Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that the kids can go with you every place and sometimes you don’t want them to come! There is something to be said about a parents weekend getaway and the importance of taking time with just the two of you.
If you are looking for a weekend getaway maybe give Chicago some thought.
On a detour before the TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) conference we decided that Jamie and I would spend 48 hours exploring Chicago. It was also an overdue 10 year wedding anniversary getaway and I honestly can’t remember the last time we took a weekend away with just the two of us… no kids, no friends, no extended family. So it’s been too long and I forgot how relaxing it can be. The two of us are actually kind of fun to be around :)
We jammed in a lot over the 2 days, and probably with kids we wouldn’t have covered as much ground. But, here are some options of things to check out when in Chicago with or without kids.
What You'll Find in This Post
Architecture River Cruise
This open-aired Chicago River cruise will take you through the main river channel and allow for you to get a different view from the water of all the architecture Chicago has to offer. Our guide provided an overview of the different buildings, architectures and history of the Chicago skyline.
We had the fortunate (or unfortunate event) of experiencing the typically Chicago changing weather and getting completely drenched by a rain shower on the boat. We may have missed a few bits of information on some buildings, but thankfully they had a lower deck that we could run for shelter from. The company that we used was Shoreline, but there are many tour operators along the river. We were impressed with the amount of knowledge and information our guide provided and he was able answer any questions we asked. The tour takes about 1.5 hours but well worth being able to get the unique view from the river. Bonus – We were able to enjoy a few drinks along the river cruise too!
I would highly recommend this kind of tour and would take our kids on it without any hesitation.
More Info: www.shorelinesightseeing.com
360 Chicago (John Handcock Observatory)
A ridiculously fast elevator ride will take you up to the 94th floor with 360 views of Chicago. Really cool! I am not from “the big city” so I loved this view and wonder how it could ever get old. When we first got up there the visibility was low due to scatter showers, but within 15 minutes it cleared up again to be able to see the remarkable views.
There is also a small area outside that is enclosed and allows you to hear, feel and see just how high you are.
Since we had no kids with us, we decided on having another drink at the bar that is located on the same floor. We recommending sitting back, relaxing and enjoy the views!
For an extra fee you can experience the “Tilt” where you lean up against the glass and the glass moves outward so there is nothing between you and 94 floors other than glass. We skipped on this one, maybe we’ll save it for when we take the kids there :)
More Info: www.360chicago.com
Millennium Park & Cloud Gate
Millennium Park provides a green space with a backdrop of high-rise buildings. It’s an open space where the arts, culture, architecture and people flock to for concerts, exhibits, tours and activities. We only spent a short while exploring the space, but next time we are in Chicago we will most likely spent more time in the area. Check out their website to get details on all the latest activities and exhibits for you to see.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion – Outdoor concert venue. Hosting live events and movies in the park!
Cloud Gate – The famous “Bean”! Have some fun trying to figure out the “Bean” and finding how many times you can find yourself in the reflection.
Crown Fountain – Two 50-foot fountains that display faces of Chicago citizens give the illusion of the water spraying from their mouths. Kids played and splashed around in the water, so check it out if you are there from mid-spring to mid-fall when the water is on.
Plus, go early to avoid crowds!
More Info: Millennium Park
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Night Tour
After walking around for most of the day, we needed to give our feet a break. So we went on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour and saw the lights of Chicago! The city looks completely different during the night, and this was the perfect way to get a another view of the city while making the most of our time.
I will be saving this tip for another city tour with the kids. It would have been perfect after a long day with them to just sit on the bus and relax… Plus who doesn’t like a double-decker bus?
More Info: Big Bus Tours
Chicago Cubs Baseball Game
There is nothing more American than going to a baseball game! The entire city becomes alive with Cubs fans that all start heading towards Wrigley field hours prior to the game. Take the Red line on the transit to Addison and you won’t miss it!
It is a full day event if you want to enjoy the complete atmosphere. Even if you know nothing about baseball, just visiting Wrigley field is amazing on its own. Plus, there is the food – Peanuts, hotdogs, ice cream and crackerjacks!
More Info: Chicago Cubs
Where We Ate:
You can’t go to Chicago without eating Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza. So we tried out Giordano’s pizza on Superior street and was not disappointed. The restaurant was running like a well-oiled machine. You give them your name for the wait, pre-order your pizza, have a drink (or two) and then when you are seated you just give them your pre-order slip. In no time at all your pizza arrives and steaming slices as you dish out each slice to enjoy.
Where We Stay:
Very good location in downtown and close to train. One block in from the river and we lucked out with a glimpse of the river in our hotel views with a free upgrade. Good access to variety of restaurants close by along the river. Plus, it was easy to find since it is located directly beside the “Corn Cobs”.
We used the train system or walked. The train system is easy to use once you get your bearings. I recommend having a quick look at the train system map at home before and knowing exactly what train and stop you need to go to if coming from with Midway or O’Hara airports.
Money Saving Tips:
We purchased the Chicago Explorer Pass ahead of time from Viator. You can choose 5 attractions out of a list of items and have 30 days to use it. I knew of a few of the places we wanted to see ahead of time and factoring in the cost this did save us a few dollars. The only thing that I didn’t like about it was that I felt we lost a little bit of spontaneity along the way.
Note: Make sure you have a copy of the Explorer Pass bar code or print it out. We only had the copy of the Viator confirmation and it was not what they needed at the locations to accept it.
P.S. – Thank you to our family for watching the kids while we were away. Without you we would not have been able to take this time away! You rock!