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We had our first non-camping, non-relative-visiting family vacation in August... and guess where we went!
That's right - Chicago, IL!
Sure, it was less than 4 hours away, and it's very much still a Midwestern USA city, but it was someplace we'd never been (other than my wonderful 40th birthday fun bash), we were away from home, we stayed at a hotel for 4 (four!) nights, and there were museums and touristy things to do!
Day #1 - we left home, later than I'd planned on because I didn't know Mr. Kluges had as many things on his to-do-before-we-leave list as he did, but we arrived in Chicago late afternoon, checked into our hotel (kitty-corner from the Harold Washington Library with its giant owl corner decorations) and started seeing the sights!
First, we walked to the Buckingham Fountain, hung a left, and continued on to the Bean (aka Cloud Gate - see above for photo... one of about 4 that I was in the entire vacation*). Following supper at a pizza/pasta joint, I convinced Mr. Kluges that it wasn't too late to walk to the Sears/Willis Tower...where their line management skills (aka hiding lines behind lines behind lines throughout different parts of the "experience"), led us (aka me) to believe we could maybe see the city at sunset from the 103rd floor. We didn't make sunset, but gosh, the lights were pretty anyway!
Day #2 - The Field Museum!
The one thing the girls kept talking about seeing in Chicago was Sue, the world's largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus skeleton. So we blocked out all of Saturday to go to the Field Museum. We have an extended membership at our local kids' museum, which meant we could get in for free... plus paying for any extra shows/exhibits we wanted to add on. We added on a package of all three extra exhibits (Caves of Lascaux, Bioluminescence, Underground Adventure) and one show - about Sue of course!
The day was a complete success. We walked down, arriving just before 10 (the museum opened at 9), and stayed The. Entire. Day. The museum closes at 6, and our girls were like, "What? We have to leave now? But there's more to see!!!" We figured they'd last until mid-afternoon at best, but were pleasantly surprised at how engaged they both were (even the 6 year old!) in the exhibits. We saw the show of course, but we managed to get to all three of the extra exhibits as well, plus maybe half? of the regular exhibits. A day well-spent, and a place we'd definitely visit next time as well!
|Our Cicada Girls, emerging from their exoskeletons in the Underground Adventure|
Day #3 - Outside in the Heat
So, after a full museum day, I thought it would make sense to do non-museum-y stuff the next day. So we got tickets for an architectural boat tour for the morning**, with plans to see the (free) Lincoln Park Zoo after, and fit in a little Navy Pier action at the end of the day. Great plan... except for the heat. It was HOT.
|Blue snow cones are an awesome way to beat the heat!|
|Navy Pier's Ferris Wheel - not as big as the one at the World's Fair back in the day!|
Day #4 - The Sky and the Sea
When planning, we'd given the girls the choice on the last full day of going to the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, or the Museum of Science and Industry. The second two especially had been recommended to us, but we decided to let them choose. They picked the planetarium, which was fun. We first did a quick walk-through of the very cool public library near our hotel, then did the (really too long) walk down to the Adler and enjoyed much of the day there. Once again, our local kids' museum membership got us in for the basics, and we paid to add on a couple of shows. Really, this was only a half-day attraction, but we still had fun.
Looking out the windows at lunch, we'd seen a public beach very close to the Adler, and since I'd been carrying around the girls' swimsuits in our daypack, after our time at the Adler, we stopped by for a couple hours of fun playing in the waters of Lake Michigan to finish out our days in Chicago
Day #5 - The Return, with Bonus Friends!
While it's always hard for me to end vacations, we did have an added bonus for our last day - a visit with some very, very dear friends who'd moved away earlier this year. G, her husband, and their adorable children were just a scant 5 minutes off the highway, as she'd reminded me when hearing about our trip. How could we NOT stop and see them on their new/in-the-family farm? It was hard to leave, but we hope to visit them again soon (and stay longer next time!)
All in all, a wonderful first family vacation, with a lovely (if not as quiet as desired) hotel, lots of sights seen, relatively patient children, and many memories made and photos taken. The girls have already been talking about what they want to see whenever we go back - the Shedd Aquarium, revisiting the Field Museum, and seeing the Museum of Science and Industry top the list so far. Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, I did have them dress alike most days to make it easier to find them in a crowd, and yes, we did plan their souvenirs-from-when-I-went-to-the-Field-Museum shirts for that day, and ones about the solar system for the planetarium day, and ones-from-Mr.K's-business-trip-to-Chicago for the first day, 'cuz they (and I) thought that was cool.
* Note: Both of the pix on the first day that I'm in were taken by lovely strangers, after I'd offered to take pix of them (a couple at the Bean, a woman on her own at the SkyDeck) first. Too often the photographer isn't in the picture, and I'm happy to take a photo for somebody else... and then I'm not shy about asking them if they'd mind doing the same. Works great!
** Where we learned that Chicago comes from a Native American word Chigagou meaning something along the lines of "field of the stinky onions."