Family Travel Unyear, Days 4-5 (Sept 17-18): Chicago

  • Ethan Gelber
  • 28 September 2016

First thing of the day, we stopped by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore visitor center. Our goal there was to do some situational learning with the boys. This is an important part of their roadschooling: using the on-hand tools and resources to bring to life some of the unique qualities of a place and/or key instructional topics.

At the visitor center, a helpful and hands-on exhibition area had a great deal of information about native versus invasive species, including how to take easy cleaning measures to reduce the risk of spreading invasive plant species (a big problem all across North America). We loved that the topic held true to our desire to imbue our kids with earth-consciousness.

Kai sitting in a chair, shaped like a car

Palmed by special chair, Kai watches background video at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore visitor center. All rights reserved

Rohan's rubbings at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Rohan does some rubbings about the local flora and fauna of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. All rights reserved

Later, after one final lunch with Kit and her family, we bid Beverly Shores a tearful adieu, boarded our second train in three days — the South Shore Line — and journeyed straight into downtown Chicago. We’re not exactly traveling light (yet!), so we had our first taste of lugging bags to and through an unfamiliar city’s transit system — the Chicago El. At present, we each have a rolling bag (Jane’s is twice the size of the boys’ and mine) and a backpack. The boys also have small shoulder bags. It is my sincere hope that we succeed in easing our load over the next few weeks.

Jane and Rohan, with bags, on Chicago's El

Jane and Rohan, seated on the Chicago El, their bags (some bigger than others) right at hand. All rights reserved

It wasn’t all that bad, though, as the walk to the El was short, and then we had a straight shot to the home of a good friend from college. He and his family had offered use of their basement for a couple of nights as we regrouped a bit and explored Chicago.

Ethan, Rohan and Kai with Greg

Ethan, Rohan, Kai and their friend Greg. In the near background, the shapes of Frank Gehry, architect of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. All rights reserved

Kai at the Art Institute of Chicago

Kai uses shapes and colors to great artistic advantage in the family room of the the Art Institute of Chicago. All rights reserved

The highlights of our time in Chicago: a dinner of deep-dish pizza (which impressed some of us, but left others more partial to NYC’s thin crust); the Art Institute of Chicago, especially the Thorne Miniature Rooms; the various distractions of Millennium Park, including Cloud Gate, aka The Bean (a public sculpture by Anish Kapoor); Crown Fountain (a very cool water feature); the Gehry-designed serpentine bridge heading to Maggie Daley Park, where the boys joined the warm Sunday crowds on every slide and climbing structure they could; and the Chicago Cultural Center, the 19th-century Beaux-Arts building famous for a Tiffany glass dome that even caught the attention of our budding young photographers.

Like an awkward giant, Rohan at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Thorne Miniature Rooms

Like an awkward giant, Rohan poses before one of the models at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Thorne Miniature Rooms. All rights reserved

Rohan at the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park

Rohan takes the full weight of a blast of water at the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park. All rights reserved

Cloud Gate, aka The Bean, in Millennium Park

Cloud Gate, aka The Bean, in Millennium Park. All rights reserved

Kai on a large slide in Maggie Daley Park

Kai catapults (almost catastrophically) out the bottom of a large slide in Maggie Daley Park. All rights reserved

Kai photographing Tiffany dome in the Chicago Cultural Center.

Lying on the floor, Kai takes a picture up at the Tiffany dome in the Chicago Cultural Center. All rights reserved

Sunday breakfast and dinner, both shared with our hosts, the Jacobs’, were also highlights, especially the chocolate chips in those morning pancakes and the evening tacos (a fave!) on the deck watching cat gymnastics (another story for another day).

New names on our Unyear Honor Roll: the Jacobs family (Greg, Liz, Audrey and Nina). Thank you!

Next stop: the drive to Winnipeg, Manitoba!

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Ethan Gelber

In addition to his freelance travel writing (Lonely Planet author, ex-AFAR Ambassador, Huffington Post Travel blogger and more), Ethan has agitated tirelessly for responsible/sustainable travel practices, family travel, keeping things local, and quality and relevance in publishing and destination marketing. Among many other things, Ethan is editorial director of the Family Travel Association, a co-founder of OutBounding, and tackles content projects for HomeExchange.com and RW Social, which produces the NY Trav Fest. Previously, Ethan was Chief Communications Officer of the WHL Group, for which he founded and edited The Travel Word (this now-independent blog); publications manager of the French government tourist office (Atout France) in NYC; and helped manage a Paris-based bicycle tour operator.
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architecture & landmarks, children, cities, family travel, North America, Northern America, personal experience, USA,

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