We've been talking about taking the kids to Chicago for years now and decided to make a short summer trip out of it.
We took the train there early Thursday morning and came back Saturday night.
After dropping our bags at our hotel, we headed to lunch at Lou Malnati's, a restaurant that our few Chicago friends all seem to agree is the best place to get pizza. We don't disagree!
Although we don't stick to the strict nap schedule we followed when the kids were babies, it's still in everyone's best interest if we work one in every afternoon. We brought the umbrella strollers for that purpose, and Sophie and Michael got a little kick out of riding in them again. It had been a while!
They were quite effective.
Having taken the train into Chicago, we gave the kids their first real experience with getting around a city via cabs, buses, and trolleys. Before leaving the hotel for each adventure, I loaded up their Detroit Tigers backpacks with water, snacks, and sweatshirts, and we were off! Our hotel was very centrally located (Best Western River North) which
allowed us to walk to most attractions. While the Museum Campus was too
far out of the way, it only took a ten minute walk to Michigan Avenue
to catch a bus that stopped right outside the aquarium and museum doors (the 146, I believe it was).
On that first afternoon we visited The Field Museum and got a look at Sue, the most complete Tyrannosaurus in the world. The kids and I paid a visit to our local library before this adventure to learn more about dinosaurs and bones and museums, and that got me pretty geared up as well!
Whether or not scary things are real is a big deal to Sophie and Michael right now. Sharks and alligators? Real. Ghosts and monsters? Not real. Dinosaurs? Well, the bones are real and amazing because they are right in front of you, but dinosaurs themselves don't exist anymore. Confusing. The Berenstain Bears Dinosaur Dig really helped Michael and Sophie to understand this pretty abstract concept. I'm not sure I could have made it so clear without Professor Actual Factual and the illustrations in that book.
That night we grabbed some Chicago-style hotdogs for dinner from the cart by the museum (Kim and Carlo's--pretty good), took a long walk around the Museum Campus...
...and all the way down to Buckingham Fountain. We didn't plan to walk so far, but the weather was perfect. Once the kids started wearing out (as you can see a bit in the photos), we told them we had one last surprise. We took a bus back down Michigan Avenue to...
Ghiradelli! One warm brownie sundae with extra cherries, please!
After a walk back to the hotel, we all slept well and appreciated the extra hour the time zone gave us to sleep in before Shedd Aquarium opened.
The Aquarium didn't offer a lot of photo opportunities, but on Friday morning we saw the aquatic show, the jellyfish exhibit, and enjoyed as many fish, turtles, frogs, and whatnot before lunch and nap time rolled around again.
I should mention that we bought tickets for Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, and The Chicago Children's Museum using the Go Chicago Card. I compared a few different options, and found that one to fit best for our trip. I believe we saved about $20 by doing so and liked that we were not committed to any day or time to cash them in (you have 30 days once you use the first ticket and one year from the day you buy them). Supposedly the Go cards save you time in lines, but we didn't really encounter any going very early or somewhat late on weekdays.
For naps on day two, we all slept at the hotel and ate a big snack before heading back out to Millennium Park. We walked the whole way there which included a trek over the Chicago River. All the walking we did and the sightseeing it provided made me glad we left the car at home.
I think the kids would say playing in Crown Fountain was their favorite part of the trip. Looking up a little more information about it when we got home, I came across this article (published the same weekend we were there) with some interesting details about its creation ten years ago.
We were little early to the lawn to hear the symphony, so the kids ran around a bit (helped to dry them off), ate another little snack, and we got a few photos together.
These little buddies were a little too wired to stay very long, so we only stuck around until intermission (heard Dvorak but missed Beethoven--bummer). We wrapped up this second day with a walk back through the city...
...and a stop on the way for dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery. Good beer, good food.
On our last day of the trip we met some friends at the Chicago Children's Museum on the Navy Pier.
The kids really loved this place. Check out Sophie the Human Wrecking Ball!
Untitled from Shared and Doubled on Vimeo.
After lunch, a carousel ride...
...a brief stroller nap, and a short trolly ride, we headed back to Union Station for our train home.
We were sad to say good-bye to The Windy City, but the experiences and memories were just what we hoped for.