When we lived in Chicago, we always meant to get to the famous tourist spots, and then life would get busy and we rarely made it to any of them. Traveling back to Chicago this summer we decided to do as many touristy, Chicago-y things as we could fit in. We didn’t even come close to doing it all. Time to go back, I guess.

Tourist Stop #1: Millennium Park

I have a minor love affair with the bean, oh pardon me, Cloud Gate. We made faces at our reflections, marveled at the masses of tourists posing and selfy-ing all over the place, took the requisite family photo, then moved on, waving to the bean and watching as our inverted selves waved back.


Next stop,  the Pritzker Pavilion, where we were lucky enough to arrive during a rehearsal by the Grant Park Symphony. Our girls especially loved this, as they play the violin and our up-close seats provided prime viewing of the strings section.

Grant Park Symphony rehearsal
Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Jay Pritzker Pavilion

There’s really a lot to experience at Millennium Park. We played in the Crown Fountain and toured the Lurie Gardens, and when we needed a reprieve from the sun we ventured over the footbridge to the Terzo Piano, a cafe on the third floor of the Modern Wing of the Art Institute. I had an incredible drink, some sort of wine spritzer made to look like a lily pad in a pond. It was just what I needed to recharge before hitting Maggie Daley Park.

Art installation at Millenium Park

Partial family pic- photo by Margot
Taking the walkway to Maggie Daley Park
My fancy spritzer drink. It tasted great, and expensive (which it was).


Tourist Stop #2: Maggie Daley Park

Maggie Daley Park is super fun for kids and, really, for grown ups, too. We spent 2 1/2 hours there, and could have played even longer. The park includes a rock climbing wall, enormous play gyms and slides, an enchanted garden, an ice skating/scooter ribbon, tennis courts, and mini golf. We tried out the playgrounds and the enchanted gardens, but were waylaid from the climbing wall by raindrops and a rather ominous-looking sky.


Tourist Stop #3: The Art Institute of Chicago

We spent a great Thursday evening touring the Art Institute of Chicago (this is their weekly deal- the museum is free from 5:00-8:00 pm); we only made it through the original museum and not the Modern Wing, mostly because 6 1/2 year olds and 8 1/2 year olds get tired legs, just like grandmas and moms and dads do. Long story short, we were exhausted. To get there we took the Metra from the suburbs to downtown Chicago. Riding the train is a great kid adventure in itself, and even better, senior citizens and kids 12 and under ride free. This is especially good because the ticket prices have increased, and it cost $35 round trip for two adults. I’m broke now.

Museum highlights, according to us: the Major Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, the American section featuring work by John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Mary Cassatt, Grant Wood, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, and Diego Rivera, the Thorne Miniatures Room, The Paperweights, and the Chagall windows. There’s so much more to see, we would need another Thursday (or two, or three) to adequately do it justice.


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Paperweight display at the museum


Tourist Stop #4: Walt Disney’s House

This isn’t actually a tourist stop yet, not really. But apparently Walt Disney was from Chicago, and his childhood home is being restored. And you can go look at it and a sign next to it, if you really want to.

Tourist Stop #5: Suburban July 4th Festivities

We made sure to participate in a bunch of July 4th festivities. In Crystal Lake we attended the annual July 4th parade and rode ALL THE RIDES (not really) at the Lakeside Fest. When I was little this hometown celebration was called the Taste of Crystal Lake, a knockoff of the Taste of Chicago. At the time, I had no idea that the Chicago Taste existed at all; I was probably in high school by the time I learned that the “real” Taste took place in Grant Park, and not in our little town. What can I say, we never went to Chicago when I was small.


Tourist Stops #6, 7, and 8: Woodstock, the McHenry Outdoor Theater, and party time in Huntley

I love the small towns of northern Illinois. When we’re back, we make sure to hit up the Woodstock Farmer’s Market and the McHenry Outdoor Theater, and to spend a fabulous time with cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters; swimming, trampolining, ziplining, “motorcycle” riding, and playing with enthusiastic puppies.


Also, these sunsets at the lake.

Tourist Stop # 9: Margie’s Candies

We ended our trip back in Chicago, where we started. And what better way to finish a trip than with ice cream at the most authentic ice cream parlor in Chicago? If you’re not into ice cream, I suppose you could always try the sardine plate…


Also, Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar