Illinois Things to Do Tips by Faiza-Ifrah Top 5 Page for this destination
Illinois Things to Do: 137 reviews and 244 photos
Bridge over the Chicago river.
We, husband and wife, have totally different reason to walk on the Magnificient Mile of the Michigan Avenue than our children. They have shopping on their mind. The problem is parking. We had taken our 4 wheeler down to Illinois, but taking it to Chicago's downtown would have been costly in terms of money and time. So when my brother volunteered to drive us down to this portion of the Michigan Avenue we were grateful to him.
Like always, we started with shopping at Sports Authority and doing a quick lunch at Rock 'Roll MacDonald. Then we started walking on the Michigan Avenue. Admiring the buildings, shopping at Water Plaza, and finally gazing at the narrow streak at that time of the year (March 18, 2007) that is Chicago River from the bridge, we never realized that it was 8 pm. We had spent nearly 10 hours starting from Sports Authority to just talking over Chicago River.
Rayyan plays with a dolphin
Shedd is without any doubt the World's Aquarium. Here, in a live dolphin show at the 'Oceanarium', my son Rayyan was invited in front of a capacity audience to feed and play with Pacific White-sided Dolphins (see the pictures).
When we entered Shedd Aquarium, the 5 of us were so excited that each decided to move in different direction. Commonsense prevailed soon, we got together and laid out a plan to explore the aquarium in an organized manner.
For the next 7 hours we entered the underwater in our imagination donning mask and flippers. 'Waters of the World' section mesmirised us by its collection of sea life from Iguanas to seahorses to frogs to Australian lungfish.
'Carribean Reef' section brought us face to face with rays, parrot fish, bone head sharks, green sea turtles. Here we saw a diver in the awesome tank feeding the fish.
Anacondas, piranhas, birds, poisnous frogs and a plethora of fishes call it home at 'Amazon Rising'.
We then walked to 'Oceanarium' where we saw the demonstration of playful Pacific white-sided dolphins. Moving on, we saw feeding of Alaska sea otters, penguins, and something that really captivated us - Beluga whales. There was a baby beluga too, named Bela, born in july 2005, swimming alongside of her caring mother.
Finally, we had to take an elevator down to the ' Wild Reef' section. The Aquarium has created a rich eco-system here, complete with corals (which incidently are grown up within the laboratories of the Aquarium as is most fish), sharks and more than 500 species of reef fishes. Of special interest to us was a display where fish were thriving in an artificial rocky reefs pounded upon by waves.
Finally, each one of us had our pick at the Gift shop.
Directions: Take exit on Street 18 on Lakeshore Drive.
Ifrah by an astronomical instrument
Ifrah had to complete her school project on beginning and ending of the universe. So when the debate started on which attraction to visit, she had her say rather emphatically - Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum it was without any doubt.
The first thing we did was to go for the maximum options by purchasing the fullest package. Grabbing the audio tour gadget turned out to be a good investment as we were able to listen to recorded audio on exhibitions and collections (see Rayyan in picture # 5).
We watched the show called "Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity". The website has a good piece on the show.
The other sections that interested us were comparing our ages and weights if we lived on other celestial bodies like Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter or on Haley Comet (see Rayyan in picture # 3). After observing some astronomy instrument (Ifrah in picture # 1), we were invited by a guide outside to see activity on the sun through a telescopic image. The view of chicago downtown from both inside and outside the building were gorgeous.
By this time, we had started feeling like we were starving. So we had our lunch in the Planetarium's beautifully designed restaurant (see under resturant tips).
The sections on astronomy through the ages was simply marvellous. These sections showed how different cultures and civilizations observed skies to perform various customs.
The Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum is America's first Planetarium. It was founded in 1930 by Chicago business leader Max Adler. The original machine that was used as planetarium is still used for education purposes. We entered it and enjoyed the old technology. It reminded us of some Walt Disney Rides.
Finally, as usual, we entered the Infinity Gift Shop. Everybody had something to buy. In the end, Rayyan was declared the absolute winner. he got the things that were most pompous :-)
Address: 1300 South Lakeshore Drive
Directions: Lakeshore Drive, exit street # 18.
Buckingham Fountain by night.
VT members and my brother's family had mentioned Buckingham Fountain as the finest place to visit. But having lived in the United Arab Emirates, which is known for its beautiful fountains, we had written it off. However, when we visited it at dusk, we just stayed there for over 3 hours, stunned in awe.
The time is best utilized in seeing the water under changing shades of light, but more so on looking at the desigs and minute details of this architectural marvel.
The best time would be just before dusk to take pictures both in the daylight, at dusk and then at night.
Caution: Parking is a big bummer. Although we had planned as above, finding parking itself took over an hour.
A superb performance
For more pix, please see the travelogue.
Must see activities: butterfly conservatory, dolphin show, A new polar bear cub is the star at this beautiful, world-class zoo. Ponits to remember:
1. The zoo is open every day of the year. However, plan to visit for the entire day to do justice to yourself and to the animals. Also, if you have limited time, first plan what to see and do. If unplanned, you can end up paying too much for too little.
2. If you live in the vicinity and can afford to visit often, please do so. I can tell you that 1 day is just not enough.
3. We took the train first to have a bird eye view of the park. That helped us think about the immense distance that we had to traverse and to decide where to go first.
4. Members pay less. So if you live in the vicinity consider becoming member.
5. We observed while visiting Lincoln Zoo in Chicago that fall and winter could be less crowded in Brookfield Zoo than summer and spring. Also the animals tend to be more curious about visitors when it is quiet and there are fewer people inside the buildings.
6. Bring binoculars in order to observe animals up close. Alternatively, use zoom lens of your camera. This latter technique cannot be used with kids.
7. Observe plant life of the zoo as well.
8. Check at the entrances when you arrive for announcements about new zoo babies. For example, we were able to see the dolphin calf, still under training, after reading the announcement.
Address: 8400 31st St, Brookfield, IL 60513
Directions: Located at First Avenue between Ogden Avenue and 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois. There are exits to First Avenue from the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) and from the Stevenson Expressway (I-55).
Phone: (708) 485-0263
Old State Capital Historic Site, Springfield
In addition to admiring the exterior of this historic Greek Revival building dominating the downtown square in Springfield, visitors must see State Library, Law Library, Supreme Court, Governor’ Reception Room, Governor’s Office and Lincoln Desk.
As a member of the Illinois General Assembly, Lincoln helped move the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield in that year. Lincoln was a frequent visitor to this building even before becoming President, since he tried cases before the Illinois Supreme Court, did research in the libraries, and gave his famous "House Divided" speech in Representatives Hall.
A Snow Leopard, our favorite wild animal.
We highly recommend a day-long picnic oriented visit to the zoo, although people like my husband, who is a Bronx Zoo fan, think that the zoo is too small and the city weather conditions give too short a window for fully exploring the park.
History: in 1868 Chicago’s Lincoln Park Commissioner received the gift of a pair of swans from New York’s Central Park Commissioner - ahem the rivals that is. These swans attracted a number of visitors so that the next animal, a bear cub was brought for US$10 in 1874. Today, over 1,000 animals have joined these swans and the bear cub.
The zoo is a great place to spend a warm, sunny day outside and to have lunch in its flowery gardens with a view of skyscrapers surrounding the park in the summers or alternatively just getting comfortable in freezing winter temperatures inside the warm halls.
We always spend the entire day exploring the zoo grounds.
Surprisingly, the Zoo is privately managed and is supported by the Chicago Park district. It is open 365 days a year between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., (Memorial Day through Labor Day from 9:00 to 7:00).
As a family, you would like to take young children to the Pritzker Children’s Zoo. There is a zoo nursery and petting zoo, which the children from ages 1 to 99 all seem to enjoy. The Farm-in-the-Zoo replicates agricultural life of a traditional midwestern farm with conventional animals and if you are lucky vis-à-vis timing, a demonstration of farm activities.
Directions: It is located at 2200 north cannon drive, and can be reached by either car or public transportation.
The trail of the most famous son of Illinois ends at Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site, Oak Ridge Cemetery at Springfield.
If you are interested in discovering the historic heritage of illinois then what could be better than following the trail of Honest Abe. Begin from the Visitor Center at New Salem.
First see the Avard Fairbank's famous nine-foot bronze sculpture of Lincoln presented to the State of Illinois in 1954. The statue is located close to the Visitor Center in New Salem. It portrays a young Lincoln in the symbolic act of taking up his law books and disowning the axe. Lincoln first started studying law while he lived at New Salem.
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