For those of you that don’t know, I lived in Chicago for almost 9 years. I get back at least once a year to visit; not just because I love the city so much but 3 of my closest friends also live there! I spent my 20’s in Chicago; and they are probably the most impactful years of my life. The city holds a very soft spot in my heart, and I look forward to getting back there as much as possible.
If you are going to Chicago I am sharing some of my favorite things to do as a family, as well as favorite restaurants in the city
view from the Z.Bar at the Peninsula Hotel
beautiful Michigan Avenue displays
We stayed at the Sofitel Hotel for 6 nights. It is in a great location in the Gold Coast. The room we were in had recently been renovated, and their suites are a surprisingly good deal. The room was also very clean and nice. We also got a package that included breakfast each day which was a huge bonus. The lobby needs an update, but the bar and restaurant are nice. I spent A LOT of time in Le Bar when I was in my 20’s so I had a lot of flashbacks walking by it everyday. ha! They have a great workout room, which I used a couple of days during our stay. We were up on about the 30th floor facing Rush St. I never tire of these views! Definitely ask for the corner suite if you book at the Sofitel.
We planned a 2 week trip to Chicago. J was doing a camp for 2 weeks at the Latin School; first a basketball camp and then their explorers camp. He was with a buddy from LA who has been doing the camps for years, and was excited to be with his friend. I was very impressed with the staff, and J really loved the camps, and we would definitely do it again.
With J in camp all day, it was really just V and I doing stuff together. I bought the Chicago City Pass which I highly recommend if you are there for more than a few days. You get 5 main city attractions essentially Half off. The price is $109 for adults and $89 for kids 11 and under. We hit every single museum + the Shedd Aquarium + both of the tall building attractions. I had to pay admission to the Science and Industry Museum because I had already used up 5 attractions.
When it comes to the tall buildings, I suggest the Hancock “Tilt” over the Willis Tower. You actually get tilted over the city, and it’s a very freaky experience. If you have a fear of heights, this will test your bravery! But, we all loved it.
I had not been to the Willis Tower before, it was fine but it is only a few floors higher than the Hancock. The Hancock seemed to have WAY less people, and no lines. Here is V. at the Willis tower 🙂
We loved Shedd aquarium the best; it really is fantastic. They open at 9:30! Go early to avoid the lines. The Dolphin/Beluga whale show is great. And you can pet stingrays there. J flew in and surprised the kids mid-trip and stayed for a few days. I was happy to have him there to experience a few of the attractions with the kids.
I personally loved the Art Institute, but V said it was boring 🙁 It is a little slow for kids, but she did get to see a few paintings she had seen in school or in movies. This Ferris Bueller moment was a highlight for her.
I loved the Field Museum best! But I am kind of a history nerd, and love all the interesting exhibits. You could spend half a day here.
The kids liked the Science + Industry museum best because it is very interactive. The weather + Science room was amazing. I would not spend $$ on the movie “experience” it was kind of a waste. I wish we would have gone to the “wired to wear” instead.
Other favorite things to do in Chicago:
The beach/lakeshore of course, The Lincoln Park Zoo (which is free), The Adler Planetarium, An architectural tour (my personal fave) and apparently the new Odyssey Glass Boat is amazing, A baseball game, or just pack a picnic and go to lincoln park! I also love Bucktown and Wicker Park for cool restaurants and shopping
We have many favorite restaurants in Chicago, after living there for many years. Surprisingly a lot of them are still open!
The rooftop restaurant “Nomi” at the Park Hyatt is perfect for lunch on a summer day.
JoJo’s Milk bar is a new spot in River North that a reader recommended. They are known for their over the top shake creations. They have diner food that is actually decent. If you are looking for a fun, easy, casual spot this is great with kids. They are located in River North across from Rockit.
The Peninsula Hotel has multiple restaurants that we love and that are still really good. The Pierrot gourmet which is their french bistro style restaurant on the street level which is perfect for breakfast and lunch. The Shanghai Terrace is their high-end Asian restaurant that we have been going to for years. They are also very kid friendly at both restaurants with great kids menus.
The new Z.Bar rooftop at the Peninsula is our favorite for a before or after dinner drink. You can’t beat the views!
We always love Gibsons steakhouse. It is such a classic, Chicago spot, in the best location. It is always a scene there!
Ralph Lauren Grill is probably one of our top restaurants in Chicago. The service, the food and the ambiance can’t be beat. I ended up gong for lunch and for dinner because I love it so much. I have no shame in doubling down at RL 🙂 Jon said their club sandwich was his favorite meal of the entire trip!
After 23 years in their iconic Rush St. location, Le Colonial has moved to Oak St. They somehow perfectly transitioned into their new space; keeping with the feel of the original restaurant, yet with the perfect update to make it seem fresh and new. The food is outstanding as always, I can’t wait to go back. This is definitely more of an adult restaurant, but older kids would do fine too.
I love Fig and Olive, Fred’s at Barneys and the new Somerset at The Viceroy for brunch or lunch
other Chicago restaurant favorites:
Luxe Bar, Hampton Social, Siena Tavern, Summer House Santa Monica, Maple and Ash, GT Fish and GT Prime, Blue Door Kitchen, Maude’s, Bavette’s, Au Cheval, RPM Italia and RPM Steak, the new Food Court in the 900 building is pretty cool, also check out new spots Etta and Aba, and Pacific Standard Time.
After 6 days in the city, I headed to the suburbs to see my best girl friends. I love being able to see my favorite Indiana University girls when I am there!
A huge thanks to my friends who hosted me for a few days; for the meals, the wine, and to be able to do my laundry 🙂 Love you guys more than anything!
At day 10 I had hit a wall. I had done practically every exciting thing you could with kids in the city. I went to the suburbs and had a blast, and did more fun things with the kids. I had a blast with my friends, but had maxed out on the fun. Vivienne was sick with a cold, and neither of us were sleeping. I was supposed to spend 3 more days in the city, but I couldn’t muster up the energy to do it, so I booked us a flight on the 4th of July. My kids were so mad at me. But, when you are exhausted, and are failing on many levels you just do what you need to do to get yourself home.
My kids were troopers, and I think inside they were ready to be home too. We squeezed out every single bit of adventure we could into those 10 days, and I am grateful for the experiences and the memories we made together. I was so excited Jon could join us too, if even for a few days! It is fun to share our favorite spots and memories with our kids in the city we fell in love in (and with) almost 18 years ago!