Travel Progeny

By 2g1c2 girls 1 cup

26 February

A train to Chicago

I had to go to Chicago this sum­mer to work so I thought I’d take the kids along and make it a long week­end.  Like most lit­tle boys G loves trains.   I’d been want­ing to take the kids up on the train and this was the per­fect opportunity.

View from Nike Town, ChicagoThe Train ride:

It’s about 5 1/2 hours on Amtrak from St. Louis to Chicago’s Union Sta­tion by train– about the same as dri­ving.  Plus, you can’t beat the price– some­times no more than $23 bucks and 1/2 that for each child!  (That is less than the gas it takes or a cab fare from the air­port if you fly.)  Even with­out kids I like to take the 4:35am train that arrives into Chicago around 10.  I thought that would be a good choice with the kids. I envi­sioned them going back to sleep as soon as the train started mov­ing but they were so excited they didn’t go back to sleep until about 45 min­utes before we pulled into Chicago. What a ter­ri­ble mis­cal­cu­la­tion!  They each had their back­pack packed with a blan­ket, bob­ble­heads or cars, note­book, crayons, water bot­tle and snacks. That stuff, games like I spy and the chang­ing view from the win­dows kept them enter­tained.  The best deci­sion I made though was to sit in a car with a hand­i­cap acces­si­ble restroom. It was huge!  Big enough for us all to fit and not touch any­thing unnec­es­sary. What I appre­ci­ate most about the train is that the kids didn’t have to be strapped into a car seat for hours on end and could even get up move around.  They enjoyed their train ride and often ask to do it again.  My father wants to take them on an overnight train adven­ture.  I think they’d love it.

Our time in Chicago:

We stayed at the W– Lakeshore. The loca­tion was great as were the views.  We had wanted a suite but that didn’t work out so we just had a typ­i­cal king room. Turns out that worked per­fectly because of the big daybed by the win­dow. The house­keeper gave me sheets and pil­lows and we turned it into a bed for the kids.  House­keep­ing even made it up every­day when they cleaned the room. Ser­vice was great.  My only com­plaint was that we were charged full price for a 3 and 5 year old for Brunch on Sun­day– ridicu­lous in my opin­ion con­sid­er­ing what they ate.  The other annoy­ance was the loca­tion of the ele­va­tor.  It’s right by the front door and although there are plenty of cars, the hall­way to access them is so nar­row that there always seemed to be a bot­tle­neck with peo­ple get­ting on and off.

The hotel is almost right across the street from the Ohio Street Beach. The kids could see it from the win­dow and that is all that they wanted to do. We went the first day and I couldn’t get them to leave.  It turned out that was good because it became rainy and unsea­son­able cold later in the weekend.  I wasn’t expect­ing to spend so much time there– I wish I had brought some sand toys. Luck­ily they met some local kids who were will­ing to share.  The water was a bit chilly but the kids didn’t care.  There was a bit too much trash and bro­ken glass on the beach for my taste so while the kids played and dug holes with their new friends I col­lected bro­ken pieces.  I was not alone. Many other par­ents were doing the same thing, so after awhile I felt a bit more con­fi­dent that my chil­dren were safe bare­foot.  Dur­ing our stay we came back a cou­ple more times for shorter stretches.

Also in walk­ing dis­tance was Chicago’s Navy Pier.  We could have spent most of a day here tak­ing boat rides, going to shows, eat­ing at dif­fer­ent restau­rants or going on rides at the mini amuse­ment park. Instead we just walked around a bit, did some peo­ple watch­ing and ate.

Rainforest Cafe, ChicagoWe ate at a cou­ple ran­dom lit­tle restau­rants but the kid’s favorite was the Rain­for­est Cafe.  It’s full of auto­mated ani­mals hang­ing from the ceil­ing and tucked into the walls in their “habi­tats” com­plete with sound.  There are also big fish tanks all over the place.  The kids were delighted to sit next to the ele­phant fam­ily and cheered every time they snorted.  Food is typ­i­cal: burg­ers, sal­ads, chicken ten­ders, etc…

There are two other places we ate that I would recommend:

Big Bowl:  60 E Ontario, Chi­nese and Thai.  It was good, but it was also rea­son­able, really fast and kid friendly.

Kame­hachi:  240 E Ontario, Sushi.  Although we did not eat in one, they do have lit­tle pri­vate rooms that can be a life­saver with kids.  It is cer­tainly a more adult place but they do have high­chairs and our wait­ress was happy to ban­ter with the kids. There were other fam­i­lies there with small chil­dren but the major­ity we cou­ples or groups of friends.  I’m not a sushi lover but I was with some­one who is and he really enjoyed his meal.

Pitchfork FestivalOne of the cold days we went to Pitch­fork Music Fes­ti­val at Union Park.  It took quite awhile to get though the gates so once we were in the kids were kind of over it.  They were momen­tar­ily revived when they found an inflat­able ball, a dusty field and new lit­tle girl to get dirty with.  That gave us a chance to lis­ten to some music.  It also gave us a chance to get a restau­rant rec­om­men­da­tion from the lit­tle girls par­ents.  After walk­ing around the rest of the grounds we walked to Wish­bone (1001 W. Wash­ing­ton) to eat. It’s “south­ern recon­struc­tion” and very kid friendly– a good choice.

Museum of Science and Industry, ChicagoAnother day we did get a chance to meet an Aunt at the Museum of Sci­ence and Indus­try. They had gone to see the Harry Pot­ter exhibit. We opted out of that but had fun explor­ing every­thing else.  G and ES were excited by all of the choices and had fun wan­der­ing through the many exhibits.  We spent a long time watch­ing the model trains weave through their lit­tle cities, and watch­ing the lit­tle chicks hatch from their shells.  ES and G enjoyed every moment.  They were pro­pelled though the place by the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the next room.  It was fun to see. Thirty-five dol­lars well spent.

We had a great week­end. We’ll def­i­nitely do it again.

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