kenzie's travel diaries

adventures of a ten year old history buff + traveler


Today we started off our morning at Little Goat Diner (again.) I told you it was one of my favorite places in Chicago!



My mom and Mason’s family had a big day planned for all of us, as we began our perfect day in Chicago with a behind the scenes tour of Wrigley Field, the home to reigning World Champions, the Chicago Cubs. 


There is just so much history there! We learned about how baseball was brought to Chicago, the impact of the war, and the many ownership exchanges the ball field had undergone. At one point, the Cubs were called the Chicago Whales. How do you even begin to make sense of that as there is literally no ocean near it. 


My favorite part of the tour was being able to sit in the pressbox. The view from up there is just amazing. I love that the scoreboard is the original scoreboard, and the last remaining manually operated one. That means that people have to work inside the scoreboard to put up the score. We got to walk around the field and even got to sit in the dug out and stand out on the field. I really hope I get to catch a ball game here one day.



Of course we stopped by the gift shop and bought a few Cubs memorabilia to take with us to remember our awesome day. Best of all, I got to share it with my best friend, Mason. That’s the best takeaway from that trip.


We worked up quite an appetite so we headed over Wrigleyville Dogs. My mom said she saw them on Amazing Race, and the guy grilling up our dogs said the TV show rented the whole hot dog stand out for filming, and that everyone was held to secrecy about what was being filmed. 

Since we were in the company of history lovers, we headed to the Chicago History Museum in Lincoln Park to soak up knowledge of Chicago past and present. 


We made ourselves into life sized Chicago dogs, learned about the war, the Chicago fires, the jazz and blues era, and about all the people who helped shape the Windy City. We even got to see the real life bed where Abraham Lincoln died. 


To round our our jam packed perfect day, we paid a visit to the Lincoln Park Farm in the Zoo and to the Lincoln Park Zoo which is just next door. Did you know that the Lincoln Park Zoo is one of only a few remaining free zoos in the nation?

At the dairy farm, we got to see dairy cows being milked, and we even got to feed some! This was a huge hit for the littles in our party.


Lincoln Park Zoo is one of my favorite places in Chicago. They are a conservation Zoo and spend lots of resources to educate the public about animal conservation.


We had dinner at Weber Grill Restaurant just off the Magnificent Mile. I find it ironic we ate at a steak place when Mason’s dad is a vegetarian. He didn’t seem to mind though. After dinner we took an evening stroll and shared some of our favorite landmarks with Mason, including a new favorite, Dylan’s Candy Bar.  We spent the rest of the evening working on our Rubber Man videos in the lounge of our hotel. I even got to introduce my new friend, Ms. Tonya to Mason. She works in the lounge at the Hyatt and has been so nice to us during this trip. 

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One of my mom’s favorite day trips from Chicago is to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It’s only about an hour and a half to two hours to get there so we drove up with the Joson family, with a few stops along the way. 


Our first stop was to Racine, WI where we visited family owned Bendsten’s Bakery to pick up a Danish pastry called a Kringle. It is oblong shape, sweet, and flaky, and can be filled with various fillings and toppings. We opted for a caramel pecan one (as we were told it’s one of the more popular flavors.) The Kringle is known as the Wisconsin state pastry, and brought to Racine by Danish settlers many years ago.


We took our Kringle with us to the coast to Wind Point Light House, one of the oldest and tallest light houses on the Great Lakes. We enjoyed a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan, and savored our Kringle in the garden overlooking the water. Mason and I enjoyed playing on the rocks lining the shore, while my younger sister and Mason’s sister enjoyed playing in the sand.  


Our next stop was to Milwaukee where we visited the Milwaukee public market during lunch. It reminds me a bit of the Ferry Building in San Francisco, however, more shops and little restaurant stalls. One of the things on our ‘to do’ list was to sample Wisconsin cheese, and that we did! We enjoyed fried cheese curds, for each cheese curds, grilled cheese, and tomato soup. You could say we definitely had our fill!


With our bellies full, we decided to walk off our cheese samplings with a tour at Pabst Mansion. It was the home of German born Frederick Pabst, founder of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. He actually actually inherited the company from his father in law to which he changed it to his namesake. Walking around the house was interesting as the decor is from that time period, so intricate and full of detail. The wallpaper was even hand painted– that’s how much money these people had! There was a separate staircase, living space, as well as dining area for the help. It just shows how different times used to be. My favorite places of the house was this pink room, which was very feminine and someplace Mrs. Pabst would entertain her friends. This was a woman’s only space, very pink, gold and lavish in decor, and somewhere women would have tea or chit chat (wearing those huge uncomfortable looking dresses and petticoats!)


We rounded off our day trip to Wisconsin with a quick stop at Basilica St. Josephat. It is one of 82 minor basilicas found in the United States. It is modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and has one of the largest copper domes in the world. It is a great example of Polish style church architecture found around the Great Lakes, and is designated as a historical place in Milwaukee. 


You’d think after a day trip to Wisconsin, we would’ve had our fill on historical places to see and things to do. Nope! The near two hour drive back to Chicago was prime nap time, giving us a moment to recharge and squeeze in a couple more sites in Chicago.


We started off at the Cloudgate sculpture, more famously known as “the bean.” It is a public installation created by Indian born British artist, Anish Kapoor. The nickname stems from the bean like shape of the enormous reflective sculpture, and is a popular spot for taking taking photos. If you stand in just the right spot, you could take an amazing photo with the Chicago skyline right behind you! My sisters and I enjoy standing directly under the bean, and projecting our voices, hearing it echo in different ways depending on where you point your voice. 


Since we were so close to Maggie Daley Park (literally a stone’s throw away,) we had to share it with Mason and his family. It has truly become one of my family’s treasured spots! We spent so much time at the huge pirate playground, climbing and creating our own parkour paths, imagining every type of world our minds took us. It was so fun to get “lost” in our imaginations together. 

Since we had worked up quite an appetite, another deep dish pizza trial was in order. We decided to try out Giordano’s this time around as its one of the deep dish pizza contenders known in Chicago. Our verdict? Lou Malnati’s is the real winner! The defining factor? The crust makes it amazing (although we do give Giordano’s some credit with their inventive toppings.) 


Even though we already visited the Museum of Science and Industry during this trip, my family and I just had to go again. I’m telling you, the reciprocal membership program through ASTC is the best. We are able to visit for free (and just pay extra for special exhibits.)


Our main focus of the morning was to make a new toy in the toy factory, as my younger sister’s original one broke by accident. In the toy factory, you are able to create your own Gravitron. You get to walk along the pathways of the machines to watch how each part and piece is manufactured and put together, until you have the end result of the toy you customized and created. The robots even seal it in plastic mold packaging, just like the toys at the store!


We went along with the robot theme and visited the Robot special exhibit. We learned about the robot industry and how robots are making life easier for humans either by being personal assistants or butlers, or in the hospitals by becoming medical devices for prosthetic legs, arms, and hands. We even got to test our wits against a robot by playing games with them! It’s amazing how far the technology has become when it comes to Artificial Intelligence.


We had one more activity planned with my cousins while we were visiting, and that was to watch theWhite Sox vs Oakland A’s at Guaranteed Rate Field. We sat in the bleachers, enjoying dippin’ dots, and cheering on both sides! The White Sox were leading for the first 7 innings, but the Oakland A’s turned it around in the last few moments and pulled out a win for the A’s!


I had been telling my three cousins about this amazing park in the city, called Maggie Daley Park, so since they were in town with us, we had to show them what it was all about. The playground was insanely busy, but it was still really fun playing on all the cool structures, walking on all the paths, and just spending time with my cousins.


I was incredibly excited for dinner. My family and I had plans to have dinner with my best friend Mason and his family, since they drove up form Georgia to spend the rest of our vacation with us! They had never been to Illinois, and we were definitely excited to show them around!



What better way to welcome the Joson family to the Windy City than with the best deep dish pizza, Lou Malnati’s? Once we caught up over stories and laughter and our bellies were stuffed (see what I did there?) we walked off the bloat by heading to Navy Pier.


Navy Pier looks much different at night and almost seems a little more peaceful than it usually does. We found that you get a spectacular city skyline view of Chicago if you walk along the pier, turn around, and take it all in.

We woke up to thunderstorms so we decided to visit one of our favorite places in Chicago, The Field Museum of Natural History. My mom has a membership to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia which is an ASTC member which means we have reciprocal membership here. Our entrance was free, although the special exhibits and 3D show were for an additional fee. We opted to do the all access pass and the 3D show about Sue the dinosaur since we de used do spend all day there. 


Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex stands in the main lobby of the field museum. Did you know that her actual head is on display in a glass case on the second floor? The one pictured on this dinosaur is artificial. Sue was named after the paleontologist who discovered her. Google her story, it is amazing!


 Most of the Chicago museums have a Mold-a-Rama instant plastic toy maker with different themes depending on which museum. I decided to make a t-Rex!

Some of the special exhibits included the Underground Microbiology Tour and the Cyrus Tang Hall of China. Both were really interesting in their own way. I loved looking at the old wardrobes and pottery of China. Another part of the museum we enjoyed was the African hall.

After spending all day at The Field Museum, we decided to walk back toward Maggie Daley Park so we could pass Buckingham Fountain on the way. 

Maggie Daley Park is incredible! It is definitely the best park I’ve ever been to. It’s right in downtown, with buildings all over. There’s a miniature golf, splash pads, an enchanted forest mirror maze, lots of picnic tables, and tons of grassy areas to run and explore! There are nest swings hidden in little nooks of the park, giving you a nice resting spot while you enjoy the views.

There are two playgrounds, one for older kids and one for younger. The older kid’s playground is sort of like a pirate ship and maze and bridge all in one. There are climbing structures and good hiding spots, and lots of slides! My sister and I spent lots of time running around here.

Another cool feature of the park is the skating loop! You can rent scooters or roller blades or bring your own. 

In the middle of the skating ribbon is a rock climbing wall. We didn’t have time to do that this time around but we will for sure come back. 

Blackberry Farm is a living history museum where pioneer life is re-created through educational demonstrations and hands-on fun. Admission to Blackberry Farm includes unlimited rides on the train, hay wagon, pedal tractors, paddle boats, carousel and ponies.

My family and I spent the day here with one of my cousins. We all had a wonderful time! My mom said it was definitely worth the trip out here as the admission price covers the cost of everything inside! You could even go fishing (catch and release) if you wanted to, although we didn’t have time this time around.

One Room School House

If you stop into the One Room Schoolhouse, be prepared to learn! The teacher is strict and keeps you on your toes. If you doze off, don’t pay attention, or make noise, she puts a dunce cap on you and makes you sit in the front of the class. It was a great learning opportunity for us to compare how different pioneer life is from modern day. Imagine using chalk instead of pencils!

Blackberry Historic Farm

 

We visited the Weaver’s Cabin and even got to try our hand at weaving. It’s fairly simple once you get the hang of it, but quite laborious if you imagine weaving blankets all day.

Weaver’s Cabin

Weaver’s Cabin

Weaver’s Cabin


One of my sister’s favorite things to do at the farm was ride ponies! I am over the weight limit so I only got to enjoy from the other side of the fence.

Pony Rides at Blackberry Farm


The carousel ride was fun, as it always is, and since the older kids weren’t able to ride the ponies, we had to settle for the next best thing.

Carousel at Blackberry Farm

Tractor Ride


The tractor ride was really fun! It gave us a tour of the farm by driving us around the lake. We got to see the birds and trees and everything around the farm.

The wagon ride was nice and relaxing, although a bit bumpy! We were pulled around the entire farm, stopping once to give us a chance to visit one of the historical houses and learn about different animal pelts and ways to carry buckets of water. We even made a new donkey friend!

The last part of our trip to Blackberry Farm was spent out on the lake, paddle boating and enjoying the warm weather.

Chicago is an extremely walkable city. It’s one of the reasons my mom picked the hotel she picked. It’s right across the Chicago River, making it  easy for us to walk along the riverwalk to Navy Pier. The Riverwalk is a paved path, large enough for cyclists and pedestrians. It is lined with trees and restaurants, cycle rental shops, and kayak rental shops. It’s a nice walk, surrounded by the interesting buildings. 

We rented bikes from Bike & Roll at Navy Pier and started our bike ride along the Lakeshore Trail.


We biked from Navy Pier all the way down to Belmont, which is just past Lincoln Park. Along the way we passed beaches, restaurants, little shops, and shared the path with other cyclists, roller bladers, and runners. There were lots of people enjoying the sunshine and sunbathing, or out in the water going for a swim or paddleboarding Lake Michigan. 

The bike ride was a pretty good distance (8 mi round trip) but really fun. My mom enjoyed all the public art installations along the way, and made sure to point them out to us. 

Tip: most cycle rental shops don’t have bikes for kids ages 5 or 6 years old, so they’d have to be towed in a trailer or in a bike child seat. My mom preferred the trailer as it added some shade for my sister, and carried all our belongings.

Did you know that Lincoln Park Zoo is free? We walked our bikes through the zoo and saw a Siberian tiger, zebra, white cheeked gibbons, and other animals.  There is also a Lincoln park petting zoo nearby, where we stopped to visit the dairy barn and see the cows and goats (which my sister got to pet!) Consider donating what you can to help keep the free zoos maintained and free for all.


On our way back to Navy Pier, we biked through Lincoln Park and enjoyed the flowers and found a statue of Hans Christen Anderson. There’s a conservatory in flowers which is really nice and houses tons of varieties of plants both local and from around the world.

We met an officer and thanked him for his service. He was on a horse named Ty, who was named after a fallen police officer named Timothy Ty. We saw lots of police officers on bicycles and two others on horses.


What better way to cool off after a long bike ride than an impromptu splash at one of the public water features? My sister did just that when we got back to Navy Pier. She had so much fun!

Since we stayed at the Hyatt Regency in downtown (151 E. Wacker Dr.,) we were walking distance to so many places! My mom upgraded us to Club Lounge access and that means we have tons of drinks and snacks available to us all day. Around dinner time, we walked to Dylan’s Candy Bar, Eataly, and found a shake shack where we stopped for dinner! The cheese fries are my favorite, and here they had the fries topped with bacon too! 


We took a stroll through Millenium Park to see the Cloudgate sculpture aka “the bean.” During summer there are tons of festivals at the parks in downtown, including the jazz one at Pfitzker Stadium at Grant Park. It’s definitely a fun way to spend the long summer nights. 

Since my family was staying at my cousin’s house in Plainfield, IL, we decided to venture to one of my favorite museums in the area. We took my youngest cousin, Camden, with us. Whenever I’d visit my cousins, my parents would take my sisters and I to the Dupage Children’s Museum in Naperville, IL.

It’s a great museum and completely hands on! You are free to roam around and explore, build, learn, see, and do. My favorite exhibit is the workshop! You get to use real tools and up cycled materials to create something you designed and wanted to build.

Letting kids have the opportunity to use real tools teaches us how to be safe while being creative, and it boosts our confident and self esteem. It teaches us to think creatively and that our ideas are worth it!

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