Tag Archives: summer vacation

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation – Chicago Edition, Part 1

I may never catch up on my writing, but maybe I’ll finish the summer by the end of the year!

We traveled to Chicago for a family wedding this past June, but since it’s such a big deal to fly with littles we extended our trip for a fun (not restful) family vacation. Henry was great on the flight up: he colored, played quietly, and then watched movies or gamed for the duration of the flight. He also got hopped up on juice and skipped his nap, but that wasn’t too bad. Elliot, however, did not like to be contained since at one, he could finally move on his own and could not understand that he needed to sit still for the flight. It wasn’t the easiest, but still it went fairly smoothly since there were two of us to one of him. And as adults, we are bigger and stronger than him so we prevailed.

Keith’s cousin, Donna, graciously picked us up from Midway and drove us downtown to our hotel in rush hour traffic the week of her son’s wedding so we didn’t have to worry about figuring out how to get all our gear and the boys downtown. She even packed us a cooler with snacks and drinks for our stay – she is the best! The boys napped during the commute, and our hotel (Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront) turned out to be fantastically situated on the Chicago River. We especially lucked out and got a corner riverfront view – we had giant windows on two of our walls! We could people watch, boat spy, and check out all the cars, trucks, and buses to our heart’s content! In other words, it was a preschooler and toddler’s dream, spoiling us making all other hotel rooms pale in comparison.

After unloading our gear, we had two priorities on our first day: (1) eat and (2) find Maggie Daley Park. We decided to combine the two and get carry-out Chicago-style pizza for a park picnic, before running wild at the playground. The three of us determined that deep dish pizza is not our favorite, but Maggie Daley Park definitely is. This Park is a wonderful garden oasis with several playground areas for all kids. If you want to climb a rock wall – there is a giant one available. If you adore miniature golf, play your heart out on its course. If you want peace and quiet, there are plenty of nooks scattered throughout where you can have alone-time.
The Play Garden is 3 acres of amazingness for kids. It encourages imaginative play with trails meandering to hidden treasures, gigantic playground structures, and water fountains. Henry spent the majority of his time in the Slide Crater, dashing across the Tower Bridge, climbing the towers, and speeding down the slides. He had a blast running up and down the hills and playing tag with new friends. Elliot strolled with me through the Enchanted Forest, balanced himself across the tree beams, and tried his best to jump into fountains (despite it being chilly for us Floridians!)

Every day of our trip Henry asked to return to this park. It may be his favorite one ever! He still asks us when we will be returning. Unfortunately, it rained a ton while we were downtown, so we only made it back one additional time, in the rain. Still, totally worth it, and it wasn’t crowded when it was raining! This time we first focused on a couple of Play Garden areas we missed the first time around – the Sea and the Harbor – before returning to the Slide Crater for madness.

Located about a 10-15 minute walk from our hotel, we returned from Maggie Daley through Millennium Park and Pritzker Pavilion by way of the Bean. This area of town is truly a gem, and we will be returning for more fun on our next visit!

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation (Part 1) – Weeki Wachee Springs

For our family trip this year, I had a few parameters: (1) visit a place I had never seen, (2) within driving distance of where we live, (3) that is relaxing, and (4) can comfortably fit the three of us. St. George Island fit the bill! Keith had visited twice with his family when he was younger so it would be nearly new to him (& new to me and H). It’s located five and half hours away in the Florida Panhandle on the Apalachicola Bay. It is an island full of vacation homes, beaches, a state park, and not much else. We found a vacation house with two bedrooms, a screened porch, and an outdoor shower so we had plenty of space.

To break up the drive and allow for maximum Hen-naps, we stopped at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park on our way up north to play at its Buccaneer Bay water park and eat lunch. There is a special area for kids 6 and under called Lil’ Mates Caribbean Cove, which is where we spent most of our time. Hen had fun sliding down the slide and crawling through the spray tunnel. For kids used to bigger splash pads it isn’t very exciting, but we had so much fun. We watched bigger kids and adults play in the spring and go down the flume slides, but it was too old for Henry. 


After swimming for a couple hours, we heard there was an animal show. We never made it because there was a super sweet playground on the way which was more immediately fun. After getting hot and sweaty, we made our way back to the car, only stopping to meet a real mermaid! Henry was not impressed, and a little scared. Next time we visit we will need to check out the mermaid show (if it’s back up and running) and the river cruise. It is definitely a gem of a park and worth a return visit.