Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
How to Feel Like a
Chicago Family
W hat's the best part about visiting Chicago with your kids? On the positive
side, Chicago is a big city. You'll find a rich diversity in cultures and languages
and the opportunity to expose your kids to many different sights, sounds, and
people. Free activities abound: Parks, a zoo, and the beach are a few of Chicago
kids' favorite things—and they won't cost you a penny. Transportation is easy:
Kids love the “El,” carriage rides, trolley cars, and buses. And most activities are
located around a compact city center—a brief bus or train ride from hotels on
the Magnificent Mile or in River North or the Loop will get you to any of the
downtown museums or the Lincoln Park Zoo. You'll always find a coffee shop
just around the corner, great restaurants and shopping, and miles of walkable
terrain for you and your kids.
The negatives? Again, Chicago is a big city. Streets, shops, and museums can
get crowded in the summer. Panhandlers can be a problem in certain congested
downtown areas. Traffic can be hazardous—you'll need to be extra-careful
around busy intersections. ( Warning: Cabs will not slow down for anyone—
even families with kids). The “El” is not always stroller-friendly and getting
through the station onto the train can be challenging. You may find yourself
having to walk up flights of stairs carrying the diaper bag, stroller, and more.
Is it worth it? Millions of visitors who flock to our city every year can't be
As I wrote the first edition of this topic, my husband and I were preparing to
welcome our first child. As I write the second edition, we are seasoned parents
of an energetic toddler, and we've road-tested many of this new edition's sugges-
tions for experiencing Chicago with kids. And as we became part of the com-
munity of Chicago parents, many of them shared valuable, been-there,
done-that advice. I have those Chicago parents to thank for the wide variety of
activities and opinions you'll find in these pages.
In this topic I am working on three assumptions: One is that when you travel
with kids, there has to be something in it for them. You can't expect kids to enjoy
a vacation filled with adult activities. (In fact, take a kid into a fancy department
store or to a fine French restaurant and the parents are unlikely to enjoy it
either!) But while we want to keep the kids happy, the goal of this topic is to find
activities that offer something for parents and kids alike.
The second assumption is a preference for the simple over the complex. Take
your 3-year-old to the zoo and she may wind up spending more time watching
squirrels chase each other across the lawn than the big cats emerging from their
dens. And that's okay. Later on, she'll appreciate the larger animals! In this topic
I emphasize some off-the-beaten track, simple (and often inexpensive) ideas for
entertaining your kids. Many of these ideas have been contributed by a cadre of
Chicago parents.
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