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.
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).
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.
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.