Children's Museum at Navy Pier

The word 'museum' doesn't really do this place justice. This is not a 'look and see' museum where you need to keep reminding children to not touch things. Every exhibit is a hands-on experience that allows children and adults to interact with different things.

Admission is currently $10 per person with discounts for military personnel, police officers and teachers. Military personnel are good f or 4 free admissions. Children under 1 are free.

 Here are just a few of the fun activities to be shared at the Children's Museum.

1. The Water Room. This is currently my favorite. The room is filled with different water activities and slickers are available to put on before entering (no fee). The main attraction is a giant water path that is approximately 80 feet long and curves in a half circle. At one end of the water path is a giant turbine/windmill that drops water and pushes boats down the path. All along the path there are places where you can erect walls to divert the flow of water and there is a lock system as well. Small plastic and wooden boats are there to have races and experiment to see how water diverted can affect the speed of the boats.

2. Dinosaur Excavation Room. Here children can enter the excavation pit (not really a pit, it's at ground level surrounded by a waist-high wall) and put on safari looking vests and use brushes to unearth dinosaur bones. Treated and shredded rubber is covering the bones and after playing in it for 30 minutes it left no black/brown residue on my hands. There are also chairs set up for parents to sit and watch their children play outside of the 'pit'.

3. The Art Room. In this room children can sit with their parents at tables and use a plethora of different materials: chinese take-out boxes, tape, straws, brass fasteners, washers, bolts, sticks of varying sizes, tissue paper, construction paper, scissors, hole punches, etc. There were so many different tools and materials to use that it presented children with endless possibilities for creation. On the ledge and the walls of the room were things people had made and left so there were a lot of ideas for the kids to draw from.

There are so many other things to do at the museum that I couldn't imagine a family doing it all in just a day. It's also great that the museum is at Navy Pier where there are many places to eat and sit to relax. All commercialism aside, this museum is a real must-see for families.

Shedd Aquarium

My only criticism of the aquarium is it's price. Tickets range from $20-$33 dollars depending on what you want included in the ticket price. I recommend just getting the Fantasea Pass that allows the user to see all there is at Shedd. If you go, don't miss the aquatic show. It is a bit lack-luster but it allows the kids to get fairly close to some amazing animals: whales, dolphins and penguins. (Hint: sit as far down as possible to get the best view of the penguins that walk by.)

Nearly every sea creature you can imagine is at the aquarium so make sure to view every exhibit. Another good tip is to go as early as possible. Shedd can become crowded quickly and it becomes difficult to get around. Also, if you want to make a day of it, walk down to the lake near the aquarium and get a water trolley ticket to Navy Pier. Taking a boat from the Shedd to Navy Pier gives you amazing views of the city.

Millennium Park

After a few days on vacation, most parents are looking for a cost-effective good time and Millennium Park is just that. I recommend buying the kids some disposable cameras since there are so many good photo-ops. In the winter you can go ice skating right next to Michigan Avenue. In the summers there are typically free children’s tents set up with some great activities. There are gardens to walk through and statues to see. You can't miss the shiny 'bean', great for taking pictures and the 'faces' fountains where the kids can get their feet wet. If you get the notion for fun of a more adult nature the Art Museum is close by and I wouldn't miss the Cultural Center for some good exhibits.

There are many fun things to do on a Chicago vacation with the family. I recommend trying these three for some can't miss fun. Have a  great time!

Navy Pier Entrance