Summer Vacation: Explore Chicago

Summer is officially here and I am continuing with a collection of trip recommendations. We often overlook opportunities to explore in our backyard, at least I do. Last summer I embarked on hitting some sites that were obvious to tourists but I had yet to do them. Here is a quick recap of some options to try next time you visit Chicago. I am not suggesting these can be done in one day—they are highlights of a few trips.

I have one son, who was 9, and sometimes the adventure was for him to have a first-time experience downtown.

We did breakfast at Margie’s, which is an ice cream parlor located in the Bucktown neighborhood. Now that I am thinking about it, another breakfast there may be in order!

Water Taxi Ride

Let’s be clear: the weather in Chicago is not great for about six months out of the year. Summer is really the most reliable time to venture around. And it is also the best time to be on the water/Lake Michigan. A ride on the Chicago Water Taxi is a fun way to skip traffic and take a look at the architecture that makes the city unique. You can board at Union Station and take it to Michigan Avenue. A walk down the “Magnificent Mile” provides a terrific mix of retailers and history. The views are spectacular day or night.

Navy Pier offers visiting exhibits, places to eat and rides. The giant

Fun at Navy Pier

ferris wheel is new this year (replacing one that was here) so that’s worth a visit. Live music and an IMAX theatre provide other options to keep everyone occupied. And fireworks shows occur on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the summer, from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The museum campus has a cluster of wonderful options to explore. If you are prepared to do some walking, venture through Millennium Park, over to Buckingham Fountain, then back to the Art Institute to take in an array of sites. The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers tours to maximize your experience.

Visit Chicago this summer and make some new memories with your family!


Summer Vacation – Destination NYC

Summer is officially here. You have probably already made your plans but I will share some tips from our last vacation that just could not have been better. I have one son, who was 9, and neither he nor my husband had been in New York City. I lived there once upon a time, so I love to visit and explore. It was fun to plan for that first experience and fill three days with a wide range of sites.

I had never used a City Pass but found it really helpful. One purchase, many options to try (a few I might not have considered on my own), and a quicker line to enter (occasionally) even during a holiday.

Our first stop was the American Museum of Natural History. My son

loves dinosaurs and this place had a showcase of bones. We began the day here and then walked across Central Park. The park is huge and there are so many corners, ponds and statues to see. We happened upon Belvedere Castle. Aside from the unusual building there were musicians playing live for us to pause and enjoy. We continued onto the Metropolitan Museum. As a family, we had looked over the map and there were so many exhibits it was hard to narrow our options. Depending on how many days you can spend there, I would suggest picking 2-3 to fill an afternoon. History continued to be the theme for the day, so we took in the Arms and Armor, The Temple of Dendu and The American Wing.

If you have a major holiday fall during the trip, it is good to know that the Empire State Building is open 365 days a year. We went there on Christmas Day.

Using my PC and smartphone to plan and navigate was key to a successful vacation. I used Trip Advisor for assistance when picking a hotel and could not have been happier with our choice. We stayed at the Warwick. It is located Midtown, which made it convenient to walk to a number of places. It was smaller than many bigger named chains, which was nice after a hectic day. We also found the 2nd Avenue Deli and while there are tons of delis you can try, our meal and service were great. I also used the app TodayTix to check availability and prices of Broadway shows. You can get some terrific deals on short notice.

A few more days and the mix of options in NYC might be endless, but definitely make time to go to New York.