kenzie's travel diaries

adventures of a ten year old history buff + traveler

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.


One of the places I really wanted to visit during our time in Illinois was Springfield. Not only is it the capital of Illinois, it is also home to all things Abraham Lincoln, hence “the land of Lincoln.”

Springfield was a two and a half hour drive from my aunt’s home in Plainfield. The drive there was long and boring, with not much to see on the way except lots of flatlands as far as the eye can see.

Our first stop was to Abraham Lincoln’s Home which is a National Historic Site. Tours are free but you have to sign up for a designated time. It was neat to learn all about Abraham Lincoln and see where he lived and raised his children before becoming our 16th President. Since the house is part of the National Parks Service, my sisters and I participated in the Junior Ranger Program. Like I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, it’s completely free, and an awesome way to get kids involved in learning about historical places! 

Nearby is the Lincoln-Herndon law office where Abraham Lincoln worked.

Right across the street is the Old State Capitol Building. We were lucky enough to see the youth historical society putting on plays about that time period for us. We also were treated to a youth choir group that sand songs for us in the capitol building!

Our last stop was to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. My cousins and their parents met us there and walked around the museum. I really enjoyed walking through Abe’s cabin which showed how he grew up as a boy. There are a couple theaters which teach us about war and about Abraham Lincoln. There’s also a fake white house building inside which has lots of first lady dresses on display. It’s tough to think about slavery, but I learned not everyone believed that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. There were people on both ends of the issue, and I had to respectfully agree with both.

I will treasure this trip for sure.

One of my most favorite museums in Chicago is the Museum of Science and Technology (MSI.) It is also part of the ASTC travel program, so if you are a science museum member, you might be able to enter for free or with a smaller fee by showing your museum card. MSI is an incredible hands on science and technology museum, which has tons of amazing permanent exhibitions as well as a few limited showing of special exhibits. Today we made sure to visit special LEGO exhibit which covered everything about being an official LEGO designer.

My most favorite exhibit at MSI is the German U-505 Boat they have which is actually a real submarine from WWII. It is actually the only German submarine in the United States. You can walk through it on a tour and listen to the guide describe the events that took place and how the U.S. was about to capture the submarine. I especially enjoyed being able to enjoy it with my Dad!

My Grandma flew to Chicago today, so my mom picked her up and took her to Ann Sather’s, an amazing breakfast spot famous for their Swedish Cinnamon Rolls. They are so fluffy and delicious!

We started out celebrating my Dad for Father’s Day by going on a Chicago River Architecture Tour through Wendella Boat Tours. My mom first introduced us to this tour a few years ago when we went with my Grandma. It’s a great tour that mixes Chicago history and fun facts with history of all the buildings. It was interesting to see the different designs of the various architects, and to learn about who bought what building and what it was/is/and is going to be.

The weather was nice and sunny so it felt nice to be out on a boat on the Chicago River. We learned that at St. Patrick’s Day, the city turns the river bright green. I’d love to see that sometime!

We had to stop mid-tour and wait until the boat police let us through due to movie filming. As I mentioned in a previous post, The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) was filming a movie called “Rampage” in Chicago. There was a low flying helicopter doing spins and tricks right over the water and we had to wait until it was finished when it was safe to pass. We got a front row seat of that scene! I wonder if we’ll make it onto the big screen as extras?

When we were done with the tour, we walked and window shopped along Magnificent Mile. There aren’t too many unique shops, just a lot of shops we have back home. It’s very crowded with people shopping and walking through, so it wasn’t my favorite part of the day, but it was nice to stretch our legs. The cool part is that Chicago history is scattered around the city. There are plaques describing the Water Tower as well as telling the story about the Great Chicago Fire.

Did you know that on the exterior walls of the Tribune Tower, there are many different pieces of buildings from around the world inlayed into the concrete? We saw a piece of the Coliseum, the Great Wall of China, and lots of other famous places. It was pretty cool!

To continue on with our Father’s Day festivities, we ate lunch at Bohemian House. The inside was nicely decorated with funky decoration and cool looking wallpaper. The restaurant serves Hungarian and Czech food, heavy on the potatoes and meat, but so delicious!

We ended our day by visiting our cousins in Plainfield, IL. It’s a suburb about an hour outside of Chicago. My mom made everyone dinner, and we spent the rest of the evening catching fireflies, making s’mores over the fire, and playing with sparklers!

My littlest sister turned six while we were visiting Chicago. An easy way to make a hotel room more festive is to blow up tons of latex balloons and scatter them on the bed. That way, when the birthday girl (or boy) wakes up, they are treated to nice surprise!

Little Goat Diner (820 W. Randolph St, Chicago) is one of my favorite breakfast spots in the city. It reminds me of an old fashioned diner, but more fancy, and with better quality food. They have typical breakfast dishes, but a little more inventive and quirky. I got double dark chocolate crunch pancakes that I shared with my sister. My mom said the coffee is nice and strong, so if you like coffee, this is the place for you!

Have you heard of the television show called Chicago Fire? Well, my parents watch that so we decided to drive by the firehouse (1360 S. Blue Island, Chicago) that they actually film the exterior shots!

Lucky for us my mom found out there was the Brickworld LEGO Convention being held in Schaumburg. Of course we had to visit because we are just huge LEGO fans!

There were tons of LEGO sculptures of all themes. My mom’s favorites are the food or brightly colored ones. My sisters love the more “girly” ones and the mechanical ones, I really enjoy most of them, and my Dad enjoys the really technical and complex designs.

After we went to the Brickworld Convention, we went to Medieval Times in Schaumburg. It’s basically a dinner and a show in this huge castle. They serve chicken, corn, potatoes, drinks, and guess what? You have to eat with your hands! We all sit in different cheering sections to cheer on our knight when they start their jousting competitions!

As you can tell, celebrating your birthday at Medieval Times is really fun, especially if you are turning 6!

Thanks to the awesome staff at Hyatt Regency in Chicago, the celebration continued when we got back to the hotel. A super awesome cake was waiting for my sister when we got back! They really went above and beyond to make her feel special.

Tip: if you stay at Hyatt Regency in Chicago, you are so close to everything! Everything is accessible by walking, the riverwalk and lakeshore are close by, and you get treated to amazing river views if you stay in West Tower. If you come during summer, request a room with a view that you can see fireworks at Navy Pier.

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.

%d bloggers like this: