Spend another week in Chicago

Lisa Hazen is one of our very best online friends that we had never met (until we went ahead and met her a few weeks ago when visiting Chicago). She’s friend-of-friends with each of us many times over and she wrote one of the first ever guest posts of RookieMoms when our site was a baby of less than six months.

She shares her favorite baby and toddler activities in Chicago with us.

Her boys are Finn and Cormac. Don’t you just love them?!

Finn and Cormac

Monday: Millennium Park
Millennium Park is pretty much my favorite city attraction, and best of all, it’s free. With nearly 25 acres smack dab in the middle of the city, you can spend an entire afternoon wandering the park’s wonders. The interactive Crown Fountain will delight, two fifty-foot glass block upon which hundreds of city residents’ faces are projected. When you least expected, one of these giant city residents will spit water at you, gargoyle-style. The Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion is a great place to picnic, and the “bean” (otherwise known as the Cloud Gate) is an ideal location for a playful family portrait. Extra fun for train lovers: you can take the Red Line directly here.

Tuesday: Nature Retreat
Chicago isn’t all concrete and skyscrapers. Just outside the city, the Chicago Botanic Gardens boasts 26 gardens on 365 lush acres. Open daily until 9pm, this destination is a great retreat all year long—the different exhibits are designed to show off the abundance of each season. Before your visit, be sure to check the Web site to see what family-friendly activities are available. And definitely make a point to see the exquisite waterfall gardens during your visit.

Wednesday: Navy Pier
Navy Pier is totally touristy, but your kids will love it. (Secretly, you will, too.) Start with a boat ride—there are a variety of options based on the age of your kids and their relative attention spans. Older kids will thrill at a ride on the 150-foot ferris wheel, and younger kids will love the musical carousel. There’s a you-can-please-everyone food court, and a variety kid-friendly sit-down restaurants to choose from. Navy Pier is also the location of the Chicago Children’s Museum, which is worthy of a day-long visit all its own. If you do end up staying the entire day, don’t miss the fireworks display, Wednesday and Saturday nights through Labor Day.

Thursday: Get Artsy (and Ice Cream) in Bucktown
Pack a lunch and bring it to Easel Art Studio for their daily open art class between 11:15 – 2pm for kids ages 2 – 5. Children will explore different mixed-media art projects in this free-form class. Afterwards, head to iCream where your kids (and you) can design their own ice cream creations, selecting a base, flavor and color to create a custom treat.

Friday: Pig Out
Devote an entire day to exploring the culinary pleasures of Chicago. Wishbone is a phenomenally kid-friendly restaurant with three Chicago locations and a menu the entire family will enjoy. For lunch, try Smash Cake. This delightful cafe has coffee, soups, salads, sandwiches, and the best cupcakes in town. (Better yet: Free cupcakes with a beverage purchase, and book readings for kids 3-4pm, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.) For dinner, there is really only one acceptable option if you want to chow down like a real Chicagoan. Giordano’s is the best-known name in town for pizza for good reason. Their stuffed pizza is often imitated, rarely replicated.

Cormac is too cute

Saturday: Butterfly Museum
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum boasts a number of wonderful permanent exhibits, including River Works (a waterplay exhibit that demonstrates how Chicago’s waterways work) and the Wilderness Walk that allows your family to stroll through recreated environments. But the exhibit that will thrill your kids the most is the Butterfly Haven, which allows you to walk among more than 75 species of nearly 1,000 butterflies flutter about in a 2,700 sq. ft. greenhouse.

Sunday: Lamb’s Farm
About 45 minutes outside of Chicago is one of the sweetest petting zoos you’re likely to find anywhere. Lamb’s Farm lets kids can get hands-on with the animals like sheep, goats, horses, cows, and (yes) lambs. The Discovery Center has educational exhibits, revealing facts about the farm. There’s also a miniature train, carousel, miniature golf course, and pet store. Visit the Country Inn Restaurant for a family-friendly lunch or dinner.

We thank Lisa so much for these excellent suggestions. Almost makes me wish I brought my kids to BlogHer. Almost. And if Lisa ever moves to another town, we hope she’ll write again with her favorite finds.

For more Lisa, visit her portfolio site or read her Week in Oakland.

For more Cormac and Finn, check out the robot t-shirt business they run with their dad.

For more of Chicago, read Jeff’s Week in Chicago.