Grab the kids and pack up the car, it’s the perfect time for a family trip!
I recommend a place that offers a little bit of everything and that is dear to my heart. Why not spend a long weekend in my old home town – Chicago. Chicago is the Midwest’s largest city and it has architecture, culture, great food, shopping and museums. A trip to Chicago will satisfy both adults and kids. I lived near Chicago and have visited the city often. Here are my recommendations for a family visit to the Windy City!
Chicago Museum of Natural History – It has Dinosaurs and Diamonds. It has Spears and Sapphires. Kids can dig like an archaeologist and go through an underground maze to see ancient mummies. The visit is worthwhile just to see your child’s mouth agape when they see the giant whale hanging from the ceiling and a famous T-Rex named “Sue” in the main pavilion.
The John Shedd Aquarium – One of the nation’s best aquariums. It’s worth a visit for the extensive sea life exhibits. Fish can be seen representing each of the world’s oceans and every continent. Kids can touch Stingrays and see Beluga whales and dolphins. Try lunch at the museum café for one of the best views of the Chicago Skyline and Lakefront.
A couple of other options: The Art Institute of Chicago (they have a huge miniature doll house collection) and The Museum of Science and Industry (It has a working coal mine!)
Millennium Park – This features a giant silver bean that is great for family pictures and two giant video screens with pictures of faces that spit water out at passers-by. The kids will love both. It also has street performers!
Navy Pier – This is a showcase for fun and food. The have a Giant Ferris Wheel and other rides for the kids (weather permitting), souvenir shops, a children’s museum and several family friendly restaurants! This is another spot for great views of the skyline.
Willis Tower or The John Hancock Building – Both of these Skyscrapers have observation towers and amazing elevators. You climb 90+ stories in no time on the elevators and then get amazing views of the entire city below. On a clear day you can see for miles.
Buckingham Fountain- A must see at night as the fountain shoots high in the air and colored lights change. With the Chicago skyline lit up in the background it is a marvelous sight. The Fountain is open from spring to late fall.
To see more of the city: Drive along the Lakefront to see sailboats and seagulls, take a water taxi ride on the Chicago River or hop on the Elevated trains (known as the “El”) for a real Chicago experience!
Giordanos Pizza- This is my favorite place to get Deep Dish Pizza. Chicago is famous for a pizza that is thick and filling. Giordanos is kid friendly and they make delicious pizza. Ask your server to recommend the best size pizza for your group or you’ll have leftovers (trust me on this one)
Portillo’s- This place serves another food that Chicago is famous for, the Chicago style Hot Dog. It is a dog served with a pickle spear, cucumber, tomato, relish, onion and peppers. If you don’t like hot dogs try the Italian Beef. The onion rings at Portillo’s make a great side item!
Rainforest Café- Serves American Style food but the kids will love the décor & entertainment. Every 20-30 minutes the animal statues come to life and an indoor tropical rainstorm takes place. The kids will think they are eating at Disney World.
Michigan Avenue – This is the place to go for the Apple Store, Nike Town and the Disney Store to name a few. Give your feet a rest and try a snack at Garrett’s Popcorn (you’ll know your there by the aroma and the line of people coming out the door).
Water Tower Place- This shopping mecca on Michigan Avenue has an American Girl Store and a Lego Land. The kids will be amazed by the displays in each store and also give you a big hug for taking them there.
Hershey Store- If you love chocolate and want to bring back a Chicago souvenir then grab a decorative tin filled with Hershey Kisses at this shop. This store also has a soda fountain if you want a milk shake. As a bonus it is located across the street from the Chicago Water Tower. The kids can see the horse drawn carriages take off in front of the store while you check out the famous brick Water Tower that marks the spot where the historic Chicago Fire stopped!
For more Chicago attractions, dining, tours and shopping : www.choosechicago.com
Chicago is a city that never disappoints and always surprises. It is also within easy driving distance of many Midwest cities. When staying there you have an array of hotel options. Check out www.tripadvisor.com for ratings as well as locations within “The Chicago Loop” which is the safest part of the city. Be prepared for unpredictable weather, lots of walking and some tired but satisfied kids!
You should also be prepared for some great family memories in my old hometown – Chicago!