Chicago in 3 days with a teenager (part 3 of 3)
Okay, now that you are all caught up, we can forge ahead. We started the day around 9:30 am strolling through Millennium Park. The park has been more developed lately to include rock climbing walls, massive playgrounds, etc. We passed a lot of strollers headed to that particular section of the park. Our goal was to hit the Cloud Gate and Buckingham Fountain before the Art Institute of Chicago opened at 10:30am. We made the mistake of telling Junior that the Cloud Gate (or bean as most people know it) cost upwards of $20 million. Although the Cloud Gate is interesting, the idea of that amount of money not going to worthy causes made him cringe a little.
Buckingham Fountain is one of my favorites. While we whizzed past on our segway tour earlier in our trip, it was fun to see it up close. The fountain sprays higher from the center of the fountain every hour on the hour. I’ve seen it lit up at night on previous trips to Chicago, and the lights and colors make it a sight to see. The Crown Fountain is actually two towers joined by a reflecting pool. Sadly, we only caught view of it from the window of our Uber ride on the way to lunch. Although the LED displays on the fountain were not very visible in the noonday sun, so if we have a chance to visit again, I’d hit the Crown fountain in the evening or nighttime.
Our next stop was the Art Institute of Chicago. I’m not a huge fan of museums in general, so I was a little nervous about visiting an art museum with a teenager. For that reason we decided to try an interactive scavenger hunt with the use of our iPhone and an app called Stray Boots. Hubby and I had used Stray Boots in the Georgetown area of DC last summer and really enjoyed it. Considering the $10 kept us from wandering around the art museum aimlessly, I thought it was money well spent. The clues and information pulled from art history and pop culture which really kept it interesting.
It took us 2 hours to go through 25 questions. Don’t worry, you can ask for a hint if you can’t find or solve the clue. Skipping questions is even an option, just in case the museum moves something. The hunt involves answering questions or taking photos posing like those in the paintings or sculptures. The photo clues add a sense of whimsy and fun to the museum. It led us right through a cafe where we stopped for a snack. After answering each clue there are 3 or 4 information slides that Junior would read aloud to us. It was surprising to receive an email containing all of the photos we took along the hunt. I’ve always paid for the app and scavenger hunts on my own, and as such my opinions are my own too.
In order to see the Navy Pier fireworks (Wednesday nights during the summer) we decided to take a group kayaking tour. Wateriders offers a fireworks kayak tour. Junior paddled a single kayak, while Mom and Dad took a double. There were about 19 people and two guides in our group. As we paddled along the Chicago River at twilight, the views were spectacular. Seeing the city lights from a perspective so low on the water was really different and beautiful. There are boats and barges navigating the same river, but I was never nervous about it. Our guides were great at coordinating crossing river intersections, and the lights on our kayaks helped identify our group.
We floated our kayaks next to the Chicago River wall just before you get to the locks for Lake Michigan. It was fun to be tethered together as a group and watch the fireworks. Junior still says that the kayaking was cool and one of his favorite activities of the trip. We also enjoyed paddling back to the Wateriders dock after the show was over. Especially since there was another kayak group from a different company and they had another mile or so to paddle as they passed our exit dock. I thought a little over two miles each way was enough. I also noted that their lights were not as bright as ours, so I appreciated the perception of better safety with the outfitter we chose.
It’s important to note that the fireworks kayak tour did not include any snacks or food. The tour started at 7:15pm, although getting in gear and listening to safety rules meant we didn’t get on the water until about 8pm. Conversely, we pulled into the dock to disembark at about 11pm. So eat a late lunch, or a large afternoon snack. In an upcoming post I’ll review all the places we stuffed our faces in Chicago.
But first, I’ll review how we budgeted this fun graduation trip for Junior. Taking vacations for pennies on the dollar is definitely the way to go. So check in tomorrow when I talk about how we travel hacked this trip together.