Friday, May 2, 2014

Chicago Family Style

Chicago is one of the best cities in the world to visit. Last Fall, Mike and I went there for a wedding and decided to take our kids with us to explore the city. It was a wonderful family adventure. Here are some of the details if you are considering a trip to Chicago. 

Double rainbow and lake view from our hotel. 
The key to traveling with a family in a city is a good hotel. It doesn't need to be glamours, but you need a great location and a good amount of space so everyone doesn't go nutty. For our Chicago trip we stayed at the Embassy Suites on North Columbus Drive and suited our needs perfectly. The rooms actually have a bedroom with two beds and a small living space which made it possible for Mike and I to hang out after the kids were in bed. The hotel included a great buffet breakfast that offered custom omelettes, bagels, some cereals our kids normally don't get to have and donuts. HUGE hit! Having breakfast at the hotel is a key with our kids because otherwise they melt down before the day even begins. 

One of our first stops was Navy Pier and the Chicago Children's Museum. Navy Pier is one of those places you have to visit but it is a classic tourist trap. We wandered around and the kids loved it, but we didn't stay long. What we LOVED was the children's museum. It was remarkable. They had so much to explore for a wide range of kids ages. Our kids loved their hands on exhibits. If we had been smarter, we would have bought an annual pass and come back every day of our trip. That was the favorite thing for both our kids and we barely scratched the surface of what it had to offer. 

Chagall's Windows at the Art Institute of Chicago
I am big art lover. So I made my entire family go to the art institute. The one thing I wanted to see in person was Chagall's windows. They blew my mind. This picture, or any picture, doesn't even come close to capturing their beauty. I could have stared at them for hours but my belly was pretty big with Baby H#3, my feet hurt and my kids were running around like wild banshees! Once I got my fix, we wandered through the museum to the kids section. I was pleasantly surprised by this wing of the museum. Most weekends they have special art classes for kids to take that appeared to be very interesting. My kids were wishing they had been signed up... but they were sold out. So next time I will do that in advance! After dropping them off next time, I will wander back to the windows to gaze much longer. 

Date nights in the city!! 
While we were in the city, we did two date nights neither of which I had to plan anything. What a treat! One night was the wedding and the second was a double date with one of my favorite cousins and her hubby. For our double date, my cousin made all the plans which worked out perfect. A local perspective always makes for a better evening. Plus my cousin is a huge foodie. For cocktails we met at Howells and Hood which was very hip and had an awesome beer selection which Mike enjoyed. For dinner we went to La Madia and the pizza wasn't the classic Chicago style, it was more contemporary and was as expected, stellar. Dessert was at this tiny donut shop called Firecakes Donuts. Yum. 

For our date night babysitters, I did a ton of research and ended up with a family referral, but I would recommend the Sitters Studio Chicago. They were extremely professional and the screening process they go through for their sitters is extensive. Plus the sitters all have these special creative talents. 

Other touristy things we enjoyed with the kids, but I don't want to bore you: Could Gate at Millennium Park (kids thought this was super cool to explore), Sally at The Field Museum, the train ride, taxi cab rides and of course food. 

Just because here are some links to great food in Chicago. 
  • Portillos - Classic Chicago foods such as Italian beef, hot dogs, etc. Chain restaurant so there are a number of locations and the food is just plain old good. 
  • Gino's East - The "original" Chicago style deep dish pizza. Can't go wrong. 
  • The Purple Pig - I hear it is pretty trendy and great. Someday I'll get there... 
  • Goose Island - Great local Chicago brewery with good food. 
PS - We also did a tour of Wrigley Field. Mike thought this was the highlight of our trip. I completely disagree because we had our kiddos with us and it was tough. If we were to do it again, I would let him go on his own and taken the kids back to the Children's Museum. 

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