A St. Louis Family Tradition in Chicago

The most recent guest post is from St. Louis-based blogger Adam Sommer of Visit Flyover Country. If you couldn’t tell by the name of his blog, Adam focuses primarily on family travel in the Midwest and I totally dig it. For his guest post, Adam tells us about his family’s favorite things to do and see while visiting Chicago, my hometown. It’s fun to get a visitor’s perspective of my city!

My family has visited Chicago more than any other city in the world!  Not only is Chicago one of my favorites (I rank it in the top 3 along with London and Paris) but it is also very convenient to my hometown of St. Louis, and therefore we visit a lot.  Whether it’s for fun, business, or to catch a flight, we always have a great visit in The Windy City, but we also have a routine – we stay in the same area (either Northbrook or Mag Mile) and visit many of the same attractions.

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Did you know the airport code for St. Louis is ORD?  As in O’Hare International Airport?  I’m sure folks from Chicagoland believe O’Hare is all theirs, but when TWA left St. Louis a decade ago and all but wiped out our hometown airport, we St. Louisans had to switch to O’Hare.  {I’m obviously being slightly facetious!} This has resulted in my family driving to Chicago numerous times to catch a flight.  Especially with an infant and toddler, we found it easier to drive to Chicago, stay a few days, and then catch our international long-haul flight.  As we traveled internationally a lot, we have had many weekends in Chicago prior to boarding long-haul flights out of O’Hare.

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Our routine typically involves staying in Northbrook, where we can find nice hotels with free parking.  I get a bit frustrated with hotels on the Mag Mile, as I often pay more to park than to stay at the hotel.  We also love Northbrook as it is close to our favorite attraction, the Chicago Botanic Garden.

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I rank Chicago as the 2nd best botanical garden we have visited, behind my hometown Missouri Botanical Garden.  Our son loves the Model Railroad Garden (the best we have visited) and the Wonderland Express; and my wife and I love all the walking trails.  Our membership gets us free parking, and entrance is free anyway, so it’s a nice free family outing.  We also like to visit the Kohl Children’s Museum.  It accepts reciprocal memberships (such as from St. Louis’ Magic House) and is nearby to Northbrook.  We usually hit the garden and Kohl on the same day, almost every time we visit Chicago.

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Outside of our routine we have visited Medieval Times, the Lincoln Park Zoo, Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier, the Hancock Tower, and of course Michigan Avenue.  We have even driven home through Union, Illinois (after that long flight, we usually stay a night to avoid following-up with a long drive) and visited the Illinois Railway Museum.  There are three attractions we have not yet visited which I really hope to cover soon: the Willis Tower, a boat tour downtown, and the Museum of Science & Industry.

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I know I’ll be back in Chicago soon (I am in O’Hare about once per month at a minimum!) and hope to continue exploring one of the world’s finest cities, while also slightly sticking to our family routine!

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Adam Sommer regularly blogs about family travel in the Midwest at Visit Flyover Country. Follow Adam on TwitterFacebook or visit his blog http://www.visitflyovercountry.com/

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14 Responses to A St. Louis Family Tradition in Chicago

  1. Adam Sommer August 12, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Thank you Francesca for inviting me to Guest Post!

    Your site is one of my favs, so I am honored to be featured here! Chicago is also one of my favs, so I am glad to spread some love from St. Louis!
    Adam Sommer recently posted…Cape Girardeau, MO: Lazy L Safari ParkMy Profile

  2. Lance | Trips By Lance August 12, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    Good stuff. Now that Southwest is starting service in Memphis and adding a flight to Chicago I think we’ll be there more often.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted…In Search of the Bronte’s Haworth: A Yorkshire DetourMy Profile

    • Adam Sommer August 22, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

      Glad to see SWA adding flights in Memphis…heard lots of bad news on flights (thanks to Delta) on the Memphis airport. Good news is SWA goes to Midway, which is an easier L ride to the Loop.
      Adam Sommer recently posted…Travel RoutinesMy Profile

  3. Shanna Schultz August 20, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    I can see that I have just barely begun to skim the surface of Chicago’s many attractions! We just had a baby, and now, when I evaluate a city, I look at it in a completely different way-in terms of how many child friendly activities we can find for cheap or free. Thanks for the great ideas!

    • Adam Sommer August 22, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

      Chicago is great for kids – so many attractions. Just spending the day at the beach is fun too (in Chicago, in the summer)!
      Adam Sommer recently posted…Travel RoutinesMy Profile

  4. Kiera @EasyTravelMom August 22, 2013 at 2:59 am #

    It’s funny that I too have spent many hours and nights at O’Hare and yet since moving to the Midwest we have not visited Chicago as a family!!! It really is a great city and I will have to find a routine there too!

    • Adam Sommer August 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

      So true! I love Chicago and wish I could get out of O’Hare more and see the city rather than just wait at the airport. I do hear they are revamping the L line that should make it faster from O’Hare
      Adam Sommer recently posted…Travel RoutinesMy Profile

  5. Val - Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids August 22, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    You talk about staying in Northbrook. What hotel do you recommend? We’re trying to plan a trip to Chicago before harvest starts!
    Val – Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids recently posted…Wordless Wednesday – Spending Time with FamilyMy Profile

    • Adam Sommer August 22, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

      Val: In Northbrook we have stayed in 3 hotels (always booked via Priceline Name Your Own Price). I’d say 70% of them have been the Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel (probably stayed here 15-20 times), 20% the Haytt Deerfield (another 8-10 times), and a few times at the Westin Chicago North Shore (I think 3 times).

      All have free parking and are right off the interstate.
      Adam Sommer recently posted…Travel RoutinesMy Profile

  6. Amanda O. August 23, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    I love that you featured a guest post by Adam! He writes one of my favorite blogs and I’m so glad he loves Chicago so much! Chicago is a great city to visit with the kids and Adam captured that beautifully.
    Amanda O. recently posted…Refocused for BRITAX 2013/2014!My Profile

  7. Lori August 23, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    I think it is great to have such a family tradition and I am glad to see Chicago named among someone’s favourite cities – the other two are really quite different. Lovely photos too!
    Lori recently posted…International Mosaicultures 2013 Special Exhibition at Montreal Botanical Garden in PhotosMy Profile

    • Adam Sommer August 25, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

      The others are different…in fact my list of top 10 or so are all very different from each other, which is why I like them so much! America has so much to offer, including Chicago, that is on par with anywhere else in the world IMO!
      Adam Sommer recently posted…Our Little PhotographerMy Profile

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