Scenes from our Chicago Staycation

We live in the city and are lucky to frequent many "downtown" destinations like Navy Pier and the Museum Campus fairly regularly (in fact, this is a large part of why we chose to raise our kids in the city).

So why would we need to spend a night in a hotel downtown just a couple of miles from our actual home?

This was my cab driver's question to me as we traveled back to our real home in Wicker Park from the Swissotel after a one-night Giles Family Staycation last weekend.

This one-night getaway was an awesome opportunity to be tourists in our own city. And we certainly don't wake up with a view of Navy Pier from our house. This little family getaway was an amazing experience that we would definitely repeat in the future. It is important to get away from the stresses of everyday and enjoy each other's company -- even if you are just traveling a couple of miles from home.

We were fortunate to be asked to participate in a "Summer of the Universe" experience courtesy of the Adler Planetarium and it's partners. Here is how our staycation went down.

We started by leaving our bags at the Swissotel so we could take advantage of an afternoon on the town. We were lucky enough to enjoy this getaway the weekend of the Chicago Air and Water Show. The weather was perfect. The Air and Water show was amazing as always.

We walked over to Navy Pier and caught a Shoreline Sightseeing Water Taxi down to the Museum Campus. We were able to see the Air and Water Show from the water -- which was super cool. The ride was relaxing and the kids really enjoyed it. When we disembarked near the Shedd Aquarium, we couldn't bring ourselves to head inside the Adler Planetarium quite yet because the Blue Angels were performing over head (note to self: this is a great spot to camp out and see the Air and Water Show next year).

After taking in the sights, we headed inside the Adler. The kids spent about a half an hour running about the very interactive Planet Explorers exhibit, pretending to be real astronauts and heading u various space expeditions. However, the real highlight of the experience was the "Welcome to the Universe" show in the Grainger Sky Theatre (that is what is underneath the big dome you see at the Planetarium). This spectacular (yes, spectacular) show transports viewers into distant corners of the universe. This technologically advanced theatre makes you feel like you are flying through space, orbiting the Moon, zooming into a canyon on Mars and then soaring through a cosmic web of galaxies.  We love the fact that a real live person narrates the trip. My kids all really enjoyed the experience -- and at only 25 minutes or so in duration, it doesn't require them to sit still for too long. This show will run daily through May 3, 2013. Don't miss it.

After we finished exploring the Adler (so, so much interesting stuff to see here -- we will definitely be back in the fall), we jumped back into a water taxi to head back to Navy Pier. This trip was significantly more exciting than our first ride! The boat was much smaller and the Lake was a little bit choppy so the ride was "refreshing" to say the least (but it felt good on a hot summer day).

After all of this activity, we were starving so we headed to Lou Malnati's in the Gold Coast to stuff ourselves silly with pizza. Our favorite part of this dining experience was the fact that you can call ahead and put your order in. This place was packed, but we put our order in and were seated within 10 minutes of arriving and eating shortly thereafter, making it a good choice for impatient little diners.

We taxied back to the beautiful Swissotel for a little night swimming in their pool. Obviously, the kids were absolutely thrilled to be able to swim in a fancy hotel. I worried that we might run into some lap swimmers who might not welcome my rambunctious group, but there were many other families using the pool as well.

Around 10:00, we (those of us who were not dead asleep in their beds) were able to enjoy the beautiful fireworks display over Navy Pier. A perfect ending to a lovely day.

On Sunday, we woke up and headed down to the Geneva Restaurant in the Swissotel for breakfast. This is one of my favorite parts of the weekend! Kids under 12 eat free and they offer an absolutely lovely breakfast buffet. Plus, they will make-to-order whatever you want that isn't available on the buffet. My kids ate homemade waffles the size of their heads. I had scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and chives (far fancier than my usual breakfast fare!). We left really full and ready to start our day.

Before heading back to our "real house," we spent some time in a lovely little park right behind the Swissotel in the Lakeshore East complex. This hidden gem is a spectacularly beautiful park right in the middle of the bustling Michigan Avenue scene. I hesitate to tell you more because I want to keep it a secret!

We headed home around noon totally exhausted (seriously, dead tired). However, I really felt that we had "gotten away" from our daily grind and recharged with some family time together. We're going to make this an annual trip for the Giles clan. Check out some highlights from our trip in the photo gallery.


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