As the plane descended, we caught our first view of the Chicago skyline. The wonderful view made me forget that I had risen at 3:30 am to catch our flight. Our first introduction to Chicago was a ride on the L (CTA orange line from Midway) to our hotel, where we dropped our luggage off. Compared to a taxi, the $2 one way ticket ($10 all day) was an inexpensive and direct route to downtown. Within walking distance of our hotel, we strolled around Millennium park and enjoyed posing for pictures in front of the Cloud Gate, which has been nicknamed “the bean.”
For lunch we enjoyed the Plaza restaurant in Millennium Park. The boys split an order of steak nachos and helped Matt eat his mammoth beer can chicken. I went with a black bean burger. The hustle and bustle of the Windy City is quite a bit different from our slower pace of life. Yet, the cooler temperatures and the reduced humidity were a welcome change from Central Florida’s oppressive heat.The fresh breeze off Lake Michigan provided a comfortable accompaniment to our outside dining experience.
Next, we used the Metra Electric Line to make our way to the Museum of Science and Industry. A short two block walk from the Metra Station, the museum is housed in the only remaining building from the 1893 World’s Fair Exposition. We learned so much from our visit to the museum. The first lesson we learned was that it always pays to ask for discounts. Our family received free admission into the museum as homeschoolers. We opted to pay for the Brick by Brick exhibit as our youngest is a huge Lego fan. The Brick by Brick exhibit was fascinating. We are all wowed by the enormous creations constructed by LEGO certified professional and Chicago native Adam Reed Tucker. Our favorites included the Golden Gate Bridge, the International Space Station, and the model of the museum itself. With so many exhibits and interactive experiences, it is difficult to choose our favorite. We loved walking through the cobblestone streets of Chicago during the turn of the 20th century. We laughed through a silent black and white film and indulged in an ice cream at Finnegan’s Ice cream Parlor. All three boys were fascinated by The Great Train Story exhibit and the real life locomotive, the Zephyr. We all enjoyed seeing the U-505 submarine and learning the story of its capture. We were reluctant to leave the museum as we had only scratched the surface of all the captivating exhibits. A return trip will definitely have to be in the future. Next time, we will allow at least a whole day to explore.
After the museum, we returned on the Metra and ate dinner at Vapiano, an Italian restaurant that began in Hamburg, Germany. Vapiano has multiple locations throughout the world. When guests enter the restaurant, they are given a card. As they order their food at the various stations (pizza, pasta, salad, bar and desert station), guests tap their card to ensure the purchase is recorded for checkout. The chef prepares the food in front of the customers. After eating, customers take the card to the register to pay. The regular pasta, gluten free pasta and salad were quite tasty. However, my husband ordered the lasagna and was disappointed, as it took a long time to get the entree and it wasn’t very good. My boys loved the complementary gummy bears by the cash register.
During dinner, our bodies began to realize just how early we had risen in the morning. We somehow made it back to our hotel, the Hampton Inn, Majestic Theater. The beds were comfy, and it only took a few moments before we were able to drown out the sirens and blaring horns of the city. What would our next day in the Windy City hold? Stay tuned…