We spent the beginning of September on a week long trip to Chicago. The excuse of sorts for travel was a pediatric conference I attended, but we turned that into a week long family vacation. Long car trips have reputations as being hellish experiences with kids. I have found that I (mostly) enjoy them. Yes, by the end of the day everyone is grumpy but many of our funniest memories are from long car trips. We pack up a stack of audiobooks, some not so healthy snacks and make sure to take plenty of quick breaks.
I wanted to post all different photos from my previous Chicago post but this one photo deserves a second post. On the way home I asked all three kids what were the top three things we did were. All three put the Mirror Maze at the Museum of Science and Industry at the top of the list. It was a great museum in general but the mirror maze was a unique experience for all of us.I think I’ve shared this tip before, but many science museums and children’s museums offer reciprocal membership benefits. (Zoos and Aquariums also often offer the same thing). Before a trip, we will look for museums we might be interested in visiting and then look for another museum somewhere in the country to join that offers the best reciprocal benefits. It takes some research on H.’s part but it has gotten us some great deals at museums in several cities. In Chicago, we got free admission to the Museum of Science and Industry and to the Field Museum.
Another great deal to take advantage of if you are a Bank of America customer is the Museums on Us program, which offers free admission to participating museums around the country on the first weekend of the month. We were able to get free admission for all of us to the Art Institute of Chicago.
I would say our kids usually have mixed feelings about art museums. One hates them, one likes art but is just too active to want to look at anything for very long and one is fine as long as she can dance and sing in the middle of the gallery. Before this trip, a swim team friend recommended the books The 68 Rooms by Marianne Malone which tells the story of a boy and girl who shrink and have adventures inside the Thorn Rooms at the Art Institute. I think the kids would have been mildly interested in the rooms before listening to the audiobook, but having listened made seeing them so much more fun. In fact, they surprised me by enjoying it so much that they went back the next day while I was finishing my conference. The book served as the hook to get them to the museum. And then while they were there they happened to see so much more. The Thorn Rooms were voted one of their top attractions as well.
The third favorite attraction was more difficult and more variable. I think for H. it was taking a long bike ride along Lake Michigan. The kids enjoyed that as well, especially going down the sledding hill on bikes. We of course enjoyed the Crown Fountain in Millenium Park and the three kids got completely soaked. I think Ruth and I both picked the water taxi ride we took one night as one of our top three things. (Water taxi = cheap version of river boat tour.) We took one from downtown out to Chinatown to eat dinner one night and then came back at night when we could view the sparkling skyline at it’s finest. Navy Pier and the Ferris Wheel topped H’s list.
At the risk of being corny, I would say that all the things we saw and did were really the chocolate syrup on top. (Photo from Margie’s Candies, home of enormous sundaes and amazingly good caramel.) The real value of the trip was just being together. We are together a lot at home but there is always something special about being away on a vacation. All of the other distractions are gone and we can just enjoy each other. That was less true this trip as usual as I was at a conference part of each day. However, H. and the kids had adventures in the mornings on their own and we had the rest of the afternoon and evenings together. As our kids get older I’m reminded again and again how important these kids of concentrated times together are.
Previous Kids and Travel Posts:
Tips from a trip to Pittsburgh with a 2 yr old and a 4 yr old
Tips from a long car trip to New Orleans with a 3 yr old, a 6 yr old and a 9 yr old (part 1)
And New Orleans, part 2
Niagara Falls and Toronto with Kids