Chicago’s Navy Peer

A visit to Navy Peer is a must if you are traveling with children. We went just to ride the Farris Wheel. We parked in a lot downtown and walked through the tunnel over to Navy Peer. We planned to have dinner in downtown so we were walking regardless. The lot parking at the end of the Grand/Ohio block at Columbus was the cheapest option we found that was central to our plans. Navy Peer is awesome. There are lights, noise, and vendors everywhere you turn. Inside the main building are tons of souvenir stops. I’m not a souvenir fan. I am more than happy with a few photographs and a memory than a pile of junk in a closet. Ivy, my oldest, used to ask for all kinds of odd things until she realized how much space they take up when you get them home. She started collecting smashed pennies years ago from places we visit. I did not notice a penny machine here but I honestly did not really look for one. We walked past a food court area and out the door to the real excitement. There are many small rides outside but Navy Peer is known for that Farris Wheel I mentioned! Their large Ferris Wheel overlooks the city skyline.

We got there right at the start of sunset. We bought our tickets and jumped on literally! The Farris wheel never stops. You have to get on and off while it is still moving. It does not go fast but getting on and off with a toddler on your hip is a feat! The ride lasts 7 minutes. The views are great but the wind coming off the lake at the top almost froze us. I understand that between the wind and the safety risk that they had to enclose the seating baskets with safety glass but it does really obstruct the view. If you lean forward and take photos out of the opening above the small doors they turn out much better.

Upon exiting the Farris wheel we picked back up the stroller from the stroller parking area. This is just a parking spot for strollers that you leave at your own risk. If you intend to visit Chicago or any major city consider bringing a bike lock for your stroller. It is astonishing how fast those things can disappear. Thankfully, we did not have any problems but we had our “travel” stroller. It is an older, light weight, fixed front wheel jogger. It has been used and abused…lovingly of course! After picking up the stroller and getting Isabella situated we started walking back toward the main entrance. A couple were getting wedding photo’s on the main sidewalk stairs. They were trying to get the Farris wheel as the back drop. We cut down one of the small sidewalks that come off the main one. That’s when I got this great photo-

We strolled along people watching and checking out the skyline as dusk settled in around us. Ivy stopped to use one of those binoculars that you put a quarter in. As it began to get darker we decided it was time to start heading back to downtown. As we were walking back toward the main sidewalk I caught something moving out of the corner of my eye. I came to an abrupt halt just in time for a rat to run out on the sidewalk right in front of us! This rat was almost as big as a standard house cat! I was completely in shock. I just stood there. I kept asking, “Do you see that?” Ivy would answer, “Yeah, Do you?” Michael, being the oblivious man he is, says, “What?” and looks around. The rat ran into the bush opposite. I said, “You did not see that giant rat?” He said, “No, I was looking at that boat over there.” I couldn’t help but laugh. He is insane about boats. He loves them the way I love shoes. If there had been a pair of great shoes there I still think I would have seen the rat. Maybe that’s the difference between men and women, lol. After the rat we were ready to go. We headed out the gates and toward our next adventure in the Windy City!

The Details:

Location: Navy Peer – Downtown Chicago

Cost: Free to Enter, Ride Prices Vary, Farris Wheel – $6 each (Isabella was free)

What to do: Ride the Farris Wheel, Enjoy the Sites, and Giggle at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory Restaurant

Happy Travels!!

Cheesecake Factory – Chicago, IL

The Cheesecake Factory is the place for cheesecake, of course. But they have quite an extensive menu. We stopped in for a quick, easy lunch. In this downtown Chicago location it was easier to get a seat upstairs. It’s a limited menu of their top sellers but you can normally get your butt in a seat even when there is a long line downstairs. I hate waiting when I could be eating. The restaurant is well lite and beautifully decorated. The ceiling in the upstairs is something to see. I was very impressed with the bathroom. Instead of stalls, they have individual little bathrooms with a center waiting area with large mirrors. This is great when you have to have children with you in the bathroom. Those stalls can get very tight.

They automatically bring delicious bread and butter to the table. It’s complementary and great for the budget conscious. I suggest ordering a couple of appetizers or entrees to split for lunch. We do this quite often. It can be great for the budget and your waistline. The meals and appetizers in many restaurants are huge. We did two appetizers on our visit. The nachos were great! The avocado egg rolls were horrible! Avoid those! The cheesecake was wonderful! I got Hersey’s Cheesecake.

 

 

The Details

Location: 875 North Michigan Avenue Chicago, IL 60611

Cost For a Family of 4: Bread and butter-Free, Nachos $9.95, Pick another appetizer for around $10, Split 2 pieces of cheesecake for $7-$8 each (They are HUGE!), Drinks here are expensive ($3 for a soft drink!) so I suggest ice water. Total with tip is around $42 if you skip the drinks!

Website: http://www.thecheesecakefactory.com/

Amazing Food at Great Prices at Pompei – Chicago, IL

(FYI: Unfortunately the branch we visited and loved has shut down. They have four other locations so I have decided to include this gem.)

This little cafeteria style restaurant is simply amazing! It has been open and serving food since 1909! That kind of endurance speaks for itself. It was the driving force behind our visit. If it had been there for that long then they must be doing something right! It is now on my must visit list for Chicago trips. There is a long glass case full of sample plates and food. You pick out what looks good. They make you a plate that is hot and fresh from the kitchen. They do not have kids meals. Instead they offer half portions of all menu items. This is nice if your kids are not happy with the typical “kid fare.” Ivy is like this. She has been raised to try different things. She now has a varied palate and enjoys more “grown-up” food. Half portions are also nice for lunch or for light eaters. They are also nice to your budget!

I ordered a spinach and ricotta Pizzicottos. Michael got goat cheese ravioli. Ivy got a half order of chicken ravioli with tomato herb cream sauce. Isabella got a half order of spaghetti and a meatball. Their meatballs are the size of a baseball! They have bottomless drinks. Michael and I split his ravioli and my pizzicotto. They went wonderfully together! Ivy loved her food and the half portion was still large. Bella barely put a dent in her food. If I had it to do over I do not think I would have ordered her a meatball. The spaghetti was huge and very tasty. I suggest this place to anyone going to or living in the Chicago area. It was clean, family friendly, inexpensive, and delicious! It is the kind of place that you can let the kids take their time.

Website (Menu): http://www.pompeipizza.com  

Chicago’s Watertower Mall – American Girl & A Budget Breakfast

Traveling with a girl under twelve? You simply must visit the American Girl store. I got the pleasure of taking Ivy there. She used to read their magazines and be a bit of a fan. She had never been to the store though. They have a doll with the same name as her. She just wanted to see “Ivy” in the case and get a photo with her. They had a hula dancer at the back of the first floor. She did a show. Then she showed the kids some hula moves. We stayed to watch her for a few minutes but we were starving so we had to move on.

I had gotten a tip from an online friend that there was an amazing place to have breakfast in the same mall. I thought, “Breakfast…In the mall food court…weird!” But I figured it could not hurt to take a peek. It took us a minute to figure out the elevators. They are fast moving! The kids got a kick out of them. The place is on the Mezzanine level. Not all of the elevators will take you to this floor. We finally made it to the right one. As we walked into the food court we were struck by the line at one place. It was of course the place she had suggested. Their name is Foodlife but the sign above it simply read “Breakfast.” Ivy and I got into line. Michael and Isabella went to claim us a table.

Ordering here is confusing. The line is fast paced and cafeteria style. You grab a tray and move down the line. When they point to you it’s your turn. All I can say is decide in advance because you do not get long to order. Ivy is always very slow to choose. This was not for her. They were not going to wait. I ordered a little of everything and fast. At the last moment she yells, “Waffle.” The guy nodded and yells back, “4 Minutes.” I moved to the end and paid quickly. Only after I got back to the table did I realise that I only bought one drink! There are other restaurants and coffee shops on the floor. I was not going back through that line. So a word to the wise “Remember to order drinks!”

Our Order

1 Stuffed Croissant – $2.79

1 Side of Applewood Bacon – $2.49

1 Side of Scrambled Eggs – $2.29

1 Belgian Waffle – $3.99

1 Side of Pork Sausage – $2.49

1 Side of Chicken Sausage – $2.49

1 Regular Drink – $1.69

Tax – $2.06

Total = $20.29

We had two trays laden with food. Ivy went back up to the register to grab her waffle. I wish I would have taken a photo of that Belgian waffle! The food was all amazing! Their chicken sausage knocked my socks off! I could have ate a plate of nothing but it! The scrambled eggs were cooked to perfection. I cut the large stuffed croissant and waffle into four pieces. It was plenty of food for the four of us. Everyone left the table with a full belly and a smile.

Side Note: Do not forget to stop by the bathroom before leaving. It can be hard to locate a public restroom in downtown Chicago. The one on the mezzanine level was clean and not crowded. The kids and maybe even the adults will be amused by the double sided air dryers that you have to put your hands into.

The Details:

Cost: American Girl – Free to visit & Breakfast – $20.29

Location: North Michigan Avenue near East Pearson Street

Phone Number: 312-335-3663

Famous Pizza & People at Gino’s East – Chicago, IL

Gino’s East in Downtown Chicago is a famous place. It has been in countless magazines, television shows, and many a travel story. For my 29th birthday we went to Chicago to celebrate. I had to stop by Gino’s, write my name on the wall, and have a piece of Gino’s famous pizza. They are known for two things. One is the deep dish Chicago style pizza. The other is the fact that every wall is covered in signatures! They have a sausage patty pizza made with their famous sausage. Of course that is what we had. It was amazing! While there we saw Actor Peter Jacobson standing in line. He plays Dr. Taub on House, was on Law and Order and a ton of other shows from Will & Grace to The Good Wife! What a shock to just see him standing there! He was very nice.

I wrote my name on the wall in hot pink lipstick because ink was not going to show up. The whole place is covered in names! It’s amusing. Here’s my name:

                                      Can you see the hot pink “Crystal?”The Details

Location: 633 North Wells Street (at Ontario Street) Downtown Chicago, IL

Cost: Varies based on what you order. Their menu is on their website.

Contemporary Photography Museum – Chicago, Illinois

This museum is in downtown Chicago, Illinois. It is a convenient walk from Millennium Park. It is free to visit and there were some wonderful photographs on display. The museum is small. It only takes an hour or less to walk through and check everything out. Fun for the adults and older kids. You will have to carry the little ones up the few flights of stairs. The man at the desk said we could leave our stroller there. If you are an art junkie like me than it’s totally worth the stop!

I only had two issues with this place. The first is that you must look strickly for the address because there is no sign. It is inside a basic, brick building. My other was the door to the actual museum. It is heavy and hard to open. I gave it a good yank, right as somebody opened the outside door. It came flying and crushed my hand! It was quite a bruise the next day. So if you visit please be careful!

The Details

Location: 600 S. MICHIGAN AVE : CHICAGO, IL 60605  

Cost: Free

Millennium Park – Chicago, Illinois

Millennium Park is a must see when visiting Chicago. It houses “Cloud Gate” by: Anish Kapoor (2004). This bean shaped sculpture is one of Chicago’s best known works, often referred to as just “The Bean”. It is astounding and other worldly. You cannot come to Chicago and not see it. It is a rare treat to find a work of art that you are allowed  to touch and truly experience. The crowd here can be quite thick because this is a very popular attraction. It is extremely family friendly. There are loads of areas to run and play with your kids. There are places to sit for a quick snack if you want to bring something. Our travel snacks are typically fresh fruit, nuts, and whole wheat crackers. We also always bring our water bottles.

The park also features the BP Bridge, The Crown Fountain, The Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and The Lurie Garden. Also do not forget to take the sky walk across to get great photos from the glass encased balcony. This is such an incredible park that you could easily spend a relaxing afternoon taking in all it has to offer.

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

After the park we went to see “Large Interior Form” by: Henry Moore. It is in a small garden area. The city is littered with green spaces that house various public art. They are like a small oasis amid the buildings and people. This was a beautiful piece. There are other sculptures in this square. It is a relaxing experience. There were art students napping on benches with their books. This area was not crowded and had a more laid back local feel to it.

Large Interior Form By Henry Moore

Next, We walked to the corner of the block to see “The Fountain of the Great Lakes” by: Lorado Taft. This is a large detailed fountain with a big square water area in front of it. The surrounding grounds are set up in a grid formation. It is a nice place to hang out for a few minutes and take a breather. The fountain is circa 1913. It is like looking at a piece of history. Spend a few more minutes in this area and see “Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Founding of the Republic” by: Isamu Noguchi (1976). It is on the opposite side of the block. Go East on Jackson and then North on Columbus.

The Fountain of the Great Lakes by: Lorado Taft (1913)

The Details:

Cost: 100% FREE!!

Location: Downtown Chicago in The Loop

Happy Travels!!!