Chicago with teens

Old Apr 16th, 2008, 11:30 PM
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Chicago with teens

We will be in Chicago in May for 4 nights with our three teenagers, 13, 16, 19. We're staying just outside of the Loop toward Miracle Mile.

We have tickets for Wicked on one night.

My husband's top choice is one of the architecture tours. Would you recommend the walking or boat tour?

I will insist on a couple of hours at the Art Museum.

After that we will focus on the kids. I think they would enjoy the Field museum. What else would you suggest for this age range. They are pretty adaptable - not jaded - this will be the first trip to a large city for the younger two.

I would love your suggestions for things they might enjoy doing. As well as fun, unique places to shop.

Having Chicago style pizza is a top priority. What is your favorite?

Suggestions for restaurants would be great. Nobody is a picky eater - we are all fairly adventurous and really enjoy trying new foods. Everyone enjoys Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese food. We all like steak as well. Probably not Mexican. As far as price, we wouldn't mind splurging on one or two dinners but wouldn't want to go anywhere too elaborate or dressy. Mostly casual but unique and fun dining is what we're looking for.

We would also love suggestions for brunch on Sunday as we have lots of time before the plane leaves.

Thanks so much.
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Old Apr 17th, 2008, 03:24 AM
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We go to Chicago frequently and my teens love it. The Museum of Science and Industry is very cool - there is a lot to see there including a German U Boat (requires separate ticket), flight simulators as well as most of the exhibits.

The aquarium is also very nice - they have a Pacific NWest exhibit that features dolphins and beluga whales.

Navy Pier is a fun place to stroll, hang out and eat - although the food is okay it is not the top of charts. NP has a big ferris wheel for awesome views of the city.

You can go to the top of the Sears Tower or the Hancock Building.

If the weather is nice check out Millenium Park and the bean. It is probably close to your hotel.

And of course the shopping - Michigan Ave is a teenage girls dream (if she likes to shop) My girls do!
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Old Apr 17th, 2008, 04:15 AM
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I second the votes for the Museum of Science and Industry and the Shedd Aquarium in addition to the Field Musuem. (In fact, we probably liked those two a little more than the Field Museum.)
If you think you will visit multiple museums, then take a look at the City Pass. We got one a few years ago when we visited Chicago with our teens and it turned out to be a cheaper and easier alternative to buying individual tickets for each museum.
Finally, I would suggest a night at Second City. Our teens (16 and 13 at the time) loved it and we did not find it inappropriate for the younger teen. I'd book my tickets in advance for that as well.
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Old Apr 17th, 2008, 04:29 AM
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All the previous museum suggestions are definitely good ones. Second City is fantastic also. The Lincoln park zoo is nice too, in good weather and the conservatory is right there too.

I would recommend the boat architectural tour, especially on a nice day. The tour takes you up the river and out on to the lake to get a good view of the skyline.

Our favorite pizza is Giordano's, there are a few locations downtown. The Billy Goat Tavern is a fun "Chicago place," if you remember it from SNL. "Cheezborger, cheezborger" Boston Blackies on Grand also makes an amazing burger and potato skins. Chicago Chop House is good for a great steak. Tapas are pretty good her, try Cafe Ba ba ree ba or Cafe Iberico.

For brunch, I definitely recommend the Bongo Room in Wicker Park or the South Loop. Plan to wait a little while though, but it is worth it. Ann Sather's also has amazing cinnamon rolls, but I don't think there is one downtown.

Have fun!
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Old Apr 17th, 2008, 05:40 AM
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What a great choice for a first big city visit for your teens! Yes, do take the architectural boat tour as it offers great views of the city and you'll be able to sit and rest up a bit after all the other walking you'll be doing.

Although I suspect that you've chosen the Field Museum based on location, your kids will enjoy the hands on Museum of Science and Industry far more. Take the #10 bus along Michigan Avenue there and back and consider purchasing a Chicago Card to extend your perimeters a bit during your visit: http://www.transitchicago.com/

I'll also second Millenium Park, Navy Pier, and the Lincoln Park Zoo.... however, I believe that Second City could prove to be inappropriate for your youngest teen. The Blue Man Group might be a better choice if you're looking for a second night out. Lots of other entertainment and restaurant options can be found at http://www.metromix.com

Your teens would probably enjoy dining at Ed Debevics on North Wells Street. I'd also recommend trying the MarketPlace Food Court in the lower level of Macy's State Street location. This architecturally interesting building houses the second largest department store in the world, certainly making it worthy of a visit?
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Old Apr 17th, 2008, 06:11 AM
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GREAT responses so far. What you do in May will be very weather dependent. I'd suggest riding the El up to Wrigley Field and taking a tour if the Cubs are on the road. If they are at home, my first choice would be to go to a game. If you are not interested in that, you could stop at Murphy's Bleachers during the game and enjoy the atmosphere.

In warm weather, Lincoln Park Zoo and pabbleboats in the lagoon there would be on my list. Also, a walk on Oak Street beach and north along the lakefront from there.

The Art Institute and the Aquarium would be on my list with the Field close behind. I would not do the Adler Planetarium. Also, yes to Science and Industry but it is not on the museum campus.

For dining, try Chinatown if you'd prefer authentic or Ben Pao near your hotel for an awesome, but Americanized version of the same thing. Great Thai restaurants will also be all around. For a splurge, try Le Colonial for dinner with or without the kids. Also, all of the Lettuce Entertain You restaurants will be great for the whole family. It is a local restaurant group worth getting to know.

A Segway tour on the Lakefront would be fun and Buckingham Fountain and Grant Park would be nice to see in good weather.

Shopping on Michigan Ave. is not just for girls with the amazing Nike, Apple and Garmin stores almost next door to each other.

Chicago is a great food town. You might want to try Greek town (Greek Islands is always a good bet) and the world-class Mexican at Frontera grill can't be beat. My vote would also be for Giordano's for pizza.

Don't forget possible campus visits to Northwestern and University of Chicago if there's any interest from your kids.
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Old Apr 17th, 2008, 06:36 AM
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I'm not sure about brunch places downtown, but you could head to Chinatown for dim sum. Take the Red Line Subway toward 95th Street and exit at Cermack/Chinatown. We normally go around 11 o'clock to beat the crowds.

If you'll be relying on public transit during your visit you want a visitor pass, not a Chicago Card. Visitor passes allow unlimited rides on all CTA buses and trains for a 24-hour period. A 2-day pass is $9 and a 3-day pass is $12 and can be purchased at the rail station of either airport. The vending machines are separate from the regular farecard machines and accept cash and plastic.

As for pizza, options besides Giordano's are Lou Malnati's on Wells and Hubbard; Pizzeria Uno/Due in the Wabash/Ohio area or Gino's East on E Superior or Wells & Ontario. You can ask hundreds of people and never get a consensus of which is better, so try a couple and make your own decision.

You can reach all the things you want to see via public transit but there has been heavy maintenance on the Red and Blue Lines during the last several months. Service in some areas has been suspended and replaced by shuttle buses and some trains have been rerouted from Friday night through Monday morning. Check the Transit Chicago for updates a day or two before you arrive.

For the Museum of Science & Industry, the Number 10 bus only runs on weekdays between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The rest of the year, it's Sat and Sun only. You can board it on Michigan Ave north of the river or on State Steet south of the river. If you'll be traveling to MSI when the Number 10 isn't running, catch the Number 6 bus at the same stops. It will drop you one block from the museum.

Finally, if you're going to be at Millennium Park and the Art Institute, take a walk through Grant Park and see the Buckingham Fountain. (It was used in the opening of Married with Children.) It has light shows after dark. Enjoy your trip.
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Old Apr 17th, 2008, 11:47 AM
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Wow! Thanks everyone. What wonderful replies with great suggestions.

So it looks like everyone agrees that we should move the Museum of Science and Industry to the top of the list along with the Shedd Aquarium.

AmyCal: My daughters, the two younger of my teens, also love to shop so I'm sure we will be spending time on Michigan Avenue.

Longhorn55: Second City is a great idea. I think our son, the oldest, would love doing that. That might be something fun for my husband and son to do while the girls shop.

skopman: Thanks for the recommendation of the boat tour. That's what we're going to do. I got online today and looked at purchasing tickets. Do you know if they typically need to be purchased in advance? I wrote down your restaurant suggestions.

Retired_teacher: Thanks for the websites and the advice. We will definitely be using public transit so that is really helpful. Macy's sounds wonderful.

ChiDad: We are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather. With all the rain this year - who knows? It's toward the end of May so perhaps that will help. Would you believe, I booked the flights and hotels without thinking of going to a Cubs game. Sure enough they are in town the week before our trip and the week after but not during. So, you can tour Wrigley Field when they are on the road? If the weather is good I think a Segway tour would be great fun. I'll look into that.

Citylights: Wow, great information. I think we will definitely go to Chinatown. Chinese food is a favorite for the whole family. I've written down all your pizza suggestions and will check Transit Chicago before we go.

Thanks everyone. I'm taking notes. Still looking for any other tips and suggestions.
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Old Apr 17th, 2008, 11:53 AM
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Just thought of something else. Citylights mentioned rail transportation from the airport. We will be flying Southwest into Midway. We are staying at Homewood Suites downtown Chicago. We were just planning to take a taxi from the airport to the hotel. Would you suggest a different/better way to get there? Oh, if it matters, the plane arrives about 9:30am. We will all have our own carry on bags. Nothing checked.
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Old Apr 17th, 2008, 11:58 AM
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Can 5 people fit in one cab? If not, I would opt for the El (actually, I would opt for the El anyway, but at 9:30 on a weekday, maybe driving is not so bad)
 
Old Apr 17th, 2008, 01:12 PM
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You can't fit more than 4 people in a normal cab. There are minivan cabs which may hold more, but I've never taken one.

From MDW, the Orange Line train would take about 45-60 minutes and the cost for a single ride is $2. It runs daily until around 1 am. The Blue and Red Lines run 24-hours.

To reach Homewood Suites, follow the signs through the terminal that say CTA Trains to City. Take the Orange Line to Roosevelt and transfer to the Red Line toward Howard. (The Roosevelt station has elevators and escalators.) Exit the Red Line at Grand Avenue the the Homewood Suites is 1 block east.

If there is construction in the subway tunnel, the Red Line will be diverted to the elevated track and not stop at Grand. Check with the Customer Assistant at Midway about where to catch a shuttle or transfer. At the worst, you can always take the Orange Line to State/Lake and walk about 6 blocks to your hotel.
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Old Apr 17th, 2008, 02:29 PM
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This will be a great family trip for you! There's so much to see and do, and the city is clean and beautiful. I've been several times, but have never been able to take my kids with me.

You can't scratch the surface at the Art Institute in 2 hours, though. You'll be amazed at the depth of every collection-I stayed until my back was killing me! Your kids are old enough to appreciate it. If you get to go again in the future, you can hit your favorites. The collection of impressionists will take your breath away.

I second Wrigley Field-old time baseball atmosphere at its best.

A great German place was Berghoff, I believe, but don't know if it's still open.

There are some lake cruises that at night have great skyline views.

Have fun!
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Old Apr 17th, 2008, 02:53 PM
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Viaggiatrice--We stayed at the Homewood Suites when we visited Chicago a few years ago (GREAT place to stay!) and did exactly what Citylights recommended for getting there from Midway. We, too, were just traveling with our carry-on luggage and the trip worked out perfectly. Since this is your first trip to a big city with the younger kids, they should love the adventure of starting out their vacation with a subway ride.
Also, before you go, I recommend you check out the Trip Planner on the Chicago Transit Autority website. I printed up lots of routes, maps, etc. because we bought a visitors pass and relied exclusively on public transportation to get us around Chicago.
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Old Apr 17th, 2008, 10:02 PM
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I don't have much to add to everyone's excellent suggestions except two things:

1. the charred pepperoni pizza at Gino's Esat (and I don't even LIKE pepperoni!)

2. shopping at Water Tower Place. The first time I took my 18 year old niece there she LOVEd it!
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Old Apr 18th, 2008, 10:12 PM
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Thanks again everyone. More great advice! So we will be taking the train from Midway - sounds like the best way to go.

Thanks Citylights for the great directions.

Centex: I know that I will want more time at the Art Museum and my oldest will be ready to stay as long as he can. I'd bet real money that my husband will be the first one to be "done".;-) He can take anyone who is tired and go get a snack.

Longhorn: I'm glad to hear a confirmation of the hotel choice. Makes me feel better.

cheribob: Thanks for the hints. Charred pepperoni sound interesting.

You guys have been such a help. I'll let you know how it all goes.
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Old Apr 19th, 2008, 06:32 AM
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Hope you have a tood trip. During the ride on the Orange Line, you'll get one of the best views of the skyline between Pulaski and Western if you look out the left side of the train.

Also remember to not block seats or the aisles with your luggage. If you're not sure where your heading, just ask. Most people will be glad to help.
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Old Apr 19th, 2008, 09:34 AM
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viaggiatrice, few suggestions for you to consider.

The marketing name is the "Magnificent Mile" in Chicago.

When you go to the Art Institute (and do allow some more time than 2 hours), if your husband is ready to leave earlier than the rest of your party, then he can just cross Michigan Avenue and go to the historic Sante Fe Building, where the Chicago Architecture Foundation's location (the ArchiCentre) can be found. There is a big blackboard there which shows all of the tours available, as well as books, DVDs, etc. for sale. And, for the record, I think the CAF River Cruise is a true must-do if you have even a teeny-weeny smattering of interest in architecture.

Keep in mind you might "museum-out" your kids. Do stuff outside when the weather is good. Instead of the Segway tours (which the CAF even has), you might consider a guided biking tour, such as Bobby's Bike Hike. Take a look at their website, look at the reviews on travel websites (TripAdvisor, etc.) and see if that wouldn't interest you more for a lesser cost.

Only three days doesn't leave much exploring time. However, if you were going on a tour of Wrigley Field one of the days, the N. Southport area is about 5 blocks west of Wrigley Field. You just pick up the #152 WB Addison bus in front of the ballpark - get off at N. Southport.

There are nice boutique shops there, dining options, the historic Music Box Theatre (mini-movie palace built in 1929 which shows docs, foreign films, classics, animation, silents-and it has its own organ played during those, and the like).

Southport Lanes and Billiards still has bowling pins set by hand. It (and Schuba's a little further south) were Schlitz brewery houses and you can immediately tell it from the facades of each. SL&B also used to be a bordello.

Dining options: Violet is a cute BYOB breakfast and lunch place; Tango Sur (Argentinean steakhouse) also BYOB no reservations for parties under 6; Cullen's (Irish pub with live music in the evenings); Julius Meinl (Viennesse kauffehaus); one of the locations of north side's Ann Sathers mini-chain (cinnamon rolls a specialty).

If you are coming at the very end of May, you might be interested in the Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival, not too far away.

The other neighborhoods which I would recommend considering are Wicker Park/Bucktown and Lincoln Square. They each have interesting shopping options and a number of good places to eat. In addition, Lincoln Square has the Old Town School of Folk Music, which has a fine family-oriented schedule but isn't dumbed down entertainment for adults.
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Old Apr 19th, 2008, 07:22 PM
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exiledprincess: Thanks for the tips. Architecture will be one of my husband's top interests so I'm thrilled to hear that the Archicenter is close to the Art Museum. That will be perfect. We do plan to try to alternate outdoorsy and active stuff with the museums. We'll also try to plan according to the weather. The N. Southport area sounds great and it wasn't something I hadn't read or heard about before. Thanks!
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Old Apr 21st, 2008, 05:14 PM
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viaggiatrice, you are very welcome. Your husband would enjoy this bookstore as well: www.pabook.com.

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Old Apr 21st, 2008, 05:16 PM
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My bad. I meant to post the website for the Music Box Theatre as well. www.musicboxtheatre.com
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