During the recent heat wave, my kids were indoors staying cool and started watching National Lampoon's European Vacation. I don't picture our family ever trying to recreate that type of vacation, but it got me thinking...
Traveling overseas is somewhat of a dream vacation that is just not in the budget- especially when you have children. It would be nice to open the children's horizons to other countries and cultures in some way without all the expense.
Here are a few ideas to make your own European /Worldwide Vacation without leaving the state. You just need a little creativity and a lot of stretch of your imagination.
Dine Around the World
A friend of mine told me in order to expose their boys to new cultures and try new foods, the family made a point to visit different restaurants that featured ethnic dishes from diverse countries.
Luckily, Chicago and the surrounding area have a wide variety of neighborhoods and restaurants that make that easy to do. You can visit Taylor street for your pick of authentic Italian restaurants and finish up with some gelato. Athena is one of our favorites in Greek town.
Berghoff's is a Chicago tradition for German food that my family visited frequently when I was growing up. Another, even better choice is Fritzl's (located in the suburb of Lake Zurich). My children especially love the potato pancakes and spaetzle. The apple strudel is amazing!
If dining out gets a little expensive, try take out or cooking yourself. Check your local library for a variety of cookbooks. The Around the World Cookbook would be a good start.
Read Around the World
At the recent American Library Association conference in Chicago, I had a chance to speak with author, Lisa Manzione, of a brand new series of travel books specifically aimed at very young children. The Adventures of Bella & Harry are a picture book series that feature a pair of Chihuahuas who are brother and sister world travelers.
The books allow young readers to gain an appreciation for the world and its cultural diversity. Current releases feature Paris, Venice, London, Cairo, Athens and Barcelona. Each book always includes a map and key phrases. Lisa told me her books have won a Mom's Choice Award.
National Geographic Kids website is full of color photos, facts and information and even lets you email a "postcard" from virtually any country you click on.
Visit an Ethnic Museum
I have to admit that in all my years growing up in Chicagoland and raising my children, I have seldom visited an ethnic museum. I usually frequent the Field Museum, The Museum of Science and Industry and the Shedd Aquarium--you know, the mainstream museums.
I didn't even know so many options existed from the National Museum of Mexican Art, Polish Museum of America, to the Swedish American Museum and the Irish American Museum Center. The list goes on and on. For more information check the website for the Chicago Cultural Alliance.
Attend a Cultural or Neighborhood Festival
The benefits of living in or near a large city like Chicago mean you can take advantage of a variety of neighborhood and cultural festivals. In doing a little research on-line, I learned that Chicago boasts a festival event for Japan, Korea, Cuba and Serbia, just to name a few.
A Google search revealed that fellow Chicago Now blogger, Aimee Thompson, at Raising World Citizens- has conveniently posted about 2013 summer festivals in Chicago and Milwaukee worth checking out. There is still enough summer left to attend a fest or two.
You won't need to pack much and a passport isn't necessary for your makeshift world tour. Bon Voyage!
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