Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Topic Author
researcher
Posts: 1294
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2015 7:05 pm

Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by researcher » Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:21 am

I have a family event in southwest Michigan next Spring and will be in the area for 6 days or so. My 8 yo son has a high level of knowledge and interest in dinosaurs and I want him to experience the Field Museum. The plan is to take a DAY TRIP to Chicago with my wife & 2 kids while we are in SW Michigan. (no overnight stay due to logistics & family obligations)

Google says the drive is 1hr 30min. The plan is to arrive at the Field Museum around 10:00am, hopefully minimizing rush hour traffic.
- Park at one of the garages recommended by the Field Museum. Explore the museum for ~3 hours and have lunch there.
- Uber/Lyft to an architectural boat tour at 2 or 3pm (get kids off their feet, see downtown from the water)
- Walk to Millennium Park (see the Bean) & Maggie Daley Park (let kids play on the big playground)
- Have dinner in the city, maybe explore a bit on foot. Uber/Lyft back to vehicle. Leave after rush hour around 7 or 8pm.

Questions:
- Does this sound like a viable plan overall?
- Will traffic be a nightmare at that time of the morning getting to the Field Museum? (we will be visiting on a week day)
- Is it possible/advisable to squeeze in a short visit to the Museum of Science and Industry? It is located further south of the city, so maybe stop there first (avoiding traffic), before going to the Field Museum.

FYI...
We have an annual museum membership that provides FREE admission to both these museums (along with several others in Chicago), so it wouldn't cost us anything to pop in for quick visits, though time is our limiting factor.
We are NOT interested in seeing the Shedd Aquarium, Children's Museum, Navy Pier during this trip.

maggsmaggs
Posts: 32
Joined: Wed Jun 28, 2017 5:13 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by maggsmaggs » Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:31 am

Regarding your traffic question, yea, it will be bad. Not sure where you are in SW Michigan and if the Google map time was taking into consideration traffic at the same hour you would be driving in, but you will most definitely be hitting rush hour traffic. Plan for additional time.

Otherwise, your plan sounds good. You won't have time to do the Museum of Science and Industry in my opinion. Although the drive between the Field Museum and Museum of Science and Industry is not long, it won't be worth the time to try and do both.

I would recommend dinner in River North or the West Loop. Both neighborhoods have tons of restaurants and are close to what most consider "downtown."

daheld
Posts: 919
Joined: Wed Sep 13, 2017 8:14 am
Location: Midwest US

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by daheld » Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:36 am

I can't comment on your specific questions, but want to add that the architectural boat tour is absolutely worth your time. I was looking forward to it, but it was much better than I'd expected.

livesoft
Posts: 72115
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by livesoft » Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:39 am

Sounds like a great plan. I have done something similar myself. There is a decent putt-putt golf course at Maggie Daley Park. The Museum of Science and Industry was also worth it to me.

Is it possible to take the train/CTA to downtown Chicago instead of driving all the way to the Field Museum? You'd have to walk or get a ride to the museum itself. The train ride could be an experience in itself. :)

Dinner could be Chipotle or Subway or something everyone is used to. It doesn't have to be a really nice restaurant.
Last edited by livesoft on Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
Wiki This signature message sponsored by sscritic: Learn to fish.

neilpilot
Posts: 3155
Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:46 pm
Location: Memphis area

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by neilpilot » Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:41 am

daheld wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:36 am
I can't comment on your specific questions, but want to add that the architectural boat tour is absolutely worth your time. I was looking forward to it, but it was much better than I'd expected.
+1

Thegame14
Posts: 1506
Joined: Mon May 07, 2018 11:53 am

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by Thegame14 » Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:42 am

Giordano's for their deep dish pizza, garrett's popcorn, and the pier, should be added to the list....Also if you like weird hot dogs with odd toppings and no ketchup, they have those in Chicago

User avatar
mhc
Posts: 4144
Joined: Mon Apr 04, 2011 10:18 pm
Location: NoCo

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by mhc » Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:46 am

A few years ago we did all those things. 3 hours in the Field museum will not cover everything. The boat tour was much better than I was expecting because we are not into architecture. You will have a very full day. The Field museum and the boat tour are very enjoyable.

For some reason the dinosaur exhibit does not stand out to me, but maybe that is because I have been to so many and several that I think are better.

mlipps
Posts: 1006
Joined: Thu Jun 21, 2012 9:35 am

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by mlipps » Thu Dec 12, 2019 10:33 am

maggsmaggs wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:31 am
Regarding your traffic question, yea, it will be bad. Not sure where you are in SW Michigan and if the Google map time was taking into consideration traffic at the same hour you would be driving in, but you will most definitely be hitting rush hour traffic. Plan for additional time.

Otherwise, your plan sounds good. You won't have time to do the Museum of Science and Industry in my opinion. Although the drive between the Field Museum and Museum of Science and Industry is not long, it won't be worth the time to try and do both.

I would recommend dinner in River North or the West Loop. Both neighborhoods have tons of restaurants and are close to what most consider "downtown."
I agree with all of this, except I would not spend the time to go to River North or the West Loop at that hour for dinner w/two young kids. If you really want a nice meal, check out Cindy's, the Dearborn, or the Atwood, all in the Northeast corner of the loop close to the park. Guessing everyone will be tired & cranky though, so I'd probably plan on something quick & easy. The deep dish places are fun but they can have very long waits, especially in the summer months.

Carson
Posts: 682
Joined: Fri May 09, 2014 3:26 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by Carson » Thu Dec 12, 2019 10:35 am

Chicagoan with 2 kiddos here.

I understand wanting to make this a day trip, but do you have an actual full day available to you or do you have obligations that evening? If you have to be back for some specific reason, it will limit your time considerably. Is budget a consideration? Driving and parking and museum admissions all can add up. Taking public transit is a good theory, but is not necessarily efficient or cheap when you add up all the transfers, timing, and the whining of having to walk places on an already full day.

FYI, Chicago public schools spring break is April 6-10. During this time there is slightly less AM rush hour traffic on 90/94. Outside of this, yes, be prepared for potential for a very solid amount of traffic that may vary wildly. Use Google maps 'arrive by' time feature to see what you are getting into arriving there.

We recently went to the field museum for about 3 hours and definitely did not see everything - but we let the kids guide through and pick what they wanted to see. We did not pay for any of the added exhibits and it was enjoyable to do the dinos, egypt, and some of the other halls sparked a lot of interest for my kids. The dino exhibit was quite informative and it was impressive to see Sue. For your family, pay to park on the 'museum campus' to limit the amount of time walking. It's not worth it to save $15 using SpotHero to park and add a 20 minute walk.

The nice thing about the museum campus area is there is the shedd aquarium and adler planetarium if you wanted to do another museum. Skip MSI and save it for another visit. It's great, but not super close by and worthy of its own time.

You would then drive downtown to pick up your architecture cruise and can use SpotHero for that. Not sure where you will park, but Grant Park South garage is my favorite parking garage because it doesn't have that death spiral ramp many others do, LOL. Maggie Daley park is definitely worth a walk through and visit. You can get a Chicago style hot dog at the bean as there are vendors there. Not my fav. pizza ;) but there is a Giordanos just north of the park, and you can order ahead to save on the wait. Otherwise in the loop we always end up at Elephant and Castle for some reason. We like the food, booths for the kids, and beer list.

JMHO, but I would skip Navy Pier. Yes there is a neat childrens museum and I like the crystal garden for a rest spot, but there are a lot of shops and restaurants - both of which can be done better elsewhere in the city near other activities.
30-something personal finance enthusiast, just get getting started on this whole portfolio thing.

User avatar
onthecusp
Posts: 794
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:25 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by onthecusp » Thu Dec 12, 2019 10:44 am

Sounds like some trips my family made from South Bend when I was a kid. I think your original itinerary has enough, don't try and shoe in another museum (even though the Museum of Science and Industry was my personal favorite).

Careful on the drive home, you will be exhausted, take a break half way.

wcinnn
Posts: 22
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:04 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by wcinnn » Thu Dec 12, 2019 10:52 am

If you don't want to drive in you can take the South Shore Line train, mysouthshoreline.com, from Michigan City. Park at the Carroll Avenue station in Michigan City where there is plenty of safe parking. Get off at the 57th street station to visit the museum of Science and Industry. From there to get downtown you can get back on the train to Millennium station although there are buses that might be more convenient in the middle of the day. The Chicago Architectural Center or foundation operates the best tours. Their docents are very carefully trained and beware that are imitators out there. The river cruise is on The First Lady cruise line. You can read about that tour and others on their site as well as purchase tickets. In the summer it books quickly so get tickets ahead of time. Think you've got a wonderful day planned. You'll find Chicagoans helpful. The information folks at the museum will help you with buses going to Millennium Park.

wcinnn
Posts: 22
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:04 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by wcinnn » Thu Dec 12, 2019 10:54 am

Opps - just noticed you want the Field so instead of getting off the train at 57th, you'd get off at 11th at Musuem Campus.

Chadnudj
Posts: 841
Joined: Tue Oct 29, 2013 11:22 am

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by Chadnudj » Thu Dec 12, 2019 11:05 am

Chicagoan here (well, burbs now) with two kids who has in-laws in Michigan and is thus very familiar with the route you'll be travelling.

I'd suggest leaving VERY early in the morning from SW Michigan, shooting to get to the underground parking lot structure under Millennium Park by 8 am. You'll miss the worst of rush hour traffic that way, and start off your trip on the right foot.

Spend the hour pre-Field Museum opening (9 am) checking out Millennium Park when it is less filled with tourists (from experience I can tell you -- if it's a pretty day, there is nothing better than walking thru Millennium Park in the morning). Meander down by the Bean/water art display/Buckingham Fountain to Field Museum to get there when they open.

With 2 kids, 3-4 hours is probably plenty of time to see the best of the dinosaur stuff (we managed it in similar time when we took our boys), with diminishing returns after that.

At that point, I'd leave the Field Museum around 12-1 pm and Uber all the way up Michigan Avenue towards the Hancock. Eat lunch at a deep dish pizza place (Gino's East or Giordano's have locations in the area, and Lou Malnati's may be another great option -- plan at least an hour if not more), then window shop down Michigan Avenue to your architectural boat cruise (at say 3-4 pm or so). If you get a chance somewhere in there, go to the Top of the Hancock to see the views (it's free to head up there unlike the Sears Tower which charges, and you can get an overpriced cocktail and see the views), and there's a really great view out the women's bathroom (my wife tells me). For the Architectural Boat Cruise, make sure to take one of the ones by the Chicago Architectural Society, which are phenomenal.

After your boat cruise, it'll be around 5-6ish, I'd find a place for dinner. Plenty of great restaurants in that area, but I'd suggest going to Greek Islands (West Loop), Publican (farm-to-table place with great oysters and pig-based foods, Fulton Market area),Tanoshii (West Loop for sushi) or Topolobampo (Rick Bayless's excellent Mexican restaurant). Really, you'll be able to find a great meal anywhere.

By this point, you'l be exhausted from your travels, but it'll be 8 pm and time to get back to your car. On the drive home, though, take a detour to drive out to the Adler Planetarium to see the city lit up (it's seriously the best view of the city you can find).

(As for other tips -- skip Museum of Science and Industry since it's out of the way, don't do Navy Pier because it's truly not worth it, and if the Michigan Avenue window shopping doesn't appeal consider the Art Institute as a substitute).

jello_nailer
Posts: 215
Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2019 10:20 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by jello_nailer » Thu Dec 12, 2019 11:09 am

This is CHICAGO you are talking about.
It would be tragic to eat at Chipolte or Subway and not hit Portillo's for a Vienna Italian Beef and/or a Chicago Dog. Just tragic...
You want to go high brow, pizza is acceptable too. Pick any place, all good. Like picking a puppy.

DetroitMetal
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:09 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by DetroitMetal » Thu Dec 12, 2019 11:14 am

Been to Chicago many times with my wife and daughters (and continue to enjoy occasional weekend trips there, although they now prioritize the MagMile over the museums :) ). Agree with the above advice to make sure to do the architecture tour and not try to cram both museums into the same day with the architecture tour. Both museums are absolutely worth it, so you will have to put the Museum of Science and Industry on the top of your list for your next visit!

I recommend you also download both the ParkChicago and Spot Hero apps for your phone to save time and money.

Also, there is a hidden gem of a microbrewery/restaurant in a small town in Sawyer, MI near the border and just off I-94. Its called Greenbush Brewing Company and absolutely a must visit if you enjoy beer and barbeque! It may be a bit late with the kids if you don't leave Chicago til 8....

Enjoy your trip!!

DM

tenkuky
Posts: 1110
Joined: Sun Dec 14, 2014 4:28 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by tenkuky » Thu Dec 12, 2019 11:28 am

jello_nailer wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 11:09 am
This is CHICAGO you are talking about.
It would be tragic to eat at Chipolte or Subway and not hit Portillo's for a Vienna Italian Beef and/or a Chicago Dog. Just tragic...
You want to go high brow, pizza is acceptable too. Pick any place, all good. Like picking a puppy.
+10
Not to mention their Cake Shake. Cake Shake, people.

Also, OP, don't miss AirZoo if you are in/near Kalamazoo. It's covered under the ASTC membership you likely have.

boomer_techie
Posts: 360
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2019 6:47 am

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by boomer_techie » Thu Dec 12, 2019 1:05 pm

researcher wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:21 am
My 8 yo son has a high level of knowledge and interest in dinosaurs and I want him to experience the Field Museum. The plan is to take a DAY TRIP to Chicago with my wife & 2 kids while we are in SW Michigan. (no overnight stay due to logistics & family obligations)
This sounds similar to the multitude of trips we took when I was growing up. The optimal choices may have changed in the intervening ~45 years, but my parents always opted to pay the toll to take the Skyway. We would park in one of the underground garages along the lakefront.

bob60014
Posts: 1569
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:59 pm
Location: The Land Beyond ORD

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by bob60014 » Thu Dec 12, 2019 1:21 pm

Chicago guy here. If driving, park in the Grant Park Garage. It will provide easy access to the museum campus, Buckingham Fountain, Grant and Millennium Parks (they are all connected). To maximize your time, as you will be at Millennium Park and to make it walkable, the Park Grill is good. Or just to the west on Washington is Heaven On Seven (great Cajun style food), a place my kids and we love.

Don't forget about the time change from Mi to IL!
Last edited by bob60014 on Thu Dec 12, 2019 1:32 pm, edited 4 times in total.

rooms222
Posts: 467
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2013 2:12 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by rooms222 » Thu Dec 12, 2019 1:25 pm

I can second taking the South Shore Railroad from either South Bend or Michigan City. Parking is $1 at South Bend airport. We have done this for both the Field Museum and the Shedd Acquarium.

We hopped in the RTA (no ticket machine) and rode the 12 blocks up to downtown, and then caught the South Shore back to South Bend.

oldfatguy
Posts: 627
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2018 1:38 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by oldfatguy » Thu Dec 12, 2019 1:34 pm

researcher wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:21 am

Google says the drive is 1hr 30min. The plan is to arrive at the Field Museum around 10:00am, hopefully minimizing rush hour traffic.
Heading there tomorrow with my family. Personally, I would not want to make the drive at that time. I'd go much earlier, or plan it so I didn't get to Gary until at least 10. In fact, I rarely drive into the city, unless I am passing through. Otherwise, we always take the CTA or Metra to avoid the hassle of driving and parking.
researcher wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:21 am

FYI...
We have an annual museum membership that provides FREE admission to both these museums (along with several others in Chicago), so it wouldn't cost us anything to pop in for quick visits, though time is our limiting factor.
These are a great deal. Our family membership to our local museum is only $60 a year, and we get into great museums all over the country. We'll be visiting the Field and the Adler this weekend.

Griffeycom
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri May 05, 2017 5:54 am

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by Griffeycom » Thu Dec 12, 2019 1:43 pm

wcinnn wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 10:52 am
If you don't want to drive in you can take the South Shore Line train, mysouthshoreline.com, from Michigan City. Park at the Carroll Avenue station in Michigan City where there is plenty of safe parking. Get off at the 57th street station to visit the museum of Science and Industry. From there to get downtown you can get back on the train to Millennium station although there are buses that might be more convenient in the middle of the day. The Chicago Architectural Center or foundation operates the best tours. Their docents are very carefully trained and beware that are imitators out there. The river cruise is on The First Lady cruise line. You can read about that tour and others on their site as well as purchase tickets. In the summer it books quickly so get tickets ahead of time. Think you've got a wonderful day planned. You'll find Chicagoans helpful. The information folks at the museum will help you with buses going to Millennium Park.
Definitely agree with taking the South Shore line. It will meet all of OP requirements for getting downtown Chicago. Have done it many times and definitely recommend.

User avatar
Artful Dodger
Posts: 934
Joined: Thu Oct 20, 2016 12:56 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by Artful Dodger » Thu Dec 12, 2019 2:02 pm

I'll agree with those recommending taking the train. You'l spend $60 (2 adult plus 2 <14) on the tickets, but save most of that back on parking. Plus, a lot less hassle compared to driving. That's taking the South Shore from Michigan City to the Museum campus. Otherwise, I'll agree with those who recommend the earlier arrival if driving.

We did the river architecture tour a few years ago, and would recommend.

Old Guy
Posts: 381
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2012 7:20 am

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by Old Guy » Thu Dec 12, 2019 3:02 pm

Architectural boat tour is amazing. Gino’s East not so much. Filled with tourists arriving on buses. Avoid.

chicagoan23
Posts: 410
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:34 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by chicagoan23 » Thu Dec 12, 2019 3:56 pm

Traffic coming into the city on a weekday is bad from 7 AM to 11 AM and then from 2 PM to 7 PM going back out. You will hit traffic. That stretch of I-80 is probably my least favorite road in the world and is loaded with semi trailers in the mornings. It's a massive bottleneck. Just accept that you will have traffic to contend with in the morning.

I would suggest making just one activity your priority. If it is dinosaurs and the Field Museum, then don't rush it. Park at the museum itself (plenty of paid parking on a weekday) and take your time there. The dinosaur exhibit is good, but take your time looking at the other parts of the display to put those dino bones into context. It is a rich experience for children.

When you've had enough, go back to your car and then drive into the Loop for your boat tour. It does not make sense to Uber/Lyft there and back--it would be cheaper and more convenient to just pay for parking a second time using something like SpotHero. Pick up the boat tour, then walk around the Loop and Michigan Ave. I recommend Pizano's Pizza for a nice authentic Chicago restaurant that is good for kids. It is very close to Millennium Park.

That's plenty for one day. If you try to hit the Museum of Science and Industry, going early won't help you avoid any traffic on the few miles to the Field Museum, and going late you will be tired and museumed-out. It is a massive building and takes 10 minutes just to get in to the exhibit area from the on-site parking lot and another 10 minutes to get out, basically 30 minutes just coming and going. Let alone spending any time at all in their huge exhibits.....I would save it for another trip.
"The Basic Choices for Investors and the One We Strongly Prefer" | | https://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2011ltr.pdf

lazydavid
Posts: 3083
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2016 1:37 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by lazydavid » Thu Dec 12, 2019 4:29 pm

chicagoan23's advise is spot on. I was actually coming here to recommend Pizano's. Owned by some dude named Rudy Malnati Jr., who seems to know a thing or two about pizza. Not surprising, considering his dad was the original chef at Pizzeria Uno (where he reportedly invented Chicago-style deep dish), and his half-brother Lou started his own moderately successful chain :mrgreen:

If you have some time before or after your architecture cruise, it might be worth taking a stroll along the riverwalk, which is on the south side of the river where most of the cruises depart from. I would second others' recommendations about avoiding Navy Pier. Just not worth the crowds and expense, especially with your short timeline. One block south of the river on State street is the original location of Morton's steakhouse, which has a pretty great happy hour menu from 5:30-7:30 in the lounge (kids are welcome, just not at the bar). You could grab a bite and then hit the road after traffic has died down.

Topic Author
researcher
Posts: 1294
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2015 7:05 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by researcher » Thu Dec 12, 2019 5:18 pm

OP here.
Thanks for all of the great feedback thus far. I’ll scale back my ambitions and not attempt a second major museum. Also appreciate the heads up on the time zone change (which I had forgotten about) and the city view from the Planetarium. Following up on a few other topics…

Driving into the City
For a multitude of reasons, I strongly prefer taking my own vehicle vs. the train from Indiana.
My plan is to take I-94 into IN, then the Indiana/Chicago Skyway toll road into Chicago. Google shows 1.5 to 2hrs to cover the 95 miles (leaving SW MI at 9am), which I’m fine with. Do you think this is realistic, or am I likely to be stuck in traffic gridlock hell?

Parking
Several suggested driving the 1.7 miles from the Field Museum (I plan to park at the Soldier Field North Garage) to the Millennium Park area to catch the boat tour. Is this the best approach vs. getting an Uber/Lyft? Seems like a hassle to walk back/forth to the car & find other parking when we could simply get a door to door drop-off.

Food
I’ve been to Chicago several times and am not a huge fan of Chicago style deep dish pizza or Garrett’s popcorn. Any suggestions for good kid-friendly restaurants around the Millennium Park area? Budget isn't a huge concern, I just don't want to walking all over the city to get to a restaurant. Also, any good places for sweets/desserts?

HawkeyePierce
Posts: 1336
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 10:29 pm
Location: Colorado

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by HawkeyePierce » Thu Dec 12, 2019 5:22 pm

Visit the Art Institute, Sears Tower, the Mercantile Exchange, hit up a ball game at Wrigley Field, lunch at Chez Quis, catch a parade.

bob60014
Posts: 1569
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:59 pm
Location: The Land Beyond ORD

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by bob60014 » Thu Dec 12, 2019 6:21 pm

Along with the Park Grill or Heaven on Seven that I mentioned above, a old classic Chicago spot, just west of the Art Institute, is Miller's Pub.

It's a slightly longer walk, but the Revival Food Hall 125 S Clark has a variety of great restaurants under on roof, something for everyone.

For sweets, Magnolia Bakery 108 N State is good.

Another idea, depending on your travel date, if the water taxis are operating you can go from the museum campus to Navy pier, transfer at NP to the river taxi going to Michigan Ave, near the architectural tour boarding area. Otherwise Uber, the bus or walking would be your best options.

For driving into the city use WAZE for real-time traffic. It's helped me out of a few delays when coming in from the south.
Last edited by bob60014 on Thu Dec 12, 2019 6:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Atilla
Posts: 1447
Joined: Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:44 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by Atilla » Thu Dec 12, 2019 6:27 pm

Schedule sounds like an awful lot to fit into one day. Architectural boat tour is a must-do. That and the Field Museum will eat up the day if you throw in driving and dinner. The bean and Maggie Daley Park are better left for summer in my opinion.

And, if the Metra schedule accommodates your timeline, it's the way to go. Ubering around downtown is very hassle-free and affordable.

22twain
Posts: 2436
Joined: Thu May 10, 2012 5:42 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by 22twain » Thu Dec 12, 2019 6:35 pm

Artful Dodger wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 2:02 pm
I'll agree with those recommending taking the train. You'l spend $60 (2 adult plus 2 <14) on the tickets, but save most of that back on parking. Plus, a lot less hassle compared to driving. That's taking the South Shore from Michigan City to the Museum campus.
As an alternative to the Michigan City station, you might consider Dune Park, which is between Mich. City and Gary. Exit from I-94 onto Indiana 49 and go a couple miles north. Looks like a wooded area, not much development close by. The station has lots of parking.
Help save endangered words! When you write "princiPLE", make sure you don't really mean "princiPAL"!

tivattom
Posts: 100
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 1:51 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by tivattom » Thu Dec 12, 2019 7:19 pm

For parking I'd recommend the app SpotHero. We parked and MIllenium Park mid-week for 8 hours for $15.00 as a first time user.

apex84
Posts: 153
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2007 12:51 am
Location: Chicago

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by apex84 » Thu Dec 12, 2019 7:27 pm

I'd park your car at one spot & then take cabs between sites.

A few other food options close to Grant Park.

Himalayan for fast Indian/Nepali food
Flaco's Tacos for quick Mexican
Jiao for Chinese dumplings
Umai for sushi & Japanese
Xoco for Rick Bayless Mexican (not far from the Architecture cruise)

All are casual dining. Park Grill is nice. Other choices by Millennium Park include The Gage & Acanto.

While driving or if you choose to go to MSI, you may want to eat in Hyde Park. We like Noodles for Thai, Nile for middle eastern, and Nella for thin crust traditional pizza.

Xrayman69
Posts: 477
Joined: Fri Jun 01, 2018 8:52 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by Xrayman69 » Thu Dec 12, 2019 8:24 pm

Park car once then uber or cab. Typically $10 or less one way per trip. Rosebuds on Rush is a nice “classic” Italian place that we enjoy with the kid for dinner. Has items the kids can eat and nice adult items. Drinks in the Hancock tower bar 5 minute walk 3-4 blocks from Rosebuds has a nice view.

User avatar
Nicolas
Posts: 1984
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2012 7:41 am
Location: 56th and Wabasha, Ashtabula, OH

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by Nicolas » Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:04 pm

We like the Russian Tea Time restaurant, right across from the Art Insitute on Adams. (It’s next to the Route 66 “Begin” road sign). I’m partial to their borscht but maybe your kids wouldn’t like that. The old Soviet propaganda posters on the wall are a hoot. Their website says they’re closed for remodeling, reopening in February. We like Heaven on Seven too, which is mentioned upthread.
https://www.russianteatime.com/
https://www.heavenonseven.com/

We ate at The Rosebud at 1500 W Taylor St. once, because Frank Sinatra liked to eat there, and in fact his booth is marked. It was nice.
http://www.rosebudrestaurants.com/resta ... e-rosebud/
When you haven't got the coin you're always in the way — Geo. M. Cohan

JonnyBeRetired
Posts: 23
Joined: Tue Jan 15, 2019 11:49 am

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by JonnyBeRetired » Thu Dec 12, 2019 10:23 pm

+1 to the architectural boat tour.

And +1 to the suggestions to take a train into downtown. It’s convenient, it’s fun for the kids and you don’t have limit your time downtown avoiding rush hour. Don’t buy your tickets on the train though, there can be a hefty surcharge. Look into whether Metra’s Ventra app would be useful for you.

https://metrarail.com/tickets/ventra-app

Also, the Federal Reserve Bank located at 230 S. LaSalle has a nice Money Museum that is open M-F from 8:30am to 5pm which takes 30-60 minutes to visit. The kids will love guessing which bills are counterfeit and picking up packs a shredded money. It’s also simply a convenient stop in the middle of the loop to get out of the heat (or cold) and has clean washrooms too.

https://www.chicagofed.org/education/money-museum/index

Enjoy your trip to Chicago!

User avatar
Random Musings
Posts: 5710
Joined: Thu Feb 22, 2007 4:24 pm
Location: Pennsylvania

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by Random Musings » Thu Dec 12, 2019 10:27 pm

daheld wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:36 am
I can't comment on your specific questions, but want to add that the architectural boat tour is absolutely worth your time. I was looking forward to it, but it was much better than I'd expected.
Great tour. One of the highlights in Chicago when we went with the kids.

RM
I figure the odds be fifty-fifty I just might have something to say. FZ

lazydavid
Posts: 3083
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2016 1:37 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by lazydavid » Fri Dec 13, 2019 9:07 am

HawkeyePierce wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 5:22 pm
Visit the Art Institute, Sears Tower, the Mercantile Exchange, hit up a ball game at Wrigley Field, lunch at Chez Quis, catch a parade.
I saw what you did there :D

SchruteB&B
Posts: 301
Joined: Mon Jul 02, 2018 7:48 am

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by SchruteB&B » Fri Dec 13, 2019 9:11 am

lazydavid wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 4:29 pm
chicagoan23's advise is spot on. I was actually coming here to recommend Pizano's.
Love Pizano’s as well, and unlike some of the other pizza places, they actually take reservations.

22twain
Posts: 2436
Joined: Thu May 10, 2012 5:42 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by 22twain » Fri Dec 13, 2019 10:40 am

JonnyBeRetired wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 10:23 pm
Look into whether Metra’s Ventra app would be useful for you.

https://metrarail.com/tickets/ventra-app
If he chooses the train, it will surely be the South Shore Line, which isn't part of Metra, and has its own app:

https://www.mysouthshoreline.com/mobile-app/
Help save endangered words! When you write "princiPLE", make sure you don't really mean "princiPAL"!

Topic Author
researcher
Posts: 1294
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2015 7:05 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by researcher » Fri Dec 13, 2019 11:17 am

22twain wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 10:40 am
If he chooses the train, it will surely be the South Shore Line, which isn't part of Metra, and has its own app:
https://www.mysouthshoreline.com/mobile-app/
I've largely decided against the train for a variety of reasons. Feel free to chime in if I'm off base...
- I want to come/go at my own schedule. I don't want to plan around the train schedule (rushing to and/or waiting around for a train).
- My wife/kids will spend their time in the comfort/convenience/cleanliness of our own car. They can sleep on the drive home, have access to drinks/games/electronics, bring spare clothes, ect. I'd have to schlep that stuff around Chicago all day if I took the train.
- It doesn't appear to save me any time. The train ride from Carroll Ave to Millennial Station is nearly 2 hours, plus a 45 drive to the train station! Not including getting there early to park, get tickets, wait for train. Google estimates my total drive time to be only 2 hours.

michaeljc70
Posts: 6709
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2015 3:53 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by michaeljc70 » Fri Dec 13, 2019 11:44 am

If you want to drive, check out SpotHero for parking (website and app). You can reserve parking spots in a lot of garages for discounted rates. I've paid $9 for what have been $36 if I paid the posted drive in rate. You can park much cheaper north of the river than in the loop. Depending on how your family is with walking, the Hancock to the Field Museum (everything else is in between) is only around 2.5 miles (which I would break up with many stops along the way). I agree with others that trying to fit in Science and Industry with Field and architecture tour is too much.

mlipps
Posts: 1006
Joined: Thu Jun 21, 2012 9:35 am

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by mlipps » Fri Dec 13, 2019 12:53 pm

A fun place for kids right next to Millenium Park is the Nutella Cafe. Wildberry Cafe on Randolph is also surprisingly good, although not likely to win any culinary awards. Also, Ming Hin next to Mariano's is above average Cantonese food for Chicago, but below average compared to NYC, SF, etc., so depends where you're coming from if it's a good stop for you. Those are all right next to the park.

I am really confused by many people's definition of "close" being things like Xoco or Rosebud on Taylor. This is an absolutely packed schedule. A cab to River North or west of the city at dinner time can easily take 15-30 minutes because traffic right around Randolph & Michigan jams up so much. Go somewhere in the loop, not further west than Wabash. :oops:

Topic Author
researcher
Posts: 1294
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2015 7:05 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by researcher » Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:13 pm

Atilla wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 6:27 pm
Schedule sounds like an awful lot to fit into one day. Architectural boat tour is a must-do. That and the Field Museum will eat up the day if you throw in driving and dinner. The bean and Maggie Daley Park are better left for summer in my opinion.
Maybe I'm underestimating things, but I don't think it will be an awful lot to fit into one day...

- 3 hours at the Field Museum, from 10-1pm. (kids are young, the museum is free, no desire to see every exhibit)
- Boat tour from ~2:00-3:30pm.
- Explore Maggie Daley Park for an hour, 3:30-4:30.
- Dinner from 5:00-6:00
- Explore Millennium Park for an hour, 6:00-7:00
- Home before 9pm

mlipps
Posts: 1006
Joined: Thu Jun 21, 2012 9:35 am

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by mlipps » Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:16 pm

researcher wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:13 pm
Atilla wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 6:27 pm
Schedule sounds like an awful lot to fit into one day. Architectural boat tour is a must-do. That and the Field Museum will eat up the day if you throw in driving and dinner. The bean and Maggie Daley Park are better left for summer in my opinion.
Maybe I'm underestimating things, but I don't think it will be an awful lot to fit into one day...

- 3 hours at the Field Museum, from 10-1pm. (kids are young, the museum is free, no desire to see every exhibit)
- Boat tour from ~2:00-3:30pm.
- Explore Maggie Daley Park for an hour, 3:30-4:30.
- Dinner from 5:00-6:00
- Explore Millennium Park for an hour, 6:00-7:00
- Home before 9pm
I think it's fine. What's the worst case scenario, you're getting dinner at 5:30 or 6 and decide to pack it in instead of walking through Millennium Park? Big deal.

MichCPA
Posts: 883
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2018 9:06 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by MichCPA » Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:24 pm

Griffeycom wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 1:43 pm
wcinnn wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 10:52 am
If you don't want to drive in you can take the South Shore Line train, mysouthshoreline.com, from Michigan City. Park at the Carroll Avenue station in Michigan City where there is plenty of safe parking. Get off at the 57th street station to visit the museum of Science and Industry. From there to get downtown you can get back on the train to Millennium station although there are buses that might be more convenient in the middle of the day. The Chicago Architectural Center or foundation operates the best tours. Their docents are very carefully trained and beware that are imitators out there. The river cruise is on The First Lady cruise line. You can read about that tour and others on their site as well as purchase tickets. In the summer it books quickly so get tickets ahead of time. Think you've got a wonderful day planned. You'll find Chicagoans helpful. The information folks at the museum will help you with buses going to Millennium Park.
Definitely agree with taking the South Shore line. It will meet all of OP requirements for getting downtown Chicago. Have done it many times and definitely recommend.
This is the only correct answer. Amtrak won't line up that well with the schedule that OP is currently considering.

bungalow10
Posts: 2271
Joined: Sat Apr 09, 2011 6:28 am
Location: Chicago North Shore

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by bungalow10 » Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:25 pm

Thegame14 wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:42 am
Giordano's for their deep dish pizza, garrett's popcorn, and the pier, should be added to the list....Also if you like weird hot dogs with odd toppings and no ketchup, they have those in Chicago
I would skip all of these with the exception of the Chicago dog. Chicago has much better to offer than Navy Pier and Giordano's. Garrett's is good, but nothing you can't pick up in Ohare some time.
An elephant for a dime is only a good deal if you need an elephant and have a dime.

bungalow10
Posts: 2271
Joined: Sat Apr 09, 2011 6:28 am
Location: Chicago North Shore

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by bungalow10 » Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:27 pm

MSI is worth it, but you won't have time.

The Bean, Maggie Daley, and the faces sculptures (no idea what they are called, but right by the Bean) are great. The boat tour is really great, definitely exceeded my expectations.

I also love the Warhol exhibit at the Art Institute right now - I took my kids two weeks ago. I would do that over Millennium Park/Maggie Daley in the winter. There is parking (SP+) directly under Millennium Park - look online to buy ahead and get a deal.

If you want to eat near Millennium Park - Broken English Taco Pub, Xoco, The Purple Pig, The Side Door are all great options. The Purple Pig is hard to get into and might not be worth it with kids. The rest are all accessible for families.

Lastly, plan a spring/summer trip. Get Maggie Daley, Millennium, MSI all in there.
An elephant for a dime is only a good deal if you need an elephant and have a dime.

MichCPA
Posts: 883
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2018 9:06 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by MichCPA » Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:35 pm

researcher wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 11:17 am
22twain wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 10:40 am
If he chooses the train, it will surely be the South Shore Line, which isn't part of Metra, and has its own app:
https://www.mysouthshoreline.com/mobile-app/
I've largely decided against the train for a variety of reasons. Feel free to chime in if I'm off base...
- I want to come/go at my own schedule. I don't want to plan around the train schedule (rushing to and/or waiting around for a train).
- My wife/kids will spend their time in the comfort/convenience/cleanliness of our own car. They can sleep on the drive home, have access to drinks/games/electronics, bring spare clothes, ect. I'd have to schlep that stuff around Chicago all day if I took the train.
- It doesn't appear to save me any time. The train ride from Carroll Ave to Millennial Station is nearly 2 hours, plus a 45 drive to the train station! Not including getting there early to park, get tickets, wait for train. Google estimates my total drive time to be only 2 hours.
Depending on what time we are talking about in the spring, you eliminate the possibility of weather delays and/or construction delays when taking the train. Since there is no construction right now, you wouldn't see that time impact (can be substantial). The train is actually the lower variance option. I agree with others that you will need to pare down the schedule.

Atilla
Posts: 1447
Joined: Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:44 pm

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by Atilla » Wed Dec 18, 2019 7:22 pm

researcher wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:13 pm
Atilla wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 6:27 pm
Schedule sounds like an awful lot to fit into one day. Architectural boat tour is a must-do. That and the Field Museum will eat up the day if you throw in driving and dinner. The bean and Maggie Daley Park are better left for summer in my opinion.
Maybe I'm underestimating things, but I don't think it will be an awful lot to fit into one day...

- 3 hours at the Field Museum, from 10-1pm. (kids are young, the museum is free, no desire to see every exhibit)
- Boat tour from ~2:00-3:30pm.
- Explore Maggie Daley Park for an hour, 3:30-4:30.
- Dinner from 5:00-6:00
- Explore Millennium Park for an hour, 6:00-7:00
- Home before 9pm
To me that's a lot of running around, from here to there, back here then back over there, etc. To each his own - enjoy!

User avatar
DWesterb2iz2
Posts: 134
Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2015 5:27 am

Re: Day Trip to Downtown Chicago

Post by DWesterb2iz2 » Thu Dec 19, 2019 3:09 pm

Nicolas wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:04 pm
We like the Russian Tea Time restaurant, right across from the Art Insitute on Adams. (It’s next to the Route 66 “Begin” road sign). I’m partial to their borscht but maybe your kids wouldn’t like that. The old Soviet propaganda posters on the wall are a hoot. Their website says they’re closed for remodeling, reopening in February. We like Heaven on Seven too, which is mentioned upthread.
https://www.russianteatime.com/
https://www.heavenonseven.com/

We ate at The Rosebud at 1500 W Taylor St. once, because Frank Sinatra liked to eat there, and in fact his booth is marked. It was nice.
http://www.rosebudrestaurants.com/resta ... e-rosebud/
The Russian Tea Time is getting renovated. It's closed for a while.

Post Reply