November 6, 2011

Chicago with Baby: A Weekend Getaway

Weekly business trips have separated this family for the past several months, but thankfully, my husband's work project is finally complete. To celebrate our return to "normalcy," we took a family mini-vacation in mid October, spending a long weekend in Chicago. (Marriott rewards points = free hotel. Yay!)

Much to my surprise, Chicago + October weather + a young toddler, was an extremely enjoyable combination. The weather was sunny and crisp, the tourist crowds were minimal, and our daughter proved to be the perfect age to bring along on our weekend getaway.

At 17 months, she is old enough to conveniently bring along (no more nursing, baby food, or constant diapering) yet still young enough to be easily entertained.  Simply experiencing life is enough excitement of its own; there was no need to find specific kid-oriented activities. Whereas a 3 year old might have been bored with the double decker bus tour, she took in the sights and sounds with awe. When she did get tired, she simply snuggled against my chest (or stroller) and fell asleep.

Additionally, because she is still a toddler, her portion of the vacation was virtually free. Her museum and aquarium admittance was free. We never bought a kids meal on this trip, we simply asked for an extra plate and gave her portions from our meals. (Although, she did get her own fruit smoothie when I knew she wouldn't eat the Chicago style hotdogs.)

Here are a few photos and our basic itinerary...

Thursday: We arrived around noon, purchased our 3-day unlimited public transportation passes, and rode the subway to the Field Museum of Natural History. The museum has beautiful architecture and more exhibits than one could possibly see in a day.

In the dinosaur exhibit. The crowds were minimal on a Thursday
afternoon in October.

Friday: If you ever go to Chicago, you have to check out the Hop On Hop Off tours by the Chicago Trolley Company. This was our favorite activity of the vacation. This is a double decker bus / trolley tour showing you all of the major highlights of the city. Plus, because it is "hop on hop off" you can get off at the sites that interest you knowing that additional buses will arrive every 10 minutes for continuation of the tour.

Millennium Park was our favorite stop on the bus tour. The Bean Sprout loved chasing the pigeons and playing with the warped reflective images of herself at "Cloud Gate" (the silver bean sculpture.) Other stops we enjoyed were, walking along the Chicago River, the observatory at the John Hancock Tower, and window shopping at the Magnificent Mile. Dinner was a classic deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's. Awesome pizza. So glad we got there early- the place was packed when we left.

Cloud Gate at Millennium Park
Walking along the Chicago River. I love when
random strangers go out of their way to
offer to take a family photo!

Saturday: We began the morning at the Shedd Aquarium, which was nice, but I prefer the Atlanta Aquarium. We ate Chicago style hotdogs for lunch at Portillo's, then we took the "El" to Wrigley Field. We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out at Navy Pier. We ate Garrett's Chicago Mix popcorn (carmel and cheese popcorn) and watched the sun set over the Chicago skyline. 
Garrett's Chicago Mix Popcorn- cheese and carmel corn mix.

Cute and happy at Navy Pier.

Sunday: Drive home.

Baby logistics: 
  • Our hotel was conveniently located downtown, therefore, there was no need for taxis or  a car rental - we walked or took the subway/train. We purchased the 3 day unlimited public transportation pass.
  • We took an umbrella stroller with us everywhere. It folds up small enough to take on the crowded subway and when she's walking, it makes a great bag and jacket holder :-)
  • I used a large purse to tote everything we might need during the day- snacks, water bottles, maps, a travel book, camera, diapers, wipes, and two small toys.
  • Our keychain size Magna-Doodle was an infinitely valuable toy for this trip. 
  • By eating dinner before 6p each night, we avoided long lines and were able to get our exhausted baby back to the hotel and in bed on time. 
  • She slept in the pack-n-play we brought from home. 
  • Our hotel room had a separate sleeping area. (Rewards points =  free hotel; would never have gotten a suite otherwise, but it was a nice perk :) This was awesome because we could stay up and watch TV after we put the baby to bed.

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