Memorial Day is more than just a three-day weekend that kicks off the summer season. It's also a time to remember all the soldiers who have made this country what it is. So grab the kids, pack snacks and drinks, and head to Chicago's wreath laying ceremony and parade to teach your kids about patriotism. Then end your day with home-made barbecued ribs for an easy, summertime dinner. Prepare your ingredients before you head downtown so you're ready to throw everything in the oven when you get home.
Start at Daley Plaza (Dearborn and Washington streets in downtown Chicago) at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 25, 2012, for the solemn wreath laying ceremony at the eternal flame. The ceremony honors Illinois Gold Star Families who have lost a loved one to war-a reminder to all of us that local families have lost a father, brother, sister, son or daughter to the ongoing wars overseas.
Next it's time to celebrate this great country at the Memorial Day Parade. Also on Saturday, kicking off at noon at State and Lake streets, the parade marches south on State to Van Buren. Considered one of the largest Memorial Day parades in the U.S., your kids will delight in the marching bands and drum and bugle corps that make their way through downtown.
Now that you're back home, grab the foil-wrapped ribs that have been marinating all day and throw them in the oven. While they're cooking, let the kids help you make patriotic cupcakes for dessert.
To keep up the patriotic theme the rest of the weekend, visit the 1st Infantry Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. Kids of all ages love climbing the military equipment in the Tank Park-even better, no one will tell them to get off--these are real tanks that will stand up to all sizes of kids that clamber all over them. Eleven tanks from World War I to Desert Storm dot the park, along with armored personnel carriers and artillery pieces. Kids can pretend to be in the middle of action when they're seated atop an M1 Abrams Tank or shooting a howitzer. Make sure your kids wear sturdy gym shoes to climb as some of the tanks are really high off the ground.
Next, head indoors to the museum for an interactive look at America's war history from the Revolutionary War to the Persian Gulf War. Boys in the midst of an obsession-with-war stage will love walking through the bunkers listening to the sounds of bombs exploding around them. And nothing beats watching the short movie about the landing at Normandy and then watching the wall open just like the ships so that you can walk out into an interactive war experience. Outside, there is plenty of real military equipment to climb on and explore. When you're ready for a break, Cantigny has plenty of places to put down a blanket for a picnic lunch or visit their on-site restaurant.
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.