Chicago with young teens

My wife is taking my three kids to Chicago this weekend just for fun. We’ve been there many times but usually with a purpose (her sister used to live downtown) but to be honest we were usually taken places and weren’t the ones deciding where to go. The kids are 15, 13, and 12. They are staying at the Embassy Suites Downtown/Lakefront at 511 N. Colombus.

They are looking for things they can walk… they are all in good shape so it can be a way as long as it is in a safe area. A cab isn’t out of the question if it is something good, but would rather walk if possible.

Shopping… I know they want to go to the Nike store and others in that area. There is some Popcorn place one of my sons went to… Garrett’s or something that he wants to go back to. They all like gadgets and I think there is a Sony store in that area.

Food… this may be the most important. The same son who knows about the popcorn place went to Gino’s and thinks it is the best in the world. My wife has heard good things about Giordano’s… anyone know about that. I went 20 years or so to Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder and thought it was great but don’t think it is close to that area (went when my sister was attending Northwestern). I think they would also enjoy an Italian Beef but don’t know where to go for those. I’d like them to try a Chicago Hot Dog, but I’m afraid they would order them with ketchup.

They probably don’t have enough time for museums etc. but anything they shouldn’t miss I’ll pass along.

Just want to say I grew up in Chicago and have never heard it referred to as “Chigo”

Is that a new thing?

FWIW even though you say no museums and what not all the main attractions are all within walking distance of each other right on Lakeshore near Soldier Field.

At the very least, I would think they’d want to walk through Millennium Park and see the Bean sculpture–that’s not very far from their hotel, doesn’t take long to see, and the interactive element is fascinating and worthwhile.

I’ve also thought that the Shedd Aquarium is a good family museum outing. It’s relatively small, and so doesn’t have to be a time sink like the Art Institute or Field Museum, and the exhibits are interesting to a range of ages, so its not like its a forced cultural experience for younger kids.

I only visit Chicago, so my experience in restaurants is relatively limited, and I’m not quite sure what would appeal to kids.

Do they do tours of Wrigley Field in the off-season?

Fxed ttle.

I don’t have any specific suggestions, but you might find these two sites helpful:

Outside of museums there’s not a heck of a lot to do in Chicago, besides go to the top of the Willis (Sears) Tower or John Hancock building.

The Brookfield Zoo is fun but that’s in suburban Brookfield. The Musuem of Science and Industry is probably a kid’s favourite.

A pack of teenage boys might like Gino’s East better than Giordano’s, for the graffiti-decor. Personally I think the whole deep dish thing is overrated but it seems everyone has to try it once.

Chicago as a whole has a lot of hidden gems but the neighborhood you’re staying at is going to be covered pretty exhaustively in the tour books, especially if you’re staying in the range of affordable and teen-friendly. I personally would recommend taking them to the top of one of the observation decks (note sears/willis may have crazy lines because of those boxes they just put in, they did this summer but I’m not sure how it stands now).

I’d second that. Since I live here I’m always surprised at how much fun visitors have just walking around the park. The bean is fascinating and folks love to get cool optical illusion pictures of themselves in it.

The lines drop of a lot in the winter, partly because tourism drops off a lot in the winter, and partly because visibility is crap in the winter - this past week has been crap, but this weekend might be better.

In terms of free things the Cultural Center worth a visit. It’s a cool old building and there is always some sort of exhibit going on.

Lincoln Park Zoo is also free. It was fun to take my niece to, just because she was shocked we didn’t have to stand in line at a gate to pay to get in - you just wander in and out.

There are a few Garret’s Popcorn shops downtown. I personally never got the attraction, but I know people from out of town who make it their first destination. The one I’m most familiar with is at Jackson and State, but there’s a new one off the Mag Mile at Michigan and Ontario (they say their address is Michigan, but the entrance is on Ontario).

Speaking of the Mag Mile, wandering around it and window shopping will kill a day. There’s a Hershey’s Store, which most kids seem to love, and the holiday lights are up, which makes it all pretty at night.

My standby is always to suggest architecture tours (because I give them), but the kids may be a little young to appreciate them. Definitely they should stop in at the Architecture Center (Michigan and Jackson) and see the giant model of the city - it might be a good place to start so they can get their bearings in the city.

Second the motion for walking around Millennium Park – not just the Bean but a lot of it is cool, close to the Embassy Suites and free. Buckingham Fountain is close by also – not flowing this time of year though. At the extreme North End of Millennium (on Randolph at the top of the hill) you can rent Segways–If your family has never done this it’s a great time.

I also agree that Shedd Aquarium is the coolest of the downtown museums, for teens anyway. Adler Planetarium might be worth the time–it’s right next door–but honestly I haven’t been there for decades so i can’t say for sure.

From the Embassy Suites you can also easily walk north to Michigan Avenue, where NikeTown, Sony and Garrett’s can all be found. There are also three multi-level malls on Mich Ave: NorthBridge, the venerable Water Tower Place and 900 North Mich.

Gino’s East is up that way too although it will help to know you want the original location at 162 East Superior – watch for Superior when you are on Mich Ave and go west.

Nobody has mentioned Navy Pier yet, also close to the hotel and Mich Ave. – I’m not a big Navy Pier fan but it is the number one attraction in the city. Ferris Wheel, shops, boat rides, some other touristy things kids might like, or not.

On the other side of the Loop, Sears (now Willis) Tower observation deck has a new thing: a Plexiglas-floor balcony so you can look straight down if you dare. Otherwise I would recommend the John Hancock observatory - it’s on Mich Ave, it’s interactive and in many ways a better view of the city.

At Daley Plaza (“hey, isn’t dat where dey got dat Picassoh?”) right now there is a Christmas fair with lots of fun little shops. I’m going to swing by there in a few minutes, in fact.

Alas, Marshall Field’s is no more, and the Macy’s that took over the State Street location does not seem to have the same commitment to cool Xmas windows.

For adults I recommend the architectural boat tour (on the river) that takes off from the lower level of the Michigan Avenue bridge. Might be too educational for teens though. I also see red double-decker buses that seem to be popular but can’t vouch for them.

BTW, you’d have to walk for miles to get to any neighborhood that’s really unsafe from downtown.

Giardano’s is great. I’d definitely recommend it.

Thanks so much everyone. I was told by my wife that the “bean” was already on her list. I’m sharing this and she is taking notes.

The one thing I’m missing is a good place for Italian Beef. I’ve been told that Al’s is the must go to place, but others have told me they are over rated (but didn’t give an alternative). Any idea of a place in the area (or if an Al’s is in the area)?

Again, thanks everyone I greatly appreciate the tips.

Portillo’s is another classic purveyor of Italian Beeves.

Also, Giordano’s is ok, and Gino’s East is edible, but every Chicagoan (while surprisingly few tourists, in my experience) knows you go to Lou Malnati’s.

For Pizza or Italian Beef? Address… directions… little help here buddy?

Lou Malnati’s is pizza. You’d probably be most interested in this location.

Nitpick, not every one ;D

Lou Malnati’s is very good but I still give the nod to Giardano’s.

Great user name, BTW. Got a smile out of me.