Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Chicago: MY Kind of Town

Shelly W from Life on the Wild SideIf you remember my list last week of places I'd like to visit I made the casual remark that to me most big cities are too similar. If you dumped me in the middle of Atlanta, Houston, Minneapolis or Chicago I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Well I had Shelly W from Life on the Wild Side very kindly let me know that my ignorance was about to be remedied.

Here she is sharing her favorite things to do in Chicago--if you happen to be heading to BlogHer in July then you might want to add this to your travel notes and if you too are from Chicago feel free to chime in with your own favorite haunts.

Thanks Shelly!


I’m always amazed when I read blogs or meet people online who have never been to Chicago. It’s surprising that more people haven’t visited us because, hello!, we’re smack dab in the middle of the country. Easy to get to and easy to get around in, Chicago is one of the most beautiful, fun, and accessible cities in the country for families.

You really need to check us out. So, to convince you to come visit us, I’ve compiled a list of family-friendly sights and activities in Chicago.

Robie HouseMuseums and Other Great Visits
We’ll start on the South side in Hyde Park. You may have heard of it. Our current president hails from this neighborhood which also boasts the University of Chicago, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, and the Museum of Science and Industry.

The Museum of Science and Industry is currently hosting a Harry Potter exhibit which sounds like something my kids and I might have to check out this summer. Over 200 original props and costumes from the Harry Potter movies are on display, including Harry’s original wand and eyeglasses. Settings from the movies, including the Gryffindor Common Room, are used to display many of the movie artifacts. And, as are many of the museum’s other exhibits, the Harry Potter exhibit is hands-on in many places. Want to learn how to pull a Mandrake? Here’s your chance.

The Field MuseumNow we’ll travel north on Lake Shore Drive to Chicago’s Museum Campus where you’ll find Soldier Field (O.K., Soldier Field may not technically be a museum—it’s where the Bears play—but with the rich Hallas family history it might as well be one), the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium. This cluster of beautiful, historic buildings is located right along the lake shore and would be a perfect starting point for a stroll on a sunny day. In the summer you’ll see bikers, roller bladers, and joggers all enjoying the magnificent view.

Continuing north on Lake Shore Drive, we’ll visit Navy Pier which could be a great family day in itself. Navy Pier is a fun stretch of pier, jutting out into Lake Michigan, which houses a famous ferris wheel, several shops, an I-Max theater, the Chicago Children’s Museum (where my kids spent hours on end when they were younger), and the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.

Navy PierIn the waterfront are several boats just waiting to take you out onto the water for spectacular views. There’s no better way to experience the lakefront than on bicycle, and rentals are available at Navy Pier. Families could even rent a quad-bike and have a great day biking together, literally.

Further north, at the corner of Addison and Sheffield, is Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. Wrigley is well-loved by many people and is a must-see when you’re here. Take in a Cubs game on a summer afternoon, and you’ve had a quintessential Chicago experience.

I haven’t mentioned shopping yet because, honestly, I’m not much of a shopper, but Chicago’s Magnificent Mile (also known as Michigan Avenue) offers some of the best shopping in the country. WaterTower Place, a large, multi-level shopping center which houses American Girl Place is located just across the street from the John Hancock Building. Shop WaterTower for a while, then head up to the John Hancock Observatory for magnificent views of the city.
You’re probably getting hungry by now, so I’d like to recommend some of our family’s favorite places to eat.

For breakfast, go to Ann Sather, a traditional Swedish restaurant with—what else?—the best Swedish pancakes around. The restaurant on Belmont is their flagship restaurant, but they do offer three additional locations.

Grand Lux CafeAfter a busy morning of sightseeing or shopping the Magnificent Mile, our family loves the Grand Lux CafĂ© which overlooks Michigan Avenue from its second floor perch. If you’re lucky enough to get a window seat, you could spend hours just people-watching. (In fact, one time when I was there I saw a man walking his dog—a beautiful black Labrador retriever. The man actually tied his dog to an iron fence and went into a store while the dog patiently waited for his owner to return. People stopped to pet the dog, but nobody took him home!)

The portions at Grand Lux are huge, so kids could share a meal if they wanted to. And be sure to order their homemade chocolate chip cookies when you order your meal. The cookies will be baked while you eat and come from the kitchen all warm, gooey, and delicious.

For dinner I’ve chosen a special hole-in-the-wall joint for you to enjoy. Twin Anchors, a neighborhood bar on the corner of Sedgewick and Eugenie near DePaul University, boasts that they have the best ribs in Chicago and I don’t think they’re wrong. Legend has it that Frank Sinatra would visit there as often as he could when he was in town, and if he couldn’t get to the restaurant he’d order some ribs to go.

More recently, the movie “Return to Me” was filmed at Twin Anchors, as were some scenes from “The Dark Knight.” The Twin Anchors website offers a long list of celebrities who have visited the joint, and, although you could go there to people watch, that’s not why I go there. I head to Twin Anchors for the ribs, pure and simple.

There is so much to do in Chicago that I’ve barely scratched the surface, but at least I’ve given you some compelling reasons to check us out. Chicago is one of the cleanest, friendliest, most beautiful cities in the country. Once you visit, you’ll definitely be back.


Congratulations to Donald of Deerfield, Illionois for winning this weekend's Teleflora Giveaway of a Butterfly Bouquet for his wife (a mother of four boys) in time for Mother's Day. Also, congratulations to Patricia Linehan of In the Mom Zone for winning last week's Pepsi Throwback giveaway--She'll be having fun with that party pack!

Sponsored by Unique Wedding Invitations in Paper and Wood by Oslo Press


Jennifer said...

She isn't kidding about the Grand Lux Cafe! It is amazing... I've only been there once, but it is on my list of must go back to places.

If I remember correctly, they asked us at the beginning of our meal if we would like to order warm cookies for dessert so they could go ahead and bake them fresh for us! They were delicious...

Beverlydru said...

I have been many places in the world but have missed what Shelly describes as the "quintessential Chicago experience." Who wouldn't want that? Sounds even more tempting than the cookie, which has me drooling on my keyboard. Great post.

Just Mom said...

I fell in love with Chicago the first time I visited the city back in 1996. I've gone back several times since then with my hubby, but haven't been there since our son was born -- six years ago. It's definitely time to head back.

Kathy G said...

I've been to Chicago several times for baseball games and just for vacations.

Two places I love (that probably only tourists go to) are Pizzaria Uno (and its sister restaurant Pizario Duo) where Chicago deep-dish pizza was perfected, and Ed Debevic's, where the waitstaff stops and dances on the counters every so often.

Shelly W said...

Thanks so much for featuring Chicago today, Michelle! I hope you'll get down here someday so I can show you around!

Adventures In Babywearing said...

Grand Lux is my favorite place to eat downtown!!


Scribbit said...

We had plans to visit Chicago in 1996 while we lived in that general area but ended up dealing with spring floods instead and missed it. Now I've really resenting how I missed out on that warm cookies after the meal thing-talk about brilliant!

Organizing Mommy said...

We live in Rockford, and we love to go into Chicago! It's such a friendly place and there's so much to do. I haven't been to any of the fancy restaurants because the cheap ones are fabulous too! Is there any bad food in Chicago? You can eat almost any ethnicity. Last time we were there, we ate at a tapas restaurant. hungry just thinking about it.

Marcy said...

I just moved from Chicago in January after living there for 9 years. We lived only a few blocks from the Roby House. Even though I like the change of pace where I am now, I miss the city, the food, and the museums.

Motherboard said...

I am from Chicago too. We moved 3 years ago, and reading about all those amazing places left my mouth watering! You forgot Garretts Popcorn and Billy Goat Tavern! There are seriously so many good places to eat!!

The water taxi rides area a must!