Summer family hometown travel in Chicago

What does a Chicago-based traveling family do when they have no summer travel plans? They become tourists in their own city – or do a lot of “hometown travel“, as I call it. That’s what this week has been all about. The guilt was setting in because my kids weren’t going to have the typical summer vacation. Therefore, I’m trying to pack in as much fun and culture before Lucia has to go back to school (FIRST GRADE!) after Labor Day. Well then, what have we done so far?


Our week started out making art, grooving to live music, and devouring delicious bites from some of Chicago’s top food trucks at CrEATefest. The event was designed and hosted by Changing Worlds, a Chicago educational arts non-profit, and held at the gorgeous Bridgeport Art Center (think old factory building repurposed to house a sleek, modern art and event space). Lucia spent hours going from one art station to another, creating works of art like paper sculptures and color-bled self portraits. As we were leaving, Lucia asked me, with optimism in her voice, “Is this festival going to happen every year?” That tells me that CrEATefest was a success.

TIP: Plan ahead and attend a 3rd Friday Open Studio at Bridgeport Art Center. On the third Friday of every month, resident artists open their spaces to the public for Q&A, light refreshments, and the opportunity to buy one-of-a-kind art pieces.

Scout Night at Wrigley Field | Chicago

My proud Girl Scout

Scout Night at Wrigley Field

When your proud Girl Scout Daisy overhears that the Chicago Cubs are hosting a Scout Night promotion, during which Girl Scouts in attendance will receive a special Cubs-themed patch, you kind of have to get tickets to the game. That’s how Lucia and I ended up at Wrigley Field to see the Cubs take on the Milwaukee Brewers. It didn’t exactly pain me to go to the game; I’m a lifelong, die-hard Cubs fan. I was more than thrilled to take my daughter to only her second Cubs game ever, and the fact that she was so excited to get a new Girl Scout patch just warmed my heart. It’s hard to beat a night game at Wrigley, when the temperature is perfect, there are no clouds in the sky, and the Cubs are in the midst of a 7-game winning streak! Alas, my little Girl Scout didn’t even make it until the end of the fourth inning, but she got her patch and she was happy. That’s all I needed.

TIP: If driving to a Cubs’ night or weekend game (Saturday or Sunday), park in the Cubs’ remote parking lot at 3900 North Rockwell. There are shuttles that run to and from the parking area and Wrigley Field for two hours before game time and up until one hour after the game ends. The best part? You’ll save yourself lots of headaches and lots of money because the parking and the round-trip shuttle are all free.

The Field Museum

My family was invited to attend “Unearth Day”, a special celebration in honor of The Field Museum’s most famous resident, Sue the T-Rex. We were there to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Sue’s unearthing from a fossil field in South Dakota, making her the most complete T-Rex specimen ever found. The party involved crafts, cake, an insect and reptile demonstration, and even a special appearance by Sue herself. After the party, we explored the museum a bit more, my attention focused on the special Vikings exhibit (I’m only slightly obsessed with Vikings). There is an abundance of information and artifacts contained in that exhibit and I’m going to have to make a return trip to the museum to go through it all one more time.

Unearth Day | The Field Museum | Chicago

TIP: Did you know you can have your child’s birthday party at The Field Museum, much like the Unearth Day party? I never knew this was possible! There are a number of different party packages available and museum staff will even custom design a celebration for you. Guess who now wants to have her 7th birthday party there…

Adler Planetarium

Lucia has been asking to go to the Adler Planetarium since last year, mainly because she wanted answers to why Pluto lost its status as a planet. (She’s been quite upset about the downgrading of Pluto for some time.) I figured since we’d be at The Field Museum and the Planetarium is, like, RIGHT THERE, it would be silly to not totally nerd out and hit both museums in the same day. Once we entered Adler Planetarium and Lucia and Anthony discovered Planet Explorers, an interactive exhibit/play area for children, Pluto became a distant memory (poor Pluto, getting dissed again). We were able to take in one show, “Earth, Moon & Sun”, and check out a couple of exhibits before Anthony reached his expiration (read: way overdue for a nap). Sadly, we left the Planetarium but not before we agreed that space IS freaking awesome!

Planet Explorers | Adler Planetarium | Chicago

3, 2, 1 Blast Off to Planet X

TIP: When visiting Adler Planetarium (or any of the world-class institutions on Museum Campus), save a few bucks by packing a lunch and having a picnic along the lakefront (weather permitting, of course). Just don’t feed the seagulls!

Festa Italiana

Ah, Festa Italiana, the ultimate event for our proud Italian-American family. It’s when we head back to “the old neighborhood” and catch up with childhood friends and relatives we don’t see very often. Oh, we simultaneously gorge ourselves on delectable Italian food, desserts, and drinks. Sunday, the last day of the festival, is our family day. We bring the kids and watch with delight as they enjoy the Italian music and dancers (and gelato), and even participate in a little tarantella.

TIP: Wear comfy shoes and loose pants!

I guess we don’t have to travel far in order to have meaningful, cultural experiences. Would you agree?

My family and I received complimentary admission to CrEATefest, The Field Museum, and Adler Planetarium, but the fun we had was completely genuine, as are my words and opinions – as always.

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14 Responses to Summer family hometown travel in Chicago

  1. Jody Robbins August 15, 2015 at 8:40 am #

    I think playing tourist in your own city is a great idea. It’s especially useful for when tourists like me come to Chi-Town and want to know what’s really worth it. You know something is good if a local is doing it.

  2. Robin August 16, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

    Chicago seems so amazing. So much more to do than I have seen. Sounds like you had a great day!

  3. Kirsten August 17, 2015 at 10:28 am #

    We should meet up! We live in the Chicago suburbs and love playing tourists in the city. The summer really is a great time to see all the city has to offer!

  4. Colleen Lanin August 17, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

    I have only been to Chicago once and would love to go back to explore more. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Tonya August 18, 2015 at 7:57 am #

    My husband and I are hoping to visit Chicago this year. I’ve always wanted to go to see the Bean. How crazy is that?

  6. Erin Marie August 18, 2015 at 11:29 am #

    Art, live music, and food trucks? CrEATefest sounds so up my alley! So does Festa Italiana – I may only be 25% Italian, but I sure do love my heritage. These are all such great ways to celebrate your hometown. If travel has taught me anything, it’s that you don’t have to go far to discover something new and exciting. Your kids are so lucky to have you as their mom!

  7. Pola (Jetting Around) August 18, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

    If you live in a city like Chicago, no need to feel guilty about no “proper” vacation plans! It looks like your family has been having a lot of fun – I love Adler and wish I’d been able to go to the Italian Fest. Remind me next year.

  8. Allison August 19, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

    Great ideas for families in Chicago!

  9. Amie Oshaughnessy August 20, 2015 at 9:57 pm #

    Always love heading back to Chicago!

  10. Corinne August 22, 2015 at 7:11 am #

    Bookmarking this! Hoping to visit Chicago this fall 🙂

  11. Traveling Ted August 23, 2015 at 9:09 pm #

    I have been doing the same on the adventure front. Discovered how awesome canoeing the North Branch of the Chicago River is. There is so much to do in Chicago that it just boggles the mind.

  12. Ron@MichiganHomes August 31, 2015 at 1:59 am #

    What a meaningful hometown travel indeed! CHICAGO truly offers great stuff to its residents. The Museum and the Planetarium sounds awesome.


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