Chicago or bust

Full disclosure: I wouldn't exactly call this a guide to taking your own children to Chicago, which some of you have requested. We did the best we could on survival mode, and I'm just here to share it. If it helps you plan your own trip, that's a bonus!

When we found out that our schedules would not allow for a summer vacation with all four of us, we quickly put together a Spring Break vacation. We wanted it to be kind of close (Pittsburgh, Indy, and Louisville were all in the running).

I went to Chicago 6 years ago and had so much fun. We stayed outside the downtown area near Wrigleyville and had a blast on a girls trip. I thought it might be fun to try it again and introduce the kids to the Windy City.  We found an amazing Groupon deal for a hotel right off the Magnificent Mile, and off we went with thoughts of shopping, deep dish pizza, and the Shedd running through our minds.

Ha. Traveling with ages 5 and 2 is not a blast. We had some good times, but two was a very tough age for a hotel room and big city trip (and all the naps!). Larkyn was the perfect age for both, but finally hit that "Are we there yet?" stage. I hate to say it, but the iPads seriously saved us in the car.

The first night we were there, there was a rain/snow mix. So, I ran next-door to Gino's East for some carry-out. Matt loved his deep dish supreme, the kids got buttered noodles, and I had some awesome appetizers. And a lovely glass of wine in our hotel lobby while I waited for the food.

We grew to love our hotel lobby. It had everything we really needed (a restaurant that served breakfast, lunch and dinner; a snack bar with snacks to go; and a full Intelligentsia coffee bar!)  The concierge, restaurant staff, and valets were always so helpful and friendly. I would 100% recommend the Mile North to anyone, especially if you can get a suite. The room was huge (with a fold out sofa) and was luckily affordable for us because of the Groupon deal.

We began our first morning with donuts from Do-Rite Donuts, also very close to our hotel. We got there at 7 AM and several flavors were sold out and in boxes for people who had pre-ordered. The lesson in Chicago: Get everywhere and everything early. I loved the cinnamon crunch donut!

We nixed our Shedd plans because of cost (would have been $104 plus parking) and I took the kids to Navy Pier and the Chicago Children's Museum instead. We were able to walk there from our hotel and look around while we waited for the museum to open. Upon opening, there was an immediate gigantic line, so go in as soon as they unlock the doors!  There are lots of shops and things to look at inside the Navy Pier building, but it is definitely a tourist trap.

The museum was a lot of fun, but VERY easy to lose sight of your kids if you have more than one!  I appreciated the areas that had gates. The kids loved all the awesome imagination stations (A fire and rescue area, dinosaur dig, pet hospital, tinker lab, treehouse, etc).

Later in the day while the boys napped, Larkyn and I walked to The American Girl Store. I didn't exactly plan on buying her a doll or even really going to the store, but I ended up doing both, because...the store is freaking incredible. If you have a little girl, it is a must-see. And just plan on bringing a doll home or buying some over the top accessories for your own dolls.

On Day 2, we drove out of the congested city and into Lincoln Park to visit the (free!) zoo. There is lots of parking on-street, in a lot, or valet. We thought the cat house was really cool, as well as the indoor area with several African animals.

The carousel was a hit, and if the line weren't so long, we would have ridden the train too (neither are free).  We were up against lunch and nap time, or we would have stayed and explored Lincoln Park and the conservatory. What a gem of the city! We had a quick (and awesome) lunch at Five Guys, and headed back. 

After dropping the boys off for a nap (again), Larkyn and I were off to Millennium Park. It was a straight shot down Michigan Ave, but I opted for the bus to cut down on whining. She was a walking trooper that day!

We found the giant bean (Cloud Gate) and played around at the park for a bit. Soon, we decided to walk back, which was a highlight of our trip. I loved watching Larkyn discover the vibrant city; asking about street performers, hearing new music, different languages, and pointing out beautiful architecture.

She was really in the mood for a treat, so we stopped at the Corner Bakery (right before the Michigan Avenue bridge). It was a delicious little snack, but I would suggest holding out for one more block, because Dylan's Candy Bar is just across the bridge. We were too full of cookies to even go in.

After our walk, we ordered dinner from the hotel and snuggled up for our last night. And the next morning, we set off for Columbus.

Phew. We were exhausted from the one hour time change in the kids' sleep schedule combining with Rhys' sleep aversion when we travel. But I would definitely go back for a girl's trip or when the kids are both older. Have you ever been?

1 comment:

aprilmaree13 said...

Chicago is on our short list, but like you I was not sure how to navigate the city with two young kiddos. We decided to wait a year or two. We did love Louisville and plan to go back soon. We also love Indy, and have been several times.

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