Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chicago with Kids

Last weekend, we took the two youngest to Chicago. The oldest boy had to work and had school, and I'm not sure he was that keen on running around Chicago with us, so he stayed. The middle boy had driver's ed. driving days and is still recovering from a sprained ankle, plus I'm not sure he wanted to be cooped up with us either. Chicago's really one of those cities where you all have to stay together. And you do a lot of walking.

So, no biggy. We are planning another short vacation at the end of the summer and both older boys said they planned on coming with us then. So, we still had a great time.

We took the train bus to Chicago. Turns out, the tracks were down for repair, so they switched us to a bus. Seriously? A bus?

So not as much fun as a train!

And we were confused, so we were the last ones boarded, which means we couldn't all sit together. Luckily, someone moved so that the girl and I could sit together. She's a little young to sit by herself yet. The youngest boy was able to sit real close to me. Close enough that I could hit. :)

I enjoyed that.

We got to Chicago and walked to the hotel, about 8 blocks away. Not that far when all you're carrying is a backpack. We were only staying for 1 night, so we packed light. A light backpack and comfy shoes with so much to see. 8 blocks were a piece of cake.

If we were going the right direction, they would be.

I didn't realize that Union Station was on BOTH sides of the street. Actually, when you go into Union Station, where Amtrak (bus) drops you off, it goes UNDER the street. So, there's two building fronts across from each other. They both say Union Station. So, I just naturally assumed we were heading East, away from Union Station. Like last time hubby and I went by ourselves.

But no.

We were heading West.

I keep a little map of the Loop area and mark some restaurants and shops that we may want to stop at folded up in my back pocket. Just so we don't get lost.

I thought it was weird that it wasn't jiving yet. But there are smaller streets that aren't marked on my little map.

So, after I finally noticed that the parallel street was on the wrong side of us.

This was about 5 or 6 blocks West of where we started.

But....we got to see Greektown. :)

I told them, "Well that concludes our visit to Greektown, let's turn around and head to the hotel."

"What, what?" they said.

The fireman narrowed his eyes. "Did you have the map upside down?"

"No." I said. "I just really wanted to see Greektown."

He gave me the eyebrow.

So, we got to the Palmer House. Located on Monroe and State, just one block off of Michigan. I had wanted to stay here with hubby last time, but it was a mite expensive. Although, not as difficult to justify when you are splitting it between 4 people AND it was downtown, which meant less walking for the youngin's.

*no I didn't take this photo. It was online*
It was a beautiful hotel with these Peacocks adorning everything from a beautiful door
to the carpet
to the pillows on the bed, to the wallpaper. All different styles, but the curly feather was worked into everything. I guess the guy that built the place, his last name was Peacock and his wife did the decorating. There were also cool pictures of Jane Russell and Sid Caesar and Bing Crosby, etc on the hallway walls.

We dropped our bags off, and headed out towards the Field Museum. We planned on visiting Shedd's Aquarium and the Field Museum. They have the T-Rex exhibit going on. The 146 bus on State St. will take you right to the Field Museum and we were able to jump on it right away.

The kids loved the bus. It was crowded and the bus driver was chatting them up. It was fun.

He took us right to Shedd's Aquarium and told us that there was an hour and a half wait currently. Apparently, we had chosen FREE DAY to visit. They do this for the community, which is great. But, that means we had to wait in a line for an  hour and a half! Yipes! And then, the whole place was so crowded that by the time we got out of there, it was 5pm and we were all too hungry to try the Field Museum, which ironically had no line.

I wish we would have done that first. Shedd's was nearly too crowded to enjoy. Oh well, just an excuse to try it again.

However, while we waited, there were hot dog vendors and ice cream vendors. And hubby brought us all Chicago dogs from the vendors.

Oh man.

They were gooooooood. Easily the best hot dog I've had. Poppy seed bun and all.

And ice cream later when we were hot and tired of standing.

But I got some great pics of the Chicago skyline.

And some great photos of the kids.
Those are some seriously cute kids. Seriously.
And a nice view of the harbor, loaded with boats.
Then we got on a bus that took us up to North Michigan Avenue, so that we could go to Hard Rock Cafe. We were having a hard time deciding between there and the Rainforest Cafe. If it was just the fireman and me, we would have done something more local, but we knew the kids would enjoy the touristy thing. And they did.

It was the 40th anniversary for Hard Rock and the servers were all dressed up. It was awesome! There were flat screen TVs everywhere playing old 80's video's. We ordered these loaded nachos as an appetizer and they were amazing!!! I could have just eaten an order by myself for the meal. I got the pulled pork and couldn't finish it all, it was great.

By the time we left. We were worn out from the long day (we had gotten up at 7 to head to the train bus). So, we just walked back to the hotel, bout 8 blocks and decided to go swimming.

We all laid down to rest for a minute and when I woke up and it was around 8:30pm.

So, we hurried up and got changed and headed to the elevators. The elevators were acting up and it took a while to get a car down. Also, there was a really funny drunk guy that was talking REAL LOUD about the broken elevator  and how you have to HOLD THE BUTTON DOWN because the light won't stay lit. And since the car was having troule, we needed to HOLD DOWN BOTH BUTTONS just to catch the next car. His friends apologized for him. He was loud and drunk, but he wasn't being inappropriate or anything. So, it was just funny.

They finally left to walk down the stairs. We were on the 14th floor.

Then the car finally stopped and we went down to the 8th floor, where the pool is located.

We walked around until we found the pool, only to find a note that it closed at 9pm. By now, it was currently 9:15pm.

So, we had slept through it.

We walked back to the room,  took our showers and piled on our beds and watched CSI. It was actually kind of relaxing and fun. We had the kids pack snacks and we raided the kid's snacks. :)

The next morning, we got dressed and checked out. Around the corner was a Corner Bakery which we all got huge cinnamon rolls and a couple egg panini's that we ended up sharing all around. And coffee. Yes, lots of coffee.

Our train bus left at 1:15pm, so we decided to shop on Michigan Avenue instead of try to go back to the Field Museum. It was now Saturday and possibly busier. And we wanted the kids to see more of Chicago. So, we walked up Michigan Avenue and over the Chicago River. It was pretty.

We stopped in a Bags for You store with purses and backpacks. The boys' backpack was falling apart and he needed a new one. But we decided not to spend $50 on one. We waited until we got home.

We stopped in the Disney store for the girl. And she picked out a Lady doll from Lady and the Tramp as her souvenir. And the boy found a Juggernaut memorabilia figurine from X-Men that he wanted. I called it a toy and he informed me that it that it wasn't a toy, it was memorabilia. I was surprised they wanted these instead of shirts somewhere, but it's their call.  Besides, at 14, that may be the last 'toy' that we'll be able to buy the boy.

We walked down to the Hershey store, which was super cool. There were 2 lb Reese's. Each cup was about 5 inches across and 1.5 inches high. BIG. There were super cool shirts. Vintage style shirts, newer shirts. Reese's pillows, Hershey's bar pillows. A big 5lb Hershey bar. We did get the 16 inch Twizzlers. Something that wouldn't melt. But just seeing everything and smelling all of the chocolate was just really cool.

By now, it was near lunch time and we didn't have much time left. We had told the boy about eating at the Billy Goat Tavern last time we were here. You know, where Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi made the Saturday Night Live skit, Cheezborger Cheezborger Cheezborger. :) So, he kept bringing it up. And as much as I was craving some Chicago pizza, I figured we should go there. There was one on Michigan Avenue, but further south, near the river. So, we walked back down Michigan Avenue and stopped near the river at 430 Michigan Ave, where my phone said that it was located. There was a big business building and I thought, maybe it's in there. So, we stopped in the Walgreens on the corner and he said it's under the street. There was one of those Subway openings, with the stairs that take you underground outside of the building. And there was a plaque on it that said Billy Goat Tavern.
So, we went down and it was seriously cool. We were under the street and there was a streetlight and the bar was right on the corner, dimly lit with neon signs. And it was near noon! It felt like the middle of the night.
 So, we walked to the grill and the guy there looked like the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. They based him from this place as well. And you'll soon find out why. He kept saying "Cheezborger Cheezborger Cheezborger."
Hubby and the boy said they wanted a cheeseburger and he said, "Double. Double the best."
 I told him I wanted a cheeseburger and he said "Double."
And I said, "I don't know."
He said "Double the best. Everybody gets double."
I said, "Ok." I wasn't going to argue with him. This was the soup nazi, folks.
Then the girl asked for a hot dog as the guy said again "Double, everybody gets a double."
I looked at him and asked, "Is it okay if she gets a hot dog?"
He looked at me, looked at the girl and said, "Fine." and yelled "3 double cheezborgers and a hot dog."
Then he said asked what we wanted to drink as he pushed the pre-filled Coke's to us. "Everybody gets a Coke."

Not sure why he asked.

Later, while we were eating, we watched him argue with people with their order. It was funny. If everybody gets the same thing, it goes faster, so when the line was long, he just made them take a double and a Coke. Well, he pretty much did that with everybody, but he didn't fight as much when the line wasn't long.

They had the condiments on a separate table. Pickles, onions, mustard, ketchup, mayo, etc... So, you'd take your burger wrapped in parchment paper to the stand and put what you wanted on it and sit down. I wish I would have gotten a picture in the place. It was neat.

The burgers were gooood. They were thin and cooked on a grill top that's grilled thousands of burgers. The buns were kaiser rolls that were buttered and grilled. So, they were slightly chewy and warm. Yum.

We were full and happy when we left. Hubby stopped to ask if this was the original Billy Goat Tavern, cause there were 7 in the city. They said yes. So, we were sitting where, at one time, Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi once sat, laughing at the Cheezborger Cheezborger Cheezborger. Chips, no fries! Pepsi, no Coke! Everybody gets a double! Double's the best!
I'm glad we stopped.

Then, we climbed the steps and found the 151 bus on Michigan avenue, that took us straight to the Amtrak, got on our train bus and headed home.


Jana said...

Awe man, that sounds like an awesome trip. Except for the bus part. ;-) But sounds like even that wasn't all that bad. I had to giggle on the sidetrip to Greektown. Totally sounds like something I'd do.

Glad ya'll had fun.:)

JenMarie said...

Thanks! I think it was a great weekend. Sometimes those short, cheaper trips are just perfect.

Anonymous said...

What a great trip. It is important to do family trips, the kids will remember this. And YOU tell it well.

JenMarie said...