Monday, September 4, 2017

Activity: Chicago Transportation for Kids

With so many great ways to get around and enjoy Chicago, you shouldn't only flag a taxi!

Below is a quick run-down of our tested transit options in the city, in hopes you will try some of these yourself (in alpha order):

Chicago Transit Authority (Bus/Train CTA)
Reasons to try:
Kids love public transportation - there is so much to see!  Especially trains - Why not test out the real thing, taking the El (train) a few stops next time you are in town?  The elevated trains are great, because you can get a bird's eye view of the city below and even come eye level with some of the best murals in the loop!

Fares are low (and free for kids under 7), and the stops are close to parks, restaurants, and so much more...

Double Decker Bus Tours
Reasons to try:
The tour gives a great overview of the downtown area for tourists (and these locals!), with the option to hop on and off throughout the day(s). They will point out good tourist destinations, interesting building information, and popular museums and restaurants to try.

Even as "seasoned locals," my kids really liked this tour. They loved being on top, surrounded by the buildings and hearing about the Chicago Fire & other fun facts.

The two most popular double decker bus tours in Chicago are the Big Bus and Chicago Trolley. The one we tried was Big Bus, so my notes are specific to that company.

  • The company offers a variety of cost options, based on the route and number of days selected. 
  • The most important factor to your experience is the tour guide. If you don't enjoy their style, get off the bus and wait for the next one. Buses come frequently - usually every 10-15 min. 
    • Shout out to our guide Lance-Romance from the Southside - he was the best!
  • If the bus is full up top, spots tend to open up at these stops: 
    • Museum Campus (Shedd), Water Tower, Navy Pier, Millennium Park, Willis Tower
    • It may be worth a few stops sitting on the lower level for first dibs on the spots when they open.
  • If planning to visit Willis Tower, the best plan is to arrive before they open to avoid long waits, thus truncating the rest of your day. 

Horse & Carriage Ride
Reasons to try:
This is a unique ride around a small radius of downtown, including John Hancock, Water Tower, and the Lake. Longer tours can be arranged, but not sure it is worth the time or cost.  My boys enjoyed it (though embarrassingly, their favorite part was the horse relieving itself), but started to get antsy near the end.

  • There are various options for tours: 20 minutes was good for us on the city/lake tour.
  • Purchasing rides onsite are cash only. 
  • You can purchase online tickets, but will still have to wait in line and horses may not come if too hot/cold.

Reasons to try:
Such a fun, unique experience!  The boys loved it - it was a fun way to get somewhere and feel the wind in our hair!

  • Rickshaws can be found all around the city at popular tourist destinations (there is a large number staged at Willis Tower, Navy Pier, etc...)
  • Locals can even hop on after a concert or festival - your very own designated driver!

Boat Tours
Reasons to try:
These are one of my favorite ways to enjoy the city in the summer.  There are so many options for boat tours: River tour, Lake tour, fast, or slow - you will find something to meet your needs. Great views along the river.

We have taken Architectural tours on both the Wendella Boat Tour and Chicago's First Lady.  Both are great experiences with amazing views of the city and great information.
  • Docents are volunteers from the Chicago Architectural Foundation with a true passion and knowledge of Chicago
  • Tours are along the river, and some take in the lake and even some with the fireworks! 
  • There are so many boat tours and they depart from Navy Pier, the Riverwalk, or near the Wrigley Building. Make sure you know where you are heading to avoid confusion!

Chicago Water Taxi
Reasons to try:
Kids love a water taxi!  And so do we! It's such a fun, relaxing way to get around the city - with stops along the river and lake. Not the fastest way to travel, but one of our favorites.

  • Many stops are not ADA (so beware if bringing or using a stroller)
  • Another water taxi option is Shoreline


Other / Misc:
You know kids also love regular taxis / Ubers - though it does make it strange when the kids start walking to other people's cars and fully expecting to get inside (and have had to stop them from jiggling the car door handles).

Did I miss your favorite?  If so, leave it in the comments!