Seeing Hamilton in Chicago for Cheap: Part 4 – Museum of Science & Industry and Other Activities in Chicago

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Seeing Hamilton in Chicago for Cheap: Part 4 – Museum of Science & Industry and Other Activities in Chicago

Million Mile SecretsSeeing Hamilton in Chicago for Cheap: Part 4 – Museum of Science & Industry and Other Activities in ChicagoMillion Mile Secrets Team

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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!

Jasmin:   Thanks, D!  My children are huge Hamilton fans!  The soundtrack is in heavy rotation in our house, the kids know all the lyrics, and Lin-Manuel Miranda is their hero.

But tickets to the Hamilton productions in New York and Chicago are very hard to get.  Shows are sold months (or years) in advance, and ticket prices can be incredibly prohibitive.

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
It Was Neat to See the Inner Workings and Stages of a Real Jet Engine at the Museum of Science and Industry

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

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.

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
An Amazing Museum for Curious Kids (and Parents!)

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.

I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred card for our Lyft rides because it earns 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel, including Lyft!

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.

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
Most Exhibits Are Included in the General Admission Price

If you pay for admission, consider using the Citi Prestige or Citi ThankYou Premier Card .  Because both earn 2X Citi ThankYou points on entertainment, which includes museums!

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.

Here’s a list of participating museums.  It’s a terrific way to save money when you travel with family!

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…

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
Learning All About Tornadoes at the Weather Exhibit

… and the tsunami wave generator.  These kids are fascinated by destruction!

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
Flattening Whole Cities With the Tsunami Wave Generator…Oh the Power!

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!

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
Aviation Geeks Like Us Would Have a Blast Checking Out the Aviation Displays

The kids were amused by sitting in a real jet engine.

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
Enough Room for 2 Little People in This Engine Intake!

And my daughter got a kick out of sitting in an “old-timey” airplane cabin.  Which made Mommy feel very old-timey!

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
Back Before Seat-Back Video Screens and Lie-Flat Seats – This Was the First Class Cabin

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!

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
The Kids Would Have Spent Hours Waiting for the Baby Chicks to Emerge If I Hadn’t Moved Them Along

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.

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
There Were Areas Set Aside for Families With Children at the Chicago March

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.

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
Spot the Least Enthused Child! 😉

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.

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
I Was Glad the Kids Were Able to Participate in Such a Historic Event, Especially the Girls

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.

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
No Trip to Chicago Is Complete Without Visiting “The Bean”

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!

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
The Kids Were Cautious at First, but They Soon Got the Hang of It

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.

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
Unreal Weather for January in Chicago, but We Weren’t Complaining a Bit

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.

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
A Server Noticed the Kids Were Hungry and Cranky, so Brought Us Chips and Salsa to Munch on 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)…

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
Crispy Pork Rinds Dressed Up With Queso, Hot Sauce, Onion, Cilantro, and a Squeeze of Lime – Yum!

… and I had the short rib red chile soup, which was hearty and flavorful with a nice kick.

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
Perfect for a Winter Day – Red Chile Short Rib Soup With Roasted Vegetables

The girls split a Baja chicken torta, with cabbage-radish slaw, chipotle mayo, black beans, and queso fresco…

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
The Portions Were Large Enough for the Girls to Split a Torta (Mexican Sandwich)

… 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.

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
Sugar Rush! The Freshly Made Churros and Dark, Rich Chocolate Are Made for the Sweet Tooth in the Family

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.

Again, I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred card for meals to earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on dining.

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!

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
What a Thrill for the Kids! The Kind Folks at the Chicago Fire Department Let Us Check Out the Station

My daughter got to pretend to be a firefighter…

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
The Firefighters Let Us Explore the Station and Pose With the Equipment

… and the kids got to sit in one of the trucks!

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
Little Miss Firefighter-in-Training!

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.  😉

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
The Kids Got a Kick out of the Moveable Bridges, Docks, and Funky Buildings

The girls had learned about Pablo Picasso in art class, so they were thrilled to discover the Chicago Picasso (an untitled sculpture) in Daley Plaza.

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
The Chicago Picasso Stands 50 Feet Tall and Weighs Over 160 Tons!

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.

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago For Cheap Part 4 Museum Of Science Industry And Other Activities In Chicago
The Weather Was Perfect for a Leisurely Walk Along the River

We’d love to return in the summertime to experience more of the city!

Bottom Line

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!

The kids loved our fun visit to the Museum of Science and Industry.  Plus, we participated in the Women’s March on Chicago, ice skated at Millennium Park, and enjoyed a fabulous Mexican meal at Xoco.

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.  🙂

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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What a wonderful trip. I got all teary-eyed at how your kids will forever remember this adventure. Also you did a great job in your writing and story telling. Thank you for helping me recall the joy that Chicago can be through with the right attitude and frame of mind.