Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Family Adventure in Chicago

The minute Jason accepted his new job I told him we are going somewhere during his week off. The Dells? Naah, we had already taken c there three times. And he's only 19 months old. I can't remember who suggested Chicago but it was perfect. It was about time c saw where it all started. Sure, we couldn't take him to Cherry Red, the cheesy Lakeview nightclub where we met nine years ago because, sadly, it was closed. But we could show him the sights.

I went to Hotwire and found a 4 star hotel for $80. Sweet. We got The Allerton Hotel, on Michigan Avenue (the Magnificent Mile), an historic hotel in the middle of everything. I suggested we stay two nights because by the time you pack everything we need for c and drive almost three hours it was time to come home. Plus, we could take advantage of the time and see our friends.

The first stop was the Shedd Aquarium. I went there for the first time with my sister, Kim, and my niece, k when I was laid off in 2004. It was a great time to explore the city! The only memory that stands out is the amazing dolphin show. Unfortunately we got there at 2 pm and the shows were sold out. But it didn't matter. I expected to get in free for the Community Discount Day but this didn't include the really cool exhibits like the Caribbean Reef. Imagine a 90,000-gallon circular floor-to-ceiling exhibit with turtles, sharks and more. It was remarkable. Breathtaking. Usually I am distracted with whether or not c is having fun but I didn't care--I was having too much fun myself!



We then headed to the Polar Play Zone where I dressed c as a penguin. Here he is playing on the rock structure. It would look pretty authentic if it wasn't for the jeans and shoes. And the penguin exhibit was awesome! There were penguins everywhere. My mom loves penguins so I took lots of pictures. They were adorable. We also got to see the dolphins. I guess they were in-between shows. It was so peaceful to watch--I could have stood there forever. Ironically they had booths along the wall where a man was working. It was blissful.

If you go:
I can't believe I didn't see this on the website! The Shedd is offering a special deal for everyone who weathered the storm: Buy one Shedd Pass, get one free. Valid until February 28, 2011. Print your coupon.


Next stop: Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier with our friends Leah and o. c and I got there first and made our way to the Chicago Fire Department exhibit. It was hilarious! First, I put c in a fireman's coat to really get into the spirit. It is used as a teaching tool to show children what to do in case of a fire. c may be little but he knew exactly what to do when he got to the room with the pretend fire. They had gray netting to simulate smoke coming down from the ceiling so kids would be forced to crawl through. And c did exactly that.

c plays along in the "Get Low and Go" bedroom

Then we headed over to the WaterWays exhibit complete pumping water, squirting water, wheels and pipes. We followed the other children's lead by putting on a little raincoat but it didn't matter. C was soaked. Luckily, I have been carrying a change of clothes in my diaper bag since c was a baby. We had a ball splashing in the water and playing with little boats and rubber duckies. It was fun to watch the older children turn a huge water wheel to show how people have been generating energy for years.

Besides sightseeing c had a great time just strolling around the big city. He loved looking up at the big flags and building and watching the traffic. He was really excited about seeing fire trucks, too. Sad but he loves the sirens.


We met up with our friend, Emily, and her boys at Rainforest Cafe. Leah and o came, too. What a zoo! Picture a huge hotel ballroom with round tables and kids everywhere. I told a server they must really love kids to work here. She agreed enthusiastically. The food is average at best but the scenery is pretty spectacular. The gorillas are really life-like and freaked me out. Warning: The 'thunder storm' happens every 22 minutes. Our four-year-old dining companion was scared and wanted to leave before the next storm. c was brave but he wanted me to hold him. I can't blame them--it freaked me out!
Plan a Trip to Chicago
I get so sad when I hear Wisconsinites bash the Windy City. They complain about the traffic, the expense, the drive down south. I get all of that. But there are alternatives! You could take a bus or train to the city to avoid driving. Once you get there you can take cabs or The El train. As for the expense, you are right, Chicago is expensive. But you can plan a visit during off-peak times like we did to find deals on hotel rooms. And then search the web for deals like the Shedd BOGO I mentioned above.

Have you taken a family trip to Chicago? Please tell us about YOUR adventures on our Facebook page!

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