25 Ideas for Fall Fun

My list of 50 Ideas for Summer Fun, seemed to be a big hit. So, on this first official day of Fall, I thought I would come out with 25 ideas to help you enjoy, what I consider to be the best season in Chicago.

I did not put these in any kind of order, except for #1. That one you have to be sure to see. I put the dates, if applicable, for particular events. I wouldn’t want you to miss anything!

1. Midnight Circus in the Parks

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There is definitely a reason why I made Midnight Circus #1. If you only do one thing on this list, Midnight Circus is the one! Words can’t even describe the awesomeness of this show. For 2 hours you will be entertained by talented performers from around the world, that will have you in awe and cheering for more! Perfect for every age, the Midnight Circus is truly one of the best shows in Chicago, doing wonderful things for our city. A portion of funds raised goes to community groups, play-lot renovations and park programs.

If you need any more convincing, you should check out this short video I put together a few years ago. It gives you a glimpse into the amazing experience that awaits you. Only 5 weekends left. Get your tickets today!

 

2. EXPO Chicago

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“EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art, has established the city of Chicago as a preeminent art fair destination. Opening the fall art season every September, EXPO CHICAGO takes place at historic Navy Pier whose vast vaulted architecture hosts leading international art galleries alongside one of the highest quality platforms for global contemporary art and culture.” – EXPO Chicago Website

EXPO CHICAGO features artwork from over 3,000 artists from 135 leading galleries, representing 27 countries and 63 international cities. Tickets are $20 for a day pass or $30 for a 3 day pass. There is a $5 discount for students and seniors. EXPO Chicago will be taking place September 27th – 30th.

3. Open House Chicago

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I went to my first Open House Chicago seven years ago. I have been wanting to go back ever since. This year I have it on the calendar and I will definitely be participating in this incredible opportunity, which takes place on October 13th and 14th.

“The Chicago Architecture Center’s Open House Chicago is a free public festival that offers behind-the-scenes access to more than 250 buildings across Chicago. Explore the hidden gems and architectural treasures of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods—all for free. Have you ever walked by a building and thought, “I wish I could see what’s inside?” Now you can. Tour soaring skyscrapers, repurposed mansions, opulent theaters, exclusive private clubs, private offices and breathtaking sacred spaces.” – Open House Chicago website

4. Night of 1,000 Jack-O-Lanterns 

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I am beyond excited to attend this event at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I have heard so many wonderful things and could not pass it up, yet another year. So, the tickets are purchased and if you want to grab some of your own do not hesitate. The tickets go fast!

“More than 1,000 hand-carved pumpkins—some as large as 150 pounds—will light up the night at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Night of 1,000 Jack-o’-Lanterns is the only event of its kind in the Chicago area. Using scalpels, knives, gouges, and power tools, artists for the New York-based company Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns spend up to 15 hours sculpting a single pumpkin. The LED-lit jack-o’-lanterns will be staged along a festive, paved pathway, starting at the Esplanade. Along the way, encounter entertaining characters, watch live carving, and view the ghostly trains in the Model Railroad Garden: Landmarks of America.” – Chicago Botanic Garden website

If you would like to get a sneak peek of the festivities click HERE!

This event takes place October 24th – 28th.

5. Visit Your Local Candy Store

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When I was younger, I remember visiting our local candy store and filling a bag of candy before heading to the movies. I was always amazed on the quantity of sweet treats I was able to get for the couple dollars my mom gave me.

Fortunately, my kids are able to have a similar experience when visiting Dizzy Cow (2155 W. Irving Park Road). As you walk through the door you are immediately taken back to a simpler time. The names on the wrappers are vintage and the prices are nostalgic. There is something for everyone!

No need to wait until Halloween to get your candy fix. Make a stop at your local candy store and give yourself something to smile about.

6. Changing of the Leaves

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One of the best things about Fall in Chicago is the changing of the leaves. The explosion of color that appears mid-October is truly a site to see. I highly suggest you visit one of the many Chicago Parks or Forest Preserves in the Chicago area. Take a walk and surround yourself with one of Mother Nature’s amazing displays.

7. Bird Watching

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If you would have asked me last year about bird watching, I would have told you that it sounded like a rather boring activity. However, in March, I started getting out and really enjoying the nature photography. One of the many animals I found myself photographing were the birds. I became even more interested when I found out about Spring Migration and the many birds that make a stop in Chicago on their way to summer destinations.  I would go out with my camera and grab as many shots, of as many birds, as I could find. The next step would be to identify the birds. The website All About Birds, was extremely helpful. Here I could read a little about each bird and learn some rather interesting facts.

The Fall Migration starts in September and will continue through November. I will be spending most of my time at the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, the North Park Village Nature Center or the North Pond Nature Sanctuary. I will definitely be visiting some new places and I’ll be sure to share them with you! If you would like to follow my birding adventures, find me on Instagram @NatureInChicago.

8. Ghost Tour

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I have only been on one ghost tour and it was memorable. It was about 14 years ago when I went on the Chicago Hauntings Ghost Tour. We traveled on a bus around the city and heard stories about the Eastland Disaster, the Iroquois Theater Fire, and St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, just to name a few. It was truly one of the creepiest bus rides I have ever taken.

This Halloween season, I might get on the bus again or I just might take a walking tour. There are so many locations throughout the city, that you could visit and take a stroll. I will have to check out my edition of Creepy Chicago and Chicago’s Guide to the Supernatural and see what spooky stops we should make. Another great place to get the willies, would be your local cemetery. There is no doubt that you could easily find some spine-tingling stories of the dearly departed. I will most likely do a little research at the Bohemian National Cemetery and Graceland Cemetery.

9. The 70mm Film Festival

MB“The 70MM Film Festival returns to the Music Box (3733 N Southport Ave) for another epic year of celluloid. This year’s festival includes a brand new 70MM print of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, festival favorites like WEST SIDE STORY and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and 8 films that have never screened in 70MM at the Music Box!” – MusicBoxTheater.com

So, what’s so great about 70MM Film?

“70mm is a film format with frames that are larger in size and wider in aspect ratio than the standard 35mm film. “From an audience standpoint, it’s a much crisper, brighter, and ideally more uniform and stable image,” said Douglas McLaren (projectionist at the Music Box Theater). Essentially, the difference between 35mm and 70mm is similar to the difference between DVD and Blu-ray, if switching from DVD to Blu-ray also made your television bigger.

The wider, sharper image allows viewers to see “details in these films that you have just never, ever seen before,” as McLaren puts it. He also points out that most theaters project films at a resolution of about 2,000 pixels, which is comparable to Blu-ray. However, the restoration scan of the 70mm film resolution Lawrence of Arabia was scanned at about 8,000 pixels, “and the negative had even more information than that. There’s just so much more going on in these 70mm prints than even on your Blu-ray.”Sarah Gorr (Groupon Guide)

The Film Festival is currently running through September 27th. 

10. The Scarecrow Trail at the Morton Arboretum

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One of the best places to visit in the Fall is the Morton Arboretum, in Lisle. Not only are the trees beautiful, but the scarecrows created by local scout troops are a real treat. The creativity and imagination that goes into the creation of each scarecrow is something to experience in person. You will find these masterpieces when you stroll around Meadow Lake in October. You’ll even have the opportunity to vote for your favorite.

While you are there, you can also check out the Trolls.

11. Chicago River Tour

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Many people associate Chicago River tours with summer activities. However, many river tours are offered well into the month of November. Whether you take an architectural tour, a lake and river tour or a sunset cruise, there are so many options to view this beautiful city from the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.

Wendella Boats, Chicago’s First Lady, and Shoreline Sightseeing are just a few of the many options offered to you. Be sure to do a little research. There are great deals to be found!

12. Visit a Pumpkin Patch / Haunted House

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When the kids were younger we went to our share of pumpkin patches. I remember visiting one in the suburbs and the biggest attraction were the wild animals displayed in rather small cages. I never understood how seeing a tiger or being able to pet a baby cheetah (for a fee) had anything do with Halloween.

The Chicago Park District does a nice job bringing the spirit of Halloween to the many neighborhoods throughout the city. They offer numerous pumpkin patches and haunted houses throughout the season.

You can look up your neighborhood park’s events on the Chicago Park District website.

13. Take your Holiday Photo

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The Fall is a great time to have your family photos taken. Avoiding the heat of the summer and having colorful leaves for your backdrop are just a couple of the reasons why people book sessions in the month of October.

I few years back I wrote a blog post on Ten Reasons Why You Should Have Pictures Taken During the Fall. After reading the post, there should be no question as to why you need to book a fall session. I even might know the perfect photographer for you!

14. Go for a Run or Walk

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With fall comes the cross-country season. All the Gaiettos are participating this year, except Riley. She is still recovering from her dislocated knee incident over the summer. Everyone is excited to compete and run their little hearts out.

The cooler weather and breathtaking fall scenery, makes for pleasing running conditions. There are always numerous 5Ks and 1 mile runs offered around this time. The best place to find a run near you is to check out CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association).

Go Run Chicago is a community partnership between the Chicago Area Runners Association and the Chicago Park District with an objective to activate neighborhood parks, build communities and encourage active lifestyle through running and volunteerism. They offer free runs for all ages at Humboldt Park, Warren Park and Washington Park.

15. Outdoor Movie Night

movieOutdoor movies are not just for summer. So, whether you host a movie night yourself or take advantage of the few Movies in the Parks left on the schedule, get out and enjoy a flick.

In the month of October the Chicago Park District will be showing numerous Halloween related movies. Some more scarier than others. A few family friendly titles include, Beetlejuice, The Addams Family, and Monster House. Be sure to bring a few dollars to buy some snacks and help support the hosting park.

16. Ed Paschke Art Center

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“The Ed Paschke Art Center commemorates the life and work of Ed Paschke, one of Chicago’s most famous artists. It also recognizes his contributions to the artistic life of the city as a cultural ambassador, teacher, family man, and friend. Ed Paschke made art about the famous and the infamous. Bold, sometimes shocking, he permitted his subjects to express their complex personalities. Paschke was a strong believer in the viewer’s capacity to interpret his works of art on their own terms.” – Ed Paschke Art Center website

The Ed Paschke Art Center is located at 5415 W. Higgins Avenue, in the Jefferson Park neighborhood. The Art Center is free and open to the public (donations are always welcome).

17. Haunted Halsted

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Ranked as one of the Top Best Halloweens in the US, by Fodor’s Travel Guide, the Northalsted Halloween Parade has entertained the north side for 21 years. There is $4,000 in prizes for the best costumes, following the parade at Halsted & Brompton. Contestants will be judged by a discerning panel of judges. The Parade kicks off at 7:30pm on October 31st, led by the Chicago Thriller Flash Mob.

The Gaietto kids still enjoy trick-or-treating. So, this event will be something we’ll attend in a few more years.

18. Visit a City Market

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The Fall season brings about harvest time. There’s no better way to find some of the best tasting produce then at a City Farmers Market. Not only will you have countless choices to choose from, but you will also help support local growers.

Fruits and vegetables are not the only things you’ll find. Plants, baked goods, prepared foods and unique Chicago-made products are also awaiting you.

Find a City Farmers Market near you and get shopping!

19. Full Moon Jam

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We attended our first Full Moon Jam last month and really enjoyed the show. We didn’t know what to expect, but found all the flame twirling performers to be very entertaining. If you would like to see some videos and pictures from our Full Moon Jam in August, be sure to check out the blog post.

You only have one more opportunity, this season, to check out the Full Moon Jam. Thursday, October 5th will be the last show of 2018. It will begin at 6:30pm and end at 9:15pm. It is a school night, but even if you stayed for an hour or so, it would be worth the trip. To get up to date announcements and weather cancellations, check out the Full Moon Jam Twitter feed.

20. Great Chicago Fire 

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The helmet in the above picture, was worn by William H. Musham, the fire marshal during the Chicago Fire of 1871. It was donated to the Chicago History Museum by his grand-niece.

“The municipal Chicago Fire Department was formed in 1858. By the early 1870s, the fire department had up-to-date equipment but was relatively small with only 185 firemen. When the Great Chicago Fire began the night of October 8, 1871, the fire department, tired from fighting an earlier fire, was unable to bring it under control. It burned for 36 hours, destroyed three and a half miles of the city, and killed 300 Chicagoans. This helmet was worn by Fire Marshal Musham, who was the first officer to respond to the alarm that evening.” – Chicago History Museum

This October, commemorate the 147th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire with a visit to the Chicago History Museum. See artifacts, read stories and learn about one of Chicago’s most significant events in it’s history.

21. Campfire Story Time

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The cool temperatures are coming and there’s no better way to warm up, than by a campfire. In the month of October, the North Park Village Nature Center will be offering Campfire Story Time with a spooky theme.

You could even keep it closer to home, if you happen to have a fire pit. Invite some friends over, make some s’mores and share some creepy stories.

22. Chicago Ideas Week

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Need some inspiration? Motivation? A little boost? Then you need to check out Chicago Ideas Week.

“Chicago Ideas Week, October 15-21, 2018, is a seven-day festival featuring over 200 global thought leaders and innovators speaking on a variety of topics ranging from leadership and life’s lessons, to science and technology, to the most pressing issues of the day and the most creative insights in entertainment. We offer more than 150 engaging programs each Chicago Ideas Week to stimulate, inspire and enlighten participants while providing the opportunity for attendees to think, dream and connect. The best part? Most tickets are only $15, ensuring that anyone who wants access to great ideas can have it.” – Chicago Ideas Week

Be sure to check out the schedule and see what this event has to offer!

23. Vintage Garage Sale

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We went to our first Vintage Garage Sale on September 16th and had a great time. There was so much to see and something for everyone. Morgan was the big buyer with three purchases.

Looks like you have just one more chance to check out the Chicago Vintage Garage Sale. As stated on their website, the last sale ever, will take place on October 21st. Located at 5051 N. Broadway, you’ll be able to peruse vintage and antique goods (10am-5pm) from 75 to 100 vendors on the first 2 floors and ramps of a nice big parking garage in Uptown.

Happy Hunting!

24. Humboldt Park Swan Boats

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I remember the swan boats at Lincoln Park Zoo. The last ride I took was with my nephew and nieces, about 20 years ago. I remember it being a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. It was sad to see the swans leave Lincoln Park Zoo, but the Nature Boardwalk is an amazing feature that I visit quite frequently.

I was pretty excited when I saw the swan boats, while driving through Humboldt Park this summer. I told the kids that we would definitely put that activity on our to-do-list. The swan boats can be rented through November 11th, weather permitting. I can only imagine that a paddle through Humboldt Park in the fall has to be very picturesque.

25. Chicago Park District Family Activities

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While doing some research on this blog post, I came across a family archery clinic, offered through the Chicago Park District. I signed up immediately, knowing it was going to fill fast and that the kids and I would have a blast.

There are so many family fun activities hosted by Chicago Parks throughout the city. Many of them are even free! Just take a few minutes to check out the events listed on the Chicago Park District’s website and I have no doubt you will find many fun activities to enjoy with the family.

However, you decide to spend your fall, the most important thing to keep in mind is to spend it with those you love and appreciate your time together.

Adventure #8 – Garden of the Phoenix & Promontory Point

On Monday, our first stop was the Garden of the Phoenix (formerly known as the Osaka Garden – #40 on the list of 50 Ideas for Summer Fun) in Jackson Park. Getting to the Garden was an adventure by itself. My go to entrance (located behind the Museum of Science and Industry) was closed. So, we walked a little and soon realized that we would have to get back into the car and find another entrance. The Garden is on an island and there are only two pedestrian bridges. The first one, we found out is not accessible. We hoped back onto Lake Shore Drive and headed south, turning on the next street, Hayes Drive. As we made our way to the parking lot (located on the north side of the street), we passed The Republic. I promised Morgan we would stop and take a picture our way back.

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We walked the path that was lined with a variety of trees and wild flowers. In a few minutes we came to the Garden of the Phoenix. This was the original location of the Japanese Garden and Ho-o Den. Both were built for the World Columbian Exposition in 1893. Soon after the outbreak of World War II, the buildings were destroyed by a fire and the garden was abandoned. In 1981 a new garden was built.

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As soon as you walk through the entrance, you have walked into one of Chicago’s hidden gems.

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The kids were so excited to walk on the rock steps in front of the waterfall and cross the bridge, that I had to remind them that we were in a tranquil place and our level of excitement needed to be less vocal.

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Everywhere I looked, there was another photo opportunity. I kept the kids very busy, promising with each picture, that it would be the last one. It ended up being a foolish promise to make.

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Before we left the Garden of the Phoenix, I grabbed one more shot and took a short video. I was hoping to capture the beauty and magic that this place holds, but it is definitely something you have to see with your own eyes.

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Just outside of the Garden is a sculpture created by Yoko Ono, titled Skylanding. I loved how Morgan was illuminated when standing in the center. The sun bouncing off the petals provided nice lighting.

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We departed Wooded Island and made our stop at The Statue of the Republic. Even though, we had visited the statue a few years ago, Morgan was super excited, having just learned about The Republic and her role at the World Columbian Exposition.

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The Chicago Park District’s description of The Statue of the Republic:

Installed in 1918, the Statue of the Republic commemorates the twenty-fifth anniversary of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park and the centennial of statehood for Illinois. The twenty-four-foot-tall gilded bronze sculpture is a much smaller and slightly modified version of Daniel Chester French’s original sixty-five-foot-tall Statue of the Republic, one of the most iconic features of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. (On its base, the original sculpture rose to a total height of one hundred feet.) Composed of gilded plaster, the original monumental female figure stood with outstretched arms at the eastern end of the fair’s Court of Honor.

Shortly after the fair, a fire destroyed the original Statue of the Republic. In 1918, the B.F. Ferguson Fund and the Woman’s World Fair Fund commissioned Daniel Chester French to create the commemorative version. The existing gilded bronze twenty-four foot tall statue stands on a ten-foot-high base by architect Henry Bacon. The total project budget of $56,000 included $47,000 that had remained in the treasury of the exposition. Installed on the site of the Fair’s Administration Building in Jackson Park, the monument was unveiled on May 11, 1918. Although World’s Fair visitors had nicknamed the original sculpture “Big Mary,” the smaller version is known best today as the “Golden Lady.” The commemorative sculpture was re-gilded and rededicated in 1993 in tribute to the centennial of the World’s Columbian Exposition.

We drove back to the parking lot located behind the Museum of Science and Industry, parked and walked over to Promontory Point (#42).

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We found a shaded spot to have lunch and enjoyed the view of the skyline. As we ate lunch, I told the kids that George Lucas was married here. Sydney found that very cool.

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Promontory Point is a man-made peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan. It is located in Burnham Park. The Point was constructed from landfill in the late 1930s. It was opened to the public in 1937. Alfred Caldwell designed the landscaping, using native plants and stone. Caldwell’s design featured a raised “meadow” section in the center of the 12-acre peninsula and included hundreds of flowering trees and shrubs. Few of Caldwell’s original plantings remain today.

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Our last stop was at the 57th Street Beach. The view of the beach from Promontory Point was amazing. Especially with the Museum of Science and Industry acting as a backdrop.

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On the walk back to the car, as we were walking under Lake Shore Drive, we spotted a mosaic that perfectly summed up a day.

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Adventure #6 – Gompers Park & LaBagh Woods

We had my sister’s dog, Kasey, for a couple days and wanted to find some dog friendly locations.  So on Friday, we visited Gompers Park (#20 on the list of 50 Ideas for Summer Fun) and LaBagh Woods (#25). Gompers Park covers 39 acres and is located on the north and south sides of Foster Avenue, just west of Pulaski Road. We spent our time on the south side of the park, walking around the lagoon and alongside the rehabilitated wetland area.

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While walking around the lagoon, I spotted a Caspian Tern, circling over head. We all really enjoyed watching the bird dive into the lagoon and fly away with a fish. We also spotted a family of Canadian Geese in the wetlands area.

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Noah had just been to Gompers Park, a couple weeks prior to our visit, on a field trip with his 4th grade class. The students had the opportunity to fish. I lost count on how many fish were caught. Luckily, for the fish, they were released back into the lagoon. We did not fish, but saw so many people enjoying this popular pass time.

We traveled a little further west on Foster Avenue, until we reached the Irene C. Hernandez Picnic Grove. We parked the car and walked north, entering the woods on the paved path. The kids had brought along their scooters and enjoyed riding along the smooth path. I found the signage along the path to be very helpful.

After following the path for a good distance we turned around and headed back. Before leaving we found a dirt path and walked along the Chicago River (North Branch). The mosquitoes were relentless, so our walk was brief. We did see a bridge that once transported trains across the river. Today, it’s a gravel trail that eventually connects to the Sauganash Trail, to the north. We all decided that we would have to come back in the fall, when the leaves are changing color and there are less mosquitoes.

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It was a two hour adventure that everyone enjoyed, kid and dog, alike.

Adventure #5 – Lighthouses on the Mag Mile

On Thursday we woke up early and headed downtown. We walked over to Michigan Avenue to see the Lighthouses (#26 on the list of 50 Ideas for Summer Fun).

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From June 19th thru August 11th, the free public art will be displayed along Michigan Avenue and nearby neighborhoods. Chicago Lighthouse (a world-renowned social service organization serving the blind, visually impaired, disabled and Veteran communities) hopes this will be a call to action for access and inclusion for all people with disabilities. A total of 51 lighthouses were created by national and Chicago artists, many with disabilities.

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I added a little extra fun to our outing by creating Lighthouse Bingo. The kids enjoyed finding the corresponding lighthouses on their bingo cards.

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We started in front of the Wrigley Building and headed north to Water Tower Place.

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Once at the Water Tower Place, we went inside to cool off and find a snack. Unfortunately, it was too early and nothing was open. So, the next best thing was to get take advantage of some photo ops.

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We checked out a few more lighthouses and finally found a morning treat, compliments of Stan’s Donuts (259 E. Erie Street).

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As we said our goodbyes to the amazingly creative lighthouses, we stopped to take in the awesome views that Chicago has to offer.

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Adventure #4 – Lincoln Park

On Tuesday, we packed in quite a few stops in about 4 hours. We went looking for some relics from the Great Chicago Fire. We went nature walking around the North Pond (#39 on the list of 50 Ideas for Summer Fun), Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool (#2) and the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo (#35). We finished off with a quick dip in the lake at North Avenue Beach (#36).

Our first stop was at the last remaining house that survived the Great Chicago Fire. I found this description of the house on www.greatchicagofire.org.

“Located at 2121 North Hudson Street, this is the home that Chicago policeman Richard Bellinger saved from destruction while virtually all other North Division buildings in the path of the fire area were burned down.  Although the late-1860s structure has been much renovated, it retains the charm of the original Italianate design by W. W. Boyington, who was also the architect of the Court House, the Water Tower, and many other pre-fire buildings.  According to the popular story, Officer Bellinger first used water to wet down the house, and, when that ran out, turned to his store of cider. Assisted by his brother-in-law, Bellinger also cleared the dry leaves that were on the property, tore up the nearby wooden sidewalk and fence, and snuffed what sparks he could as soon as they landed.”

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We then went over to the Chicago History Museum (1601 N. Clark Street). I had read about the melted remains of a hardware store, from the Great Chicago Fire, located in some hedges behind the museum. So, we went on a hunt. It was a little difficult to locate because the hedges were pretty tall, but we found it. Hard to believe that the chunk of melted metal was once a hardware store and weighs more than 24 tons.

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While looking for the hardware store, we found the chains, that were once believed to be from the “Great Chain“. I read about their dubious history in the book, Chicago Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities and Other Offbeat Stuff.

“It seems that in the late 1880s, junk dealer John C. Abbey began selling iron links that he claimed had come from the Great Chain (In 1778, American forces stretched a chain across the Hudson River in efforts to stop the British from reaching the inland forts). Buyers, included Chicago sweets manufacturer Charles Frederick Gunther, who was putting together a museum on Wabash Avenue. For several decades the Chicago History Museum proudly displayed these links as a section of the original Great Chain. In the late 1960s, the links were proven to be a fraud. They now reside in a heap, unlabeled, behind the museum.”

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After finding these treasures we grabbed a few pictures behind the Chicago History Museum. I never knew that the back of the museum was so awesome. I always went through the front door.

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As we continued our adventures we made two unscheduled stops. We first came across a rather large statue of Abraham Lincoln (located in the garden behind the Chicago History Museum). The Man (also called the Standing Lincoln) is a 12 foot bronze statue of the 16th president of the United States. The statue was created by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and has been described as the most important sculpture of Lincoln from the 19th century. Thousands of people attended the dedication ceremony on October 22, 1887, where Lincoln’s grandson, Abraham Lincoln II, unveiled the sculpture. Replicas of the statue stand at The Lincoln Tomb in Springfield, Illinois; Parque Lincoln in Mexico City; and Parliament Square in London.

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The second unscheduled stop was at the Tomb of Ira Couch (south of LaSalle Street and north of the Chicago History Museum). Here’s a brief description of the tomb, found on the Chicago Park District website:

“The Couch Tomb is the last above-ground reminder of Lincoln Park’s earlier history as a public cemetery. Ira Couch (1806–1857) moved to Chicago from New York with his brother James Couch (1800–1892) in 1836. After operating a store together for a year, they leased the Tremont House at Lake and Dearborn Streets, and the two brothers became inn-keepers. Although the original building burned down, they ran several subsequent hotels that used the Tremont name.

Ira Couch hired John M. Van Osdel, the city’s first professional architect, to design a family mausoleum in the City Cemetery. Osdel, who had moved here from New York, was architect of Chicago’s first City Hall and the Couch’s 1850 Tremont House. Ira Couch and several other members of the Couch family were interred in the mausoleum.

After the cemetery land became part of Lincoln Park in 1869, families were expected to make arrangements to move the remains of their relatives. It is not entirely clear as to why the Couch Tomb was left behind. It seems likely; however, that surviving family members thought it too expensive to move the fifty-ton structure to another cemetery. By 1899, the Lincoln Park Commissioners asserted that “…it would be impossible to remove the vault, except at great expense, and the Commissioners preferred to allow it to remain as an interesting reminder of the Park’s origin.”

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From there, we headed over to the North Pond (2610 N. Cannon Drive). We enjoyed a walk around the pond, spotting an usual looking goose (domesticated Greylag Goose), baby Wood Ducks and numerous Green Herons and turtles. The kids became very concerned for the turtle, not knowing if the Green Heron would eat it. Luckily, the Heron had no interest in the turtle and was only looking for some fish.

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We also came across the Abandoned Shoreline of Lake Michigan plaque. I have passed this marker numerous times, not knowing it was there. My youngest daughter found it on this visit.

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It was then on to the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool (125 W. Fullerton Parkway). Known as Chicago’s Hidden Garden. It is a tranquil place that “resembles a river meandering through a great Midwestern prairie.”

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Our adventures continued at the Nature Boardwalk of Lincoln Park Zoo (South Pond). Located just south of the Lincoln Park Zoo. The views from the Boardwalk are amazing. It’s where the city and nature meet and live harmoniously.

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Our last stop of the day, brought us to North Avenue Beach (1600 N. Lake Shore Drive). Just a quick trip across the bridge and the kids were happy to finally eat lunch and have a quick swim in the lake.

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It was definitely a whirlwind of a day, but everyone had a fun time and got to see some pretty cool things.

Adventure #3 – Firehouse & Garfield Park Conservatory

On Monday, we paid a visit to Engine 96 / Truck 29’s house on 441 N. Waller, on Chicago’s west side. We were excited to see Chris’ new firehouse. After floating around from house to house for a few years, it’s nice to have a place to call home.

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We enjoyed taking a tour of the house and seeing the fire poles (there are a few). I found it very interesting to learn that the very first fire pole was invented in Chicago in 1878 at Engine 21. It was discovered by accident when a firefighter used a long, wooden pole to slide down from the hayloft when an alarm came in. We were not able to to go down the pole, but that didn’t stop us from taking a few pictures.

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We were a little disappointed when we didn’t see the goats next door (yes, goats). The neighbors to the north are four-legged, grass eating, goats. Which, unfortunately, were not out. I’m sure we will be back again, if not for the goats, definitely to visit our favorite firefighter in all of Chicago. Actually, make that the world!

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After leaving the firehouse, I talked the kids into a brief stop at the Garfield Park Conservatory (#19 on the list of 50 Ideas for Summer Fun). We were way to close, not to make a visit. We moved quickly through the Palm House. Stopping briefly to read about the biggest and oldest Palm Tree (the Scheelea Palm dates back to 1926) at the Conservatory and checking out the display made from the wishes of many visitors to the Conservatory.

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We then walked through the Show House, Aroid House, and Desert House to get to the Children’s Garden. Even though they are getting bigger, they still enjoy a ride down the slide. After they got a few trips down, we headed back to the Desert House to exit the Conservatory and enter the outside gardens.

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We walked directly to the water lily garden. In another month the pond will be covered in lily pads and flowers. An amazing site to see. We were fortunate to see many lilies and many active dragonflies during our visit.

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Before we left, there was a quick walk through the maze. We then headed back inside, through the Sugar from the Sun room and then back to the Palm room, where we said our goodbyes. Until next time!

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Adventure #2 – West Ridge Nature Preserve

Yesterday, we traveled on Chicago’s longest street (running 24 miles from Howard Street to the north, down to 119th to the south), Western Avenue. We only drove a couple miles north to the West Ridge Nature Preserve (#50 on the list of 50 Ideas for Summer Fun), located at 5801 N Western Avenue. Originally planned to be converted into a retail area, this 20 acres of woods (undeveloped for 100 years) was acquired from Rosehill Cemetery and transferred to the Chicago Park District in 2011. The Mayor’s Nature and Wildlife Advisory Committee declared “The site is important both for the conservation of biodiversity, in particular native birds, and also as a place for urban residents to experience nature.  The nature preserve is truly special for the feeling it gives of a sanctuary from the busyness of city life”.

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We followed the winding path that surrounds the preserve, stopping to look at some artwork (created by children in the neighborhood) and of course to act goofy.

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As we walked the path there were numerous overlooks that offer awesome views of the preserve.

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As we enjoyed the scenery that surrounded us, we kept our eyes open for some Chicago wildlife. We were not disappointed. We spotted a Mallard Duck, numerous Monarch Butterflies, an Indigo Bunting and a baby Red-eared Slider, just to name a few.

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West Ridge Nature Preserve is a great place to escape the city without leaving the city. It’s a peaceful oasis that offers you a great way to connect to nature.

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It’s also a great place to let loose and just have a fun time.

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We finished our afternoon with a stop further up Western. We visited Lickity Split (7000 N. Western) for the first time and had some frozen custard.

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We really enjoyed the ambience and loved all the old time candy and treats. We’ll be visiting again!

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