Thanksgiving in Chicago
When our friends, the Taylor and Hayley, invited us to join them for Thanksgiving this year, we jumped at the opportunity. They live just outside of Chicago, while Taylor is working towards an MBA at Northwestern University. This close location to the city made it not just a fun trip to visit good friends, but also a time to tour around.
The beginning of the Christmas season had us meeting Santa at Macy’s Santa Land (reserve your time to visit online) and enjoying hot cider at the outdoor Christkindlmarket. And though we did spend most of Thanksgiving feasting, playing games, and relaxing, we also visited the Khol Children’s Museum and walked around the Northwestern campus and nearby neighborhoods.
Our Favorite Chicago Spots
While this trip was short and sweet, it was wonderful to be back in Chicago! Kyle and I have visited a number of times before this trip. Though we didn’t hit up most of our favorite spots on this whirlwind of a trip, we still want to share our favorites from past explorations.
Fancy a walk in the park or a view of Chicago’s cityscape? Definitely check out Millennium Park and it’s fountains, gardens, Jay Pritzker Pavillion, and the famous Cloud Gate. It’s free to visit, which makes it an ideal location for a picnic, a quick picture, or a evening walk. If you are looking for a birds eye view of Chicago, visit the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere via Skydeck Chicago. Your fear of heights will be challenged on the ledge as you get to see the city moving below your feet.
If you are the kind of person who enjoys learning about and observing animals, Chicago has a couple great options for that, both located on the edge of Lake Michigan. The Shedd Aquarium houses 32,000 aquatic animals from all over the world. On the North edge of the city is the Lincoln Park Zoo. Visitors to this zoo get to enjoy the exhibits of the zoo with the juxtaposition of the city buildings looming overhead. There is something exciting about escaping the city to learn more about the wild.
Chicago is also home for many wonderful museums. The Field Museum is home to historical artifacts from around the world pleasing for both kids and kids at heart. Another museum for the inquisitive sort is the Museum of Science and Industry. Exhibits foster curiosity by offering hands on learning experiences about natural curiosities and current scientific innovations alike. To round out those exhibits, the Art Institute of Chicago houses famous works of Seruat, Degas, and Matisse. It also holds extensive collections of ancient antiquities to modern sculpture. We could have happily spent days at any of these locations.
Sit Down Entertainment
Chicago is known for several of their sports teams, and all are great for an evening’s entertainment. We have already enjoyed a White Sox game, but look forward to the chance to see the Cubs play at Wrigley Field. Watching the Chicago Bulls play would also be an exciting night out. If sports aren’t your thing, the Joffrey Ballet is world renown for their incredible athletic performances. There is also a great theater scene bringing Broadway touring shows and other entertainers to perform.
Where to Eat
Any visit to a big city would not be complete without some delicious food. For us, no trip would be complete without indulging in the Chicago classic, deep dish pizza. Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s both claim to be the best, so a sample from each should help you find out for yourself. Of course, while you are sampling local favorites, banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery or a Chicago style hot dog from any of the local stands are must try items.
Explorer Tips to Know Before You Go
As with any city, there are little things that can make your visit much easier.
If you know you are visiting Chicago during a busy time and/or plan on checking out several of the museums, look into the City Pass. This pass give you VIP or Fast Pass access to many of the must visit locations at a discounted rate to what you would pay for them individually. We found it well worth our money, and loved each of the locations it includes. The City Pass includes admission to:
- Shedd Aquarium
- Skydeck Chicago
- Field Museum
- Museum of Science and Industry -or- 360 Chicago
- Alder Planetarium -or- Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago is a very busy city, which can break a trip if you haven’t planned for it. The first thing to be aware of is the expensive cost of parking. If you want to go to several different locations, you could end up paying $20+ in each parking lot. Instead, try using SpotHero to reserve a decent priced parking spot, then leave the car there while you walk around the city. Make sure to pack good walking shoes, and to plan your itinerary based on location so you aren’t having to zig zag across the city.
If you want to forego the car and parking ordeal, or want to visit a location too far away to walk, try the Chicago train system. Taking the trains can seem daunting, but they are an efficient and relatively inexpensive way to get around. We have used the Ventra Card, which is easy to use by touching it on the scanners at each train station. Other links things to look into before your trip: the train maps for Chicago and tips for Chicago visitors.