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Learning Adventures These days learning on vacation is a given, as long as the learning is fun. Chicago has that covered.

Chicago Children’s Museum. Every city seems to have a children’s museum, but not many are as fun as the Chicago Children’s Museum, located near the Navy Pier. Its three fl oors of interactive kids activities are perfect for children 10 and under. Climb on a ship, hide in a tree house, construct a building, invent a fl ying machine, dam up a river, drive a fi re truck, make art to take home, and do so much more.

Shedd Aquarium. The best part of the Shedd Aquarium is the infi nity pool, which houses dolphins and looks like it becomes one with Lake Michigan. We’re aquatic fanatics, so we spent a good part of the day here. The Shedd website makes it easy for parents to plan ahead. It offers “Ten Fun Finds” for kids of each age group so you know exactly what to see ahead of time.

Lincoln Park Zoo. The Lincoln Park Zoo is by far one of the best zoos I’ve ever visited, and admission is free! This zoo allows up-close encounters with all types of animals and has a fun children’s area for climbing. It’s hard to believe that amongst all the skyscrapers live some of the world’s most unique and rarest animals.

The Field Museum. Cool to see, but better for older kids, The Field Museum, across the street from Soldier Field (home of the Chicago Bears football team), is your traditional museum, full of dinosaur bones and artifacts from all over the world.

Take in a ball game — Madison (age 7, now age 12) checks out the legendary Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

Get a View John Hancock Center. Some say the Sears Tower (now known as Willis Tower) offers the best view of Chicago. I’ve been to the city a few times and can honestly say the John Hancock Center trumps in viewing experience. On a clear day, visitors can see four states — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. There’s a glass fl oor area that you can actually stand on and look down into the city. We got a huge rush knowing we were 1,127 feet above the streets below. Purchase your tickets ahead of time. There’s usually a line if you’re buying your tickets on-site.

Food for Your Fam Our hotel (Westin on Michigan Avenue) provided us with a lot of options for eating in the Windy City, but there were tons of other places ready to accommodate our brood’s need for fuel.

Goose Island Brewery on North Clybourn Street is really not just a bar. The food is awesome, and they welcome families. Kids love the orange cream soda and the root beer. There are tons of seating options for large groups, and the kids menu is full of yummy eats.

Gino's East on North Wells is the place for Chicago deep-dish pizza. The deep dish can take up to an hour to bake, so if you don't have time to burn, this is better ordered to the hotel room. Order an appetizer to take the edge off, but make it light so you can save room for the pizza. The atmosphere is always noisy, so screaming kids won’t be noticed if you do want to wait.

The Keefer-Muniz family — Amanda (not pictured), Marcus, Mia (age 15 months, now 5) and Madison — hangs out at Millennium Park.

Hotels for Your Gang

Swissôtel This hotel is perfect for families and is super close to Navy Pier, with amazing views of Lake Michigan. It has lots of amenities on-site, so families feel right at home. The Very Important Kids (VIK) program allows little ones to check in, get a welcome packet and eat free at the Geneva restaurant. Chicago- themed kids suites and afternoon milk and cookies seal the deal. Rates are reasonable year round (from $179 a night).

Palmer House Hilton One of Chicago's oldest hotels, the Palmer House, brings to life Chicago’s Old Hollywood connections. The lobby is elegant, with all the conveniences of modern-day technology. Adults check in while kids explore with iPads. A late, noon checkout is important to note. A few extra dollars per night allows privileges to the Executive Lounge, which offers a continental breakfast, complimentary drinks and snacks. Kids are always welcome! Rooms run $149 and up a night.

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Now that you’re ready to plan your Chicago getaway, check out the Choose Chicago ( and Explore Chicago ( websites for suggested itineraries and info for traveling families. You’ll be blown away!

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