Looking for somewhere to take your family that appeals to all ages? Consider Chicago, its home to world class museums, amazing architecture, fun parks and fantastic shopping! I’ve been there countless times, and it never gets old! You might think that because I’ve been so many times I would just forgo the usual sites and visit just one or two… Nope, we did our best to fit it ALL in! Are you ready!?
Take a walk down the Magnificent Mile, a 13 block stretch of North Michigan Avenue that runs from the Chicago River to Oak Street. Shopping, restaurants, and world famous landmarks line both sides of the street! The John Hancock Center, The Historic Water Tower and the Tribune Tower to name just a few.
The Tribune Tower
The Tribune Tower is of particular interest to me because because of the stones from famous landmarks around the world, which are embedded in the facade! We used to stop here when I was a little girl and I remember looking at all the stones, but I had never been to any of the places. This time when I went back I had been to many of the places!
Who knows maybe that’s what helped to spark my love of travel? Oh, and there is a Dylan’s Candy Bar located on the ground floor so if you’re in need of a break from all the walking, you’re in luck, or at least the kids are!
Keep walking along Michigan Avenue and cross the Chicago River and you’ll come to Millennium Park. This is a wonderful place especially on a warm spring or summer day! You’ll find many activities of interest to the entire family here including, concerts, gardens, art and architecture, water splash fountains for the kids to play in, tours and more!
A park favorite is the Cloud Gate Statue sometimes referrd to as The Bean. It’s quite a marvel and we all love looking into it and at it! Millennium Park is a true oasis in the middle of the city.
The Art Institute
Just south of the park on the same road you’ll find the Art Institute of Chicago, a definite must-see. The building is beautiful with giant iconic lions perched out front.
The museum is filled with many iconic works of art, Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, American Gothic by Grant Wood, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat and many more! Before he lost interest, it had been a pretty long day, Elliot was quite excited to recognize a Vincent Van Gogh painting he had studied in his after school art class!
My saving grace with Elliot were the Thorne Miniature Rooms. There are 68 miniature rooms each one set inside a small glass window. They are all constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot with every single detail created perfectly. Like tiny little doll houses but without the dolls. We all loved this and it was a perfect way to end our visit!
Buckingham Fountain located about a 10 minute walk from The Art Institute in Grant Park, is another favorite. The fountain is lit up at night on most evenings, and I recently learned that it is one of the largest fountains in the world! Beautiful!
Just two miles south from the downtown area, and you’ll find the Museum Campus, a large park, which sits on the shores of Lake Michgan, and is home to three of Chicago’s most popular science museums: The Field Museum of Natural History, The John G. Shedd Aquarium, and The Adler Planetarium. They are not only world renowned institutions, but they are housed in incredibly iconic buildings impressive in their own right.
The Field Museum
I’ve been visiting the Field Museum since I was a little girl and I never get tired of it! I love that I’m lucky enough to share my joy of this special place with my own children. The Field Museum is a magical place with three giant floors each full of countless wonders. Upon entering the museum you’ll be standing inside Stanley Hall which is two stories high and the length of the building!
The Shedd Aquarium
This is another place we’ve all been enjoying since we were young and we have definite favorites here too! High on our list are the Beluga whales, the penguins, the Caribbean Reef, the snapping turtle.
The building’s architecture is incredibly grand and even the chandeliers have an aquatic theme! They just don’t make them like this anymore! The front of the building has been named a national historic landmark!
I’ve saved the best for last!
The Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry is one of my all time favorite museums! It opened its doors in 1933 and is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere, which means you’ll want to allow a lot of time here.
This place is magical! Really! While the other places we visited are spectacular in their own right, they don’t allow for much other than looking, observing and reading. The Museum of Science and Industry is a place where you learn by DOING! Yep! You get to touch almost everything! There are levers to pull and buttons to push, you can make storms and tsunamis, do experiments, create a toy top and watch it go down the assembly line, tour a real submarine from WWII, go into a coal mine, learn about genetics by visiting the baby chicks, climb aboard farming equipment, and visit Colleen Moore’s Fairytale Castle… just to name a few!
Are you interested in ships, trains, or space? It’s here! How about bicycles, airplanes and the human body? Yep, it’s all here too! They have live demonstrations, special exhibits and so much more!
My must-see exhibits are: The U-505 Submarine, Colleen Moore’s Fairytale Castle, Science Storms, The Great Train Story and the current special exhibit. On our last visit the special exhibit was Numbers in Nature and it involved a mirrored maze which Elliot lead us through!
We love to have our photo taken at the old fashioned photo studio and have tried to take one every visit for the past 13 years!
I just can’t say enough about how great this place is. We’ve never been able to see everything we wanted to see before the closing announcement came over the loudspeaker. It’s just that great!
The Drake Hotel
Although there are many great places to stay in Downtown Chicago on this trip we chose The Drake Hotel located at the end of the Magnificent Mile. Not only is it on the National Historic Register, but my parents got married there 52 YEARS ago on the 4th of July! I thought it might be fun for them to revisit the place where they got married all these years later!
I alerted the hotel to our special occasion! There was a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries waiting for my parents when they entered their room! What a nice touch!
Tips & Advice:
- Chicago has a City Pass which includes many of the attractions mentioned in this article. If you think you might visit more than one of them it’s absolutely worth it!
- You can grab a quick bite on the go in Millennium Park, or there are sit down restaurants.
- When visiting the Art Insitute DON’T climb on the lions, even for a quick photo! If you do be prepared for a loud roar followed by an even louder voice telling you to get off of the lions.
- Don’t miss the Modern Wing which has a stunning view of the Millennium Park Band Shell.
- If you have limited time pick up a brochure with a list of the top must-see items in the Art Institute and where to find them. The Museum is open late on Thursday evenings.
- Buckingham Fountain’s light and music show takes place most evenings for 20 minutes every hour on the hour.
- I highly recommend purchasing tickets or your City Pass to all of these places online prior to arrival online before you arrive. The lines are very long!.
- The MSI is located in Hyde Park about six miles from The Field Museum.
- All of the museums have multiple food options in all price ranges. The MSI has an old time ice cream parlor
- The Drake Hotel offers “family” rooms with two complete bathrooms which makes for a smooth morning routine.
Pin for later: