Weekend to Chicago with kids in October

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Aug 24th, 2009, 12:23 PM
  #1
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Weekend to Chicago with kids in October

Hello everyone - I've been reading through messages to get ideas for a weekend we are planning to Chicago in October; as it's our first time there and we're traveling with our three kids ages 7 - 12, I could use some advice and direction!

1) We will arrive on a Friday afternoon and we have tickets to Blue Man Group that night. If we get to the theatre early, are there kid friendly places to eat around Briar Street Theatre? Also, our hotel is the Holiday Inn in Hillside; would we be better off driving to the theatre, or taking public transportation (which I'm trying to wrap my head around and sort out, the public transportation....)

2) Saturday we would like to see the Field Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, and Shedd Aquarium. Is this too ambitious? I believe the first two close by 5, and Shedd closes at 6, and they all open at 9 or 10.

3) Sunday we are thinking about the Hancock building or Willis Tower; then we absolutely have to go to the Lego Store and American Girl Place for some shopping with the kids.

We'll have to take the train (the El, right?) in from our hotel each day; once we're downtown at Willis Tower, would it be just as easy to grab a cab or take the train up to Mag Mile for shopping?

If there's a better way to sort all this out, please advise; and please excuse me for spelling errors (no spell check, gasp!) or mis-use of local terms. We are so excited to go, and just want to make it flow as best as we can. Thank You!
Maris is offline  
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Aug 24th, 2009, 12:56 PM
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1. Public transportation once you're in the center of town is pretty easy, especially since your kids are old enough to walk up and down steps themselves. The L and buses are really easy to use. I don't know the Hillside area, but hopefully someone familiar with the area will chime in on your best options. Is there a particular reason you chose the Hillside HI? I would pay more (to a point) to stay in the center of town vs. spending a lot of time getting in and out of town each day. If you state a budget, someone might be able to help with a different hotel closer to the center.

2. I think that's a very ambitious plan for your Saturday, and my guess is that your kids would be museumed-out after one or two (you know your kids best, though, of course). I imagine that kids would like the Field and Shedd more, but I'd pick the Field and the Art Institute, and maybe think about doing one on Saturday and one on Sunday (with shopping, Hancock, etc filling out the rest of both days).
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Aug 24th, 2009, 12:57 PM
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First advice - change hotels, quickly.

You want to do 3 days downtown and you're staying 30 miles away. What's the point?

You will be spending about 3 hours a day on public transportation or a small fortune on gas and parking if you decide to use the car. Btw, the car may save you little time, but nothing significant.

Get a room in the downtown area.
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Aug 24th, 2009, 12:57 PM
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I meant 15 miles each way.
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Aug 24th, 2009, 01:03 PM
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We're using reward points for the hotel, which we couldn't use with the downtown hotels, and this is part of how we're able to make the trip...we did heavily weigh this before we booked a hotel; the hotel has a pool and breakfast too, which all led to the appeal for the trip. We'll be using public transportation to get in and out of downtown, and did anticipate about 30 minutes each way (we'll only be downtown Saturday and Sunday.)

Please keep the comments coming, thank you!
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Aug 24th, 2009, 01:14 PM
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It will be ~1 to 1.5 hours each way. The Friday night trip will take 1.5 hours on public transportation and about an hour or little less with a car.

we'll only be downtown Saturday and Sunday.

On Friday, you will be on the near north side of Chicago, meaning NORTH of downtown, so even longer trip.

I'm sorry but I see this as saving a penny to spend a dollar.... JMHO.
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Aug 24th, 2009, 01:18 PM
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Like others I think your mseum day is too packed. What my wife and I have usually done is the Shedd in the morning. Have lunch in the aquarium and then the Field Museum after lunch.

At some point you'll know when every one has had enough of the Field.

From there I would be tempted to pass on the Art Institute and explore Millenium Park arounf the ARt Institute.

If you really want to do the Art Institute then I'd suggest the Thorne Miniatures gallery and some select things you are interested in, rather than slogging through.
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Aug 24th, 2009, 01:32 PM
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Hillside is really a tough location. If you can switch even to another Holiday inn on the outskirts of town (think O'Hare) you'll be better off. Or, bid on a 4* hotel on priceline and you can get a room downtown for less than $75 a night.

Blue Man group is a fun show with kids. Sit in the first 20 rows if you want to get messy (you can tell the splatter zone becasue they provide plastic sheeting). Plenty of places to eat right there. Mexican, Italian family style or pizza are your best bets.

I echo the above with a morning at Shedd and lunch there, too (best museum food service). Field would be a good choice for the afternoon (it is a little like Night in the Museum). If you have Harry Potter fans and science lovers you might want to take a cab to the Museum of Science and Industry instead.

On Sunday, I'd suggest Mag mile shopping luch at the Food Court at Water Tower Mall and a trip to the top of the Hancock. Maybe the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier if the kids like that and want to get close to the Water.

Be sure to check out what is going on the weekend you'll be in the City. I think the marathin is in October and it gets crazy and very hard to get around.

Have fun,

Kevin
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Aug 24th, 2009, 01:37 PM
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Agree with AAFF. Yikes on the commute - especially during rush hour - and I haven't been up there lately, but there's bound to be construction somewhere.
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Aug 24th, 2009, 02:11 PM
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I live a few miles down the road (west) from the Holiday Inn in Hillside. It's not 30 miles from downtown, we're about 20 and we're farther out. But it's certainly not a convenient location from which to commute. How are you planning to get to public transportation? To the best of my knowledge, there's none within walking distance of that hotel. In fact, given the fact that it's just off 290 (the Eisenhower), I don't think you can walk anywhere from that hotel!

The closest EL to there would be the end of the Blue line in Forest Park. And there is a paid parking lot there. But it'll take you a good 15 minutes to drive there and, frankly, it's not the "most comfortable" choice for travel during off peak periods. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's not safe. But I'd certainly choose a train over it.

I agree with those who've suggested trying to switch to another Holiday Inn. If not one downtown, then one closer to public transportation. Believe me, I understand wanting to save a few bucks. As jent103 knows, my son and I recently stayed in a Holiday Inn Express in London that was a ways out because we got a very good deal. But it was still in London and it was a 7 minute walk from the Underground.

If changing hotels isn't an option, I'd suggest contacting the hotel to ask them about the nearest train station. It can't be too far from the line my husband takes in to work (a 40 minute commute from our town). But I don't know what the closest station would be or what the parking options are there. I know that at our station it's very difficult to get a parking place on a weekday after, say, 7:00 in the morning. There's some on-street parking but it's not available until after 9:00.

My son said he thinks Maywood may be the nearest station to that hotel. If so, I don't think that's somewhere I'd want to be leaving my car. Obviously, you can drive to a different station. But, as others have said, what are you giving up in time in order to save the money?
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Aug 24th, 2009, 02:19 PM
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CAPH,

did you see my correction, posted at the same time?

I said, 15 miles each way.
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Aug 24th, 2009, 02:26 PM
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I definitely agree with all those who suggest finding a different hotel. Even if you can't use your points at the downtown HIs, maybe there's an HI closer in or at least closer to an L or train line. As CAPH52 mentioned, there's a big difference between staying somewhere further out but still accessible via public transit, and staying somewhere where you have to drive a ways just to *get* to the train.

I'm a big fan of Hotwire in Chicago (just got myself a room this morning for September, actually), but I don't know if it or Priceline would work for your family. If you were planning on all staying in one room, you may not be able to guarantee somewhere with rollaways, etc. However, on both sites it looks like you can request multiple rooms, which would work if your kids are very self-sufficient or if the adults are willing to split up. No guarantee of adjoining rooms, though, although the hotel might very well be accommodating if you're not there on a busy weekend like the marathon.
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Aug 24th, 2009, 02:56 PM
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At those ages, my kids would have hated an art museum, but they loved the Museum of Science and Industry. Even an entire day there wasn't enough. But your kids may have different interests than mine did.
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Aug 25th, 2009, 12:05 AM
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Sorry, AAFF, I missed that. And I'm sorry if I gave the impression that my point was to correct you. What I was trying to say was that, while Hillside isn't all that far out, that doesn't make it convenient.

I think even staying farther out might be preferable to this particular hotel. I'm sure it's an okay location if you have business in that area. And if you were going to drive in (which I don't recommend in terms of traffic and parking), it's a straight shot on the Ike. But, again, it's not a good location for public transportation.

You might also be interested to know that it's very close to a landfill. I think it was supposed to close this past spring so the smell might not be as bad as it used to be. (I haven't been by there recently.) And I would imagine that once you're in the hotel with the windows closed and the air on you probably can't smell it....
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Aug 25th, 2009, 12:31 AM
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I just reread this and realized that you won't be needing to park at a train station on a weekday. But the trains don't run as frequently on the weekends.
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Aug 25th, 2009, 12:40 AM
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I'm sorry. I should also have made it clear that by "train" I mean Metra (the commuter railway system that runs on regular railroad tracks) as opposed to the EL (a system of above ground, ground level and underground "trains" more akin to NYC's subway or the T in Boston).
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Aug 25th, 2009, 09:11 AM
  #17
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Ok, I'm going to re-look at our hotel optinos and at least see if something is closer to public transportation. I do believe our hotel has a shuttle that will take us to the train station, but I will check first with them to see if it's whenever we need it, how long it takes, and how their system works.

I think we'll move the Art Institute to Sunday - that will be a quick trip through, there is a painting there that we have a replica of at home, and the kids want to see the real thing! I'm sure we'll spend some time there, but it won't be an all-day (or even all-afternoon) visit.
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