The American Girl Dolls are hugely popular with little girls, especially for 2 special girls in my life, ages 4 & 7. While in Chicago, we visited the American Girl Doll store in the Water Tower Place, a close neighbor to the John Hancock Center.
There is a bookstore, hair salon (for the dolls), photo studio, Hospital (for emergency doll repair), snack shop, and cafe.
This store is 52,000 square feet split between 2 levels and has everything you never knew you needed for Doll and Doll accessories.
I reserved our table for afternoon tea 3 weeks in advance via the web site. We arrived early to allow for horrible Chicago traffic, plus nightmare parking, which left us a bit of time to shop before check-in for tea (15 minutes before tea time). Afternoon tea is seated promptly at 4 PM.
Girls are encouraged to bring their Dolls to tea, and each Doll is seated at the table is a miniature high-chair. Pink lemonade can be substituted for tea, for the heathen non-tea drinkers.
Warm mini-cinnamon rolls and tea are served first. Next, a tower of goodies is served including, tiny sandwiches, pigs in blanket, meatballs, quiche, scones, and fruit kabob.
The final course is a jello slice, and Oreo dusted mousse topped with a flower to resemble a tiny potted flower pot. Our tea was between birthdays for both girls, our wait staff brought them a special birthday cupcake complete with candle.
The service was quite good, the food was tasty, and the experience was delightful overall!
I was able to add a photograph at check-in, and during tea the photographer come by to snap multiple photos. After tea we selected our favorite at the photo studio and we had an instant souvenir. We added outfits for each girl and matching outfits for the Dolls, plus a new Doll pet, shoes, and a few other outfits.
The American Girl Doll store is not cheap. Be prepared to spend time and money here, and have a really good time doing it!
Le Chocolat du Bouchard is a delightful, little, neighborhood chocolate & coffee shop located in Downtown Naperville (Chicago suburb). They have a variety of chocolate everything! The decor is charming, the entire store is inviting you to come in and enjoy a slice of chocolate cake with your coffee and a lazy afternoon.
I like visiting museums. I am fascinated by engineering and basically how stuff is made. Recently, while in Chicago, we toured the Museum of Science and Industry. Like everything in Chicago, it was not a cheap visit.
With so many things to do and see, here are my favorites; interactive exhibits, like the tornado and hot-air balloons from the Science Storms, an actual 727 airplane suspended from the building, vintage firetrucks, and displays of vintage & modern aircraft and spacecraft!
Above the basic admission, they offer extra tours, exhibits, and other “add-ons”.
A captured German U-boat (submarine) basic exhibit is included in the general admission, with option to add-on a guided tour. If you have time, definitely add the tour! Great for children 10+, the tour is informative and just really neat! Two doorways are cut into the side and you walk (almost) the entire length of the boat! It was amazing to see the navigation stations, kitchen, bunk beds, torpedo storage, and so much more!
Our final add-on was the coal mine tour. This is the original and has been a permanent exhibit since 1933. The coal mine is a great family activity, perfect for Children 5 and up. The tour starts in a working coal mine elevator and includes a quick train ride and lots of fun-facts. There is working equipment that spans old and modern mining techniques.
There were many other exhibits and activities that we wanted to see, but our trip was cut short due to lousy transportation. If you are visiting from a Chicago-suburb, it is much easier to drive directly to the museum and pay to park. Otherwise, you may experience a significant delay on the bus or train. There was an event downtown that resulted in many bus routes being detoured, so we ended up in the worst part of South Chicago for a bus transfer. I would not even recommend walking from the train station at 55th/56th. If you really want to take the bus, or have no other options, the X28 is the best option.
I really enjoyed our visit to the museum and will plan to go back on our next visit to the Chicago area.
June 2014 Update – Made it back to the museum and brought my two favorite little girls, ages 4 & 7 years. They loved the coal mine tour, and earned a ton of stickers for participation and correct answers during the tour.
We went on a “free” day and the museum was packed with people, mostly school children. The extra cost add-on tours were a break from the bus loads of kids and other families enjoying the museum at no cost. For a family of 4 or more, the free day is really worth it, if you can handle the crowds and noise.
There is currently an add-on tour of Treasure of the Walt Disney Archives that displays various Disney props and costumes. There is also a hands-on drawing portion of the exhibit. The girls were mildly interested, but spent most of the entire 10 minutes in the exhibit starting at the cartoon clips shown on multiple screens. I adore all things Disney, but this was just a waste of time & money for the girls and adults. Save your money and spend 10 minutes looking over the images from the website, they offer better views than those in person behind the display glass.
The Fairy Castle was a nice break from the crowds, even thought it is part of the free collection the exhibit enclosure automatically limits the number of people at a time. The multi-level castle has an enclosed garden, ballroom, library, and so much more.
There are many interactive activities and games for the kids. Including solar car racing, life-size hamster wheel, hot-air balloon launches, trains big & small, and a miniature rocket launch.
This is absolutely one of my favorite museums, and once again, one of the highlights of every visit to Chicago!
I was told that this year was smaller than previous years, for both restaurants and crowds. A lite drizzle of rain really cleared the streets of Grants Park on Friday. I was glad to avoid the crowds, and I am not sure we really missed out on fewer vendors. Many smaller or less well-known restaurants were able to make an appearance in “pop-up restaurants” which allowed many delicious food options. There were MANY pizza places, and a great variety of food from around the world. Our favorite meal of the day was Jerk Chicken Belize-style from Garifuna Flava.
Tickets were 12 for $8. Eli’s cheesecake offered “taste” size original cheesecake for just 3 tickets ($2). While most glasses of wine were between 8 to 10 tickets (average $6 each). 3 Ticket items were rare, and most portions were 8 tickets. Not enough places had true sample or tasting size portions. There were quite a few chain and multiple location restaurants, and only a few unique Mom & Pop places that we could see.
Overall, we left full and happy. We ate some good food and some amazing food. The cool weather and a bit of precipitation was an added bonus!