Things’ll be great when we’re downtown

I was told that I was an adventurous soul by at least 3 people during our day’s adventure. The Boy, The Girl, The Tot, and I took the Metra downtown, walked 1/2 a block, took the Wendella Water Taxi down the Chicago River, and disembarked at the last stop, which was Michigan Avenue. I’ve since learned that the Wendella Water Taxi (black and yellow boats) makes 3 stops along the river during the week (Ogilvie Transportation Center, Clark/Lake, and Michigan Avenue by the Wrigley Building), and goes to Chinatown on weekends only. Its competitor, Shoreline Sightseeing, drives blue boats and goes to Navy Pier and the Shedd as well as to the Mag Mile and Union Station. Still, at $4 for a day pass, the Wendella was a better deal (compare it to the $34 it would cost our party of 4 to travel on Shoreline). Our big goals for the day were to take the Metra and the Water Taxi, so I was at a loss for an activity once the traveling part was over. If I were going to shop the Mag Mile (which I haven’t done since about 1997; I’ll leave 10.25% sales tax to the tourists), I certainly wouldn’t do it with 3 kids in tow.

I took the elevator to the Shops at North Bridge, intending to use the mall to cross up to Michigan Avenue and wander from there (the MCA? Seneca Playlot?), but The Boy started complaining as soon as we got into the mall part. I suggested to him that there was a Lego store and his mood brightened considerably. Along the way to Lego, we passed a Sanrio store, which immediately attracted The Girl with its various walls of miniature knick-knacks with Japanese anime in pale colors.

At Lego, The Tot was happy to move Lego from one play table bin to another, while The Boy marveled at all of the Star Wars, Speed Racer, and other licensed Lego sets. The Girl, meanwhile, repeated, “I want to go to the Hello Kitty store” ad nauseum. The Boy “needed” another set of Duplo (we are holding off on Lego until The Tot no longer wants to eat them). After Lego, we headed straight to Sanrio, where The Tot immediately found the plastic console filled with candy in the middle of the store. I was able to steer The Girl into a Hello Kitty lunch/bento box, and The Tot got a package of gum that he chewed his way through while we were in the store.

With that, we headed to lunch. I had asked The Boy whether he wanted to try a new place for lunch, or go with something familiar. Not surprisingly, he chose the old. We ate at Nordstrom Cafe and all had “the usual” (Cilantro-Lime Chicken Salad for me, chicken strips for The Boy, mac & cheese for The Girl, and The Tot shared with all). We headed back toward the Water Taxi entrance, but then veered off on a series of side trips.

We hopped the free trolley to Navy Pier. The Tot nursed and fell asleep, so we rode the trolley for awhile, switching to another line after doing the whole loop. The second trolley was headed, as we were, toward the train station. But when it passed the Howard Washington Library, we got off at the next stop and walked back. I have always wanted to go to the Howard Washington Library Center; whenever I search the catalog, it is the library branch that seems to have everything. It was gorgeous. It’s one of those places I’d like to explore more sometime when I am kid-free. As it was, we visited the Children’s Library on the 2nd floor, which was nearly empty at 2 p.m. on a random August Tuesday. The kids and I had a good time picking out and reading books in the S-Z section. I even found a book that seemed to be written for The Boy: Beatrice Doesn’t Want To…

By then, we were all tired and the kids were rambunctious — not a good combination with a quiet library — so we left. We walked up State Street, stopping at Garrett’s along the way for an afternoon snack of caramel and cheese popcorn, which we ate on the walk back to Ogilvie Transportation Center. Our fingers were stained yellow-brown and greasy from the popcorn. We arrived at the train station 15 minutes before the 4:05 train and were back home by 4:30.

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