Sunday, July 6, 2014


We chose Chicago as the destination for our family trip this summer.  Austin travels to Chicago quite a bit for work, so he's somewhat familiar with the city (although he doesn't go to the tourist attractions).  The kids have never seen a big city or a large body of water like Lake Michigan.  It had been 10 years since I had been to the Windy City.

Ready to roll!
We arrived Thursday night and checked into our hotel.  Friday was the 4th of July.  Our big activity of the day was Shedd Aquarium.  Both kids loved the water show.  They also got to touch several animals.  The video of Lincoln pretending to be a penguin is in the July play list.

We enjoyed lunch on the terrace with a gorgeous view of the Chicago skyline.

After checking out the swimming pool at the hotel, we experienced Chicago-style pizza.  It was late by the time we were done eating, so we sat down in Millennium Park to watch the fireworks display off Navy Pier through the trees.  We were far enough away that we barely heard the booms, but it was just fine. 

Before leaving the park we had to take a picture by "The Bean" (aka Cloud Gate).

It was a pretty short walk back to our hotel, although still very crowded.  Let's just say the kids got a glimpse of mass humanity. :op

Our second day featured a trip to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower).  We took the subway to Shedd Aquarium, so today we took the "El".  Lincoln was fascinated.  Riding the "train" was the highlight of the trip for him, although he said he preferred the underground subway because it went faster. :o)

The wait time to get up to the Skydeck was almost 90 minutes, but the line continually moved and there were lots of displays and different things to look at along the way, so it didn't seem that long.  We spent a long time enjoying the views of the city.  Emily later said the Willis Tower was the highlight of the trip for her.  Both kids were fearless on "The Ledge" which is a see-through plexiglass ledge that sticks out from the top floor.

Instead of taking the train again, we walked to the lakefront and took break by Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park.  Lincoln got a kick out of trying to feed the birds (see video in July play list).

Then we walked along the lakefront all the way to Navy Pier.  It was quite a distance (which we heard about), and we had to take several breaks, but we made it!  The pictures below are suppose to show how tired and miserable the kids were and then how happy they were to finally make it.  Navy Pier itself was very crowded because of the holiday weekend.  We just looked around a little before heading back to the hotel to go swimming.  According to my new FitBit Flex, we walked 6.75 miles that day!

We got an incredible deal on our hotel thanks to a contact Austin had.  We stayed at The Langham (the first 14 floors of the black building in background) downtown on the river right next to the Trump Tower.  I didn't realize until we got there that it was the #1 rated 5-star hotel in Chicago on TripAdvisor.  It was definitely the nicest hotel I've ever been in.  This was the lobby overlooking the river.

The swimming pool was on the 4th floor.  We spent a lot of time there.  The kids even got in a hot tub for the first time!

The room was over the top.  The kids got a real kick out of the turn-down service at night.  They also loved flipping the switch for the privacy glass between the bathroom and sleeping area.

 They also enjoyed the view out of our 8th floor window.

Despite the amazing accommodations, Emily's overall assessment was that she'd rather stay in a lower class hotel where we could eat [continental] breakfast.  We packed our own breakfast food and gave strict instructions about not touching anything in the well stocked mini bar or food drawers.  I think I might agree with her when it comes to family trips.  However, I have to say the complimentary Nespresso was superb! ;o)

Our last morning was spent at the Adler Planetarium.  I'm sad to say I wasn't terribly impressed.  We did get to see the cool Destination Solar System show in the domed Grainger Sky Theater.

We had to stick our toes in Lake Michigan before leaving.  It was COLD!

As we headed out of town, Austin showed us where the Concur offices are in Oak Brook, IL and the Marriott next door where he spends most of his time when he comes to Chicago.  We also had to take part in the Portillos experience.  It didn't disappoint!  (Okay, so it didn't disappoint me.  The chocolate cake was ahh-mazing.  The kids weren't too excited about the poppy seed hot dog buns.  Their loss.)

It was a fantastic trip.  We had great weather and the kids did awesome.  The highlight of the trip for me was seeing them experience so many things for the first time.  Great memories were made--and that's what it's all about!

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