Growing up, I longed to be Ferris Bueller. Why? I wanted to emulate his carefree nature and how he fully experienced all that Chicago has to offer. And Ferris was right: the things that John Hughes chose to highlight in his classic film were “so choice.”
While we probably don’t want our kids to skip class to attend a Cubs game or perform on a parade float, we can take them on a kiddie version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, sometime before senior ditch day rolls around.
With more that 300,000 works of art, there is something for everyone at Chicago’s world-renowned art museum. Before your family leaves home, create your own personal museum guide using the Art Institute’s interactive online JourneyMaker. You can plan your entire trip so you won’t spend hours wandering around the entire museum looking for that picture with the dots (Psst…it’s called “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte”). No visit to the Art Institute is complete without a visit to Chagall’s breathtaking windows or a stop at the Ryan Center for family-friendly art projects and activities. Kids under 14 and Chicago teens 14-17 receive free admission.
Chicago is known as the city of neighborhoods, and the best way to see how they fit together is to get a bird’s-eye view from America’s tallest building, Willis Tower (not counting the antenna). For those afraid of heights, there are tons of activities within the Skydeck exhibit to distract and entertain you. Just keep your eyes averted from “The Ledge,” where daredevils can stand 4.3 feet away from the Skydeck and 1,353 feet above the busy streets of Chicago. Kids under 3 are free.
One of the most iconic scenes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is when Ferris visits the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Unfortunately, it’s no longer open to the public, but there is still another great option to teach kids all about the power of a dollar—the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Activities in the interactive exhibits include comparing real and counterfeit money, designing currency, and seeing what a million dollars really looks like. Visitors can take home a bag of “Fed Shreds” too. The museum is open on weekdays, except for bank holidays. And it has free admission for everyone.
I hate to burst your bubble, but when Ferris danced on the float during the Von Steuben Day parade, it was a lie! Typically the German-American celebration is held on a Saturday in September—definitely not a day Ferris would have been in school. But guess what? There are still tons of fun parades for Chicagoans to enjoy this summer. My family’s favorite is the Pride Parade. On June 25, enjoy the rainbow-colored celebration along with more than 800,000 spectators. Just be sure to go early and bring ear protection for the little ones!
Cubs tickets have always been the hottest in town, and now that they are the reigning World Champions, it is even more difficult to score tickets. But it’s worth the effort, especially if you snag some for Kids’ Sundays, when the first 1,000 kids in attendance to receive wristbands can run the bases after the game. Even if your kid is having an epic meltdown, don’t leave the Friendly Confines without grabbing a “My First Cubs Game” certificate from the Fan Services booth. Kids under 2 receive free admission during the regular season.
Your family might not be ready for fine dining just yet…but finer? Yes! Weber Grill on State Street has a “Future Griller’s Menu” featuring grilled specialties. You can never go wrong with Little Goat Diner, the hip spot imagined by acclaimed chef and Chicago mom Stephanie Izard. Plus, Summer House Santa Monica provides fresh cuisine for families and they donate 50 percent of the proceeds from their children’s menu to the No Kid Hungry Campaign.
If you are looking for something a bit more upscale, don’t miss the Sunday brunch at The Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock building or tea time at some of the city’s most beautiful hotels, including The Langham, Four Seasons, Palmer House and The Peninsula.