Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids pin

As the third largest city in the United States, Chicago has no shortage of things to do. Chicago has plenty to offer everyone, including families. For traveling families planning a trip to the Windy City, we’ve created a list of our top eight things to do in Chicago .

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids view

 

Eat at the Greek Islands Restaurant

Chicago is known for its large Greek community. For the best Greek food, Greek Islands on 200 South Halsted is a well-known restaurant that imports extra virgin olive oil, wine, cheeses, seafood, olives, herbs, and spices directly from Greece. The restaurant started when a group of friends opened their own business in 1971. The restaurant still has the same owners to this day.
Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids greek restaurant

 

The three most popular cold spreads of Greek Islands include Taramosalata (cod roe with potatoes, onion, and olive oil), Melitzanosalata (fresh roasted eggplant with garlic, potatoes, and olive oil), and Tirokafteri (feta cheese with red peppers).

Other popular menu items include Grilled Octopus, Home Made Gyros, Keftedakai (meatballs), and Flaming Saganaki Cheese (which is flambeed at the table).

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids greek restaurant dishes

Take a Selfie at The Bean

While best known as the Chicago Bean, the structure is best known as the Cloud Gate. British artist Anish Kapoor created The Bean, inspired by liquid mercury. It was constructed between 2004 and 2006 and is nicknamed The Bean because of its beanlike shape. What is most astonishing is that The Bean has no visible seams.

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids bike

Located at the AT&T Plaza, the structure is 66 feet wide by 33 feet tall and reflects the Chicago skyline and clouds. The 12-foot arch underneath the structure allows visitors to get up close and touch The Bean as well as take any photos of their reflection!

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids bean

Explore Rock N’ Roll McDonald’s

McDonald’s is a staple of American food that anyone can now find in nearly every city around the world. The first McDonald’s was built in  the Chicago, area but has since been torn down and turned into the McDonald’s Museum. The Rock n’ Roll McDonald’s, on the other hand, is McDonald’s flagship restaurant, and one of the most famous in the world. Located at 600 N Clark Street, it is about three times larger than a typical McDonald’s has a mini museum with  memorabilia spanning five decades.

 

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids Mcdonalds

 

Chicago Architecture River Cruise 

Chicago is a city with a lot of fascinating architectural history. During this 90-minute cruise, visitors will learn about over fifty different buildings throughout the city. The journey starts at the Michigan Avenue Bridge and takes travelers all along the Chicago River. Drinks are available on board, as well as outdoor and air-conditioned seating. The company also offers other specific tours, like the Twilight River Cruise which offers the same itinerary as travelers watch the sun set over the city.

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids cruise

Art Institute of Chicago

With a variety of art ranging from sculptures to photography to Byzantine exhibits, the Art Institute of Chicago has something for everyone. The Art Institute was founded in 1879 in Chicago’s Grant Park on 111 South Michigan Avenue. It is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the country and was even rated #1 museum in the world on TripAdvisor in 2014.

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids mickey

The Art Institute features a collection arranged like an encyclopedia. The museum offers gallery walks, art making, picture books and more for families. It showcases works by Picasso, Georges Seurat, and Grant Wood.

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids greek restaurant buildings

Chicago’s Original Gangster Tour

Anyone interested in crime history or the Mafia should jump on a Mafia Tour when visiting Chicago. The almost 2-hour bus tour will take visitors through all of the Mafia “hot spots” where the drama went down in the 1920s and 1930s. The guides will talk about these places as well as Capone, Moran, Dillinger and the rest of the gangsters who ran Chicago.

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids greek restaurant mafia

 

Pizza at Giordano’s

No one can visit Chicago without trying the famous deep-dish pizza. And the best place to get deep-dish pizza is Giordano’s.

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids pizza

They also have thin crust pizza, as well as salads and sandwiches, and French fries (garlic parmesan anyone?) but everything has that traditional Italian taste. There are several locations around Chicago, so it is easy for any family to try it while exploring. The restaurant even offers a service that can ship a pizza to patrons’ homes!
Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids pizza

Have Fun at the Navy Pier 

Navy Pier, which opened in July of 1916, extends 3,300 feet. Famous architect Charles Frost built the pier originally as a dock for freights and passenger traffic. At one point, in 1918, the pier was a jail for draft dodgers.

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids wheel

Today, the pier one of the most visited attractions in the midwestern United States. More than just a typical dock, this landmark on Lake Michigan features over 50 acres of parks, gardens, shops, restaurants, attractions and exhibitions. There is always something going on at the pier, whether it is a movie showing, daily cruise, something fun at the Children’s Museum, or Shakespeare in the Park performance.

 

Eight Things to do in Chicago with Kids greek restaurant fishing

Autism Travel Tips:

  • We highly recommend visiting the Greek Islands Restaurant for lunch. This is because during lunch time the food is cheaper and the restaurant is less noisy.
  • Parents should make sure they book the Chicago Architecture River Cruise in advance. Also, we suggest arriving at least half an hour ahead of time. Otherwise, families will have a long wait.
  • For the Original Gangster tour, we highly recommend booking in advance as many of the tickets sell out.Furthermore, the bus had no air conditioning which may be challenging for some.

Is Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza Worth the Hype?

For the past several years, we’ve wanted to try out Giordano’s, a very highly rated Pizzeria chain with numerous branches city and nationwide started over 200 years ago in Torino, Italy.

The chain referred to as ‘Chicago’s Best Pizza’ has been awarded prestigious titles by renowned institutions like NBC, CBS Chicago, New York Times, Chicago Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune.

When we finally got the chance we were not disappointed!
We wandered into the Prudential Plaza Millennium Park branch on 130 E Randolph Street for a quick dinner since it was close to our hotel , Chicago’s Swissotel.

Is Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza Worth the Hype? sign

 

The Restaurant

The décor is rather simple with wooden furnishings and red and white large-checked gingham tablecloths, but the emphasis here is definitely on the food.
Giordano’s claim to fame is their deep dish pizzas and based on our personal experience rightfully so. The pizzas are made fresh to order so that the waiting time can be long; anywhere from half an hour to 45 minutes depending on the type of pizza ordered.
Our server was excellent; not only promptly answering all our son’s questions but in letting us know what to expect.

Is Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza Worth the Hype? table

We went at 6 pm on a Friday night which meant that we didn’t have to wait as long, but it got crowded pretty soon.
While we waited for our pizza, we had appetizers of bruschetta and salad; both were impeccably seasoned and delicious!

Is Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza Worth the Hype? brushcetta

When the pizza came, it was everything we envisioned it to be -the thick crisp crust with the stretchy and stringy cheese and the freshly cut tomato topping totally lived up to our expectations.

Autism Dining Tips

  • Giordano’s is open every day of the week from 11 am to midnight. It is important to know that they do not take reservations so you cannot make advanced bookings
  • The waiting times are long and even though the pizza was worth waiting for, I recommend that you go early to avoid the crowds and get served sooner
  • Prepare your child for the wait and bring along a tablet or phone to keep him/her busy.
  • If your kid gets antsy while he or she waits, they can go to the back and watch the kitchen staff prepare the dough and make the pizza!

Is Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza Worth the Hype? pizza

  • Though the Chicago venue mostly recognized for their deep pan stuffed pizza; they also serve other Italian dishes like pasta, salads, and even deli sandwiches for lunch.
  • The chain offers gluten-free crusts on the menu, so it is important to place your order accordingly and let the staff know if your child has gluten sensitivities.
  • The premises flooring is flat and even and suitable for wheelchairs.
  • The tables are pretty close together, and the noise level is high especially as the restaurant fills up; so remember to bring headphones for your child to be able to block out loud sounds if necessary.
  • The portion sizes are relatively generous, and there is a children’s menu available.
  • Do make sure that you communicate with the staff and ask questions to be sure that you have understood the menu and selections.

Is Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza Worth the Hype? cutting the pizza

 

Chicago’s Architectural River Cruise

The Chicago Architectural Foundation river tour takes you up and down both prongs of the Chicago River and out to Lake Michigan providing a memorable, excellent introduction to the city from a unique vantage point.

With that said, we found the tour highly informative, too long (over two hours) and geared more towards architecture buffs than the general public. After having taken the trip, I can’t recommend it for kids under the age of ten or any autistic with moderate to severe sensory issues.

Illinois Chicago's Architectural River Cruise WHEEL

 

Illinois Chicago's Architectural River Cruise BOAT
Illinois Chicago's Architectural River Cruise VIEW

Illinois Chicago's Architectural River Cruise SKYLINE

Illinois Chicago's Architectural River Cruise BUILDING

The first obstacle our son had to overcome was standing in a rather long line of several hundred people to board the boat even though we had reserved the cruise a day in advance.I did go and ask whether there is any way to accommodate my son but my question wasn’t even gratified with an answer.

It is advantageous to be in the front of the line and snag seats next to the boat’s sides for better views during the tour so travelers wishing to enjoy a better vantage point for photographs should arrive at least half an hour earlier than the set departure time.

The boarding process was smooth, but the lack of assigned seating might be problematic for families wanting to sit together and autistics with sensory issues trying to avoid noise.

We were forced to sit near to a loudspeaker and endure the continuous noise for the two and a half hours onboard which significantly hampered our enjoyment of the tour. Several pleas to the guide to maintain some distance between his mouth and the microphone or speak in a softer tone went entirely unanswered.Apparently, the staff on the boat wasn’t trained in handling passengers with autism or in offering superior customer service in general.

Two other problems our autistic son encountered were the gridded metal seat that felt highly uncomfortable as well as the fact that with overhead cover provided passengers can be exposed to the scorching sun or harsh wind of Chicago.

In hindsight, it would have been more enjoyable for my family to take the city’s hop on and off to see the different landmarks since passengers can get off whenever they wish, and most seating is offered in closed areas that are not open to the elements.

Have you taken the Architectural Riverboat cruise; if so how did you like it?

 

 

Autism travel tips.

*Buy your tickets ahead of time they sell out rather fast especially in the summer time.
*Arrive at least half an hour ahead of scheduled departure to get a proper place in line.
*If your kid can’t stand and wait have him/her sit in the nearby Monet Cafe. If they can stand in line, bring electronic entertainment to keep them busy.
*Bring a mini fan, water bottle and a seat cushion for your autistic traveler
*Try to sit in the first few rows so you can leave faster when the tour is over.
*Watch out for the loudspeakers hanging on the sides on the boat and make sure you don’t sit in proximity to any of them.

 

 

 

 

Review of the Swissotel Chicago

Location

The Swissotel  Chicago is on Wacker Street within walking distance to the city’s main attractions like the Art Institute, Miracle Mile and the Navy Pier.The location provides convenient access to restaurants, including fast-food joints, mini markets and local drugstores to purchase water and snacks for the room.

Hotel

The building itself is a high rise (like many others in downtown Chicago) with decorated in a modern minimalist style.The Lobby design with pod-like areas instead of the regular reception desks and glass cascade chandeliers looks futuristic.The budget-friendly property offers  661 oversized guest rooms and suites (including kids suites)with magnificent views of the Chicago River.

First Impression

When we arrived, the lobby area looked chaotic with some guests trying to check in while others were leaving.Apparently, the hotel is popular with large groups like conferences and wedding parties, especially over weekends and holidays which makes it busy during both weekdays and weekends.

Dining

The hotel boasts a luxury restaurant ‘The Palm’ that serves lunch and dinner as well as a lively bar and a breakfast buffet. There is a 24-hour room service with a rather disappointing menu composed of one salad and two types of cold sandwiches. If you are arriving on a late evening flight with kids who have allergies or are picky eaters, you should plan to dine at the airport or a local restaurant.


Review of the Swissotel Chicago lobby Family Stay at Chicago's Swissotel
Place to improve

The worst problem we encountered were the  automated elevators  where you had to punch your desired floor ahead of time      ( since there are no buttons to do so inside.) If you suddenly changed your mind or mistakenly pressed the button for the wrong floor you needed to exit and start the whole process over again.This process managed to both frustrate and scare my autistic son.

Best Feature

The hotel provides chilled citrus and berry flavored water in the lobby felt refreshing after walking in the hot and humid  Chicago weather.

Would like to take home

The giant display clock in the lobby area was gorgeous and added a cosmopolitan vibe to the space.

The room

Our room had a river view and two double beds with a relatively hard mattress none of us felt comfortable sleeping on.
The front door had a safety lock a useful feature if your child tends to wander, and a doorbell that our son loved to press continuously.
The closet provided ample hanging space and a safe while the elongated desk/bar area was convenient to place snacks and beverages on.
The room also has extra outlets under the desk on the right-hand side for to recharge several electronic devices simultaneously, which was a much-welcomed bonus.
The bathroom featured the standard tub and granite counter-top sink combination as well as a separate glass-enclosed shower which I thought would be helpful for families with younger kids.Our bathroom didn’t have a handheld shower head which many parents would find useful when bathing younger children.

Review of the Swissotel Chicago room Family Stay at Chicago's Swissotel
Housekeeping

We found housekeeping to be prompt when we asked for extra toiletries(soap, lotion and shampoo) as well as feather-free bedding.
We did have an issue with getting two additional chairs in the room and it did take multiple calls to the front desk over a period of 24 hours to resolve the matter and send up the two chairs from one of their conference rooms.

Autism travel tips

This property allows small pets so if you or any family members suffer from allergies be sure to ask for a hypoallergenic/on chemical-free room ahead of time.
Ask for a high floor during booking, especially if your family is not used to city traffic noises or your child is noise sensitive.
The hotel has a Mini Mart in the lobby if you are in need of quick snacks or bottled water.
Be sure to bring your own anti slip bath mat and a night light if your kid has any balancing issues or is fearful of the dark.
The hotel interconnects through underground tunnels to other hotels so you can walk in a temperature-controlled environment to the Miracle Mile and nearby restaurants.

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