If you are staying in the suburbs and traveling to the Magnificent Mile, kids
will love a ride on the Metra commuter train followed by a ride on a shuttle boat
operated by Wendella Commuter Boats ( & 312/337-1446 ), which float daily
April through October between a dock below North Western Station, the com-
muter train station across the river from the Loop, and the Wrigley Building (the
boats dock on the northwest side of the Michigan Ave. bridge). The ride, which
costs $1.50 each way (or 10 rides for $11) and takes about 8 minutes, is popu-
lar with both visitors and commuters. The service operates every 10 minutes
from 7am to 7pm.
Wendella recently added a water taxi of its own, a 38-foot, 74-passenger river
bus operating daily between the North Western and Union Station train stations
and the River East pier (just east of the Michigan Ave. bridge) beginning at 9am.
A one-way fare costs $2.
I wouldn't recommend trying to ride bicycles on the city streets with kids.
Although the city of Chicago has earned kudos for its efforts to improve condi-
tions for bicycling (designated bike lanes have been installed on stretches of Wells
St., Roosevelt Rd., Elston Ave., and Halsted St.), it can still be rough trying to
compete with cars and their drivers, who aren't always so willing to share the road.
If you are determined to bike with your kids, though, you might want to take to
the lakefront path or area parks. Make sure you wear a helmet at all times!
Bike Chicago ( & 800/915-BIKE; bikechicago.com), with five locations
including Navy Pier, rents all sorts of bikes, including tandems and four-seater
“quadcycles,” baby seats, and in-line skates. Bikes rent for $8.75 an hour or $25
a day. Bike Chicago leads free bike tours of Lincoln and Grant parks from Navy
Pier at 10:30am and 1:30pm daily, and from North Avenue Beach at 11am and
2pm. Helmets, pads, and locks are free. The shop is open daily from 8am to
10pm in June, July, and August, weather permitting. From September through
May the shop is open daily from 9am to 7pm.
The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation ( & 312/42-PEDAL; www.chibikefed.
org), a nonprofit advocacy group, is a good resource for bicyclists. The group
publishes several bicycling maps with tips on recommended on-street routes and
parkland routes, and a guide to safe cycling in the city.
Bike and Roll also rents all types of bikes and in-line skates from two loca-
tions: Navy Pier ( & 312/595-9600 ) and North Avenue Beach ( & 773/327-
2706 ). Bikes rent for $9.75 per hour or $34 per day. The shops are open daily
from 9am to 7pm, weather permitting.
3 Planning Your Outings
Planning a day of touring a city with kids is a little like mapping out a military
campaign: You should have a list of sights to hit, and a precise idea of how you
will get from one activity to the next, leaving time in between for potty breaks
and snack stops. If you plan carefully and center all your days' activities in close
proximity, you can save yourself a lot of wasted transit time.
Prime areas for families include the Magnificent Mile, with the John Han-
cock Center, American Girl Place, FAO Schwarz, Niketown, and other shop-
ping destinations; Streeterville, home of Navy Pier and the Museum of
Contemporary Art; River North, with lots of chain establishments, including
ESPN Zone, Hard Rock Cafe, Rock 'n' Roll McDonald's, and Ed Debevic's;
Lincoln Park, with the park, zoo, and botanical gardens; Museum Campus,