Couple or 3 ? on a Chicago Vacation

Background, heading into Chicago for 8 nites in early July. traveling with a 10 and 9 YO and 74 YO grandma. Staying in Itasca(not or 1st time doing the trip). Questions are these:

  1. Need kid friendly restaurants downtown. Not pizza related as we have those mapped out already:) Kids are extremely picky eaters.

  2. We would like to(OK, I would like to) take a ride on the El around the loop just to say we did it. Where is a good place to pick it up?

  3. Would love to catch the fireworks one nite but that would require riding the Metra home late. Is it safe to do so considering our traveling party?

Thanks in advance. And if you have any other advice it would be much appreciated.

Are you going to be here from July 11th to 15th? That’s the dates for the Taste of Chicago, which is a really freakin’ huge festival. Public transit is a bad idea during that time, unless you like the idea of being crammed in with tons of other people. One of my most vivid childhood memories was riding a Metra at night on the way home from the Taste with my mom, dad, and sister. With no air conditioner or open windows. The windows were so steamed up you couldn’t see out, and it was so hot and crowded I felt like I could barely breathe. With a 74 year old, it might be an iffy proposition unless she’s in really good health. Standing room only is practically guaranteed.

I’ve never attended the 4th of July Chicago fireworks, but if you plan to, the traffic will be hellish (whether on foot, car, or el). It might be better to watch them on TV from your hotel room.

Someplace like Miller’s Pub (Adams & Wabash) might be a good Loop restaurant choice. Not trendy by any means, or fabulous in anything, but a long menu and waitstaff that doesn’t blanch at substitutions and will take care of the kids. Artists Snack Shop at Van Buren & Michigan is similar, less expensive, and has a sidewalk cafe option. If weekday lunch, you might consider the Under 55 “food court” at 55 East Monroe, lower level—though offering everything means they don’t do anything exceptionally well. There’s a similar place at Bank of America, 231 S. LaSalle, lower level. And right across the street is the Money Museum, a free display in the Federal Reserve that the kids will enjoy. A slightly pricier “food court” on the 7th floor of Macy’s State Street offers more ambitious food and good views into the skyline.

Chicago no longer has downtown Independence Day fireworks. Chances are there will be a town-sized display in Itasca or nearby. There are, however, the regular fireworks at Navy Pier every Wednesday and Saturday night. Since the 4th falls on a Wednesday, Navy Pier will be crazy that night, but there’s a good view from the lakeshore just east of Buckingham Fountain. There’s no safety issue on Metra at any hour.

Because the L, ahem, loops around the Loop, it doesn’t really matter where you board. Quincy & Wells is a good choice if you’ve arrived at Union Station from Itasca. Ride the Brown Line to Merchandise Mart or even Sedgwick, cross to the other side and catch a southbound train all the way around to Randolph & Wabash, near Millennium Park. Some weekends this summer there will not be service on the Wells and Van Buren parts of the Loop due to construction.

We will be there the 7th thru the 15th and did know about the Taste going. So the Metra will be bad most of that time? Uh oh. Didn’t think about that but the hotel is already paid for.

Thanks for the replies

I’ve used the Metra during the Taste and it’s never been an issue. No more crowded than a lot of the other times I’ve used it.

I would also disagree that Metra would be bad in general. It’s crowded during rush hour and if you wait until the train right after a festival closes, sure it will be crowded. But I doubt that a 74-year-old is going to want to stay until 10:00 pm. You do have to climb up about three steps to get on a train, which might be a problem for some old people, but they do have handicapped lifts. Problems do happen, but Metra cars are air-conditioned.

As I say, I doubt you’re going to want to stay at Taste for 10 hours. Head out at the end of rush hour and come back at least an hour or two before it closes and the trains will be very roomy. Don’t forget the weekend pass on Metra: a single $7 pass is good for unlimited rides both Saturday and Sunday. If you are traveling on Saturday or Sunday, just tell the conductor you want a weekend pass when he comes around to collect your fare, it’s cheaper than a round-trip from Itasca and good for two days.

Thanks for the responses. Appreciate the feedback. Now I feel better about the trip. Chicago here we come :slight_smile:

Unless something’s changed since last year, they still do. I saw the fireworks last year on the 4th, which was a Monday.

Ed Debevic’s is a great, kid friendly restaurant. It’s like a 50’s diner, the wait staff is surly and funny and have fun with the kids. Food is good, shakes are great and the kids will love “The World’s Smallest Hot Fudge Sundae” and they can keep the glass. My kids loved going there when they were that age. Hell, I still love going there.

Go to Millennium Park if it’s hot (and it probably will be. Besides seeing The Bean the kids can splash in the fountain.

Thanks SlyPork. Will definately take them there to eat.

Just to clarify, for many years (most recently in conjunction with the Taste of Chicago), Chicago held a big downtown fireworks show on July 3.

In 2010, the city cancelled the July 3rd show and replaced it with two smaller lakefront showson the north and south side on July 4.

In 2011, the city did not sponsor any fireworks, but Navy Pier had a fireworks display on July 4. That was sponsored by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority.

In 2012, Navy Pier will once again host a fireworks show on July 4.