School is starting soon but we decided to take a quick trip to Chicago after finding a great deal on flights through Frontier! It just so happened that dad had a business trip there so though he was on a different schedule, we did get to meet up for half a day. I decided on Hampton Inn Downtown which was the perfect location for our quick itinerary. They included a great breakfast and also had an indoor pool which is always a great thing to have with kids.
When you are planning out your trip, you will find lots of recommendations for the City Pass or the Go Pass. It can be a great deal but it is worth taking the time to price out the activities you think you will actually do. For us, it made sense to get a pass for me but not for the kids. Our top attractions were: Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Sky Deck or 360 Chicago, Art Institute and an architectural cruise. The kids all get free entry (13 & under) to the Art Institute so that determined that a City Pass for them was not a bargain after all. We ended up not making it to the Field Musuem but my pass cost still evened out and the bonus was that it gave us VIP access to bypass most of the lines.
Because of our great (inexpensive!) flight, we arrived close to 10pm so I went ahead and booked a car through A1 limos . With four of us, a group shuttle or a taxi would not have been much less and the difference was worth not having to stress about hailing a cab with 3 tired kids. Our driver was early and very friendly and got us to the hotel quickly and safely where we went straight to bed!
We started our day at the Shedd Aquarium where we met up with dad! We got there right after 9 when it opened which was great because we walked straight in and there were no crowds. My City Pass included a 4D movie but we had to purchase for everyone else ($5). It was fun but definitely not necessary and it was only 15 minutes. You won’t miss out if you pass on this one. We did get tickets to the aquatic interaction which are free but first-come, first-serve. It was a fun show with dolphins and a sea lion.
After the Shedd, we walked north along the shore first stopping at Buckingham fountain which the kids were very impressed by. We continued on towards Millenium Park and took our time looking at the fountains, Cloud Gate (the bean sculpture), and even got to listen to a symphony practice at the Pritzker Pavilion.
It was lunchtime so we went another block over to Giordano’s for deep dish pizza! They offer great lunchtime specials if you can’t get everyone to agree on toppings but we went for a small half cheese, half pepperoni. The pizzas take 30-45 minutes to bake so with kids it’s probably worth ordering an appetizer. We went for the sampler which was a great choice!
After lunch we said goodbye to dad who had to go back to the office for a bit and we headed a few blocks back to the Art Institute. The kids were full and still in a good mood so we grabbed a map and began at the Thorne Miniature Rooms. This was a great choice- the kids were fascinated! The exhibit was perfect for kids- there was a step ledge along the entire wall and the room went in a loop. The kids loved going from frame to frame to peek into the rooms.
After the rooms we headed up to the 3rd floor to see the Impressionist Exhibit which included several Monet, Van Gogh, and also the famous Seurat painting which was fun to see up close (to see how it was truly made from tiny dots of paint).
I had booked our river cruise for 6:30 pm. After looking at the options, I decided to go with Wendella– they had the best reviews and also their tour was 75 minutes versus 90 on some of the other boats. I figured for the kids, we needed to keep it short. Adult tickets are $35 and kids are just $16.50. If you are early, check out the Ghiradelli store inside the Wrigley building. 6:30 was a great time to go- the weather felt great and we ended the tour right at sunset. The kids loved the boat ride and even enjoyed learning about the city, the Chicago fire, and the architecture!
I had intended for us to head back to the hotel and swim after the boat but the kids still had lots of energy! We needed dinner anyway so we decided to go ahead and check out the nighttime view from the top of the Hancock Tower! The kids were so awesome, they walked all the way down there (with a quick stop in to see the American Girl Store). We had a blast riding to the top (my entry was included in the City Pass and we also got to skip the line because of that!). We also opted to do the Tilt– basically you stand in a glass section and they tilt you out 30 degrees over the city! The kids thought it was the best thing ever- it was definitely a thrill! Last year we went to the top of Rockefeller Center during the day so it was cool to see a city view at night this time.
We ended our night with dinner at the Cheesecake Factory which is at the bottom of the Hancock Building. Easy to find something for everyone and then of course cheesecake for dessert! It was a fun and full day!