Chicago is a two-hour flight from Birmingham. My wife and two daughters visited over summer; here are some family-friendly recommendations when traveling to Chicago with children.
Published: November 25, 2013
By: Jim Graves & Carol Walsh
We started in Schaumburg at the high-quality Residence Inn (www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/chism-residence-inn-chicago-schaumburg/), a short drive from O’Hare airport and less than an hour from downtown. We had a one-bedroom suite ($130/night); breakfast and amenities included.
We ate at Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria (www.loumalnatis.com) for dinner, with 36 locations throughout Chicagoland. It features an excellent deep-dish pizza, as well as salads, sandwiches, first class desserts (try the tiramisu!) and a kids menu.
Once downtown, we stayed at the outstanding Hampton Inn & Suites (www.hamptonsuiteschicago.com), six blocks west of Navy pier. We had a roomy suite with a beautiful city view. Breakfast and many amenities included, including an indoor pool. Ample public transportation options are available nearby.
Navy Pier’s Chicago Children’s Museum (www.chicagochildrensmuseum.org offers many fun hands-on activities for children: play with stuffed pets, build a skyscraper, be a paleontologist, explore the waterworks, climb in a schooner and build with tools. The staff was excellent.
Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville (www.margaritavillechicago.com) is one of Navy pier’s best restaurants. Eat burgers and fries, soups and salads, sandwiches, seafood and even a sirloin steak as you enjoy Jimmy Buffett music and memorabilia. Souvenir t-shirts, glasses, key chains and beads available in the restaurant’s gift shop.
My kids absolutely loved the Blue Man Group (www.blueman.com) in historic Briar Street Theater. It features three “blue men,” loud percussion music, splattering paint, comedy, audience participation and special effects.
A great way to tour downtown with a guide while letting someone else do the driving is to take the Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. (www.coachusa.com/chicagotrolley). The buses travel a downtown route while stopping at 13 key spots along the way. Riders can hop on and off at the stops.
The Peninsula Chicago (www.peninsula.com/Chicago/en/default.aspx) is a fabulous 5-star hotel located just off the Magnificent Mile, and one of Chicago’s finest hotels. It has an elegant interior and attentive staff ready to cater to your every whim. Our suite was set back from back from Michigan Avenue; we heard the sounds of the city, just not as loud as if we were on the street! I took the kids up to the 20th (top) floor pool, one of the hotel’s best features. For a delicious high-end breakfast, try The Lobby, their main floor restaurant.
If you have girls, a stop at the American Girl Place Chicago (www.americangirl.com/stores/location_chi.php) is a must. Located a block away from the Peninsula Chicago, this place was made for girls who love dolls. You can purchase a high-end, keepsake doll, either from a particular period in American history or customize one to look like your daughter. You can buy accessories, have your doll’s hair done and its ears pierced. Enjoy dinner alongside your doll afterward in the store’s 2nd floor restaurant, which looks out on lovely Seneca Park.
Chicago is a great city for Birmingham families to visit, with much to see and do. We look forward to returning soon!