Christmas in July: Chicago Toy & Game Fair

This is the Post #3 of 5 in the Christmas in July series.

We attended the Chicago Toy and Game Fair in 2011 so the post is based on our experiences there. I have included information about the 2012 Chicago Toy and Game Fair for those planning to attend. The Chicago Toy & Game Fair is a fun event for families and you can learn about new products and purchase them at the Fair. It’s a great place for Christmas planning or shopping!

Location: Navy Pier, 600 East Grand, Chicago

Dates: We attended in November 2011. The 2012 dates are November 17 & 18.

Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 3-13.
A $2 coupon is available online.
Free admission for children under 3, educators and librarians, scouts in uniform, retailers and tradespeople, military (with ID), police (with ID), and firefighters (with ID). Sunday, November 18 is Grandparents Day and grandparents are admitted free.

Parking: Parking at Navy Pier is $25.

Bathrooms: There are public bathrooms with changing tables.

Nursing: I am not aware of a nursing area at Navy Pier. There are tables and chairs and several places to sit in Navy Pier and the Chicago Toy and Game Fair.

Handicapped/stroller accessible: Navy Pier and the Chicago Toy and Game Fair are accessible to the handicapped and strollers. The Fair does get a bit crowded and maneuvering a stroller can get a bit tricky.

Food: There are food counters in the exhibition hall and lots of tables and chairs. There are lots of restaurants throughout Navy Pier as well.

Special events:

  • Star Wars Breakfast – Saturday, November 17 from 9-10 am. $30 per child (ages 12 and under), $36 for adults. Includes: Photo opportunities with characters from Star Wars 501st Legion: Vader’s Fist, one day Fair admission ticket, special prizes and giveaways, and a breakfast buffet.
  • Young Inventor Challenge – Saturday, November 17. Register online. For children 6-18 who create their own original toy or game inventions to be judged on by Fair attendees. There is no fee to enter and the winner gets a prize package and an opportunity to present their invention at the Toy of the Year Awards in New York City.

Activities/exhibits: The activities and exhibits vary each year depending on companies participating. See a listing of participating companies on the ChiTAG page. There are demonstrations of toys and games, entertainers, play areas for kids, costumed characters, toys and games available for sale, and more.

We paid: We received complimentary tickets to the ChiTAG and attended the Media/Blogger Preview Event. The cost of our tickets would have been $25.

Our experience:

We attended the Chicago Toy and Game Fair (ChiTAG) on Saturday as part of a Media/Blogger Preview Event. Because we were part of the event, we were able to enter the Fair an hour early to explore.

There were lots of fun activities for the kids, including riding around in Powerwheels, meeting costumed characters, playing in the play areas, and testing out toys. Cooper had a great time driving this police car (although he needed a LOT of help with steering).

The kids loved taking pictures with some of the displays and the costumed characters. Dexter ran up to this LEGO pirate to pose with him.

We tested out a lot of new toys, including this RC Color Bug, which is controlled by remote but colors with marker as it moves.

Dexter played with some giant blocks at the MindWare booth, but he was more interested in stacking them than trying to make a pattern.

We had a great day. I did get a bit crowded, so I recommend going early if possible and expecting a crowd.

We discovered some great new toys and companies at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair. We saw the Air Swimmers in action for the first time (I later purchased one for my brother and my nephew for Christmas), we played with some great Plan Toys in the play areas, and got some Bananagrams and Fruitominoes (dominos with fruit on them so young kids can match).

By far our favorite discovery was BrickStix. A 9-year-old boy came up with the idea for BrickStix, and he even won the TAGIE Award for Young Inventor of the Year. BrickStix are static cling decals that stick to LEGO blocks or similar plastic blocks so kids can dress up their creations. BrickStix come in themed sets (transportation, space, rescue, etc) for only $5.99 each. BrickStix are sized for regular sized LEGO blocks and not DUPLO, but we bought some anyway; I think the kids will enjoy them even more when they’re a little older.

Have you been to the Chicago Toy & Game Fair? What was your favorite new discovery? Do you plan to attend this November? 

See the other Christmas in July posts:

My family received complimentary tickets to the Chicago Toy & Game Fair and attended the Media/Blogger Preview Event. All opinions are my own. 


  1. Thank you, Sarah, for writing about ChiTAG in July!

    Terrific article, I will pass along to the exhibitors you mentioned.

    We were very happy you could join us last year and even happier you are coming back this year! Your enthusiasm is exactly why we founded the Fair!

    Play On!


  2. We love being a “favorite discovery” of Toddling Around Chicagoland! Thanks so much for visiting our BrickStix booth and for spreading the word on ChiTAG, a fantastic family event.
    – The BrickStix Team

  3. I’m looking for a Chicago area public library or agency that would teach children the skill game of dominoes,
    either through instruction, a special event, or
    relating programming.

    Any references appreciated. THanks!

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