Here's a report of our recent 2-night trip. Thanks to the info here and from friends, our trip was smooth and we managed traveling around the city (bus & "L") without problems. I definitely encourage those in downtown area to purchase the 1 or 3-day CTA pass and use hopstop.com to help with walking and bus directions. It was quick and easy...and much more affordable than taxi's would have been.
We were traveling with 5 kids and 3 adults. We stayed at Embassy Suites on State Street and it was the perfect location for us and offered excellent service. They have a small pool area (kids require this, ya know) for late night swimming and it wasn't terribly crowded on the days we were there. There was a business center offering free internet access to check emails as needed. There is a complimentary breakfast which helped us start our day off...fresh fruit, bacon, eggs, omelets made to order, sausage, cereal, etc. All sorts of drinks. Also, every night they have an evening snack/drink time which included adult beverages.
We arrived on Wednesday by Amtrak and made our way to the bus stop one block up. I had all the directions with me from hopstop so the bus travel was a cinch. After dropping our bags at the hotel and pre-registering, we headed to Navy Pier via bus. That place was a little crazy with people but we managed to grab some lunch before taking the water taxi across to Museum Campus to visit Shedd Aquarium. The views of the city from the water taxi are lovely. We spent a couple hours at Shedd. Honestly, I was somewhat disappointed in this aquarium...a wonderful facility but maybe I've just taken the kids to too many zoos and aquariums and just didn't have interest in it. And the dolphin show filled up so we didn't get to see that which was a disappointment for all. So, then we took the water taxi back to Navy Pier and spent some time there...some of us rode the ferris wheel, some did the fun maze thing, and then we eventually worked out way to the free trolley to take it back to Grand near our hotel. I do not recommend the free trolley on a busy day!! They cram people in there, it had an odor, and the only way on and off is at the one entrance/exit at the front. Very uncomfortable for all of us. But we managed and arrived safely to our destination. Got into our hotel, took advantage of the snacks & drinks in the evening and then walked down the block to ESPN Zone. They kids played in the arcade area upstairs while we waited for our table. Food was fine and the kids enjoyed the place.
Very friendly & pleasant service.
Day 2, we got up early and had the free breakfast before catching the bus on Michigan (just a few blocks from hotel) to Millenium Park. Our timing couldn't have been any better! We arrived around 8:30-9am and had the park to ourselves! The kids splashed around in the fountains (with the faces) and we walked around looking at the Bean (very cool) and other sculptures in the area. From here, we walked a couple blocks to get on the pink line "L" tracks that take you around the loop so the kids could ride the elevated tracks. We learned that while the kids can use a dollar on the buses, they must have a card to pass thru the "L" gates. Those vending machines are located before the gates. Very helpful attendants at those stations! So, we hopped off at the Quincy station and walked a couple blocks to the Federal Reserve Money Museum on LaSalle. It is free and the guard was very nice and funny. This was neater than I expected and the kids loved getting their picture snapped with a million dollars plus got a free bag of shredded money. We were in there for 1/2 hour or so. From here, we walked to the red line station to head to Addison/Wrigley Field for the Cubs game. Walked around a bit, got in early so the kids got a freebie of the day (autograph book & pen), and were able to stand near the players and watch batting practice. The kids were in awe! (Would have been better if they won, but a fun experience none the less.) AFter the game, we were all more than overwhelmed with the crowds going every direction and the herds trying to get on the "L" out of Wrigley. Be aware there is a guy on a bullhorn that yells for people to keep moving forward as you head to the gate...ignore this as he's trying to get you on a bus. We stayed in line and made our way to the "L" in no time. We were lucky to all get seats in the first car, but it was full and many had to stand. From here we headed back to hotel to regroup and then walked down the block to Pizzeria Uno where we had to wait for an hour to get in. I liked the pizza, the kids didn't so much but they are picky eaters.
Last day we checked out of the hotel leaving our bags for the day as we had a 6pm train. We walked to Michigan, hopped on the 151 bus heading north and went to the John Hancock Observatory. Again, we timed it just right arriving at 9am and had no waiting at all! Very nice audio tour and the views are spectacular. Nice touch that they have a kids audio tour and an adult one. This was worth the price of admission. From here we took the 151 north to the Lincoln Park Zoo for a few hours. This is a free zoo and was nice yet we ran into the problem of it being the air & water show weekend and the noises from the aircrafts were loud and scary for the animals so many were in their dens and out of sight. A little dissapointed in this part of the trip for that reason.
Picked up our bags, took the bus to Union Station, ate a meal and made our way to our gate. We had a quick yet very busy 3 day trip and everyone enjoyed seeing the sites. Great trip!
Next time I hope to go back for a girls weekend and take in a show and nice dinner and some shopping. :)
Thanks to all on this board for providing useful info to plan our trip.