Sunday, February 19, 2012

Trip to Chicago

For Natalie's birthday this year, I wanted to do something a little different.  I've been more focused on giving my kids experiences rather than stuff.  So in the spirit of having new experiences, we took a train to Chicago (at 6 am...yikes.) and spent the day at Shedd Aquarium.  Nola had given me an absolutely awful night (read: one hour of sleep) the night before, so I knew it would be an interesting day to say the least.

Looking out the window

Grandpa taking a nap

Grandma checking out the sights

The two happiest kids on the train...well three.  You can see the smile on Nola's cheek.
 The train ride went quite smoothly.  Thankfully, the attendant in our car was nice enough to let us take up a couple of the seats they had reserved for working out of so that we could all sit together.  I think Nathan slept a little, and Nola and I nodded in and out for much of the trip.  When we got to Union Station, the mad dash to street level began.  And Nathan wanted nothing to do with it.  At that point I was already re-thinking our decision to do this.  But Kevin was able to talk him into cooperating pretty quickly, and off we went.  We had to walk a few blocks to get to the bus that would take us to the Aquarium.  It was pretty brisk, but not nearly as bad as it could have been in early February.  Finally we made it to the bus, and the kids were thrilled at getting to ride a "city bus" as they call it. face.  Clearly I was already tired.

So we made it to the aquarium and put all of our stuff in the lockers and made our way up to see the all the fish.  Our tickets to the aquatic show were for like 10:20, so we didn't spend much time looking around before seeing the show.  This was definitely a highlight for everybody.

Taking a breather before heading down to the aquatic show

Checking out the belugas...somehow Natalie was terrified of the sea lion housed near the stairs.

Some shots of the aquatic show.  Please excuse the blurriness of these photos.  They allowed camera use as long as there was no flash, and unfortunately the low lighting made for less than perfect shots.

Belugas during the show

Belugas doing tricks for treats

More beluga shots

Sea lion portion of the show

The screen behind the tank was new since the last time I was there.  Very pretty!

A girl from the audience helping with the dolphin part of the show

Nathan and Grandma taking it all in
After the aquatic show, it was time for a 4D version of "Happy Feet."  Just to demonstrate how behind the times I am, I had no clue what 4D actually means.  Turns out it means 3D picture, vibrating seats, squirting water when characters sneeze, and other generally terrifying things to Miss Nola.  So we skipped out on that, but Kevin, my parents, and the kids stayed and thought it was awesome.

This is the unhappy/terrified look she had on her face the majority of the day.
Then we went downstairs where the kids got to touch some starfish and play with another exhibit that was a model of various anemones and stuff like that.  And then we took a peek at Nathan's only request of the day: penguins.  I don't have any idea what made him ask for penguins, but I was so happy to oblige his request.  He could have stayed there to look at them all day, I'm sure.

Up close to a starfish!

Walking through the starfish exhibit

Natalie took a peek too!

He was way more thrilled than he looks, I promise.


Swimming penguins!

This guy looked like he was running things.
 Then we saw my favorite little specimens of the day.  The JELLIES!!

The lighting in the tanks was just beautiful...

...all fanned out...

My dad said these were the kind of jellyfish in "Finding Nemo"...

...and he's the science teacher, so he would know!

How can anyone argue whether or not there's a God with such beauty like this?

Look closely and you'll see hundreds of baby jellies, all smaller than your pinky fingernail!

These little guys were a stage above the ones in the last picture.

And these were the full grown jellies of that species.

These guys moved around very quickly compared to the rest of the jellies we saw.

These were a gorgeous lavender color... beautiful!
Then we spent time going through the Wild Reef exhibit where there was a tide pool as well as a large room that was set up to look like the inside of a fishbowl.  We were able to see fish from all sides including over our heads!

Yes, this crab is really as big as he looks.  I had to look closely to see that it was alive!

The serene.

Stingray tank!

 The kids had been looking for Nemo ALLLL day.  My mom finally pointed him out (the picture above), and Nathan said, "No, that's his dad!"  Then the kids decided that he was, in fact, Nemo.  Phew.

Love the color of these little guys!
After that, we wrapped up our trip by waiting for a feeding in the main tank as you first walk into the aquarium.  The kids munched on popcorn and explored each of the rooms dedicated to different regions of the world while Nola and I took a much-needed break on the benches by the big tank.

Nola and I sat and watched the fish (and Nathan) go by

Then they went off somewhere and found a boat.

Row, row, row your boat...

Something creepy...wasn't there for that explanation.
Turtle who was hurt by a propeller and has a floating behind as a result.  So funny to see her swim around like that!
This creepy looking eel has cataracts as my dad found out...

...he was one of Nathan's favorites.
The diver who did the feeding came down to feed this eel first, and it didn't go well.  He wouldn't even swallow the fish when it was put in his mouth, and the diver looked pretty concerned about him.  Hope he makes it to fishy heaven!

After we were all thoroughly exhausted, we gathered our stuff and bid the aquarium good-bye.  As we walked outside to the bus stop, we realized that we had just missed a bus.  So Kevin had the brilliant idea of checking out the cost of one of the cabs sitting in front of the aquarium, and surprisingly it was only $2 more than our bus fare.  So we all piled into the cab for another memorable experience.  The kids are still talking about how they took "a train, a city bus, AND a TAXI!"  So I guess they loved it.

We experienced about a 45-minute delay for the train back to Champaign.  And despite some pompous and grouchy station workers and TSA officials, we made it onto the train in one piece and with few meltdowns.  Some nice napping took place here and there on the way home, and the kids were still wiped out when we finally got home.  All in all, a wonderful experience.  I'm so glad that my kids had such an amazing time, and I hope they remember this for a very long time!

And ever since Natalie got to have a train ride for her birthday, Nathan has requested a rocketship ride for his.

I'll have to get back to you on that one, buddy.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an awesome day. I sure will remember your story about the trip. Now, I want to go to the aquarium.... You are such good parents.