When we took my nearly 2-year-old nephew to the zoo last summer, the highlight wasn't the lions or tigers or bears. It was the "fishies." So it was a welcome realization that there's a spot in town where tykes can admire fish according to their attention spans-and adults' wallets.
We visited Old Town Aquarium, an aquarium specialty store that has supplied exotic fish to the Shedd and other museums. The 50-plus tanks house fish of every imaginable shape and shade, and sharp eyes may even find Nemo, not to mention coral, sea anemone and stingrays.
Kids will get a kick out of seeing just how unique each tank is, and I even said a few "ew"s and "ah"s (hairy hermit, anyone?). With displays changing regularly, there's something new to spy each time you visit.
For those who prefer their fish up-close-and-personal, there's an open-air pond in the store, which simultaneously intrigued and scared my toddler companion.
From an educational standpoint, each tank is well labeled, so you can look up fun facts later. True fish aficionados will do well to ask questions of the staff.
After our excursion under the sea, we headed next door to The Fudge Pot, operated by the Dattalo family since 1963. The stroller-friendly store smells like heaven for chocolate lovers, with cocoa confections displayed in its glass cases.
Popular items include toodles, chocolate-dipped fruit and solid chocolate molds that come in shapes ranging from cars to sports items. My nephew gobbled up a chocolate-covered pretzel while I enjoyed the creamy sweetness of the store's signature item: fudge.
The confections are made in-store, so families can watch fudge being whipped up in copper pots or taffy apples being hand-dipped via a large picture window, giving it the feel of a real-life Willy Wonka factory.
Since our chocolately treats were our only expense for the day, the whole trip was a welcome option for me and my little fish-and-fudge fan.
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.