We had it planned for a long time. A really long time. Maybe not all of the details or stops that we’d make along the way, but the fact that we’d be driving for days and playing along the way? That was planned.
And then things changed. Dates had to be moved, issues had to be solved, we found ourselves wondering how we could even make it work… or if we should. Two amazing weeks and 5000 miles later, we’re glad we did. We’re glad we tossed off the hurdles before they weighed us down and tethered us in their grasp. We’re glad we had two weeks of beautiful (and yes, sometimes stressful and chaotic and fun) family moments… we can always make money, deadlines and schedules, but we can’t always make those sweet family memories.
So, while one member of our little herd was already in Michigan with Nana and Papa, we made our way there to get her. Our drive wasn’t always full of happy things, because after just two hours into our road trip, we lost the roof rack and all of it’s contents to the vacuum of the highway. With a screeching stop on the shoulder of the bustling (yes, bustling… it was busy and fast!) freeway, we slowly worked our way back to the place where it all went down, when the sound rang through the cabin of our vehicle and the review mirror showed the sad sight of bags flying through the air. Thankfully, so very thankfully, NO one was hurt, no car was touched, maneuvers were made easily and there were NO accidents. That would have been a very sad ending to a trip that hadn’t really even begun. Instead, I covered my eyes and prayed under my breath so as not to scare the kids while Chris ran out to retrieve whatever was left of our belongings. Surprisingly, after bouncing and tumbling, our suitcases made it with barely a scratch, our stroller though? Not so much.
Quickly, we tossed everything into the back of our shouldered and blinking SUV and made it to the next exit to really access the damage and rid ourselves of any extra weight and baggage for the rest of the trip. At this point the luggage rack bag and stroller were completely out of commission, and we sadly parted ways at a nearby dumpster, laughing it off as best we could, because really, that’s all you can do.
Back in the car with his smooth yet firm grip, Chris clasped my hand in his, pulled it close to his mouth and breathed through a kiss, “If I had to lose a roof rack with anyone, I’m glad it could be you.”
Our first stop was Chicago, and while we were only there for a day, we wanted to make the most of it… stroller-less or not. We’ve been there many times, mostly in the heart of winter, bundling up in layers and covering every inch of skin to shield from the bitter wind that comes with a Chicago stay in February and ducking into every shop and cafe on Michigan Avenue to warm for a moment before bracing for the cold. But this time, with the warmth of a summer day in the city, the weather was perfect. Of course there are many amazing things to do in Chicago, including the great shopping and dining along Michigan Ave. and the Aquarium, but this time I’m sharing a few of our favorite activities on a budget.
1 // The Bean at Millennium Park
Actually, I would just recommend Millennium Park itself for a full day of activities, between the floral gardens and all the events they offer, your day planner could be full. Since our littlests hadn’t been to The Bean before, at least not that they could remember, we knew it was on our list. Plus, it’s just fun to look at, play under and people watch.
We brought a change of clothes with us for the day, just for this purpose! Because really, who wouldn’t want to run and splash under a wall of water! Even though it was a warm summer day, the water was COLD. Refreshing could be another term used for the water as well, but I think I’ll stick with cold. I didn’t see a kid there that seemed to mind it though.
3// Nosh on Cinnamon Rolls at Ann Sather
Depending on the time, this place get’s pretty busy, and sometimes the service reflects that… just because there are so many people wanting a famous cinnamon roll! But, once you bite into one, it’s just so good, we kept ordering more (clearly we were famished!)
4// Explore Navy Pier
Who doesn’t like a Ferris Wheel?! I like seeing them more than I like riding them, but we all rode it together anyway. There are plenty more rides, games and activities available. Plus, if you’re there in the evening they have a fireworks display on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
5// Pick Up Garrett Popcorn
We never leave Chicago without picking up a bag of their sweet and salty Chicago mix! Seriously. The best.
There are so many more things to do and places to see in Chicago, we came off of an all-nighter drive, so we kept it low key and a little relaxed this time around. Of course you can hit the beach or the Lincoln Park Zoo (another free option!) and then if you wish to shop till you drop, there’s Michigan Ave. with it’s gorgeous streets and shops. I love eating at the Grand Lux Cafe when I’m in that area. And if you really have a strong stomach, try stepping out on the see-through Skydeck of the Sears Tower at almost 1400 feet above the city! Something fun we’ve enjoyed before was a boat ride touring Chicago from the river… it was a blast, and we accidentally sat in the “wet seats” and left soaked, cold and laughing so hard.
Have you been to Chicago? What are your favorite places to enjoy while there?
Cheers, and thanks for reading!