Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer [weekend] Of the Universe: Adler Planetarium

If you follow me on twitter or Instagram, you know that we had a pretty amazing weekend. You may have even told me that you were jealous and I probably replied that I understood because, well, it was an amazing weekend.

Last month, I received an email from the public relations manager at Adler Planetarium inviting my family and me to spend a weekend in Chicago experiencing Adler. Shane and I actually went to Adler on our first date and hadn't yet taken the boys, so I thought this would definitely be a good opportunity to take them--as well as an opportunity to let them experience Chicago as tourists. Since we live close to Chicago, we don't normally stay overnight. I knew that this offer would let us see the city like tourists and I was pretty (okay, REALLY) excited.

The best part of this weekend was that although we were given several different vouchers for things in the city, we weren't told when to do these things. It was designed to be a self-guided experience, and I can't say enough what a great idea that was. As anyone with young kids know, it's sometimes tough to keep to a strict schedule and is much easier to work with them instead of against them. The fact that Adler let us do that really means a lot and made this weekend that much more enjoyable.

So, what DID we do? As I said, we got to shape our weekend, so we left early Saturday afternoon and headed to the Swissotel Chicago. We opted to do valet parking, which was a quick and easy experience and upon checking in, we were given a great gift bag from Adler. The boys were so excited at their new goodies, but they were equally as excited with this view.
That little head in the picture is Tommy's. He didn't move from the window for at least 20 minutes. I cannot rave enough about our accommodations. We stayed in the classic double room, a perfect size for us. The room itself was gorgeous and very clean. I especially loved that the bathroom had a separate bathtub and shower, which is not something you often see in hotels. Once we tore ourselves away from the incredible view, we decided to head to dinner. What's nice about the Swissotel is that it's very close to Michigan Avenue, but there are also always taxis at the ready if you want to go further. As we were going a little further and didn't feel like the long walk with the boys, we decided to take a taxi. It was so nice to be able to step outside the hotel and get right into a taxi. And the boys? They were thrilled at the prospect of their first ever cab ride!
Although I've eaten my fair share of Chicago style, deep dish pizza, I'm ashamed to say that I'd never eaten Lou Malnati's.
It's safe to say that we all thought it was some of the best pizza we've ever had and we stuffed ourselves silly.
I also can't rave enough about the service. Despite it being a very busy location and it being a Saturday night, with a wait for seats and a wait for pizza, our waitress was so on top of things. She refilled our drinks constantly, brought out the food as quickly as she could, and had a smile on her face the entire time. Even when Tommy, of course, had a pre-food meltdown.

After dinner, we snagged a taxi to Navy Pier and hopped on a different kind of taxi--a water taxi. Before this weekend, I was unaware that Shoreline Sightseeing water taxis go between the museum campus and Navy Pier. It's only a short 10-15 minute trip and you get the chance to view Chicago from a different angle. My kids loved the boat ride and we all loved the sights.

After our boat ride, we headed back to the hotel, where we ooh-ed over our view in the dark.
Then we hit up the swimming pool, located on the 42nd floor. I also want to note that the Swissotel has what appeared to be an awesome fitness center with great views of the Lake. Luke noted, "Mom, you could run tomorrow," but I'd already done my run and was planning on being lazy! As luck would have it, we got the boys out of the pool, bathed and settled in just in time to watch the Navy Pier fireworks. We had a pretty good view, I'd say.

I want to rave over how quiet the Swissotel was. I know there were people all around us, yet I didn't hear a peep. The rooms appear to be spaced apart so well that you don't even hear TVs filtering through the walls, as you would in other hotels. This is huge to me.
When we woke up in the morning, we... well, we raved over the view. Are you surprised?
After a great breakfast at Eggys, which a twitter friend recommended to us knowing how close to the hotel it was, we reluctantly packed up and checked out of the hotel.

The trip from Swissotel to Adler was pretty quick, even with the air and water show going on this weekend. I have to say that the view from Adler Planetarium comes pretty close to tying with the view from our hotel room in terms of amazing.
What I love the most about Adler are the different shows that they have in the theaters and I couldn't wait to show the boys. I wasn't sure what would be best for them, but the man at the desk was really helpful in going through the different choices with me and helped me choose the two earliest shows that they would probably enjoy the most. Luke was absolutely enthralled with the way the shows worked and was excited before they even began.
Tommy was a little more skeptical, but he enjoyed them once it started and he settled in and watched it. Luke loved the way the cameras would zoom and circle and go really fast from one point to the next. I loved watching his face and watching him absorb every little bit of it. I have to say that the new Welcome to the Universe show is incredible. We were all in awe of what technology can create and it's definitely great for all ages. We also loved Night Sky Live!, which is a live show that changes seasonally and explains what stars you would be able to see in the night sky tonight and why you only see certain stars at certain times of the year.

After taking in three shows, Tommy was starting to get a little sleepy so we thought we should explore a little more. Luke really enjoyed the Telescopes exhibit. You were able to look through several different telescopes and view early concepts of telescopes, as well as see yourself through infrared. Both boys really liked that!
They were also huge fans of Planet Explorers, which has three different plays areas and is meant to inspire imaginations and learning. I like how Adler does a good job of balancing the "hands off" type of exhibits with hands on. In fact, I felt like there was more for the boys to touch and do than there was that they couldn't touch. Even in the theatre, we felt like we were a part of the shows, due to the way the screen surrounds you.
We were hardly out of the parking lot before this little astronaut was asking when we could go again--I believe that speaks for itself!

Parts of our weekend were generously provided to us by Swissotel, Shoreline Sightseeing, Lou Malnati's, and Adler Planetarium, but opinions are all my own


nicole said...

What a great trip! So glad your family got this opportunity.

Erin said...

What a fun trip before the school year begins! Makes me want to visit Chicago even more!


Julie said...

Dude, that's awesome! And, is Lou's not the BEST PIZZA EVER??? I loved watching your weekend unfold over IG, facebook and Twitter!

Crooked Eyebrow said...

what an awesome weekend! So glad you got the chance before heading back to school!I have never been to any of those places, hey sound fun!

Anonymous said...

I don't really picture Adler as a place for young kids - but after this I might need to plan a trip. So fun!

Kaycee said...

That sounds amazing and I am totally jealous! But I am so glad you got such a beautiful weekend with your family. It sounds like it was fabulous! If I remember correctly you are back to work this week, which means I can almost count on one hand the days I have left. Unfortunately.

Mimi's Toes said...

What an amazing trip to the best City around. That view was to die for. It makes me want to book a room and just camp out. It's nice to know we have such great places to see and do so close to home. Glad your family was blessed with this mini vacation.

Mimi's Toes said...
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Kate said...

Oh Erin, that looked awesome! SO glad you guys had a relaxing time.

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

that looks like a lot of fun!

Unknown said...

Wow, so much fun! I love that city. I hope to visit again soon and with my family too at some point!

kristi said...

Awesome photos!

Corrin said...

This makes me miss home something fierce.