Perfect 10, Day 1 - The Trifecta of Chicago Eating

Two years ago when our oldest son turned 10, my husband and I decided to take him on a Ten Year-Old Trip. We thoughtfully considered our son and what would most delight his heart – amusement parks and professional sports – and chose a destination with both in mind. We enjoyed a couple of days devoted to celebrating his life, just mom and dad and him.

But because we’re winging this whole parenting thing, we fell into the "family tradition" part of the Ten Year-Old Trip by accident. We planned the trip for the oldest and our (then) eight year-old daughter grabbed hold of that same possibility for herself and immediately started planning her getaway.

Now, two years later, it’s her turn. Back in February when she turned a decade old, we considered where to take her. The decision took mere seconds to make driven by two words: shopping and theater. Our destination: Chicago!

Spring Break seemed like the perfect time to whisk her away and thanks to friends and family who offered to entertain our boys for a couple of days, we’re here. We left bright and early this morning arriving in Chicago before noon. And that’s a good thing, because as it turns out, despite all of the plans we made for the time in Chicago, we spent Day 1 eating our way through the city.

 Rest stop along the way where Tess is showing her state pride. Gosh, I love this girl.

Rest stop along the way where Tess is showing her state pride. Gosh, I love this girl.

I can't believe we arrived in Chicago before noon. That's what happens when you leave before dawn and your husband puts the pedal to the metal. Iowa ought to consider toll ways. We spent $10.20 between home and Chi-town and I'm not convinced the roads were better or the route faster. But, we met some nice toll booth attendants along the way.

 The trip goes quickly with your nose buried in a book.

The trip goes quickly with your nose buried in a book.

We decided to stay downtown so we'd be within walking distance or L Train access to all our planned sights. Thankfully the hotel had early check-in so we could get parked (Chicago parking ramps are NOT minivan-friendly), store our bags and hit the streets.

 When you're the only kid on the trip, you get a HUGE bed all to yourself. It's good to be queen.

When you're the only kid on the trip, you get a HUGE bed all to yourself. It's good to be queen.

How can you visit Chicago and not have a Chicago-style hotdog? And Portillo's is the best around. Michael and Tess both went with the dogs while I tried the Italian beef. All were extremely tasty and the atmosphere was fun!

 A Chicago landmark...

A Chicago landmark...

 The Chicago-style dog and chocolate cake shake get a big thumbs up!

The Chicago-style dog and chocolate cake shake get a big thumbs up!

One of our goals for the trip was to let Tess experience "big city living" and what's more big city than riding the subway? As if on cue, our first ride was delayed because a passenger had thrown up on the train and they had to clean it up. Awesome. Welcome to the big city!

 Tess's first subway ride - catching the L Train.

Tess's first subway ride - catching the L Train.

 Tess got in on the photo-taking action, proving we were along for the ride, too!

Tess got in on the photo-taking action, proving we were along for the ride, too!

 Tess thought the L was awesome, especially when we were flying down the tracks!

Tess thought the L was awesome, especially when we were flying down the tracks!

The L Train dumped us right in the middle of DePaul University in the heart of Lincoln Park. One of Tess's theater directors went to DePaul so we snapped a quick picture and it turns out he lived right across the street as a student. DePaul is a gorgeous campus and the Lincoln Park neighborhood is historic and quaint. We gave Tess the thumbs up should she want to attend there someday.

 Will she make her way here in the fall of 2024?

Will she make her way here in the fall of 2024?

 The architecture in Lincoln Park is fun, including this rustic spiral staircase.

The architecture in Lincoln Park is fun, including this rustic spiral staircase.

We're practically Lincoln Park tour guides considering how much of it we saw. And I've learned you should never trust a city map. What looks like mere blocks is actually miles. We learned this the hard way.

 Monkey #1

Monkey #1

 Monkey #1 again. This time with Monkey #2 on the left. Yes, I have four children.

Monkey #1 again. This time with Monkey #2 on the left. Yes, I have four children.

Lincoln Park houses a fantastic, FREE zoo. Some of the park was closed or under construction (after all, it's March), but we still saw lots of great animals, including lions and tigers. No bears, although Chicago has plenty of those.

 The lions were our favorites. King of the Jungle. It's good to be king.

The lions were our favorites. King of the Jungle. It's good to be king.

Speaking of lions and tigers and bears - oh my! - we passed through Oz Park on our way. Dedicated to L. Frank Baum, a native Chicagoan who wrote "The Wizard of Oz," the park contains these gorgeous statues welcoming park visitors.

 If we had a brain, we'd always visit Chicago!

If we had a brain, we'd always visit Chicago!

 Big hearts here. We love Chicago!

Big hearts here. We love Chicago!

 Clicking our heels....there's no place like Chicago. There's no place like Chicago. There's no place like Chicago.

Clicking our heels....there's no place like Chicago. There's no place like Chicago. There's no place like Chicago.

 After walking the entirety of the planet Earth, it was obviously time to eat again. Chicago deep-dish pizza was the plan and while Giordano's or Lou Malnati's are the obvious choices, my brother-in-law Nate, raised in Chicago, tipped us off that Pequod's deep dish with their carmelized crust was the one to pick. Pequod's was a total hole-in-the-wall, but their pizza was awesome. We could only finish a single slice each, but took the rest and gave it to a homeless gentleman we'd seen by the L Train station. Ten Year-Old Trips have all sorts of lessons.

 You can't handle the deep dish! Seriously, don't. It's super hot.

You can't handle the deep dish! Seriously, don't. It's super hot.

Have you heard of Garrett's Popcorn Company? Oh. My. Goodness. Popcorn is already my go-to snack, but gracious this stuff is good. When I told my brother-in-law that we made this stop, too, he said that in one day we'd accomplished the "trifecta of Chicago eating."

I think my work here is done.

 The Garrett's Mix: caramel and cheese popcorn. Caramel-y, cheesy, sweet and savory - I've entered food heaven.

The Garrett's Mix: caramel and cheese popcorn. Caramel-y, cheesy, sweet and savory - I've entered food heaven.

And done is how we felt. Toast. Our feet were killing us. We'd walked over 18,400 steps equaling 9 1/2 miles. Since lunch. We arrived at our hotel by 7 pm and all got in our jammies.

Another round of Chicago fun planned for tomorrow. We've accomplished the eating part of our agenda. Now, we move on to the shopping and theater.

 This mama is wiped out. But, Tess is still smiling, so mission accomplished!

This mama is wiped out. But, Tess is still smiling, so mission accomplished!