It’s finally here! Summer vacation! And as usual, we have a bucket list of things to accomplish throughout the summer.
Follow along as we try to have the best summer ever!
Our list thus far:
- Go to Disney World.
- Pick blueberries.
- Go bowling. Bake some treats.
- See outdoor movies.
- Go to the museums.
- Go to LEGO Discovery Center.
- Visit Brookfield Zoo.
- Go to Morton Arboretum to see the Lego sculptures.
- Visit the Art Institute.
- Eat ice cream.
- Play on the playground.
- Go on a hike.
- Go to the library.
- Go to a festival.
- Have a slumber party.
- Have a pajama day.
- Watch movies at home.
- Visit Granny and Pa.
- Visit Mimi and Pa.
- Have a beach day.
- Pick dandelions out of the yard.
- See fireworks.
- Go to the splash pads.
- Visit Chinatown.
- Play outside.
- Have tea at American Girl.
- Play in our house.
Now….some of these things we will definitely do several times throughout the summer. And some of them are on the list specifically because we already know that we are doing them (Disney World).
What’s on your list?
Usually, when we have a weekend at Mimi and Pa’s house (my hometown) we don’t have too much planned. This summer, however, we had an epic weekend because it was the weekend of my 20th high school reunion (20 years?!?!?!?!?) and it was also the weekend of the county fair.
So……..we did a lot. 🙂
Ryan and I went to my high school reunion.
The next day, as a family, we went to the county fair. We went to the demolition derby (one of my favorite fair memories), ate some fried food, and rode some rides.
We ended our trip with a trip to the playground, lunch at Cracker Barrel, and my mom and I went to swim aerobics (p.s. I want to find a place with year-round swim aerobics! So fun!!!).
The list thus far:
If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile now, you know that our family are big fans of the museums in Chicago. These amazing institutions are some of the biggest perks of living in or near the city! But this is not new information. Lots of people know that already and are ready to take advantage of all that they have to offer. The museums are not cheap, though. A family of four could easily drop close to $100 just to get in to the museum. That’s why the free admission days are such a big deal!
On the free admission days (for Illinois residents) you get free general admission at the museum. Each museum is different and the free days are different for each one (be sure to look up that information on each museum’s website!). And, although we generally take advantage of the ones during the summer months, there are days offered throughout the entire year so, if you are an Illinois resident, definitely check these out!
Since so many people want to, and should, take advantage of this money-saving perk, it can get a bit crazy. We’ve done it many, many times and in that time I’ve picked up some tips.
- Try to arrive as close to the museum opening as you can. If there are exhibits that you know that you want to check out, head there first. The crowds definitely build after 11:00am. Most museums open at either 9:00am or 9:30am. Generally, if you arrive at 10:00am, you won’t have to wait in much of a line and can walk right in.
- If possible, take public transportation. But, if you have to drive, as long as you arrive close to opening you can probably get street parking. This is usually cheaper than parking in the museum parking lots or the lot at Soldier Field. Plus, you can pay for what you will use. Just planning on being in the museum for a couple hours? Just pay for a couple hours of parking!
- Bring snacks! But, pay attention to where you can actually eat your snacks in the museum.
- Food is pricey at the museums, especially if you are buying for a family of four. I usually buy a lunch for myself at the museum, brings snacks for the girls, and will purchase a cheese plate or fruit cup for the girls to share. Many of the museums do not want you to bring in your own food to eat in their restaurants, but since I’ve also purchased something each time no one has said anything. But, most museums also have an area for use by those who brought lunches. If you are not purchasing anything, I recommend scouting out one of those spots. If you can’t find a spot to eat, ask an employee for assistance.
- If you can, eat a late or early lunch. The lunch areas are usually less busy after 1:30pm or right at 11:00am (or whenever they start serving lunch). There are usually many schools, camps, and daycare groups at the museums, but they tend to eat their lunch before 1:30pm since they need to return to their camp, daycare, or school.
- Some of the Illinois resident day admissions include almost everything (the Shedd Aquarium is great for this – you get general admission, Stingray Touch, and can get into Wild Reef and Polar Playzone – this all had at one time been an extra add on on the Illinois resident days. So glad that that’s changed!!!) but most of the admissions only include the basic admission. So, if there is a special or traveling exhibit that you want to see be sure to calculate the price of that into your visit.
- Do you have younger kids and will plan on spending some time in the areas designated for kids? (Like Polar Play Zone at Shedd, Play Lab at Field Museum, Idea Factory at Museum of Science and Industry, and Planet Explorers at Adler) These tend to be less busy during peak lunch time hours. So, again, if you can, try to do a later or early lunch.
- Do your research! Some exhibits, although free and included in your admission, still require a timed ticket. Idea Factory at MSI is one of those. Get your ticket as soon as you arrive because you might not be able to get in to the exhibit for several hours. Some exhibits are not open every day. The Play Lab at Field is only open Thursday – Monday.
- After 12:00noon, the museums tend to get really packed. Keep this in mind when trying to plan bathroom breaks. It’s no fun for anyone when a bathroom break is necessary and the bathroom has a line out the door.
- Remember – have fun! It can get chaotic and when you start to feel the chaos, take a break. Have a snack. Step outside. (Many of the museums have an outdoor spot where you can eat, and take in a beautiful view of Lake Michigan and/or the skyline.)
Some of my girls’ favorite foods are the very simplest foods possible. Peanut butter and jelly. Buttered noodles. Grilled cheese.
Some of their favorite foods to cook (in which they do most of, if not all of, the work) are also pretty simple.
They like to make cookies – the break-and-bake ones are amazing if you are trying to do this with kids. Yes, it is important to teach fractions and how to measure ingredients and all of that. But, seriously, these cookies are fine! And it means that you can have cookies whenever you want with very little effort (or mess to clean up!).
Every summer, the girls put making banana pudding on the list of things to do. This summer, we learned that Lily doesn’t like banana pudding anymore…..So, although that might change in the future (she also decided that she doesn’t like string cheese, so who knows what she’s going to like or not like) making banana pudding probably won’t happen very often in the future. However, when we make pudding of any type, I like to make it in plastic cups. It’s easy to portion out that way and you don’t have a giant bowl taking up a lot of space in the fridge.
The final food that the girls request to make every summer. Lemonade. And, not just any lemonade. The powdered stuff that takes all of two minutes to make. Well, it sure makes it easier to knock things off of the list.
Our summer list thus far:
When I was a kid, going to the library was a weekly event during the summer. Not only did we check out books and movies, but it was a great escape from the heat. (At that time, we did not have central air conditioning in the house.)
Now, I take my girls to the library. We don’t necessarily need to go there to escape the heat but we do go to check out new books, borrow new puzzles or games, play on the iPad and update the girls’ summer reading challenge books.
We are usually pretty good about reading every day. But, reading can be pushed to the side when you get really busy. That is why I love summer reading programs so much. The program helps to keep us on track to ensure that we are keeping up with our reading even when we get busy with other activities.
This is the final week of the summer reading program and, although we have gone to the library a lot, we haven’t spent as much time in the library as we have during years past. The reason?
Our library is going through a major renovation! Not all of the books and materials are easy to find because they have had to move due to the construction. Yes, it’s a bit annoying right now to not be able to find some things as easily as we have in the past and there isn’t as much space to play but, it’s mostly exciting because these renovations are going to make our library even better than it was.
Our list thus far:
There is nothing quite like a girls days with my little girls. They love being downtown and going on adventures, and now that they are older, it’s easier for me to do the adventures by myself. Diapers? Don’t need them. Snacks? Still needed but they can open them by themselves. And, although their legs get tired after walking all day, we no longer need to haul a stroller around town.
We recently had a girls day downtown doing two of their favorite things: eating and shopping at American Girl Place and shopping at Disney Store (this is a big deal mostly because there are so few locations of Disney Store, now…..there had been a location very near us but that closed a couple years ago).
Part of the fun of shopping at Disney Store is finding all of the buttons to press and then see what noises or actions those buttons make happen.
And, of course, watching all of the cartoons and movie previews on the big screen.
Now, going to American Girl Place and eating there requires a little more planning. You can, of course, just go to shop. However, there is a lot of do while you are there.
Some things to remember:
- Tea is fun but is served later in the afternoon so it may not a good option if you haven’t already eaten lunch. Your kids will be hangry. (Trust me. I know.) The lunch is very filling. If you’ve already eaten lunch before arriving, go ahead and do tea!
- In addition to tea and lunch, there are also brunch and dinner options depending on the time of day that you are going.
- If you only have a small group with you and you are already there to celebrate a birthday, go ahead and go in for the birthday package. It’s a set price, you get a full meal including a starter and your main course, you get a cake (we always go home with extra), and the kids get a goody bag. Definitely a good deal when you look at the the prices of the meals. (The basic package is $37 for kids and $27 for adults.)
- If you are planning on taking a doll to the salon, book that as soon as you arrive. The salon can get very busy!
- Plan on at least 45 minutes to just browse and shop. (Even if you aren’t planning on making any purchases.) The store is set up so that girls can play with almost every item that’s for sale. And, from experience, this takes awhile.
Our list thus far:
We usually see several movies throughout the summer. We see movies outside. We see movies in the theaters.
So far, we have seen Incredibles 2 while on our camping trip.
And we recently saw the new Hotel Transylvania.
I am looking forward to seeing Christopher Robin in a week!
What movies have you seen this summer? What movies are you looking forward to seeing?
Seeing movies is always an item on our summer bucket list.
Our list thus far: