An afternoon in Chicago by foot and free trolley

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June 30th 2017
Published: July 1st 2017
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The Shattuck Loop

This is the route we took for our afternoon in Chicago. We walked to Navy Pier from the Sheraton Grand. From there, we took the free trolley to Millennium Park (the Art Institute stop). We walked through Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park before walking back to our hotel via the Riverwalk.

Room with a ViewRoom with a ViewRoom with a View

The kids spot the Navy Pier ferris wheel from our room at the Grand Sheraton Chicago.
We started the day early and left Des Moines by 6:30. We made a couple stops on the way and hit some traffic, but we arrived at our hotel in Chicago by 1pm. We're staying at the Sheraton Grand (free stay with SPG points, woo!), which is on the Riverwalk with easy access to Michigan Avenue, Navy Pier, Millennium Park, and the Wendella boats. In fact, we could see Navy Pier from our room, which the kids were ecstatic to discover. Once we got all of our things to our room, the kids got changed, and we set out by foot to Navy Pier to get some lunch. We walked along Illinois St for most of the way, which was busy and full of pedestrians.

The walk was short and easy, and because we arrived at an awkward time of day (about 2pm) there was no wait at all for lunch.We went to Giordano's and were seated immediately. We ordered a small thin crust cheese pizza and also got a small deep dish cheese pizza to try. Even as a kid, I wasn't a huge fan of the deep dish, but I figured we had to at least try it
Walking to Navy PierWalking to Navy PierWalking to Navy Pier

From the Grand Sheraton, we walked up to Illinois St and then walked west until we hit Navy Pier.
while we were at Giordano's. Deep dish was invented in Chicago, but even when I lived here, we very rarely ate it. Chicago has the best pizza, in my opinion, but deep dish isn't it!

When our bellies were full, we walked through the Crystal Gardens to the ferris wheel. We'd talked about possibly doing the Children's Museum at Navy Pier, but we decided if we did the Children's Museum, that's all we'd really do for the day. We only have 24 hours in the city, so we decided to do more than just the one museum. We splurged and did the ferris wheel (current cost as of 6/2017 is $15/adult and $12/child). It was a very smooth ride, with no terrifying rocking, even when we were stopped at the tippy-top waiting for passengers to unload. Plus, it provided stunning views everywhere we looked! Jo was nervous about getting on the ferris wheel because it's so tall, but she ended up having the most fun of everybody.

After the ferris wheel, we decided to head back outside near Giordano's to catch the free Navy Pier Trolley. It runs a loop from Navy Pier and includes a stop at the Art Institute. The stop is literally across from Millennium Park, and that's what I wanted to check out next! The city is so different from when I lived here, and so I've never actually been to Millennium Park before! Well, the driver was so helpful, kind, fun, and informative. He had a seat up front and invited us to sit in it. Jo wanted to sit in the main part of the trolley with Andrew, and Oliver and I sat up front. The driver introduced "Oliver from Des Moines" to the rest of the people on the trolley and asked them to say hi. When people got off at various stops, the driver also asked them to say bye to Oliver, too. It was so funny and memorable. When he dropped us off at the Art Institute, he told us not to miss Maggie Daley Park. I hadn't even heard of Maggie Daley Park before. I guess it opened just a couple years ago in Grant Park. We decided we'd check it out after Millennium Park.

We walked through a public art area of Millennium Park and came out at the Crown Fountain. Jo had the time of
Trying Deep Dish PizzaTrying Deep Dish PizzaTrying Deep Dish Pizza

Their thin crust was much better.
her life running through the water feature. Sea gulls were soaring about, and the skyscrapers created a picturesque backdrop. Oliver was concerned about getting his clothes wet (we hadn't brought suits), so he watched from the sidelines. When Jo was sufficiently wet and happy, we decided we'd walk over to check out Maggie Daley Park. At first glace, I was a bit unimpressed. There was a rock wall that cost a fee, and there was a mini golf course that also had a cost. It didn't take us long to discover all the free attractions. They had incredible, whimsical playground areas. There was a sunken boat to climb on and in, a whale covered in barnacles to climb on (its tail sprayed water), numerous swing set parks, and a very cool-looking tower park area. We could have spent so much time there, but we couldn't find bathrooms. I later learned they're located at the field house and at the parking garage (we never went to either of those sections of the park, so no wonder we missed them). After about an hour at the park, we decided to leave, but we could have spent hours there with the kids.

The walk from Maggie Daley Park back to our hotel was only about 15 minutes. It was another easy stroll with a lot to see. We watched the boats on the river for a bit and then walked down the stairs from the bridge on Columbus down to the Riverwalk. Our tour around Chicago was easy with so much to see and do! We only spent the afternoon out and about, but we could have made this an all-day excursion. We could have included the Children's Museum, spent time at the Art Institute, checked out more of Millennium Park, played more at Maggie Daley Park, or walked further south to see Buckingham Fountain. I considered walking all the way to the Shedd and catching the water taxi back to Navy Pier, but I ultimately decided the kids wouldn't be happy to walk that long. The afternoon we spent was a good one, so I'm happy with the choices we made.

We took a break for our while in our amazing room with a view. Andrew napped. When the kids got hungry again, we went downstairs to have lunch on the Riverwalk. There's an outdoor cafe on the bottom floor of the Sheraton Grand that's called the Chicago Burger Company. The food was decent, and the views were excellent.

Chicago is such an incredible city! As always, there are more pictures from the trip at the bottom of this page.

Additional photos below
Photos: 33, Displayed: 26



The ferris wheel at Navy Pier is huge. Each of those carts sit 8 people.
Part of the Chicago SkylinePart of the Chicago Skyline
Part of the Chicago Skyline

You can see the John Hancock building in the background. Taken from the ferris wheel at Navy Pier.
Free Navy Pier TrolleyFree Navy Pier Trolley
Free Navy Pier Trolley

This trolley does a loop and provides people with a free lift to some local destinations like Michigan Ave and the Art Institute. We took the trolley to the Art Institute so that we could check out Millennium Park.
Riding Up FrontRiding Up Front
Riding Up Front

The driver of the trolley was so friendly and knowledgeable. He chose us to sit up in the front seat of the trolley, and we got to see and learn so much!

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