Joe and the kids had never been to Chicago before, and I had only visited once to hang out with a friend during Northwestern’s version of Spring Fling-a decidedly un-family friendly activity. We’d heard it was a fun, family-friendly city, so we thought it would make a great weekend adventure before the kids went back to school.
I have to say: I kind of developed a crush on Chicago. The winters definitely rule it out as a place to live (not that we ever want to leave Philly!), but there is so much to love:
*The public transportation is awesome… and surprisingly clean. It is as clean as the metro in DC, and the “L” doesn’t have that crazy “No drinking, no eating rule” that always makes me think someone is going to come out from behind a column and snatch the juice cup out of my kids’ hands. We spent a LOT of time on the L-to and from the airport, around the loop several times, etc. Elijah had a mission to ride as many lines as possible during our stay-we managed blue, red, brown, green, and pink as well as several buses.
*Even though it’s way cold there most of the year (maybe because it’s so cold), people seem to really enjoy the weather when it’s nice. There were little balcony gardens and green roofs all over the city. And apparently they have some nice green markets too. I like that Chicagoans (is that the right term?) make hay while the sunshines and bump up their Vitamin D levels whenever possible! And people are obsessed with those architecture boat tours. We didn’t end up taking one, but it’s definitely on our list when the kids are older.
*The public green spaces rock. We went to two playgrounds while we were there: one right off Michigan Ave near our hotel and another by our friend’s apartment. They were so great: multiple jungle gyms and one had a splash area. We didn’t know this so we didn’t bring swimsuits, but we improvised with underoos (Elijah was not happy about this: “You should have known there was going to be a water play area!”).
And of course, Millenium Park’s splash area was awesome. This time we were prepared! Remy and Elijah both loved it, especially the random huge jets of water that came out. We wanted to visit the famous Bean sculpture, but alas, Transformers 4 was filming that day so we had to skip it.
*The food choices are insane! We went to Pizano’s for some deep dish pizza when we first arrived, and the kids were literally delirious with hunger (despite the fact that they both had lollipops, snacks, and other goodies on the plane). I think the whole “tomato sauce on top of the cheese” phenomenon kind of blew their minds.
And there are so many awesome vegan-friendly places to choose from. The first night we went to Native Foods, which was casual, fast, and super tasty-all bonuses when you are with overtired little travelers. The kids didn’t love the mac and cheese (but they are not mac and cheese fans in general), but they loved the lavender lemonade and the watermelon agua fresca. Joe got some crazy, loaded fake chicken sandwich, and I loved my macro bowl with house-made tempeh and lots of kale-yum!
Slightly less healthy, but verrrrry delicious were the offerings from very veg-friendly Chicago Diner. The strawberry milkshake was the fan favorite, and Joe was beyond excited to have a seitan reuben. I had a tasty mushroom and vegan cheese sandwich (thank you, Chicago Diner, for having gluten-free bread!), Remy had a veggie burger, and Elijah chose a Philly cheesesteak, although he ate so many of the accompanying waffle fries that he didn’t have much room for it (luckily, Joe was on hand to help him out!)
*Dinosaurs!! Pythons!! Crocodilians!! Although kind of a pain in the butt to get to (due mostly to traffic caused by Transformer filming-damn you, Marky Mark!), the Field Museum was definitely worth the trouble. Elijah has become very interested in dinosaurs lately, so we were thrilled to see Sue, the T-Rex. They also had a very cool exhibit on Africa and a wonderful reptile area. The museum is in a complex along with several other attractions, like the aquarium, but we were all pretty wiped after gallivanting all over the city.
By the way, there is an awesome play area in the Philly airport-who knew? It made our time waiting to board the plane fly by (hardy har har). Seriously, the kids loved it so much, when we were landing, Elijah said, “Can we go to the play area for a little bit?” It was created in conjunction with the Please Touch Museum. Fun!
And today Elijah goes to kindergarten. If I can stop crying long enough to click the button on my camera, I will include pictures of Elijah in the fabulous Ralph Lauren outfit he chose himself while in Chicago.