5 great Chicago places to not take the kids

From sports to shopping, culture to clubbing, Chicago has attractions for every age and interest. For parents in the Chicago area, visits to the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, and Lincoln Park Zoo are practically mandatory. These are popular sites for school field trips as well. In Chicago, evenings are for adults with theater, dining, dancing, and drinking. A day in Chicago without the kids can rekindle a spirit of wonder and adventure – or just be an interesting day away from work and parenting.

Start the morning off with a visit to the Driehaus Museum, 40 E. Erie Street, for a guided tour of Chicago’s grandest mansion preserved from the Gilded Age and renovated by Chicago investor and philanthropist Richard Driehaus.  He added pieces from his significant private collection of Tiffany glass. This three-story mansion was constructed in 1879, and some original furnishings remain. The rooms are conservatively furnished with period pieces, artifacts from the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition, and Tiffany glass.

Morning

Among its many treasures is the original oak dining room table that holds a Tiffany silver punch bowl first exhibited at the 1893 fair. Iridescent Tiffany goblets glow on a hand-carved wooden sideboard. A 1910 Tiffany lamp made of nautilus shells and amber glass is one-of-a-kind. Sold for $550, it is priceless now.

Lunch

Enjoy a gourmet hot dog at Allium at The Four Seasons Chicago Hotel, 120 E Delaware Place. The restaurant features modern American cuisine with regional, farm-to-table dishes. The beef is from Creekstone Farms where the cattle are free from growth hormones and antibiotics. The menu changes to take advantage of locally grown seasonal produce. But one item never changes: the Chicago Hot Dog.

Lunch

A Chicago hot dog is usually eaten on the street or at the ball park with mustard and relish juice dissolving flimsy paper napkins. Allium’s hot dog and the condiments are made in house: the meat, the casings, the pickle relish, mustard and the poppy seed bun are all from the chef’s kitchen. One never puts catsup on a Chicago hot dog, but the fries come with a tangy balsamic catsup created by the chef. The fries are served in a brown paper bag to separate them from the hot dog.

Afternoon

The 150-year-old Chicago History Museum is a modern, expertly curated museum displaying Chicago artifacts and historical documents. Visitors can witness Chicago emerging from a fort to a world class city through dioramas that include the infamous fire of 1871. (No, it was not started by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, although her barn was the first building consumed by the conflagration that killed three hundred and left 100,000 homeless.) Highlights include the original “L” train, Chicago sports memorabilia, items salvaged from the fire, a jazz club, and fashions, appliances, and toys from Chicago’s historical storefronts. The museum displays a large poster with the definitive description of the Chicagohot dog – just like the one you may have enjoyed at Allium.

Afternoon

Dinner

Maxwell’s at the Club is located off the lobby of The East Bank Club at 500 North Kingsbury Street. Booths and tables create intimate dining spaces. The lighting is low enough to set the mood, but bright enough to read the menu and find the bread basket containing house-made flat bread and whole grain bread.

East Bank Club

Their “Small Plates Wednesday” allow a diner to choose three small plates from a special menu. Cold plates include roasted pear with toasted almonds, Brussels sprout salad, potato and fennel salad, caprese salad, and grilled seafood salad. Hot plates are potato and salmon cake, broccoli with onion and cheese, vegetable ravioli, and lamb koftas with pine nuts. The third choice “specialty plates” are seared sea scallops, rotisserie chicken breast with pomegranate, moonfish with orange fennel salsa, and beer-battered cod. If you are too full for dessert, ask for a dessert sampler platter to share.

Evening

The theater, of course, but not the usual break-the-plastic Chicago theaters and big name performances. The Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier has two auditoriums. On a recent visit, I attended the 6th floor venue that seats 200 for a sold-out performance of The Table by London’s Blind SummitA two-foot tall, cantankerous “Moses” demands to know if his cardboard face is Kosher. The puppet is operated and given voice by three talented and always visible puppeteers. They are so adept at improvising, it was either was on-script or “whoops” when Moses’ gnarled, little hand went flying into the audience.

Evening

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