Last week was spring break. We never do anything on spring break. But, this year we threw something together at the last minute and headed to Chicago. The girls have never been to a big city and A is infatuated with cities. Plus, Husband used to live there when we first started dating so he was very excited to show off his former stomping grounds… but the kid-friendly version.
First of all, we got a smokin’ deal on the hotel. We stayed at the Hilton Chicago Magnificent Mile Suites Hotel. It was in a great location close to The Drake and Water Tower Place, etc. Since it was a “suite” it had a bedroom for the grown ups and a pull out couch in the “family room” for the kids to share. They actually said it was the most comfortable pull out couch ever. Thank goodness, because we really would have heard about it if it was uncomfortable.
The downside to the hotel: because of COVID a lot of the amenities were unavailable. No room service, the girls’ favorite part of any vacation! We dealt with it. There was a coffee bar in the lobby where we overpaid for pre-packaged microwaveable oatmeal. We let the girls eat that in bed so kind of like room service, right?
But, there was no lobby bar. How is there no lobby bar? Every hotel has a bar. Apparently there is a bar but just not enough staff for everything to be open. No board rooms, ball rooms, meeting rooms or bar available. I don’t care about any of the former but a grown-up break in a bar would have been nice. So, I’m guessing these are the reasons we got such a smokin’ deal on the hotel. (p.s. I haven’t been perfect on my no drinking during Lent but it is a significant decrease… same with the games on the phone thing.)
We got in on a sunny Monday afternoon and it was perfect timing. We were able to go straight to Navy Pier. In all my many times in Chicago, I have never been to Navy Pier. Everything the pier has to offer is not yet open (as it is in summer) but we were able to go on the ferris wheel and let’s face it, that’s all we really wanted.
Then, we went to dinner at Husband’s favorite deep dish pizza place in the city, Lou Malnati’s. The girls’ don’t enjoy deep dish but Lou’s has thin crust too. They got a thin crust cheese. We got The Malnati Chicago Classic: sausage, cheese, tomatoes and that signature deep dish crust. It was heaven. We gave the girls a bite and they liked it better than their pizza. So next visit, deep dish for all! We paired our pizza with a draft of local beer, Maplewood Hazy IPA. It was all fantastic and I really can’t wait to go back for more.
Pro Tip: Lou Malnati’s has a wait list on their website. You can join the waitlist before you get to the restaurant which I highly recommend. Especially because they said our wait was going to be 30 minutes so we hiked over from Navy Pier at a brisk pace. Then ended up waiting another 30 minutes.
After pizza we went for dessert. I couldn’t wait to take the girls to Ghiradelli’s! I loved going there for a treat whenever I would visit Chicago so I was excited to share the experience. Plus, the two restaurants are right next to each other so it worked out perfectly. I got a mint, chocolate, ice cream brownie situation. It was good but not great. I think the mint ice cream was sub par and I am an expert on mint ice cream. A got a hot chocolate which was, of course, fabulous. But E won the night with a caramel something or other that was out of this world!
We thoroughly enjoyed our first night in Chicago and the lovely weather. Which was great because it rained the rest of the time. This really didn’t affect us because most of our activities were indoor activities anyway.
First up on Tuesday was our special tour of the Shedd Aquarium, for which Husband had bought tickets. Except we thought it started at 11:30 and it started at 11. So we missed it. But, we still walked around the aquarium FOREVER. It was great! The girls loved it like we knew they would. We were there for about 5 whole minutes before E decided to be a marine biologist, again. (This is what she wanted to be from K-2nd grade but then switched to a zookeeper which she has wanted to be since then.)
Their favorite part of that day was the VR experience they had swimming with the humpback whales. Biggest surprise of the visit- the cafeteria has great food! Maybe we were just really hungry but between the four of us we tried chicken fingers, fish & chips and a gyro. They were all delicious!
After the aquarium, we went to Willis Tower (which will always be the Sears Tower in my heart). I went here with my family in 1991 and my oh my has it changed from what I remember. There is an entire walk through situation where you can learn a ton about the city from history to food to architecture to the people… We really just wanted to get to the top but it was actually quite cool. We had SO MUCH FUN at the Sky Deck. I mean, there really aren’t words to describe the fun we had because it is just looking out of a tall building. But those see through platforms take it to a whole new level!
We had our fancy dinner on Tuesday night at Shaw’s Crab House. This place is special to us so, again, we couldn’t wait to share it with the girls. It was just as great as I remember it and the girls loved it too. Oysters and crab legs and lobster bisque, my halibut… all divine. Don’t forget to eat the bread! The rolls are so delicious I was raving about them. One of the servers brought us sourdough from the oyster bar side of the restaurant saying it was better. We were all very skeptical. It was heaven! My girls don’t even like sourdough and it was devoured.
Wednesday morning we went to Wildberry Cafe. This place is not to be missed. My Belgian waffle was the most moderately sized meal and it was the size of my plate. The kids pancakes come with six pancakes. SIX! You should have seen the adult pancakes. I can’t even explain. Husband’s avocado toast was huge. All was delish! And I need to go back to try the hashbrowns I was scoping out on someone else’s plate. I do that. I stalk other people’s food. You should too.
We tried to go shopping after breakfast but my girls are not much for shopping. Even if you offer, “get whatever you want.” They just don’t care. Which is why I feel safe making the offer. But as a 12 year old let loose on Michigan Avenue I would have gone wild. My girls each got one dress. The same dress. I have never dressed them to match even as infants but it is the only thing they liked that fit. So be it.
Then, everyone was ready for a break. Not shopping really wears us all down, and I’m not kidding. The girls were psyched to swim in the indoor pool at the hotel. Which was chlorine with a little bit of water. It was the reprieve they needed…
… before heading off to the Adler Planetarium on Wednesday night. I didn’t get a ton of pictures but it was fascinating. I will say, don’t go on Wednesday night. Wednesday night is free to Illinois residents and it was crowded. But the show Imagine The Moon was super cool, I would recommend it.
For dinner that night we went to Ed Debevic’s. This is another place I went to on that family visit in 1991. I never forgot it and I wanted my kids to receive their famous rude service too. They loved it. They couldn’t wait to hear what the servers would say and do. A is already looking forward to working there in the future so she can “be rude to people and give them bad service and it will be ok.” Is the food great, no. Are the milkshakes, yes. Is the experience worth it, ABSOLUTELY! At least once or twice.
Are you still with me? Kudos to you if you are. This is a long one, but Chicago is big city with lots to do!
So, on Thursday we were lucky enough to get rescheduled for the tour we missed on Tuesday at Shedd Aquarium. We thought we saw so much we probably wouldn’t see anything new. We were WRONG! We got so much awesome info. We got tons of behind the scenes looks. We weren’t allowed to photograph anything behind the scenes but it was really amazing. And my girls’ knowledge of nature really shined through. Almost to an annoying level (especially E) but they were in their element and I always stop them from doing stuff, so this time, I just let it go. I mean, E could answer every question the guide asked. Did you know otters are a keystone species? Do you know what a keystone species is? Me either, but my E’s hand flew in the air and she answered for the group. Ask her if you want to know.
If you are wondering, the beluga whales were our favorite but the dolphin show was a close second.
We did a lot but not nearly all we would have liked. We already have plans for our next trip. Art Museum is #1 on the list. It is closed on Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s otherwise we would have seen it. Others on the list: architecture tour, baseball game at Wrigley, hit Gibson’s for a steak sandwich, Millennium Park, Field Museum, see the places dad used to live, see friends…
We may have a few more trips in our future.
Hope you all had a great spring break!