For some folks, there is a great deal of trepidation when it comes to the annual summer ritual, the family vacation. The planning of where to go, where to stay and what to do can nearly paralyze some folks. In this day and age, where everything can be planned online from the comfort of our favorite recliner, I have found myself stymied by the large number of choices that could actually be made.
Through all the debate and deliberation, a family decision was made to go to Chicago. For years, I dragged my feet on taking the children to the big city. My objections never came from my disdain for large metropolitan areas. Aside from taming traffic, I have no problems with large cities. They can be home to amazing museums, exciting experiences and just things you don’t see in the little towns surrounded by cornfields.
But I would be naive not be believe that there is some sense of danger in being in the big city. The large city requires a keen eye on observation. Navigating public transit can be challenging, crossing the street is more than just staying in between the white lines. Added to all this was the absolute bombardment of visual images that are completely bombarding your mind each minute. Architecture, advertising, traffic are all competing for your attention at the same time; having a keen eye and quick mind are needed in the urban environment.
But with our children being a little older, we decided that this was the year to tackle the big city. And we are glad we did.
Our trip was filled with shopping on Michigan Avenue, a trip to the Tribute Tower to look at the radio studios of WGN radio, looking at monkeys at Lincoln Park Zoo, going to a small science museum with an amazing butterfly house and spending time at the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier. And of course, enjoying a deep-dish pizza was part of it, along with a tea party at the American Girl store.
Through the entire trip, it was the little things that made the biggest and most impactful memories. I think our children had the most fun at Maggie Daley Park, a large park downtown which was filled with some of the most extensive and most intricate playground equipment I have ever seen. Imagine seeing tree houses that climb five stories in the air and are connected by a wooden plank suspension bridge. Think about playing on a boat that is filled with climbing ropes and springs. Even for myself, it was pretty exciting.
Even though we were only in Chicago for a few days, each day was filled with a new, exciting adventure which began literally the first step outside of our hotel. Each morning began with a ride on the elevated mass transit train into the city. My children were absolutely mesmerized by every aspect of these trains. They were amazed by how quickly these small train cars could fill up with the masses of diverse humanity. The young, the old all used these trains to get around. Even more interesting was the feeling of literally flying across town among the buildings. By the end of the third day, our little family nearly became experts on how the whole “L” system worked. I was impressed.
But, above all else, I am glad we waited until our children were older. For one, this trip was filled with a lot of walking. It seems be par for the course with big cities, but there is a lot of walking and kids’ legs aren’t exactly fun to prod when the kids they are attached to are either thirsty, hungry and/or tired. Of course, with my youngest daughter, she just can’t walk. There is a fair amount of skipping, jumping and the occasional cartwheel. To her credit, she never crashed when we were out in the town, only when her head hit the pillow at night.
I think it’s safe to say our family had a great time in Chicago and we can’t wait to go back. We need another one of those deep dish pizzas for sure!
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.