Chicago Family Attractions and Dining

Genie Davis December 13, 2010 No Comments


So you’ve seen the great view from the top of the Chicago Hancock Center and enjoyed the Ferris Wheel and lake front fun at the Navy Pier (Article:  Chicago Family Visit – John Hancock Center and the Navy Pier).  So what do you do now with the kids in the windy city? 

Wrigley Field Chicago Cubs

Classic sign at classic Wrigley Field


Well, you could take them out to the ball game. Wrigley Field is home to one of Major League Baseball’s icons, the Chicago Cubs. It’s more than just a baseball field, though. The history here rivals that of Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park on the east coast. This classic, small old ball park is like stepping into a time capsule. It’s homey, authentic, and whether you’re there for a game or take a tour of the stadium, or both – it gives the kids a feeling of history, a love of the game, and an authentic “Chicagoan” experience. 

Wrigley Field is a throw-back to traditional baseball in a time that’s, well, past. There’s no video scoreboard, instead you see ivy covered brick walls and on the tour, the historic Cub’s Dressing Room. Even little girls who turn their noses up at team sports – yes, we’ve traveled with one – can enjoy this stadium. 

Cloud Gate, Chicago

Cloud gate, Chicago – this simple gorgeous sculpture can offer hours of fun!


On the more modern end of the tourism spectrum, who won’t enjoy a look at Cloud Gate in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Cloud Gate is a public out door art work created by renowned British artist Anish Kapoor. This one hundred and ten ton elliptical sculpture is a visual wow. 

Created from a seamless series of super shiny polished stainless steel plates, this piece reflects Chicago’s great skyline and the clouds above, it, too. You can spend a surprisingly long time just watching it mirror life as it goes by. It features a twelve foothigh arch as a gateway to the chamber located beneath the sculpture. Like so many others, we loved touching the mirror-like surface of the art work and snapping photos of our reflections in it. The artist has said the piece was inspired by an image of liquid mercury, and it’s one of the largest such sculptures in the world at sixty-six feet long and thirty-three feet high. 

Chicago Crown Fountain

Kids playing in the water of the Chicago Crown Fountain


Nearby there’s another free outdoor attraction that offers a unique experience: The Crown Fountain. This public artwork was created by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. It’s made up of two enormous fifty foot  glass block towers positioned at opposite ends of a reflecting pool. The towers project video images of Chicago residents. The idea: a modern interpretation of traditional gargoyle sculpture that used these mythological creatures with open mouths as the font for flowing fountains. The twist in this modern take: faces of Chicagoans are projected on LED screens with water flowing through an outlet in the screen. This creates a surprising illusion of water spouting out of the mouths of these images. Note that the fountains run spring to fall – winter weather causes the water to be shut off although the images are projected year round. 

Another famous fountain is located near by, a grande dame of Chicago architecture, Buckingham Fountain has a water display that lasts for twenty minutes on the hour, every hour.

Also in Millennium Park is a three block walk lined with majestic trees, nearly two hundred of them in the center of the park. While festivals and events are often held here, this also makes a great avenue for a stroll or romp, a traffic-less thoroughfare where the kids can run a little wild. 

After spending some time out doors, particularly if the weather is brisk, you’ll love taking the kids inside the beautiful, historic Chicago Cultural Center. This is a wonderful place to hear music, see a play, or watch a film. Originally built in 1897 as  Chicago’s first public library, the impressive structure houses both traveling and resident art exhibits, too. The building is a work of art itself, with an interior modeled with antique brass, marble, glass mosaics, stone and mother of pearl. It has two amazing stained glass domes, one of which contains over thirty thousand pieces of glass and is considered the world’s largest. Our kids were impressed and so were we. You can find the signs of the zodiac dead center. 

And then there’s Indiana Jones’ old hangout, The Field Museum of Natural History. With some nine acres of exhibit space you’ll see everything from the museum’s signature dinosaur collection and the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever unearthed. Downstairs you’ll find the most child-accessible exhibits. We loved the walk through attraction Inside Ancient Egypt, and exploring everyday Egyptian life, viewing mummies, passing through a living marsh environment and a marketplace. The hands on interaction allowed the kids to really get into the experience, and even create some Egyptian art work. Moving on to Underground Adventure, we experienced a world full of giant bugs, spiders, centipedes and more – robotic ones, thankfully. The toddler set will also enjoy the interactive art room and sound proofed music lab in the Crown Family play lab. 

Chicago Restaurants 

Hungry from all this exploration, indoors and out? We headed for the organic sourced Blackbird Restaurant, an upscale yet reasonably priced restaurant with a crowded, pleasantly noisy dining room. Kids are more than welcome and the food choices will satisfy all comers from carnivores to vegetarians. Our kids had some amazing mac and cheese. The trendy sounding dark chocolate brioche was devoured in a few seconds flat. 

Another choice: MK Restaurant. This loft like restaurant is elegant and on the expensive side, but the chef is great at accommodating special diets, the food is excellent, and the staff is kind and attentive to children of all ages. They too have a signature desert that will ward off any winter Chicago chill: the peanut gallery made peanut butter mousse, milk chocolate, warm brownies, pretzels, hot fudge and caramel. Don’t worry, you’ll burn off all those calories chasing the kids around Lake Michigan in the morning.

avatarAbout the Author:

Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling.

Tags: , Reviews, Travel Excursions

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