Fun for Families In Chicago

This week’s “Fun kendra thorntonFriday” is from Kendra Thornton, a mother of three who lives in the Windy City. Thanks for sharing, Kendra!

As a traveling enthusiast, I am frequently asked about what places to visit around the United States and the world. Some of my friends want to know of a great place to go for themselves and their children. To me, there is no better place to take children than my own town of Chicago. Here are some places in the city that are friendly to people of all ages.

1. A favorite place that my husband and I take our children is the Field Museum. This excellent place of learning and discovery is not only for our children, but also for my husband and I. Every time we visit the Field Museum, we make it a point to stop by the dinosaur exhibit. The dinosaur fossils are truly extraordinary, and there are many impressive exhibits. I personally like the traveling exhibits that showcase various themes and wonders that are in the world.

2. An adventure that my children love to take in the summer is on the Tall Ship Windy. This amazing experience brings our family together on a boat that looks like it is from the 1700’s. Members of the crew are dressed for a pirate adventure. Both of my children love being out on the water while on the ship, and there are various activities that they can do and learn about.

3. Finding a restaurant that everyone in the family will enjoy can be tough. At times, my children can be quite difficult when looking for something to eat. A great restaurant that everyone enjoys is South Water Kitchen. It is a perfect place for children, and the menu is quite a delight with a wide variety of food. I know that when visiting a different town, people like to have local dishes and meals. Fortunately, South Water Kitchen, which was founded by a Chicagoan, has many local dishes that many people will enjoy. The hospitality is good as well.

Chicago is friendly to families who visit the city. These tips are just the beginning of great places that people, young and old, will enjoy. The food, activities, and adventures make it the prime place to visit and have a vacation.

Kendra Thornton is 37 and a mother of 3. Before being promoted to the full time position of mom, I was the former Orbitz Director of Communications where I was able to travel a great deal. I now live in Chicago with my family, where they are my number one priority in everyday life.

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Space Mountain Schadenfreude: Road Trip Ruminations

If you want the full Disney World experience, it’s probably best to avoid the park entirely between Christmas and New Years. Sure, Magic Kingdom has “extended hours” (8 a.m. to 1 a.m.), but that just means you have to deal with a bajillion loud, pushy people for a full 18 hours instead of the usual 14.

Fortunately, my favorite rides are not the most popular … I can sit on the teacups and ride through “It’s a Small World” for hours. See?

small world 1 small world 2 small world 3

But eventually I had to relent, and go with the rest of the family to stand in line at Space Mountain. An hour of nail-biting anticipation (thank goodness for the FastPass), for nine minutes of pitch-dark, neck wrenching fun.

As I said, we had gotten a FastPass, which in theory meant that we could return at the appointed time, bypassing the main line and moving to the front of the queue. But when we arrived at 10:15 (p.m.), the lady directed us to the end of the L-O-N-G line to the left. THAT was the FastPass line. I reached the end of the line just as a teenager with long, dark hair and an attitude to match arrived. With a smirk, she elbowed her way ahead of me.

Being a good Christian and all, I decided to ignore it. Then she called for her posse, who all jumped ahead of us. Eight of them. (I counted.) Then, her mother and grandmother (old enough to know better), who had a friend. Twelve extra bodies. By this time, my patience was depleting rapidly, but I finally decided not to make a scene. (Color me wussy.)

Then we got to the head of the line . . . and their entire group was turned away, because their FastPass had a later time on it. HAH! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. (What’s English for “schadenfreude”?)

Sometimes life is like that. When you rush and push ahead, sometimes you get sent back to the end of the line, bypassing those you’ve mistreated along the way. Not always . . . but sometimes, the universe teaches you a lesson.

Even at Disney World.

10 “Freebies” at the Grand Hotel

The Grand Hotel’s “Independence Day Celebration” has got to be my all-time favorite way to spend the weekend of July 4 — a most generous and amazing gift from Craig’s parents! The four of us, along with Christopher’s best friend Jacob, arrived at the hotel on Friday afternoon. Sarah and I decided to go for a swim, while Craig took the boys biking along the miles of bikepaths that surround the island. (More about that in this Sunday’s article on AnnArbor.com.)

It was kind of fun, dabbling our toes in the pool of prosperity, embracing it will all our senses from dawn to dusk, and then till dawn again. Our room, overlooking the pool as well as Lake Huron, was appointed with boldly flowered paper and white furniture. The Salle a Manger tantalized the most discriminating palate, with offerings from broiled quail to creme brulee. The world’s hardest-working musicians kept everyone humming through the day — patriotic favorites during the picnics, harpist at teatime, and a range of big band and pop in the evenings.

With all this opulence, I was happy to find that it was possible to get a few “freebies” (well, free after the room was paid for…). I thought I’d mention a few of our favorites, in case you’re thinking of making reservations for the NEXT celebration!

Our Top 10 “Freebies” at the Grand Hotel

1. Gummy worms on the children’s buffet (Chris filled up half his plate before I realized what he was doing). I filled up on fresh strawberries and crème brulee.
2. Free bikes for kids (next to the tennis court).
3. Free, fully staffed children’s programs in afternoon and evening, so adults can enjoy some “alone” time. (Be sure to leave your cell number, in case an escape artist breaks loose.)
4. Free crayons in the Marketplace (we bought a coloring book to go with them).
5. Free champagne at the Welcome Reception … Shirley Temples for the kids.
6. Free, live band music every evening.
7. Free golf for kids (adults pay half-price fare).
8. Free Children’s Carnival – inflatable rides, carnival games, treats and VERY generous prize policy.
9. Free chocolate mints as you leave the dining room, and again on your pillow at night.
10. Vigil Mass at St. Anne’s (in October they will have a $5 Summer Rafflel, and you can win a free weekend on Mackinac Island for your family!).

Not on our list — but certainly worth mention — is the top-notch staff at the hotel. Consierge Katie and the security staff at the hotel moved heaven and earth to find our boys (see the AA.com article for details), and everyone from the waitstaff to the housekeeping staff did a great job of making sure it was a weekend we would never forget!

Chapters of our Lives

Speaking of capturing those family moments, Bryan Murdoch has posted this week’s Catholic Carnival … dedicated to his father, who died fifteen years ago. Go check it out!

Today over at “Connecting Moms,” you’ll find a familiar face in the “Featured Moms” channel. I was flattered … and delighted … when Sandy (one of the co-creators of CM and author of “Momisodes”) asked to interview me about Raising Up Mommy. They also posted a review here.

During the interview, her questions about the writing process got me to thinking about how our lives are very much like a book … so many chapters, so little time. The challenge …. and the secret … is learning to live in the present chapter. Right?

Anyway … if you’re not already familiar with the Connecting Moms network, why not check it out?

Thanks, Sandy!