Parlez-vous Francais? Celebrate the rich and delightful French culture right here in Chicago by visiting some of our city's finest France-inspired attractions.
Start your journey at the premier French cultural institution, dedicated to the study of French language, cultural exchange and friendship between Americans and French-speaking people: the Alliance Francaise, located in a historic former mansion on Dearborn Street in the Gold Coast.
The Chez Kids Academy at the Alliance Francaise is a comprehensive children's education center offering extensive children's programming. All children's language classes are conducted entirely in French by experienced Francophone teachers and are open to children as young as 1. In addition to language classes, the Chez Kids Academy offers a Cinè-Club, presenting different categories of age-appropriate movies in French with English subtitles, Storytelling Hour and Family Cooking Classes-the most delicious and creative way to expose kids to French language and culture.
The Alliance Mediateque, aka library and media center, has an extensive collection of kid-friendly French-focused magazines, DVDs and books. Parents will also enjoy checking out the myriad of adult programs, ranging from lectures and culinary programs to language and culture classes.
Taste the culture of France at one of the many French cafés and restaurants in Chicago. Vanille Patisserie, an authentic, gourmet French-style pastry shop located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, offers a small seating area-the right spot to relax and delight in a fresh-from-the-oven pain au chocolat (chocolate-filled croissant) and a café au lait (hot chocolate is available for the kiddies).
La Creperie, located in the Lakeview neighborhood since 1972, is a cozy family-run bistro with a menu of casual and moderately priced French fare. Check out the specialty-crepes-both sweet and savory. The outdoor patio is a treat in the warmer months.
Take a trip to a Paris bistro at Kiki's Bistro: There are several kid-friendly sandwiches on the lunch menu, including the famous Croque Monsieur (melted French Ham and Gruyère Cheese sandwich with Béchamel Sauce). For dessert, parents and kids alike will love the crème caramel and mousse au chocolat.
Or test out a recipe for homemade "pain au chocolat" in your own kitchen at foreignlanguagefun.com. End your trip with a visit to one of the largest and finest collections of late 19th-century French art in the world, the Art Institute of Chicago. Bring a blank-page notebook and some colored pencils and ask your children to sketch their own impressions of les Impressionnistes. For more ideas on planning a trip to the Art Institute, including a guide on creating follow-up activities to your visit, head to the museum's Web site.
Amy Bizzarri is a mom of two living in Logan Square. She also blogs at tiramisumom.com.
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