We’ve been in Chicago visiting our family for the past week and I have discovered a few things that worked great for a mom traveling alone with three kids, four and under. Unfortunately, some things did not. So here are my thoughts on it all.
Since we keep kosher both in and out of the house, we need to stock up on food items and it’s a good thing that we were able to find kosher Rotisserie Chicken, Luck Chen Steam Noodles, Challah, Healthy and Organic Cheddar Cheese, and more and Jewel in Highland Park, IL . Even Abe the Mashgiach was friendly and helpful.
As all of us know, whether you are an Auntie, Bubby, or Mommy, taking three kids, four and under out to a restaurant is like a time bomb ticking. Getting them to the table, in their seats, high chairs, and sitting still can lead to exhaustion. That’s just the beginning. Not to mention potty breaks, food fights, spills, and great escapes-my two year old found his way to the door before the bill was paid. Needless to say, we did go to Slice of Life Bistro in Skokie, IL, and things went well minus all fo the crumbs, papers, and and ice cubes that eneded up on under the table. What a nice staff and delicious food, just check out this pizza, my favorite.
There is a grat Jewish book store, HaMakor Gallery, just a couple minutes walk from Slice of Life. This is not something to do with the kids because there are some many beautiful but breakable things, all things Judaica. I was happy to see some of the Matzo covers from my friend from Davida’s Aprons on display. However, we had to get out of their so quick or else we could have hade a very expensive bill.
We also had some great take out food from a very delicious Middle Eastern restaurants in Highland Park, IL, Mizrahi Grill. They have a kid menu and my kids loved the hot dogs, french fries, and chicken schnitzel, $5 per meal and the portions were huge. I loved the Turkey Shwarma with everything.
Even though we spent most of our time with family, we did branch out a couple of occassions with the kids.
The Shedd Aquarium. I actually used twitter to inquire about what fun things to do with the kids my age and immediately tweets came back to me mentioning the Polar Play Zone at The Shedd Aquarium. This month entry is free, but that does not include the cost of Fantasea, the dolphin show that we saw during our visit this week. I felt the show was okay, my kids were freaked out by the sound and degree of darkness. I felt that there was more human tricks than mamal tricks, but other people may have a different opinion. Since we keep kosher, we had to bring in our own food and eat in the cafetaria on the ground level. My parents, however, were on the search for something to eat but the line was much too long and my kids were much too hungry. We were redirected downstairs only to find out that the Cafe in that location was closed because the museum was not expecting such a large crowd on that day. So, we had to go all of the way upstairs and down another elevator in order to get to the vending/cafetaria so my kids could eat what I packed for them-juice boxes, borekas, and fish sticks-they were still hungry. My parents did not bring their own food and had to much on over priced Lay’s potato chips-$1.50 for a lunch size bag-and that was not satsifying on any level. I also want to add that it was very cold on that level. Once the bellies were full-for the time being-we made a stop at the bathroom. This was exciting because they had a step under the sink so little ones could reach the sink. Brilliant! This is something that would be amazing at more locations, what a help it was to me!
After the potty break, we headed over to the Polar Play Zone and caught a “swim by” of the 6 week old baby Belugah and his mommy. The kids loved playing in the submarine where they could touch buttons and turn wheels at their leisure. There was also an area where they could see Penguins eating their lunch. The best of all was the area with a slide and human size Penguin costumes for the kids. My two year old loved this so much we had a hard time getting him to go home. Now I know to go their first during our next visit.
On another day, we went to Northbrook Court, just a few minutes from where we were staying. We parked at the Claim Company entrance and had a short walk to the Tree House Play area. I was happy to see a Starbucks parallel to the play area, which had a gate around it so little ones would stay put. That was a good idea, but my two year old still escaped when another family opened the door to exit the area. Oy, good thing I was within an ear shot when I heard and saw him out of th corner of my eye. I must add that all of moms there that day were so sweet and on the ball. My kids played there-except for our lunch break-from over three hours. We brought our usual plus some snacks, but I did not pack enough. Note to self, my kids can eat and I need to better prepared.
If you are visiting Chicago this time of year, it is cold! Bring layers, boots, hats, gloves, and snow pants. Even getting in and out of the car can feel like the ice age. I am happy that we found these inside activities that got us out of the house and let the kids stretch their legs.