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Old 06-06-2008, 10:11 AM   #1
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Chicago travels

Hi everyone,
We're planning a vacation to Chicago in a couple of weeks and was hoping I could get some info on reasonable places to go with a family of 5. We'd like to dine and entertain our 3 kids (ages 14, 11 and 5) without breaking our bank. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance.

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Old 06-06-2008, 09:12 PM   #2
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The museum pass is usually a good deal, one price gets you into all the museums on the list, enough to keep you busy for a couple of days.
The Museum of Science and Industry usually rates much higher on kids fun scale than the other museums, and if you can take a bus there and avoid parking it is fairly reasonable as well.
For dining it all depends on your tastes but since you are coming here you should at least try a Chicago Hot Dog once, or a good Italian Beef. If you are staying in a hotel downtown they will usually have recommendations and menus on hand for you for suggestions and ideas. There is Jerry's Sandwiches on 1045 W. Madison, it is a neighborhood adjacent to the UIC campus (which is a great place to look for cheap eats). Chinatown is a must stop, even if just to browse the shops and try the Chinese Bakeries which are the best deals. Giant dumplings filled with meat, Bubble Teas, etc. Greek town is also next to the UIC campus and has lots of cool restaurants there.
Around Cicero some of our favorites are Tasty Dog, Scatchells, and Buffet City. In Evanston there is Herm's Palace.
In all honesty, I don't know of many places downtown that are very reasonable, even McDonalds costs more there! Unless you go to Harold's Chicken Shack.. but I am not recommending that. Then there is the Polk Street Pub, The White Palace, both on the south loop area. Basic fair good eats but nothing special to Chicago.
So, you might be better off venturing out of Chicago for eats and save your money for one specialty restaurant downtown. If you like Thai we recommend the PS Bankock on Clark St. For ice cream there is Margie's Candies on Armitage and Western.
Otherwise there is an Ethnic Food Court in Watertown Place that is pretty good and pretty reasonable.
Bottom line is that eating downtown is not very cheap but there is a ton of variety everywhere you look!
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Old 06-06-2008, 11:40 PM   #3
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I had lunch at a Thai restaurant across Michigan Ave. from the Art Institute of Chicago that was pretty reasonable. It's very close to Millennium Park, which is fun to visit, especially when it's hot. The Crown Fountain is a blast for children.
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Old 06-06-2008, 11:58 PM   #4
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I could live on Garrett's popcorn instead of a meal -- fresh, hot and dribbling down my chin! My kids love Cheesecake Factory, and the portions are gargantuous enough to share. Yes, I know it's a chain, but we don't have one in Green Bay so it's a treat for them. I thought the food at the Museum of Science & Industry was expensive, personally (from a family budget perspective). We ate at a place downtown, was it Eleven? Does that sound familiar Maverick? It was kinda fun, diner style. Didn't care for the rude place, thought it was filthy (but pretty fun for kids). I agree, you need to try a Chicago style hot dog (as served!!), and your family will likely enjoy one of the Chicago style pizza outlets like Genos or Giordano's (sp?). I know one is within walking distance downtown, but can't remember which one. We also enjoyed Bandera's, Houston's and Millenium Cafe. Warning -- the tax rate downtown is a real killer! If you aren't looking for local fare, but just a reliable sandwich or something, there are Corner Bakery outlets (like Atlanta Bread, etc.) on almost every block. And there's this darling little store downtown called Fox and Obel, which has a food counter I loved for breakfast.
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Old 06-07-2008, 01:35 AM   #5
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I am not familiar with Eleven, and yes avoid eating at the Museum of Science and Industry! We are going there tomorrow and packing a lunch. I do believe there is a Geno's East in the downtown vicinity, not sure about Giordano's. There is also Dewey's and Uno's, both great deep dish pizzas.
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Old 06-07-2008, 06:37 AM   #6
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When we travel to Chicago, we avoid the pricey hotels in the Loop and downtown areas. We stay north of the city, in the Northbrook to Skokie area. Not only are the hotels cheaper out there, we get free parking. To go into the city, we drive to the nearest El stop and hop on.

There are so many great places to eat in Chicago that are cheap. I suggest you go online and read the restaurant reviews in the Chicago Reader (Chicago Reader)

Good luck and have fun!
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Old 06-07-2008, 12:36 PM   #7
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don't forget about going to Navy Pier. lots of restaurants and fun stuff for kids
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Old 06-07-2008, 09:22 PM   #8
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Thank you all. We found a reasonable hotel in Skokie ~ about 20 minutes from the city center. It will include complimentary hot breakfast and NO parking fees. Woohoo! Thanks for the tip Toots! As far as restaurants, I'm going with Mav's tips about eating hot dogs. I'm sure we'll be having those more than once for lunch. We're hitting the navy pier, museums, zoos and parks for the kids. We are sooooooooooooooo excited! Hubby's been there on a business trip but we haven't seen Chicago yet. Thank you all for your great tips.

P.S.
Does anyone know about parking fees downtown Chicago? Is parking fairly accessible or should we just take a shuttle/subway?
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Old 06-07-2008, 09:46 PM   #9
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Since you are staying in Skokie, there are three places right on Dempster that are worth eating at. One is Herm's Palace for dogs and Italian Beefs (tell Scott Buddy sent you), they also have great chili. Then there are the Pita Inn and Grecian Delights right next door to each other, great places for Greek and Mediterranean. The Pita Inn has great falafel and Grecian Delights has really good Musaka and a cool desert (I don't know what it is called) that has a thick white cream on the bottom and what looks like orange shredded wheat on top, it is very good stuff.
When it comes to museums and zoos, don't forget there are charges for parking and for admission. Unless you go to the Lincoln Park Zoo, last time I was there it was still free but you have to search for metered parking in the area.
Also bear in mind Skokie has the Yellow Line of the L which goes to the Red Line which goes downtown.

Edit: 20 minutes to downtown does not take into account rush hour traffic, avoid going downtown during rush hour or coming back during rush hour even if taking the L.
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Old 06-08-2008, 08:16 AM   #10
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Thank you all. We found a reasonable hotel in Skokie ~ about 20 minutes from the city center. It will include complimentary hot breakfast and NO parking fees. Woohoo! Thanks for the tip Toots! As far as restaurants, I'm going with Mav's tips about eating hot dogs. I'm sure we'll be having those more than once for lunch. We're hitting the navy pier, museums, zoos and parks for the kids. We are sooooooooooooooo excited! Hubby's been there on a business trip but we haven't seen Chicago yet. Thank you all for your great tips.

P.S.
Does anyone know about parking fees downtown Chicago? Is parking fairly accessible or should we just take a shuttle/subway?
Parking fees for downtown Chicago are expensive. Avoid it if you can and use the buses and subway when possible. If you get the chance try out Home Run Inn pizza. In my opinion they have the best thin crust pizza around.
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Old 06-08-2008, 05:04 PM   #11
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Parking is bad, when I took DW downtown to get her sworn in as a citizen I dropped $12 and we were there just over two hours. Not a good deal. The best I have seen lately is $20 if you get in before 9am and don't leave until 5pm, otherwise the rates shoot up for short term parking.
Do yourself a favor and collect maps for the L and for the buses...
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Old 06-08-2008, 06:54 PM   #12
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From Skokie there are no L's (only Metra) so you can either drive and park downtown - 23 dollars for a day which may be pricey but not if you are a family of 5. If you take Metra which I take to work (I work downtown Chicago) you will be dropping atleast 4-5 dollars roundtrip for each person plus you have to pay for parking at the train station so in my opinion it's better to park downtown.

As others suggested go to Navy Pier. My kids (8 and 10) love it there. There are lots of eateries and the Children's Museum if you are interested in taking them there.

I would also suggest going to Greek Town and enjoying a Gyro at Greektown Gyros. I used to go there as a student at UIC and it's not an upscale place but the Gyros can't be beat.

If you are in Chicago you should try one of the deep dish pizzas. There are many chains around - Unos, Edwardos, Lou Malinatis (my favorite) and Gioradanos.

Hotdogs are good and available widely but the one place I like is Jimmy's which is a hole in the wall. There is another good place close to Nagle Avenue called Superdawg. You can ask the hotel to guide you. It's not that far from Skokie.

China Town near Cicero Avenue is also a lot of fun and has a lot of hole in the wall type of places. The kids may have fun walking and exploring shops.

If your kids are adventurous and you are as well, try Rezas which serves delicious lebanese food. It's on N. Clark Street (again not terribly far from Skokie). Right accross from Rezas is one of our favorite bakeries called Swedish Bakery. Nothing comes close to Swedish it's heaven for kids. Your kids will love it and there is always free stuff to sample.

Museums are good but you need lots of time. If you have to make one go to the Field Museum.

Try to walk around State Street and Michigan Avenue to get a feel for the shopping and hustle and bustle of downtown.

Try to take the kids up the skydeck of Sears Tower or John Hancock. I prefer Hancock and the view from up there. You can grab a bite to eat at one of the eateries on the lower level of Water Tower (mall right next to John Hancock)

Also try to take a doubledecker tour if you can. It's a great way to see the city and it's sights. A river boat tour is also highly recommended.

Enjoy your time.
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Old 06-08-2008, 06:57 PM   #13
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Parking fees for downtown Chicago are expensive. Avoid it if you can and use the buses and subway when possible. If you get the chance try out Home Run Inn pizza. In my opinion they have the best thin crust pizza around.
I was was in Darian? for a ten day cake deorating class {Wilton} a few years ago. I tried many, many pizzas that claimed to be the best and was quite dissapointed but it was Home Run that I liked the best I went to their all you can eat lunch buffet right next to the school and was in pizza heaven.
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Old 06-08-2008, 07:25 PM   #14
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From Skokie there are no L's (only Metra)
That's not true, DW used to take the Yellow Line from Skokie all the time, it is at the Greyhound Bus station near Dempster and LeClaire. You take it to the Red Line which takes you right into downtown.

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China Town near Cicero Avenue is also a lot of fun and has a lot of hole in the wall type of places. The kids may have fun walking and exploring shops.
Chinatown is not near Cicero Ave, it is near I-55 North and Halstead. If you are coming down 90/94 southbound turn onto I-55 North toward Lake Shore Dr. and you will see the exit about a mile to two miles down. Cicero Ave is the other way about 6 miles, going toward St. Louis on I-55 South.
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Old 06-08-2008, 07:34 PM   #15
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Maverick, I was not aware of the Yellow line, now I am so I stand corrected.

For China town I meant to say close to Cermak but typed Cicero instead (not sure where that came from I think I am growing senile ) so again I stand corrected.
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Old 06-08-2008, 07:47 PM   #16
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Maverick, I was not aware of the Yellow line, now I am so I stand corrected.

For China town I meant to say close to Cermak but typed Cicero instead (not sure where that came from I think I am growing senile ) so again I stand corrected.
No problems as DW supplies me with most of my info (she is like a walking almanac for Chicago LOL), and yea Cermak goes right thru Chinatown. I also recommend it, as you did, for all the cool shops and bakeries there. My kids love it and I am sure hers will as well.

Here is a link for the OP for the Yellow Line (also called the Skokie Swift). If they take it they have to be aware of the hours of operation. DW also says there is this great deli right next door to it called Kaufmann's that has great deli sandwiches. It is about a block or two away from the station. Sandwiches, fresh bagels, macaroons, things like that.

Chicago ''L''.org: Operations - Lines -> Yellow Line

Soo much to see and do in Chicago maybe they should spend a couple of weeks here, LOL.
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Old 06-09-2008, 08:45 AM   #17
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No problems as DW supplies me with most of my info (she is like a walking almanac for Chicago LOL), and yea Cermak goes right thru Chinatown. I also recommend it, as you did, for all the cool shops and bakeries there. My kids love it and I am sure hers will as well.

Here is a link for the OP for the Yellow Line (also called the Skokie Swift). If they take it they have to be aware of the hours of operation. DW also says there is this great deli right next door to it called Kaufmann's that has great deli sandwiches. It is about a block or two away from the station. Sandwiches, fresh bagels, macaroons, things like that.

Chicago ''L''.org: Operations - Lines -> Yellow Line

Soo much to see and do in Chicago maybe they should spend a couple of weeks here, LOL.
Thank you Mav. Yes, I would LOVE to spend more than 5 days in Chicago if I had the extra money for it. I am so glad to have so many suggestions from you all here. I'm making an agenda of all the places to go and eat. I'm sure DH will try driving downtown the first day but if we have a hard time with parking, we WILL take the Yellow Line.

I was searching to see if I could get tickets for Oprah but sadly, the phone lines are not available during the summer until August. I'm really sad about this.
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Old 06-09-2008, 09:48 PM   #18
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If he does try to go downtown, best bet is Lake Shore Dr. as long as it is not right during peak rush hour.
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Old 06-09-2008, 10:39 PM   #19
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a friend of mine lives there and swears that if you come to Chicago and don't have breakfast here, you've not really been to Chicago
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Old 06-09-2008, 10:42 PM   #20
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That's a good one to eat at, another is Omega on Dempster West of Skokie near Des Plaines. Their German pancake is awesome!
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