For adults and children alike, Chicago is one big playground. This city has every angle, nook and cranny covered when it comes to fun. There's the adored (and free) Lincoln Park Zoo, 28 miles of beachfront, an enormous park with interactive art, climbing walls and skating rinks, and a campus filled with world-class museums.
Located in the center of it all and sandwiched between Lake Michigan's blue-green shimmering waters, the famous Michigan Avenue, the city's parade of gleaming glass skyscrapers, and just one block from the Fairmont Chicago, is Millennium Park. What was once a parking lot and railroad hub has been transformed into Chicago's hub of amusement and exploration with more than 500 free public programs and fascinating exhibitions. From mini-golf, picnic groves, rollerblading and ice-skating, there are endless opportunities, including an extraordinary playground.
Kids easily spend the day smiling when they're at Maggie Daley Park's 3-acre play garden designed “in the spirit of Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” The garden engages all senses every season of the year. Custom-designed playground equipment sprawls across the acreage, along with an enchanted forest, a 40-foot climbing wall and a giant bridge. Adults often join in on the fun. Later, take the BP pedestrian bridge designed by Frank Gehry back to Millennium Park to continue your adventure. This 925-foot-long silver snaking bridge links the eastern and western areas of the park and inspires endless photo opportunities.
Stroll the 3.5-acre Lurie Garden and breathe in the floral scented air, then continue to explore or experience the seasonal ice ribbon for skating, climb the 19,000-square-foot rock climbing wall or pack a picnic and catch a concert at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion (also designed by Frank Gehry). Consider a docent-guided tour of the seven unforgettable public art works that span over a half-mile of Millennium Park's campus.
Whether by foot, river taxi, or a quick car ride, all directions from the city's center lead to adventure, so staying in a central location maximizes your fun time. If you're traveling with kids, Swissôtel Chicago offers a Kids Suite, as every child is a VIK (very important kid). It's also located just a few blocks from Grant Park, and Navy Pier, which is one of the top picks for families for its amusement park rides (such as the famous Centennial Wheel), family-friendly dining and play areas. Everyone has their favorite sea creatures at the Shedd Aquarium, but you might discover a new one with one of their Unbelievable Animal Encounters. You could feed a shark, come face-to-face with a beluga whale or meet a penguin in person. After a morning spent learning about ocean creatures, spend the afternoon at the Field Museum exploring 4.5 billion years of history. You'll meet SUE, the T. rex and get an up-close-and-personal look at some of the biggest creatures in history.
Spend a little time off your feet with a river or lake cruise, or aboard the exciting, high-speed Seadog tour. Interested in an architecture river tour? A Chicago Architecture Foundation boat tour is the real deal although at a more sedate pace than a Seadog tour.
Allow the concierge to assist you with the hotel's array of partnerships with museums (think behind-the-scenes tours or for tickets to a performance at the Harris Theater Millennium Park) and tours or rainy day activities like indoor mini golf, the tallest climbing wall in North America at Lakeshore Sport & Fitness, movie passes or a trip to visit the Fairmont's Lodge installation in winter or Lakehouse in summer.
Chicago's Magnificent Mile a.k.a. Michigan Avenue is not just a haven for shoppers (13 blocks of retail therapy including the ever-popular American Girl Store). The “Mag Mile” offers culinary discoveries by Michelin-rated chefs and world-class theater just steps from Sofitel Chicago. Baseball fans love perusing the exhibits or listening to vintage radio interviews at the Chicago Baseball Museum before heading to the ball game (ask the concierge about nabbing meet-and-greet tickets or a VIP box) at Wrigley Field to cheer the Cubs or for a White Sox Game.
Before you leave, save time to visit Skydeck Chicago, where you can step out onto a 4.3-foot ledge that's 1,353 feet in the air. You'll feel like you're standing on air, because you're in a glass box on the 103 floor of the tower. Gather the family for a one-of-a-kind selfie to remember your Chicago getaway.
Courtney Lochner is a Chicago-based writer and filmmaker. She's written and spoken about Chicago travel for NBC, 10 Best Books, and City Buzz. Her work has been featured in everything from Glamour Magazine to the Midwest Literary Review and as the co-founder of Cosmic Dust Films, she's written and directed three documentaries.