Another check on the bucket list. I took my three sons on a trip to the big city, and I did it all by myself too, well with a ton of input from this forum! It is something that I wouldn't have even thought about doing before I became a single mom, so it feels like a big accomplishment.
We took the Amtrak in without event, then took a cab to Embassy Suites Downtown and were lucky that our hotel (booked through Lastminutetravel at a rate of about $150 with taxes and fees per night) was ready for us. My kids were thoroughly impressed with having a suite and we enjoyed our stay here. The breakfast was perfect and though we only caught the end of one manager's reception, that was nice also.
We followed our loose itinerary throughout our stay and it worked nicely. All that planning paid off!
First stop was Portillo's dor lunch. We took our first public bus ride over to Field Museum and wandered around for a couple hours. None of us have a real interest in dinosaurs, but Sue is still impressive. My 8-year-old was particularly fascinated with this museum, the shoe collection, mummies, ancient tools, etc. We were too tired from the early start to navigate our way to Grant Park, so we skipped it, and took a cab straight to Millenium Park. It wasnt hot, so I didn't bring extra clothes, but the fountain called out to my youngest son. My 11 and 14-year-olds opted to stay dry. Then to The Bean. I didn't get it until until I saw it; we could have played and photographed it all day. We headed back to the hotel because we were exhausted, stopping at Trader Joes to stock our fridge with 17 cent water versus the $4 water in our room. We had some drinks and snacks at the manager's reception, then the kids had a sudden burst of energy and wanted to swim.
We woke up on day two to a steady but mostly light rain that lasted all day. We didn't really want to go to another museum, and my 14-year-old had been really looking forward to the Sears Tower. Fine, the plan will go on, but I had read so many times not to bother on a rainy day, so I went grudgingly thinking it would be a waste of $. Speaking of money, we passed the money museum on the way and stopped in. We enjoyed this much more than we expected. Onto Sears with my youngest begging not to go the whole way. He was scared, but I couldn't let my oldest down, he had been talking about Sears for months, and I couldn't leave him on the streets of Chicago, so up he went. He loved it up there, we all did. Visibility was limited to two miles and it was still awe inspiring, i can only imagine it on a clear day. Next up, a water taxi to the Water Tower for a quick browse and lunch at Food Life. This was one of the many times I got lost. No matter where I walked my GPS said 0.2 miles away. When we got out on the streets it was pouring. Oh no! Today is game day! Atop at the hotel to change into our Cubs gear, take the red line to Wrigley with expectations of a delay or cancellation, but like magic it stopped raining, the weather was perfect for a baseball game, and the Cubs won! Woohoo! We stopped in the Rock and Roll McD for a late night snack, but the upstairs was closed.! This was our favorite day. We played in the rain all day, and didn't let it put a damper on our day. Getting lost brought us to many other sites and shops along the way. Oh, and somewhere in here we stopped in the Bentley dealership, total boy heaven. How they know what a Bugatti is and how much it costs I will never know.
We weather was perfectly beautiful the next morning. Excellent because today's plan was the Lincoln Park Zoo, which was beautiful and much larger than I expected. I loved the Lincoln Park area. We took a bus down towards North Ave Beach and walked in the wrong direction for far too long on the wrong side of the highway because I kept thinking that there would be somewhere to cross soon. Finally, we turned and walked back the other way. My youngest son was so happy to cool off and blow off some steam in the water and everyone had a good time. We were on a mission to have deep dish pizza and now was our only chance. Well, guess what? We got lost again and it took us forever to get to bus stop headed back downtown. We were now starving and parched and happy to see the restaurant half empty, but it still took forever just for our waitress to take our drink order. 20 mins later we had drinks, and the people in the table behind us left angry because of the bad service. No way were we leaving without our deep dish though, and once we did get our drinks the service was fine, just under staffed. My middle son declared it the best pizza ever. Back to the hotel for a short time, then to the Navy Pier. I almost think I may have preferred the location of the Embassy Suites in this area. It would give me a better start/end point, being directionally challenged, and I just iked that area, a little less bustle, and being nearer to the lake. We had a 6:45 time slot for the Seadog. Oh my, did we get wet! Thankfully, I had a poncho, but the kids were drenched. They loved it! I loved the views when the boat briefly stopped. We walked around the pier, the kids bought some cheap souvenirs, pretzels, and Garrett's Popcorn. Oh my gosh, that stuff was good! Then we went on the ferris wheel just as the sun was setting. We went to the hotel, had a quick swim, and the boys declared they were going to stay up most the night and wake up at 5:00 a.m. So the trip would last longer. I said sure knowing they would be out like lights and that they were!
Thanks so much for all your help, past and present since I utilized the search countless times. The trip was absolutely perfect. The city is beautiful, though I felt like I couldn't appreciate it's beauty fully because I was too busy keeping track of my kids, answering their questions, and finding my way. I could look at just the exterior of the buildings for days. The bus drivers and many city people were so helpful in helping me navigate. That is my only regret, not learning how to nAvigate the streets, busses, and trains ahead of time. YES, I had Google Maps, but it didn't help when it's start and end point just says "walk 357 feet to Wells street." how the heck do I know which way Wells Streeet is? Ahhh well, shoulda studied how to effectively use Google Maps while on my own familiar streets! Our long excursions brought us to unplanned adventures, but it sure was frustrating in the moment! I seemed to be the only person lost, so I don't know what my problem was.
An important note, I always felt safe while we were there. This was a big concern of mine traveling alone with children. In Detroit if you take one wrong turn while in the relatively safe downtown, you don't know where you will end up. Downtown Chicago is much more vast, so this wasn't a problem, and believe me I took a lot of wrong turns!