Million Mile Secrets team member Jasmin visited Chicago with her 3 kids to see Hamilton – An American Musical. And she did NOT wait months for tickets or pay a small fortune!
She’ll tell you how she traveled with her family to Chicago using miles, points, and credit card perks for an unforgettable weekend of Big Travel with Small Money!
We had an amazing time seeing Hamilton! And despite the quick visit, we packed in tons of other activities. Including a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry and participating in one of the largest protests in Chicago’s history!
Seeing Hamilton in Chicago for Cheap Index
- Part 1 – Introduction and Planning
- Part 2 – Flights and Hotel
- Part 3 – Hamilton – An American Musical
- Part 4 – Museum of Science & Industry and Other Activities in Chicago
We Saved ~$43 on Admission to the Largest Science Center in the Western Hemisphere!
There are so many museums and fun places for kids in Chicago, it was hard to pick just one for our Sunday adventure.
The kids and I chose the Museum of Science and Industry. It’s the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere, gets terrific reviews, and has exhibits dedicated to aviation and weather (our favorite things!).
1. Getting to the Museum
We took a Lyft to the museum, which was a ~15 minute drive from the hotel. There’s also a bus, but we were on a tight schedule and wanted to make the most of our time there.
Tickets to the museum cost $16 for adults and $9 for kids ages 3 to 11 if you buy online (otherwise they’re $2 more at the door). You’ll also pay extra if you want to visit certain special exhibits, like the coal mine, Omnimax theater, or submarine tour.
Tip: If your family (like mine) has a membership at your local science museum or center, you may be able to get into the Museum of Science and Industry for free! The museum is part of the Association of Science – Technology Centers which includes a Travel Passport program, offering reciprocal benefits to members at other locations.
2. Extreme Weather, Aviation, Baby Chicks, and More!
Upon arrival the kids made a beeline for the weather section. They spent a lot of time at the tornado simulator…
… and the tsunami wave generator. These kids are fascinated by destruction!
The aviation section was particularly compelling, because we spend so much time traveling and on airplanes. There’s an actual, full size, formerly operational United Airlines Boeing 727 permanently installed in the museum. As well as other smaller aircraft from various eras.
Check out this cool video showing how they got the airplane to the museum!
The kids were amused by sitting in a real jet engine.
And my daughter got a kick out of sitting in an “old-timey” airplane cabin. Which made Mommy feel very old-timey!
If you have the chance to try out the full motion flight simulator, I highly recommend it. It’s $8 per person, but it rolls 360 degrees and you’ll feel like you’re in a real dogfight!
The other big hit for the kids was The Hatchery. You can watch baby chicks slowly emerging from their shells. All day long. Thank goodness there are seats nearby for adults who need a break!
I only wish we had more time to fully explore the museum and everything it has to offer. We’ll return next trip!
Women’s March on Chicago
The weekend of our trip coincided with Donald Trump’s inauguration. On Saturday, January 21, 2017, women and men marched in protest in Washington, DC, and many other cities, including Chicago.
Our hotel was only a ~15 minute walk from the protests in Grant Park, and there were areas set aside for families with children. I wanted the kids to experience the march safely but still be engaged in a history-making event. The girls are especially interested in politics and women’s issues, so this was important to them.
The organizers underestimated the potential crowd size, so a formal march through downtown Chicago didn’t happen. They say ~250,000 people attended the Chicago protests! So it was incredibly exciting for us (well, except for my 7-year-old son) to be a part of it.
The crowds were generally peaceful. And folks broke off from the protest to march on their own for much of the afternoon. My daughters were caught up in the energy and eagerly chanted along with the other parents and kids in our area.
We spent about an hour at the march before the kids wanted to move on to something else.
Ice Skating at Millennium Park
The kids had seen the skating ribbon at Maggie Daley park on our way to the protests, and were itching to give ice skating a try. My cousin suggested the rink in Millennium Park, located next to the Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) sculpture.
Ice skating is free, but if you need to rent skates, it costs ~$12 with no time limit. My kids roller skate, but had never tried ice skating before. So there was a lot of hanging onto the rail at first!
And the weather was so mild (~60 degrees that day!) that the kids took off their coats and enjoyed the sunshine on the rapidly-melting ice.
I particularly enjoyed the 70’s and 80’s music they had playing over the rink speakers. It was a really fun (and relatively inexpensive) family activity in a wonderful location.
Lunch at Rick Bayless’ Xoco
I’m a bit of a foodie, and was eager to try one of Rick Bayless‘ famous and well-reviewed Mexican restaurants on our trip. Because I had the kids with me, we decided to try Xoco, a casual eatery specializing in tortas (Mexican sandwiches), caldos (soups), and freshly-made churros.
Xoco doesn’t take reservations, and is almost always busy – no doubt in part due to its excellent Yelp reviews. We arrived at 2:30 pm and waited half an hour before we could place our order and get seats. One of the servers noticed the kids were getting a bit impatient, so brought us a complimentary basket of tortilla chips and fresh salsa to hold them over while we waited.
It’s a bit of an odd arrangement, because you wait in line to order and pay at a counter, much like a fast-food restaurant. But they won’t let you order until a table for your party is available. Once you order, you’re escorted to your seats and the food is brought out to you.
The food was amazing! We shared chicharrones (crispy pork rinds with hot sauce, queso añejo, onion, and cilantro)…
… and I had the short rib red chile soup, which was hearty and flavorful with a nice kick.
The girls split a Baja chicken torta, with cabbage-radish slaw, chipotle mayo, black beans, and queso fresco…
… but my forever-picky son bypassed the “real food” and went straight for the churros, which were fresh-made and loaded with cinnamon sugar. And a chocolate shot made from fresh ground chocolate for dipping! So good.
The portions were so large we were able to take leftovers back to the hotel room. They didn’t last the night!
I thought the prices were reasonable (~$9 to ~$12 for most entrees) and the flavor and quality of the food was outstanding. We’d definitely go back.
Wandering Around Chicago
It’s said the best way to get to know an unfamiliar city is to just start walking. You never know what random adventures you’ll find!
The kids got super lucky when we were invited for a mini-tour by the firefighters at Chicago Fire Department Squad 1. Their doors were wide open due to the mild weather and they noticed the very curious kids! Lovely folks there!
My daughter got to pretend to be a firefighter…
… and the kids got to sit in one of the trucks!
The kids were impressed by all the buildings and bridges over the Chicago River. And fascinated that the bridges could move! It’s too bad we weren’t there on St. Patrick’s Day to check out the river dyed green. 😉
And we all enjoyed checking out the Riverwalk, which was surprisingly busy due to the warm temperatures. I imagine it would be really hopping in the summer months, with many restaurants, bars, and places to sit and people-watch.
We’d love to return in the summertime to experience more of the city!
Seeing Hamilton – An American Musical was the highlight and main reason we visited Chicago. But we packed in a ton of other activities on the trip!
Thanks to having the right credit cards, elite status, and a local museum membership, we saved a ton of money! I only wish we had more time, because there is so much to see and do in Chicago.
I guess that means we’ll have to go back soon! At least that’s what the kids tell me. 🙂