Headed to the Windy City? Design Director Sasha Adler offers up her picks on the best museums for kids, where to get the ultimate deep-dish pizza, and the must-see, can’t-miss activities and sites to keep the little ones occupied so you get the most out of all that Chicago has to offer!
Describe Chicago in 3 words.
Energetic, Cultured, Easy-going
Best hotel in Chicago when travelling with kids?
I always recommend the Peninsula. It’s a perfect location and the hotel is kid friendly. They usually send a thoughtful treat for kids to the room upon arrival, which starts the vacation off on the right foot. They have an amazing Sunday brunch, which features a kid’s station at the perfect height for them to serve themselves delicious items like macaroni & cheese, chicken fingers and gummy bears, as well as a decadent chocolate buffet on weekend nights.
Your favourite place to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner? Why?
Breakfast – Lula Cafe in Logan Square is amazing. The food is organic, creative and delicious.
Lunch – Fred’s at Barney’s is my go-to spot. It’s perfect for a girl’s lunch, a business meeting or, surprisingly, even lunch with kids. The room is airy, the food is delicious and the tables are not too close together, so there is plenty of room for a stroller or high chair. Plus, it’s always a great excuse to look through the store after.
Dinner – Avec is my absolute favorite. It’s a sophisticated little wine bar that does not take reservations, but it’s always worth the wait, which you can do outside with a bottle of wine during the summer. There are communal tables, so I often end up chatting with the people next to me and checking out what they have ordered. The food is extraordinary. My favorites: shaved apple salad with celery and manchego, foccacia with truffle taleggio cheese and bacon-wrapped dates in a piquillo pepper sauce
What is your favourite thing to do with your kids in Chicago?
When I was a little girl, my mom used to take me to the Art Institute and let me pick out postcards of my favorite works of art. Then we would have a treasure hunt around the museum to try and find the real pieces. It made learning about art so much fun. My daughter is too young now, but I cannot wait to carry on this tradition with her. Plus, the new Renzo Piano Modern Wing is not to be missed.
Kid friendly museum?
There are so many incredible museums in Chicago, including The Museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium, The Nature Museum and Field Museum. Although, Chicago Children’s Museum is at the top of my list. There is so much to do there for every age group. Kids can design their own skyscraper, dress up like a firefighter and explore the firetruck or put on a rain coat and play in the water station. It is a guaranteed fun time.
Best places to eat with kids?
Athenian Room is a great, local spot in Lincoln Park. It is super-casual and family-friendly, plus they have amazing Greek food and hamburgers.
Sweet Mandy B’s is the best dessert destination for kids. The candy-colored interior is the perfect spot to enjoy a homemade cupcake, banana pudding or frosted cookies.
Best outdoor activity?
Millennium Park is such a fun, outdoor destination. The huge silver bean and outdoor sculptures are definitely sites to see. Plus, kids have a blast splashing in the Crown fountain in the summer or ice skating in the winter.
The Trump Spa in Chicago has the best massages.
I get my hair done at…
Charles Lord (tel: +1 312.330.6110)
I get my manicure/pedicure at…
The Peninsula Spa.
The three shops I can’t live without are…
Bonpoint and Odile for gorgeous kid’s clothes. Blake for women’s clothing. Pavilion, Douglas Rosin and Revival for vintage and antique furnishings.
Who I have on my Chicago speed dial and why…
CEO Deliveries – They pick up and deliver from all the best restaurants in town and are the perfect solution for nights when you do not want to cook, but cannot bare unhealthy takeout.
Best place for ice cream / cupcakes / burgers etc.
Weiner Circle is a Chicago legend. They have the most amazing Chicago-style charred hot dogs and French fries. Late night, the crowd gets really wild; the employees are infamous for screaming obscenities at the customers and putting on a real show.
Kuma’s Corner has the most amazing hamburgers in the entire world. They are undoubtedly worth the wait, which can be over an hour at times. They also have a make-your-own macaroni and cheese on the menu where you can add in your own ingredients.
Lou Malnati’s is hands down the best spot for Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza.
Your favourite souvenirs?
If you come to Chicago during baseball season, no trip would be complete without a visit to Wrigley Field. The historic stadium and energetic fans make the game exciting for even non-baseball enthusiasts.
The Chicago Architecture Cruise that takes you on the Chicago River and out onto Lake Michigan to learn about some of the important buildings around the city.
Favourite time of year in Chicago, why and what do you love to do?
The spring and summer are absolutely the most fun in Chicago. There are so many amazing outdoor activities, concerts and events occurring all over the city. The lakefront comes alive with boats, athletes, families etc. On a nice day, I love to go to the Green City Market in Lincoln Park. It’s an incredible, year-round farmer’s market in Lincoln Park. They often have cooking demonstrations and live entertainment.
What advice would you give families visiting Chicago?
Chicago is definitely an easy city to visit with a family. There is so much to see and it is very easy to get around. I would plan to visit a different area of town every day since there is so much to see, depending on kid’s individual interests. I would recommend doing a little research prior to arrival to find the perfect activities. For instance, if your child loves to cook, Kid’s Table is an amazing cooking school just for kids. There are always kid-friendly restaurant and theater options. Plus, something as simple as taking our ‘L’ (elevated train) around the city can be a blast
Of all the tourist spots Chicago has on offer which would you try not to miss?
The Lincoln Park Zoo is one of my favorite activities on a nice day. There is so much to see and do. You can visit the farm in the zoo, go paddle boating on the pond or have a picnic on the grounds.
Tell us one thing about Chicago we don’t know…
Chicago is far more sophisticated than people think, even though it’s located in the Midwest.
Sasha Adler is the Design Director for Nate Berkus Associates, a full-service design firm that handles projects across the country and around the world. She began her career working in fashion, serving as an editor of a French fashion magazine based in New York, where she soon realized that her passion for styling photo shoots and composing inventive color palettes would be better expressed through interior design. In April 2011, Sasha was featured in Traditional Home’s prestigious list of 20 Designers to Watch. She lives in her hometown Chicago with her husband and daughter.