the world. You can bring food and drink on board so we will probably stop at Door County Creamery for some wine and cheese. Check out their sister company, Parasail Door County if you’re brave 😉


Island Orchard Cider12040 Garrett Bay Road, Ellison Bay
Stop here for a refreshing cider tasting flight and buy souvenir bottles of their artisanal french-style cider to take home. It’s not sold anywhere in Illinois so stock up. If you’ve got non-drinkers or little kids in your group, they offer a really delicious glass of house-made cherry vanilla soda.

View this post on Instagram

🐒 Frida and her furry friends 🐦! Happy Friday!

A post shared by Sister Golden® (@sistergoldenshop) on

Sister Golden4147 Main St, Fish Creek
If you visit only one store in Door County, make it this one. My favorite store on the Door to pick up exquisite home decor and art. Check out their amazing Frida Kahlo flower prints.

Seaquist Orchards11482 WI-42, Sister Bay
A good place to shop for all your obligatory cherry-themed gifts. Honey, jams, dried fruit, fudge, etc. They have it all. And out back there’s a free pedal car track to keep the kids occupied. We’ve been known to stop here just for a quick ride 🙂


Feel free to shoot me an email if you have specific Door County questions. Happy to help! Email jill@cookieknows.com.