Sometimes, the family road trip is a whole lot more peaceful in theory than in reality... more >>
Family Vacation in ChicagoHome Sweet Family Home Chicago
It may be cold outside, but thanks to all that Midwestern charm, you and the kiddies will be plenty warm no matter where you go. And though Chicago is known for the blues, your children will be signing anything but, in this city filled with exciting museums and holiday fun.
As the working jet set family, we introduce our children to cultures around the world. Our little ones practice their bonjour in Paris, ciao in Italy, and ni hao in China. But, there’s something very grounding about going back to basics – with a sophisticated spin – in the Midwest.
Snug as a Bug
Our family favorite is The Peninsula, where the red carpet is rolled out for the tots, with plush child-size bathrobes, rubber duckies, and milk and cookies. Children are welcome throughout The Peninsula, including at the swimming pool, which sure beats our childhood pool days at the Holiday Inn.
Enjoy a breakfast for little champions at Pierrot Gourmet, on the ground floor of The Peninsula. Madeleine would approve of the pastries, fresh juices, and savory quiche. For Mom and Dad, high-end green teas and a very respectable cappuccino will get everyone off to the right start.
Stroll up Michigan Avenue, taking in all the holiday sights, smells, and sounds. Stage a picture-perfect family photo op at the Chicago River, near the classic Wrigley Building and the not-so-classic new Trump Tower. From here, hop a taxi to Museum Campus, where you can spend a day at Field Museum, marveling at dinosaur Sue, gazing up at the stars at the Adler Planetarium, and seeing the fishies play at Shedd Aquarium. You could go kamikaze and try to fit all three in one day but as is usually the case with children, less is more.
It’s worth buying a membership at the museums, which can often translate into big savings on the steep entry prices for a family of four. Also, have The Peninsula make arrangements or do so online before your trip, so that you can skip the long queues. Think of it like jumping the line during your nightclubbing days. Once inside, you can enjoy robust children’s programs, from simple story time to full-day educational activities. Refuel at the museum cafés; the Corner Bakery in the Field Museum is the best option for lunch.
There is a Chicago museum for all of your kids’ interests. Science buffs and brainiacs love the Museum of Science and Industry, while budding Picassos get a kick out of The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), which has children’s art programs.
Gourmet on the Gold Coast
The world is your oyster at The Peninsula, where you can stay in and dine at Shanghai Terrace with the kids, or walk a few blocks to Feast, for some low-key gourmet comfort food like mac and cheese, burgers, and pizza. Chicago is renowned for their Mexican food, the best of which is at Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill. Chow on guacamole, chicken enchiladas, and wood-grilled tacos, sure to be a hit with the family. Reservations are a must: Frontera books up weeks ahead of time. Xoco is Frontera’s casual taquería next door, where you can stop for tasty lunch or takeout dinner.
Afternoon Tea at The Peninsula is an institution, where your kids will be bowled over by the mini burger and fries, PB&J, and little snowman treats. If you’re in town, pop by for the grand Holiday Tea, where chic locals bring their kids for a day of activities and treats.
The days of the Ponderosa are but a distant memory for family dinners. Chicago is a steak city, and David Burke’s Primehouse is the very hip family option, with a menu especially for kids. If bedtime is flexible, go by the Adler Planetarium, whichsometimes has evening hours, where you can explore the night sky while overlooking the Chicago skyline.
For Mom and Dad to sneak away, The Peninsula can arrange for babysitting. Even keeping it close to home at the Peninsula Bar or The Lobby will still feel like a night out on the town. Avenues is the Peninsula fine dining experience, which will give you the option of five star dining while knowing you are but an elevator ride away.
Lincoln Park is one of Chicago’s most charming, family-friendly neighborhoods. Begin your explorations at the Lincoln Park Zoo, where you can enjoy seasonal decorations, an annual holiday lights show, and other special exhibits. Afterwards, head to the Peggy Notebaert nature museum, with a butterfly sanctuary that will appeal to the whole family.
Hungry tummies? Make for John’s Place on Webster Avenue for lunch, the quintessential neighborhood spot for quesadillas, paninis, and burgers. Afterwards, take the kids to Sweet Mandy B’s, Chicago’s answer to Magnolia cupcakes. As you stroll along the tree-lined streets lined with beautiful brownstones, you’ll feel like you’re a local Chicago family. When you get to Armitage Street with its boutique shops, you’ll wish you actually were.
Sweet Home Chicago
To end your family weekend, wake up to Sunday brunch at the Four Seasons, where kids under 5-years-old eat gratis. This is what a Sunday spread should look like, with an overflowing raw bar, lobster Benedict, and the star of the show, a children’s buffet. You’ll go back more than once for the crispy French fries – for the kids of course. After a weekend here, your kiddies may convince you to call Chicago Home Sweet Home.