What to do with three young boys on Spring Break? Ages 8, 5, and 3, my grandsons are "all boy" boys, the rough and tumble type. Jessica kept them occupied and busy for the better park of a week, but for the main spring break event, she planned a two-day trip to Navy Pier and Shedd's Aquarium in Chicago. Lucky me, she invited me along. It was a wonderful opportunity, too, to show the boys where their Mimi grew up (Mom & Dad's home) and went to school (River Forest in New Chicago).
I grew up in Northwest Indiana and loved visiting the Windy City. Many of the must-see Chicago attractions skirt the shores of Lake Michigan along Lake Shore Drive (US41). Traveling north you begin with the Museum of Science and Industry in Jackson Park, McCormick Place and the Arie Crown Theater, Soldier Field, the Field Museum of Natural History, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, the Art Institute, and Navy Pier. Many family and school-related adventures revolved around what to see in Chicago. As a sophisticated high school freshman, our French Club dined at Chez Paul, the restaurant location famous in the Blues Brother movie scene. Always good for a laugh . . .
The weather for our trip was magnificent! Pretty cool, in the upper 40's, but bright and sunny, and not too windy. It was the perfect day for exploring and adventure!
From the front of Navy Pier there are breathtaking views of the loop. Richard and I spent the first few days of our honeymoon there. It's just nice to be able to walk around on a gorgeous day, have lunch or dinner, and do some shopping. Lakeshore cruises and the Tall Ship Windy launch here.
And breathtaking views of the lake.
You should not go to Chicago and miss Chicago deep dish style pizza. Giordano's has several locations in Chicagoland. Conveniently, they have one just as you enter Navy Pier. Very cheesy cheese pizza, as my grandson Quinten demonstrates. Yes, the little one was hungry and rather impatient, but he got over it as soon as his pizza arrived. Jessica and I got a luncheon pizza and salad, which was delicious.
Chicago is also renowned for their Italian Beef Sandwiches. If you get a chance to try one, please do - you won't be disappointed.
At the end of Navy Pier, there is a spectacular botanical greenhouse filled with tropical plants of every kind. Floor and roof windows bring in lots of natural light. And there's lots of space to move around with little nooks for quiet conversations. Unique water features are interspersed throughout. Photos don't do the fountains justice. The jets are on timers, and spurts of water shoot out from the water forming an arc. There's even one you can walk under. Very cool. It's a totally relaxing experience - a special place.
Chicago Day 2 Shedd's Aquarium
When Shedd Aquarium opened in 1929, it boasted “the greatest variety of sea life under one roof.” It's one of a triad of exhibitor sites that includes Field Museum and Adler Planetarium. The Oceanarium at Shedd, was completed in 1991 and is the world’s largest indoor marine-mammal pavilion with beluga whales and dolphins.
There's a spectacular view of Lake Michigan from the dolphin pavilion. You can see the dolphins and the whales swimming underwater through glass-sided tanks in the levels below the Oceanarium. Have to say, we were disappointed in the dolphin show and we've subsequently heard the same from others. So, if your budget is tight and you're juggling between the 4-D movie experience or the dolphin show, catch the movie.
OK - not a lot of pictures of the inside of the aquarium, or any for that matter. I was there to drink in the city and lakeshore from outside. Here are some from the north side.
Here's my favorite - Man with Fish
This 16-foot Man with Fish statue was debuted in 2001, created by German sculptor Stephan Balkenhol. Man with Fish is a fountain, but it wasn't turned on during our visit - 😥
All in all, my trip with Jessica and the boys was a big hit. Zachy was a little young for the 4-D Seamonster experience, but he wants to go back to see the beluga whales. Joshua just loved being in the big city - Chicago was an exciting place to him - I agree!
We got to stay in a hotel, got to swim, and most importantly, we spent quality time together for a special memory.
If you're in the area, don't miss Millineum Park and Buckingham Fountain - other important Chicago landmarks.