My husband and I have decided that we’re in our prime traveling years with the kids. They’re 8, 11, and 13 now – all old enough to appreciate, enjoy, and remember new places and experiences.
Last fall our kids were excited to visit New York City as a short side trip when we went to Pennsylvania for a wedding. Since that trip was a hit, we decided to head to Chicago for a short visit over spring break.
We had 48 hours to pack in as much as we could see and do in the Windy City. These were our kids’ favorite attractions from the trip.
1. Willis Tower Skydeck.
The former Sears Tower was their favorite stop for several reasons. They were at the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and the elevator ride to the 103rd floor showed them various landmarks they were passing in height as they ascended. Walking out onto the glass ledge, they were suspended over Chicago at 1,353 feet, looking down at the city streets below. It’s an unforgettable experience!
2. Boat tour on the Chicago River.
We all enjoyed the Wendella Chicago River Architecture Tour, a 75-minute guided tour of the beautiful architecture in the city. The views were amazing. Despite the cool temperature and wind chill on the top deck during our April 1 visit, we didn’t want to go below into the closed cabin and miss anything as we experienced the impressive Chicago skyline by boat. The tour guide did a great job informing us about the history and architecture of the places we could see from the river.
3. Shopping on Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile.
As soon as we began walking along Michigan Avenue, we started seeing American Girl dolls and bags. My daughter could not wait for the American Girl experience, when she could immerse herself in all the dolls and accessories in the two-story store. Meanwhile, my husband and boys checked out the Lego store next door. The guys weren’t quite as excited about the shopping options as my daughter and I were, but they were good sports. We did more window shopping than purchasing, but the variety of stores meant there was something for everyone to see while we were visiting Chicago.
4. Millennium Park and The Bean (Cloud Gate).
We skipped the Art Institute of Chicago on this trip since our kids are still too young to appreciate it (and frankly it didn’t appeal to my husband either), but they all enjoyed the public art outside. The Bean (Cloud Gate) sculpture in Millennium Park fascinated the kids with its mirrored surface. The plaza was crowded with visitors enjoying this Chicago icon, and my kids loved finding spots to take pictures.
5. Wrigley Field.
While we were in Chicago, the Cubs were playing out of town. The stadium offers tours, but none were available while we were there. Although we couldn’t visit inside Wrigley Field, my husband and boys were not deterred from driving out to see the historic stadium anyway. They loved just visiting the site, which is celebrating its 100th baseball season in 2014.
6. Rainforest Cafe.
Ask my middle child his favorite part of Chicago, and number three on his list is the volcano. He’s referring, of course, to the dessert at the Rainforest Cafe with ice cream, brownies, and hot fudge with a sparkler in the middle to add some extra pizazz. It was their first visit to a Rainforest Cafe, since the wait was way too long when we tried to eat there at Downtown Disney in Orlando. I’m glad they finally got to experience the fun of eating at Rainforest Cafe. I think I need to try a copycat recipe for the Sparkling Volcano dessert this summer for some extra fun at home!
7. Indoor pool.
After a day of visiting Chicago attractions, our kids couldn’t wait to jump into the hotel pool. We stayed at the Omni Hotel on Michigan Avenue – a nice hotel in a great, central location that allowed us to walk to most of our destinations. The hotel was comfortable for a family of five, with a spacious sitting area. The indoor pool was somewhat small, but the kids enjoyed it. They also appreciated the milk and cookies that were delivered to our room in the evening. It was a nice touch for the kids!
More attractions for our next visit…
Chicago has plenty of other attractions that we would have liked to visit with the kids if we had more time – and warmer weather in some cases. We’re looking forward to a return visit to enjoy more of Chicago!
- Navy Pier. We saw the Navy Pier from our boat tour of Chicago, and our tour guide said this is the top attraction in Chicago. We had planned to go, primarily since our daughter wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel, but we saw from the boat that the Ferris Wheel was not running. We decided to leave the Navy Pier for our next visit in warmer weather.
- John Hancock Center. Our hotel was close to the John Hancock Center, but we decided to visit the Willis Tower this time. We’re planning to go to the John Hancock Center and the newly renovated 360 Chicago observatory next time we’re visiting Chicago.
- Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium. These indoor attractions all sound great and aren’t dependent on good weather, but we were limited on time, so we’ll have to wait until next time to explore them.
- Lincoln Park Zoo. It’s one of the oldest zoos in the country and gets good reviews, so I would love to visit the Lincoln Park Zoo. The problem is that my kids are getting past the point of interest in zoos. They have a “been there, done that” attitude toward all zoos now. *Sigh.* Since this is a free attraction (love those!), I’m hoping I may be able to talk them into a short visit in the future.
What are your favorite attractions when visiting Chicago?