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The third is that you will seek out activities that are unique to Chicago. Now,
some people are comfortable going to Hard Rock Cafe or Six Flags because they
have them in their own city—and their kids like that sort of predictability. More
power to you—and those places are certainly listed in this guidebook. My focus,
however, is on transportation, museums, and food that say “Chicago.”
Insiders in the travel business sometimes whisper that Chicago is to the
United States as Frankfurt, Germany, is to Europe: a hub for conventions, a
business destination, but otherwise often considered flyover or airport layover
territory. In this topic I intend to demonstrate to even the most sophisticated
travelers that Chicago is a worthy destination. This city can be a magical place
for families, filled with new discoveries and favorite places you'll want to visit
again and again over the years. Many of my friends recall annual trips to
Chicago with great fondness. Breakfast with Santa at the Walnut Room at Mar-
shall Field's, Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle at the Museum of Science and Indus-
try, Buckingham Fountain's invigorating spray on a windy day—and now,
Millennium Park's bedazzling “bean” sculpture and its funhouse reflections will
soon become part of your family lore, too.
1 Frommer's Favorite Chicago Family Experiences
Chicago has made vast strides in beau-
tifying the city and developing visitor-
friendly attractions. Millennium Park,
a world-class destination on 25 acres
near Michigan Avenue and the Art
Institute, opened in 2004, and it is a
knockout. The architectural highlight
of the park is the Frank Gehry-
designed Pritzker Music Pavilion,
home of the free summer music con-
certs performed by the Grant Park
Symphony Orchestra. Another popu-
lar attraction is the huge elliptical
sculpture Cloudgate (immediately
dubbed “the bean” by Chicagoans) by
British artist Anish Kapoor—his first
public work in the U.S. The dazzling
$450 million park adds to the already
excellent facilities for families, includ-
ing Museum Campus, now (in my
humble opinion) the number-one col-
lection of museums located on one
walkable campus in the country. Sev-
eral years ago the city created the cam-
pus by linking three great Chicago
institutions—the Field Museum of
Natural History, John G. Shedd
Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium &
Astronomy Museum—by rerouting
major streets to make the area more
Even as the city's donors feel the
lightness of their empty pockets now
that Millennium Park is complete,
many of Chicago's cultural institu-
tions are launching new fundraising
drives that will continue to transform
the landscape for visitors. Navy Pier
was rehabilitated and opened in the
mid-1990s, quickly becoming the
city's number-one tourist destination.
The North Loop theater district has
risen from a decades-long slumber.
And the retail expansion along the
city's fabled Magnificent Mile has yet
to slow down. Is it any wonder that
natives of the city have the reputation
of never wanting to live anywhere else?
From the simple pleasures of sum-
mer baseball to the complexities of the
world of science, here are my favorite
Chicago experiences for families:
Encountering Jurassic Wonders:
Sue, the largest T-rex skeleton ever
uncovered, has made the Field
Museum her home. (Don't be
taken aback by her intimidating
presence in the museum's grand
entry hall.) But don't be surprised
if your kids are just as much in
awe of the Field's many classic kid
charmers: a life-size Egyptian
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