Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chicago Museums on the Cheap

Husband, kids and Sue

Yes I know I haven't written much lately and this trip happened a few weeks ago - but that doesn't mean that I haven't thought about writing a number of times.

We've wanted to visit Chicago with the kids, for a long time. A couple of things hindering such a trip was that we wanted to wait until the kids were old enough to really enjoy things and that they would be up to all of the walking. A lot of walking. Also the cost. Did we really want to spend upwards of $500 to see some museums? Then we heard about the museum free days.

A number of museums in Chicago are required to have 52 "Free Days" per year (you can check their websites to see which days - usually they are in the off season) - so we scheduled our trip around the free days. The free days are NOT just for Chicago residents as some might think.

We drove up Sunday afternoon and came home late Tuesday night.

In that short span of time we were able to visit: Frank Lloyd Wright's studio/house (outside only) and neighborhood, The Shedd Aquarium, The Field History Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry and Ikea.

We had a great time. Except for the traffic. And our sore feet/legs.

Our first stop was early Sunday evening when we stopped at Oak Park to visit the area where Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) lived and worked.

FLW designed house

Since the FLW studio was closed when we got there - we just walked around the buildings, peered in the windows and walked down the street which contained a number of cool houses and a church that Frank designed. Any of those houses on the street, even the non-FLW houses - I'd be happy to live in.

We only had about an hour of daylight left when we arrived in Oak Park, so our tour was unfortunately brief.

We stayed at a Motel 6 about 20 minutes from downdown (well 20 minutes if say you were flying - but about 90 minutes if you were driving during rush hour, as we were).

Kids and sea creature

Monday morning our first stop was the Shedd Aquarium. It was incredible to see all the beautiful and unusual fish and other aquatic creatures…we saw some beluga whales – fun to watch them being trained. The girl loved the aquarium especially and was often heard saying “Oh” and then “it’s a ___”. She’s pretty good at identifying creatures she likes – and was happy to be able to see things up close – she has wanted to go to an aquarium for a number of years and her dream was finally fulfilled. When we left around noon there was a huge line of people waiting to get in to the aquarium. The line was in fact, all the way outside (canopies are set up to protect folks from the elements while they wait for ??? maybe an hour or two). I think they let people in rather slowly as space indoors is limited and you don't want to have to try to climb on the shoulders of the 50 people in front of you to see the seahorses or paddlemouth fish. So my advice - GET THERE EARLY. Make sure you take into consideration that it might take you a whole lot longer than you think - to drive the short distance to the aquarium.

In the afternoon we visited the Field History Museum where the dinosaurs were a favorite – especially “Sue”. We also enjoyed seeing the large Egypt exhibition.

Since the aquarium and Field Museum are next door to each other - we parked at the nearby football stadium parking garage and so only had to pay once for parking (we stayed all day). Cost - about $17

Lunch was at McDonalds in the Field Museum - McDonalds is usually cheap - but this McDonalds - no doubt due to its convenient location - was a total of about $5 more than usual.

On the shore of Lake Michigan - I could have stayed there a long time enjoying the view.

When we were finished at the Field Museum, we took a picnic lunch and ate it down on the beach of Lake Michigan – the weather was perfect and the kids (and I) enjoyed taking off our shoes and socks and walking along the beach (a good therapeutic massage for our very sore feet). Later we walked to Buckingham Fountain and then to downtown Millenium Park and the Crown Fountain and the giant steel “bean” Cloud Gate. We were very weary by the time we got back to our car that we left parked at the museums. Tylenol was dispersed.

The "Bean"

Our Tuesday morning drive downtown was less stressful as we now knew what to expect and we arrived at the Museum of Science and Industry before it even opened. We spent the day there – just leaving for a picnic lunch on the grounds. The kids went on a tour of the enormous German submarine that was captured during WWII and is in the basement of the museum. The girl and I especially enjoyed watching the chicks hatch in the incubator. Note about parking - here is a metered parking area in front of the building that says Space Center (or some such thing) that is to the left of the entrance of the Museum of Science and Industry and parking was cheaper than parking in the underground parking garage mentioned on their website ($7 vs $16).


We left for home around 3:30- though we stopped in at an Ikea store just outside of Chicago and shopped around for about an hour and then had supper there. Fun. BUT can someone please tell me why, the one item that I wanted from Ikea, that I have wanted for over two years, has not been in stock the only two times I have ever visited Ikea (this one plus the one in Minneapolis) ??

All in all the trip was a great experience – one that hopefully the children will remember.

In total our trip cost about $250. This includes gas to and from Chicago, two nights at a cheap motel, 2 days of museum parking, entrance to 3 museums (there was an additional charge of about $12 total for both kids to tour the inside of the submarine - but the tour is optional - unless you have a boy that loves all things military and wanted to go inside the sub very badly - then it's not optional but a desperate necessity) and a walking tour of FLW neighborhood, and 4 fast food-ish restaurant meals (we brought breakfast foods to eat in our motel room and had a picnic lunch for two of our other meals).

Though $250 isn't "peanuts" to a lot of folks - this is cheap for all the things we were able to do in Chicago. Admission to the 3 museums alone would have been approx. $250 for our family of four - which would have doubled the cost of our trip.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Note

This is a note that greeted me when I first stepped into the kitchen this morning.

In case you can't read it: "Thank you 4 making this 4 your loving son! xoxoxo"

It was written by the boy and propped up against a box of pancake mix.

The note was a clever way of asking and his handwriting so nice - that of course I did it.