I was not sure if Chicago should be under Northeast or Mid-west...sorry.
We are looking for a vacation that we can take our 1 year old and 3 year old sons. There looked to be a lot to do in Chicago, so we were exploring it. We have only done short road trips with our 3 year, so far. So, we have not experienced a plane ride with children yet. My biggest concern is car seats and Chicago public transportation. Has anyone tried this with tots? How easy is public transportation to handle? Are there any car seat rules/laws? Any recommendations on where to stay to make it easier?
As a northern suburbs mom, I can vouch for the use of strollers throughout the Chicago transit system, from Metra trains into the suburbs to the CTA (L and bus). And cabs are everywhere, unless it's pouring rain. If you're bringing you car, the Best Western close to the Loop has free overnight parking for guests. Otherwise, hotel parking is extra and it's pretty pricey. I've stayed in many hotels downtown and there really aren't any bad ones. Go to choosechicago.com for good hotel deals.
Other than the usual places you may have heard about--Millennium Park, Navy Pier, and the museum campus, which are all good and worth seeing--I would suggest a couple of neighborhood spots. Consider Andersonville, a former Swedish neighborhood. They have a children's museum and Ann Sather's is a delicious breakfast spot for families. A fun and bustling breakfast/lunch spot in the Loop is Lou Mitchell's on Jackson St. Great omelettes and coffee, and the waitresses love kids. Another fun neighborhood would be Chinatown, south of the Loop. Take the L to Wentworth Ave. and head west. Lots of fun shops and restaurants to explore.
If you are thinking about the Art Institute, the new modern wing would be interesting to your 3-year-old as well as adults. There are so many interactive exhibits and photography that it's quite a visual feast.
If your 3-year-old is a girl, American Girl Place near Water Tower is fun. The cafe encourages girls to bring their dolls and puts them in a "baby" seat. Cute.
Enjoy a water taxi ride if you come while the weather is good. It's a great way to see the city, and it's inexpensive.
Illinois does have a child seat law, so I think you would need a car seat for a Taxi. I have taken by 4 year old on the L-train, bus, trolley, and train without a problem. I would get a "Vistor CTA Pass" for your trip. You can get them for 1, 3, and 7 days and they are good on all buses and L-trains. To go out to the suburbs, the Metra has a $5 weekend family pass that is a good deal.
I would also add a stop to the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier and the Museum of Science and Industry in the city. Taking the train out to Brookfield Zoo is also nice.
I know this is a very old thread but thought I would add some info in case others are coming for Spring Break.
Super Cool Fun Stuff in/around Chicago for families with Kids
1. Shedd Aquarium
2. Lincoln Park (Chicago) and Brookfield (Little outside) Zoo's. Both very cool!
3. Navy Pier, IMAX and Childrens Museum. There is actually a much better childrens museum in Naperville, IL about 45 minutes from downtown.
4. Museum of Science and Industry - Just had many new exhibits open.
5. Willis and Hancock Towers
6. American Girl Place
8. Notebart Nature Museum
9. Millenium Park's BEAN
7. Older Kids -Shopping Water Tower place, Schaumburgs Woodfield
8. China Town
9. Bus and river tours are lots of Fun too!
10. Jet and boat tours of the Lakefront
Metra in an around Chicago is good. The mass transit system in the city just had serious service cuts so I am not sure how reliable they are. During the Summer a trolley service runs for free all around the downtown attractions. During peak the lines can be long. It is a fun way to see the city in the open warm air.
You might want to invest in a combo car seat and stroller. Super convenient for travel even using buses, etc. Surprisingly fairly light weight and they fold up in just a few seconds. Ours has a compact convertible rear facing car seat, and is also a self-standing stroller. Have a fabulous trip!
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