We live, work and raise our families in a world-class city, but how much do we know about the fascinating history that surrounds our beloved Chicago? Set off with your family on your very own Chicago historical adventure.
Start at the Chicago History Museum. The Sensing Chicago exhibit lets kids touch, hear, smell and see some of the most wonderful aspects of the Windy City. Ride a high-wheel bicycle down a wood-paved street, catch a fly ball at Comiskey Park, use your nose to navigate the Chicago Smell Map, create an oversized postcard of your favorite sights to post on the gallery wall, and, perhaps best of all, be a Chicago-style hot dog.
Interactive stations allow families to create and test Chicago-style bridges, use maps to trace the path of the Great Chicago Fire, play with a hands-on model of the John Hancock Building and envision a day at the World Columbian Exposition of 1893 through souvenirs and photographs.
Be a tourist for a day and book an architectural river cruise
with the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Breeze down
the river and learn more about the original and beautiful buildings
and skyscrapers that dot our famous skyline. Every third Sunday of
the month, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., the foundation offers free CA
Family Studio Sundays that feature hands-on activities, walking
tours, stories and more, all geared toward families with children
The official Web site of the city of Chicago offers a wide array of self-guided tours that you can download before you set off on your own (and at your own pace-potty breaks, anyone?). Of special interest to families: African-American History Tour, Railroads and Bridges, and the Loop Tour (best seen by elevated train, a tour that even toddlers will find action-packed).
Families with older children and teens will delight in a spooky Chicago Ghost History Tour. Join internationally renowned ghost hunter Richard Crowe on a comfy bus ride around the city to uncover stories of hauntings, ghosts and other supernatural phenomena.
Celebrate one of Chicago's champion of human rights and the first women to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize at the immigrant settlement house she founded, Jane Addam's Hull House Museum. Located on the UIC campus, the small museum introduces visitors to the life of a woman who worked very hard to promote public education and social services for all of Chicago's children, regardless of family income or immigrant status. Younger kids will benefit from exploring the museum with the Scavenger Hunt and its small prize at the end. Families with older children will learn more about the upheavals of Chicago women in history by continuing on a self-guided tour of historical sites: print out an area map and download the free online guide.
Round out the local history lessons with resources you can investigate at home. The Chicago History Museum offers an excellent series of online resources designed for children age 6-12, entitled My Chicago. Developed by the Chicago Historical Society and made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, My Chicago uses the symbols and design of the Chicago flag to explore city history.
Chicago History for Kids: Triumphs and Tragedies of the Windy City by Owen Herd, available at your local library, serves as a quality reference to the dramatic history of our city, starting with the Ice Age, and features 21 project ideas. The littlest members of your family will appreciate winding down a busy day of touring with Goodnight Chicago by Adam Gamble, a charming board book that wishes sweet dreams to the sights and sounds of our amazing city.
Amy Bizzarri is a mom of two living in Logan Square. She also blogs at tiramisumom.com.
See more of Amy's stories here.