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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.