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Four Days in Chicago

2016 November 26
by Becky

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Instead of spending our whole Thanksgiving break hanging out around home, we decided to take a little trip somewhere we’ve spent far too little time: Chicago!

It’s just 4 hours away and we’ve only ever made quick trips for Ikea (before we had one in St. Louis), work, and waaaaay back in college (with Greek Affairs when Stu and I had just started dating). I was determined to fix this massive mistake, booked an Airbnb in Lincoln Park, and we hit the road early Monday morning.

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Not to jinx anything, but our kids are surprisingly amazing in the car. It may be because they never have iPad privileges unless we’re traveling, so unbridled scree time is like heaven. I grabbed two sheet pans at the dollar store, sprayed them with whatever paint I had around, and they made perfect lap desks for the trip. The boys used them to color, eat snacks, and play with toys while watching videos. Headphones are key to keep them interested in shows, we love these LilGadget ones that connect to each other, perfect for when the kids want to watch the same device. It was fairly blissful for three hours, which was the time it took to get us to Ethan’s dream: Legoland.

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Several months ago Ethan asked about this place. He kind of put it out there one day casually, like “hey would this be possible?” and it happened to work out well on this trip. Sure this one isn’t like the California amusement park version, it’s actually a “Legoland Discovery Center” located just outside the city in a gigantic shopping mall, but it’s indoor and the perfect size for ages six and under. We bought tickets online in advance (because the price doubles at the door), walked right in, and spent 2.5 hours doing everything. We watched a 4D movie, went on the two rides, checked out the incredible Lego replica of Chicago, built pirate ships to sail, learned how Legos are made, and did plenty of creating. It wasn’t overrun, being a Monday and all, which made the visit all the more enjoyable.

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We drove another 40 minutes to our adorable Lincoln Park apartment before walking a few blocks for Chicago style pizza at Lou Malnati’s. The pizza was solid and the kids had fun—my only suggestion would be to change out their sauce for some Black Thorn pizza sauce, add a little kick! The boys loved watching the El pass by across the street.

Once back “home”, Ethan couldn’t wait to sleep in his super cool bunk bed…

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We stuck with the pack n play for Finn, hoping for a good night sleep, but we were tempted to see how he’s do in a real bed. We might as well have experimented since they were up at the crack of dawn anyway, Ethan waking us at 4:30am because a part of his new Lego set broke off in bed, Finn yelping at 5:15am just because. (I almost cried. I don’t function well before 6 unless we’re doing something really exciting, like flying to Paris)

Stu turned on the babysitter (Netflix) and let me sleep…smart husband. Nonetheless, we got an early start to the day’s main event—the Shedd Aquarium.

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The Shedd is HUGE and gorgeous. They have everything, including Beluga whales!!! We spent several hours walking through every exhibit, the place went on forever. Favorite creatures: sharks, GIANT spider crabs, and whales. Favorite exhibit: The Reef. Crowds were a little thick due to school trips, but it was fun seeing all the kids having such a wonderful time screaming out creature names and asking questions of their teachers.

Post aquarium we had to make a very important lunch stop.

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Shake Shack, how do we live without you? For a family that doesn’t love fast food, we can put a hurt of some burgers, fries, and shakes at this joint. Do I feel disgusting after eating it? Sure! Worth it. Come Spring 2017 we’ll have one of our own in St. Louis and it will. be. a. problem.

To get the blood flowing again we popped across the street to Millennium Park with “The Bean” in our sights. Turns out Stu had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned this park, so when we rounded the corner he exclaimed, “Oh, it really IS a bean!” Turns out I’m not nuts.

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Mean old dad made Finn put his frozen fingers in some warm gloves. Torture! The weather wasn’t warm per se, but it was totally tolerable and we were prepared. Sometimes not all of us wanted to use those preparations to keep our bodies warm.

Cloud Gate is the actual name of this sculpture and it really is beautiful, reflecting the cityscape and visitors that constantly surround it. We had fun walking around and under it, watching the ice skaters on the other side. From there we headed into the park, past the phenomenal concert venue, across the highway on a fantastic bridge, and found ourselves in the middle of maybe the coolest playground I’ve ever seen.

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Maggie Daley Park is more like 10 playgrounds, all in the same vicinity, separated by winding paths and breathtaking views of the city. Ethan climbed up several REALLY tall slides with no fear and was like a hamster in a wheel…too bad baby bro was on a short fuse and made our visit sort of short. We need to spend lots of time in this exact spot next Spring.

That bridge picture was worth the whole trip.

We were supposed to go out the night, had a sitter lined up and everything, but what with our early wake up and busy day, we were pooped and cancelled. A night with take out on the comfy couch and a side of HBO GO sounded pretty darn good.

Day two was drizzly and grey so we started with breakfast at Batter and Berries, before we headed to the Navy Pier Children’s Museum. Our Magic House membership got us half price tickets to this kid haven. We dug for dinos, raced cars, put out fires, climbed towers, build skyscrapers, trying to get it all in.

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This museum is impeccably clean and well maintained, filled to the brim with super fun activities and toys, all managed by really friendly, helpful staff. The water table room was out of control. We couldn’t even take Finn in there, he would have been soaked, but Ethan had a blast. After lunch we headed up to the Navy Pier roof, Ethan had been eyeing the giant ferris wheel for two days and a ride seemed appropriate.

 

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When Finn looked like he was about to drop—going on day three of “casual nap” aka no nap—we had to make a decision. Where to go next? The obvious choice was the Field Museum, especially when we discovered our St. Louis Science Center membership got us in for FREE. We only had about 1.75 hours so we started in the most important spot…Sue.

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A docent filled us in on this giant T-rex while Ethan stood riveted, taking in her ever word. He answered all her questions to, showing off his intense dinosaur knowledge. We headed for the Evolution exhibit, where the rest of the dinosaurs lived, and I was shocked to see how many they had—this place trounces the Smithsonian. The full size Apatosaurus was probably my favorite. We walked too quickly through the Native American exhibit (I could have spent the whole day thereand dedicated our last few minutes to the Egypt exhibit, complete with mummies which kind of blew Ethan’s mind.

Lucky for us, Finn passed out two minutes after we arrived, so it was smooth sailing through the museum.

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We finally wore them out.

Grabbing dinner on our way home at Whole Foods (I know, not local but still so good), we spent one more night snuggled in our apartment before heading home the next morning. This trip was so ridiculously fun that we’ve decided to spend every Thanksgiving week exploring a new city. We had a fabulous albeit belated feast with friends on Friday and had the rest of the weekend to put up the tree and decorate.

Turns out family traditions don’t always have to be “traditional”.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Chicago with kids? What did we miss?

One Response leave one →
  1. Sandy schon permalink
    November 27, 2016

    That was an awesome trip!!!! So many things to do and see and enjoy!! That sounds like a perfect “traditional” idea for your family. Great idea.

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