Chicago with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day

Chicago with Tweens: A Family Vacation

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The best time to visit the city of Chicago with tweens is between April and October, when families can take advantage of the city's biggest and best attractions -- many of which are outdoors and an easy walk from one another. Stay at one of the hotels along Michigan Avenue (the Magnificent Mile) for convenient access to a great day of fun along the river and lakefront. Word to the wise: To get the most out of your trip, be sure to wear your walking shoes.


Start the day off right with a tasty and nutritious breakfast at the Corner Bakery Cafe on North Michigan Avenue and East Wacker (360 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60601; 312-236-2400). Here you can sit outside and watch the bustle of the city while enjoying a yogurt parfait or a breakfast sandwich.

After fueling up, head south on North Michigan Avenue to the 24.5 acre Millennium Park (55 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611; 312-742-1168), which is known for its outdoor art, architecture and landscape design -- not to mention its free admission.

Once you're in the park, make your way to Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate. The 12-foot high, 110-ton elliptical sculpture known to locals as "the bean" is an architectural and engineering wonder that makes for great conversations with your tweens about dimension and texture. The stainless steel plates reflect the Chicago skyline, so it's a great spot for family photos from a variety of visual perspectives.

Next stop is a multi-media water fountain designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa that is sure to please the tweens. The Crown Fountain features LED screens displaying Chicago residents spouting water in a way that mimics the traditional use of gargoyles spewing water from open-mouthed spouts in fountains.

Millennium Park also contains the Lurie Garden, an urban oasis that has something new and different growing each season, and the Boeing Galleries. Both are worth the time if you have it when you're in Chicago with tweens.

Continue south along and you will find the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago at Monroe Street and Michigan Avenue (111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60603; 312-443-3600). The museum has an impressive number of collections, as well as special exhibitions. They even have a selection of interactive family exhibitions. Adult admission is $18 (except for Thursdays from 5:00PM to 8:00PM, when it's open to the public for free). Children under 14 are always free.


Once you've had your fill of art, stroll back north on Michigan Avenue to Lake Street. About a block east in the Prudential Plaza is Giordano's Pizza (135 E. Lake, Chicago, IL; 312-616-1200), one of the best places to get the famous Chicago deep-dish pizza. Giordano's has a "stuffed" version that takes pizza to a new level. The restaurant's casual style will also make you and your tweens feel comfortable, as you have a lively discussion and review of your day thus far.

Digest your lunch on a slow boat and 90-minute architectural tour with the Chicago Architecture Foundation (224 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60604; 312-922-3432). More than just bricks and mortar, the tour captures the diversity, construction and history of the structures along the Chicago River. You'll find the boat docked on the water along Wacker Drive. Tickets are a bit pricey at $32 per person, but the tour is well worth it. You might want to inquire with your hotel for any discounts they may offer. Also be sure to check the tour schedule ahead of time, so you don't miss the boat.

Next stop is the historical Navy Pier (600 East Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60611; 312-595-7437), a 50-acre park full of entertainment right on Lake Michigan. If you're a bit tired from the day's events, rest up while taking in a film at the IMAX theater's six-story, 60 x 80-foot screen. (Tickets for adults and kids age three and up range from $11 to $15, depending on the film). After the show, you'll have your choice of activities on the pier, from rides that include a 150-foot-high Ferris-wheel to more museums and boat cruises.


Navy Pier offers a wide selection of dinner options at Chicago classics like the Billy Goat Tavern & Grill and Harry Caray's Tavern, both of which have plenty of tween-friendly options. If you are at the pier on a Wednesday or Saturday in the summer, you'll also enjoy an evening fireworks display. A grand end to a great day in the city of Chicago.

Note: For those who want to create their itinerary in advance, tickets for the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago's Architecture Foundation boat tour, as well as tickets to Navy Pier's rides, movies and other attractions can all be purchased online. This will ensure you'll have access to all the attractions.

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