As we begin to embark on another fun adventure (I’ll tell you more about this shortly), I would be remiss if I didn’t share about our 2018 summer travels. I say travels but what I mean is our “house swap” in Chicago. Our former pastor at MissioDei grew up where we currently live in Birmingham. After finding out his family was taking a sabbatical and wanted a place to rent for the month, we quickly offered our house. Instead of rent, we asked if they would be up for swapping. And that’s exactly what we did!
Let me go back and say that my husband and I lived in Chicago for 6.5 years; we also had our daughter there. As you could imagine, we were thrilled to get the chance to come back for a whole month to enjoy all that Chicago has to offer especially in the summertime. We had a lot of things we wanted to do but at the top of our list was hanging out with friends! The best part is adding in kids now and watching them become friends.
The first full day we were in the city was my son’s fourth birthday. He’s all about animals so normally that would mean a trip to the zoo. However, it was pouring that day so we hit the Field Museum instead to see all the “stuffed animals”. I have been there many times but it’s always fun to see something again through my kids’ eyes. The Field Museum has exhibits for all ages! We book ended his special day with sweet rolls from Ann Sather (eat one million of them and you’ll thank me later) and Laschet’s Inn (delicious German restaurant across the street from our old house). My taste buds were loving it!
Speaking of food, no trip to Chicago or blog post would be complete without some commentary on the food. It’s a wonderful foodie town! Clearly we’re all about family-friendly spots, so here are some of our other favorites:
- Resi’s Bierstube – more German food
- Billy Goat Tavern – original location is on Lower Michigan
- Lou Malnatti’s – deep dish…yes, it’s a Chicago chain, but it is a fine example
- Fountainhead – great for a date night with couples on a roof top
- Southport Grocery – best grown up pop tart
- Bakin and Eggs – order a flight of bacon
- Hot Chocolate – amazing shrimp and grits
- Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club – all the Mexican breakfast plates are delicious
Next door to the Field Museum is the Shedd Aquarium which we also enjoyed. We purchased tickets ahead of time so we could quickly enter but don’t miss getting dolphin show tickets. They put on a great one! Another hot spot is the Adler Planetarium. We didn’t have time to visit but it’s an excellent way to spend a day with a great iMax.
If you’ve followed us at all, you know we visit a lot of zoos. Well Chicago was no different and we enjoyed two different ones in this city! Lincoln Park Zoo is a free zoo (pay for parking) in the heart of the city. They have made some beautiful renovations especially for the polar bear and macaque monkey habitats. There’s even an underwater viewing so you can watch the polar bear play in the water. If you’ve never been the next best thing behind the animals is the amazing skyline view. It doesn’t get much better than that!
A little outside the city is yet another zoo, Brookfield Zoo. It is quite expansive with an amazing monkey house, polar and brown bears, bison and lots more. Even though my kids are four and six, they still love to ride in the stroller. We make our Baby Jogger Summit (single) work as a double as the second child sits in the foot rest. It’s a great workout pushing the two of them around!
If you have a daughter, you must go to the American Girl Doll Store. It’s their flag ship store and will even amaze the adults by the sheer square footage of the store and detail of history in the dolls from a little girl’s understanding. If you have a boy, then hop over to the LEGO Store next door.
We took a couple different days to enjoy the water….Lake Michigan and Hamlin pool. Sitting on the beach of Lake Michigan anywhere from Foster Ave to Oak Street Beach is such a fun experience as you can see the city skyline from the sand. I also took the kids to the pool that we always frequented (it was a block from our house) when we lived there. It has a “Sand Lot” feel to the scene.
Other favorite neighborhood pastimes are all the amazing parks/playgrounds around the city. They all offer something different. Our favorites from this trip:
- Margaret Donahue Park – splash pad as well as playground equipment in Lincoln Park
- Park – on Simmons Dr (east of Lake Shore Drive) just north of Lawrence; I couldn’t find a name for it but was great before our day at Montrose Street Beach
- Coonley School Park – special to us as our house backed up to this school playground
- Peterson Park – close to the house we stayed in during this visit
Another park I cannot forget to mention is Wrigley! We took the kids to their first Cubs baseball game…must do! I think Chicago has a lot of must do though!
More adventures downtown Chicago included seeing the Crown and Buckingham Fountains and The Bean via a drive through Lower Wacker. My husband and I used to have fun afternoon drives on Lower Wacker and Lake Shore Drive in his fast car. They’re such fun staples to Chicago especially as we read about them regularly in a couple Chicago books that we have. One day I took the kids and a friend of ours to Navy Pier to see Peter Pan The Musical and enjoy a ride on the Ferris Wheel (which I had never done).
One last summer pastime is strolling through one the many street festivals around the city. We took the kids to Logan Square Street Festival and had a blast eating and shopping at the vendors.
Chicago is one of our favorite cities in the world…and most familiar! We are currently in a very unfamiliar city…Dubai. We love to mix old and new experiences for us to fall in love with places even more and discover what makes another place amazing. Here’s to discovering Dubai!
Teddy about to blow out his candles in an Ann Sather sweet roll.
Chicago skyline from Lincoln Park Zoo
Bea touring Teddy around the American Girl Store
Enjoying Margaret Donahue Park
Go Cubs Go
Peter Pan the Musical at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre