Oh Chicago… it seems everyone loves you! I’ve had countless conversations since our visit and everyone shares how much they enjoy their trips to the Windy City. I’m sure that has something to do with the vast amount of entertainment choices the city has to offer. We weren’t able to do it all but here are a few attractions/activities that we enjoyed on our visit:
Blue Man Group: Dare to Live in Full Color – I was somewhat skeptical about Blue Man Group. Silly fun isn’t my favorite. I don’t enjoy comedians or gimmicky things. I also had this idea that they just played drums and splattered paint on things. Well folks, there is a reason this show has been going strong for nearly 25 years. It has strong theatrical influence, it’s interesting, it’s hilarious, it’s heart warming, it’s FUN… it’s very different from anything I’ve ever seen. Three blue men take you on a quirky little journey through music, discovery and connection. Audience participation is huge as the show takes over the entire theater… not just the stage. I’ll never forget moving it to some bizarre song about shaking my “can” while playing toss up with ginormous glowing beach balls in a black-lit, neon glowing auditorium with hundreds of other adults-turned-children. If that’s sounds ridiculous to you, you probably just need to get over it and secure some tickets to see the show. You won’t be sorry.
Current Deals: Upon purchasing a ticket for Blue Man Group, guests can receive a free ticket to visit Chicago’s Willis Tower Skydeck (where they can step out onto one of the building’s “Ledge” glass boxes) or 360 Chicago (for unparalleled views of Michigan Avenue and Lake Michigan.) College students who are studying in Chicago or home for the summer can enjoy the thrills of Blue Man Group for a discounted price. Upon presenting a valid college ID, they can get a discounted ticket for $35. Student tickets are available two hours prior to show time, based on availability.
Special Needs Accomodation: In 2015, Blue Man Group is supporting Austism Speaks. They will donate a minimum of $25,000 and are doing specific autism-friendly shows this year. Even if you can’t make one of their specific shows, individuals with autism are still encouraged to attend the show at any time. Noise cancelling headphones available. Parents of children with autism need to know if the children crave the heavy sensory input or prefer to avoid it.
iFLY: Ever Dream of Flying? – Let’s just say I spent a lot of time being skeptical on this trip. But isn’t that why we travel? To challenge ourselves, discover new things… iFly was one of these new things. There were people of all ages packed into the Chicago iFLY building. Some watching others fly, some suiting up to prepare for their skydiving experience. We watched a short video with our group, listened to the instructor and learned some hand signals we would need during the flight. Then it was time to put on our goggles and earplugs and head into the chamber. The instructor remains in the chamber with new flyers, like us, and gives instructions and tips with hand signals.
It really was an amazing sensation, totally weightless and flying. And you can’t help but smile like a crazy person because if you don’t you’ll just drool all over yourself. Flying with a group is also a lot of fun, even as strangers we were excited to watch our new friends figure out how to fly and stay balanced in the chamber. There were also some locals who obviously visited on a consistent basis to work on new maneuvers. In the end, our trainer did a demonstration for everyone to enjoy.
The location in Chicago was a little far out for us but there’s outdoor shopping and an outlet mall nearby so anyone could maximize their trip that way. Also, there are plans for an iFLY location in Lincoln Park which would be very convenient. I’m sure this would be even more entertaining with a group of people you actually know. We are looking forward to visiting iFLY with our kids in tow next time!
Special Needs Accommodation: We are always asking questions and watching for companies that go the extra mile to accommodate children and adults with special needs or disabilities. We were happy to hear, from the iFLY representative, that they have a program for children who are autistic. Alex, with emotion in her voice, told me some amazing stories about what flying does for these awesome kids on a sensory level. She also explained how they accommodate for other guests who have additional needs. Very exciting to hear, great job iFLY!
Brookefield Zoo – There are two zoos in Chicago. Lincoln Park and Brookefield. Lincoln is free and Brookfield is not. However, Brookefield does offer a wider range of attractions. Dolphins, polar bears and the butterfly garden are just a few of the additional attractions at Brookefield. We made time to watch the Dolphin show at Brookefield and we felt it was really well done and educational. There was a baby dolphin being adorable and playing with his trainer… so of course we couldn’t help but love the whole experience.
Brookefield is simply bigger and more like a theme-park experience zoo. BUT… it is very far away from everything else you might want to do in Chicago.
So plan ahead, if you want to take your family there, and make time to spend the whole day there enjoying what the zoo has to offer. It’s also a better deal to book your tickets online. You are allowed to choose 3 extra attractions while saving about $5 per person.
Chicago Cubs – Calvin loves baseball, so of course we headed to Wrigley field (bricks and ivy!) to root for the home team. There’s not much to report here, Wrigley is just one of those parks that you must check off your list. Unfortunately we got caught in a rain delay and ended up leaving before the game is over (even worse, they had a walk-off run in the 9th inning). Calvin purchased our tickets on StubHub so here’s your money saving tip of the day: Our Kroger gives 2-4x gas points on all gift card purchases. We purchased a Stubhub giftcard from Kroger and racked up some points! Saving on gas purchases in the Summer is always a good thing with all the extra driving we do. Also, unless you’re going to a popular game, you can usually get tickets at the cheapest price about a day or day and a half before the game. Here’s your funny story from the game: I was waiting in line for a pretzel and a friendly, grandfatherly PURE Chicago kinda guy struck up a conversation. He asked where I was from… Tennessee…. with the biggest smile he exclaimed “well you’re the only 10- I- see. Here’s a drink on me, welcome to Chicago!” and offered to buy me a beer from the cart. He was completely adorable, just happy to be watching the Cubs on a Saturday night.
Sight Seeing – We made sure to hit all the major tourist areas. Navy Pier, Magnificent Mile and of course Millennium Park (the Bean). Navy Pier is currently under construction and is always very jam-packed with people. This combination made the whole experience mildly annoying. However we still enjoyed the lake views and a Chicago style hot-dog. I would hate going there with kids, it’s a glorified version of a tourist trap with pricey junk food and souvenir stores. Sorry Navy Pier. Now… Magnificent Mile? I loved it. Great shopping, great restaurants and fun street performers all in one area. That pretty much sums it up! Millennium Park was also a favorite. A beautiful park with great art, surrounded by the gorgeous Chicago architecture… definitely a hit. And we did the fun touristy thing and took a picture in the the reflection of the giant silver bean. Hint: Watching people taking their picture in the bean is way more entertaining than actually doing it yourself.
So yes, dear Chicago, we love you. Thank you for treating us to a great weekend. If you missed part 1 (lodging, transportation, food), you can catch up here.
Disclaimer: Blue Man Group, iFLY Chicago, and Brookefield Zoo kindly provided us admission for this feature. As always, the opinions are my own.