Natalie’s 8th Birthday Chicago Trip

Posted in Bucket List, Travel {Babymoons & Family Vacations}
on October 5, 2016

Last September…I can’t believe it’s already been a year…we were invited to tag along on a quick weekend trip to Chicago to celebrate our niece, Natalie’s, 8th birthday.  There’s so much to see and do in Chicago!  We LOVE the Windy  City.  Here’s what we did during this special weekend in Chi Town…

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I absolutely love Chicago.  Adam took me on a surprise trip to Chicago for my 30th birthday a few years ago, and ever since then, I’ve been mesmerized by this magnificent windy city.

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{I will share the details about that amazing birthday trip later.}

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Chicago is definitely a city filled with Bucket List Busting potential, which is why this quick weekend trip was an amazing part of my Pre-Baby Bucket List Busting Year.

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So, sit back, relax, grab your coffee drink of choice, and travel with me on our family trip to Chi Town. It was filled to the brim with proud auntie moments, and more tears than I usually shed while traveling. ? And, I can’t wait to share it with you…

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Natalie is my very first niece, & she overflows with personality.  She’s a spunky, confident, witty, super smart girl, and we couldn’t be more proud of her.  She had never been to Chicago before, so her mommy thought it would be an amazing adventure to take her to the city for her birthday.

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I was with my sister in law at the doctors office the day we found out she was having a baby girl.  The thought that went through my mind was, “finally I have a flower girl!”

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Natalie loves dinosaurs, ninja turtles, Littlest Pet Shoppe, and American Girl dolls.  She loves Star Wars…especially Raye…but can also quote all the songs from Frozen.  She can build Legos with the best of them; is my baking buddy; & can tell you anything and everything you’d ever need (or want?! ?) to know about Minecraft.

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Basically, she’s an amazing little lady.  And we couldn’t wait to spend her birthday with her, show her around the city, and make a lot more memories together!

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{To say I’m a proud auntie is an understatement.  My hubby and I love these kids like they’re our own.  We’ve learned more from being their aunt and uncle than we could have ever imagined.  We love them all!  Ok, enough snappiness…lets get to the trip!! }

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We loaded up into the van and left in the morning.  I’d just gotten off of a night shift at work.  I’ve never done that before…left for a trip with no sleep.  I was worried I’d be crabby or delusional or both. But, actually it ended up not being that bad at all.  I think I dealt with being awake for 30+ hours pretty well.  My family may think otherwise! ?

I napped on and off on the way to Chicago. And once we got there my excitement and adrenaline kicked in.  We checked in to the hotel, and then we were off to explore the city!

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Our first night, we window shopped on the Magnificent Mile, enjoyed various cheesecakes (and dinner) at The Cheesecake Factory, and then surprised Natalie with a shopping spree at American Girl Place.

Ever since I became an auntie to two little girls, it’s been a dream of mine to take them to American Girl.  This was a Bucket List item checked off not just for Natalie, but for us too. As soon as she saw it, she knew!!!  She’d reached her Mecca!! ?

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I think we may have even had more fun watching her elation and excitement than she did.  Her doll “needed” a makeover at Hair Salon, and Natalie picked out some earrings so her doll could get her ears pierced.  And she even designed matching tshirts for her and her doll.  It was so stinking cute!

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She received her American Girl Doll from Gramma and Grandpa that previous Christmas, and boy oh boy did we lose our minds spoiling her in the store!

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Let’s just put it this way…I think we all were teary eyed watching her feel so special on her birthday.  They should just pass out Kleenex and Xanax at the front door for the families….seriously.

When we returned to the hotel, Natalie played with her doll.  It was precious.  She got several outfits for her doll, and a pet for her doll, and glasses just like hers for her doll, and a million other things.  She was so excited she could barely sleep.  What a sweet memory for us.

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The next day, we had planned to visit the Shedd Aquarium in the morning, and explore the Field Museum in the afternoon.  It was a lot to pack in with a 10 and an 8 year old, but we were up for the challenge.

Natalie loves animals, and had never been to an aquarium the even remotely the size of Shedd Aquarium…and she was thrilled!  We saw dolphins, beluga whales, penguins & seals, not to mention, tank after tank of beautiful fish.

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We watched an aquatic show, which was absolutely amazing.  The trainers brought out a seal that had been rehabilitated at Shedd after being shot in the face.  It was like a never ending Sarah McClaughlin commercial.  I think at one point I was sobbing.  The show really touched our hearts.

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We got to pet stingrays, which both kids got a kick out of. And Natalie made a new friend in the coral reef tank.  He was a puffer fish that followed her back and forth along the glass.  It was darling.

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We “adopted”  a beluga whale for Natalie as a surprise birthday present.  She picked out a small beluga whale stuffed animal with at lime green sweatshirt on as a special souvenir to remind her of this epic day.  She said “beluga whales are derpy in the best of ways!”

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In the afternoon, we walked over to the Field Museum after having a quick lunch at the aquarium.  Natalie is a huge dinosaur lover, so we had to take her to see Sue- the T-REX skeleton at the Field Museum.

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My husband was bursting at the seems with excitement.  He couldn’t wait to show her all the dinosaurs.  Natalie, however, was not that impressed with Sue.  It was hilarious and shocking.  I guess in her mind she thought Sue would be larger than life.  And, while the fossil is enormous, our Nat Nat was just not having it. “She’s not that big!”

She did, however, enjoy exploring the dinosaur fossil room. Too many dinosaurs to count.  And, since she was touring it with her paleontologist- wanna- be uncle, she learned a lot about the plethora of dinosaur bones.  I think it’s adorable to listen to those two talk about Dino’s.  It’s really quite amusing.

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The Field Museum is so hummoungous, I feel we didn’t do it justice that day.  We practically saw every dinosaur they had to offer, and then we skedattled out of there.  The kids were overwhelmed, tired, and hangry.

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It had been a long day, but there was still more fun to be had. We called for an Uber…my first Uber experience…to drive us to Navy Pier to meet up with family who live near the city for dinner.

Traffic was really congested on the way to Navy Pier….like, way worse than usual Chicago traffic.  But it gave the kids time to relax and nap.  So, I guess, it was a blessing in disguise.

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Little did we know, it was the final weekend to ride the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier. 20 years and 16 million rides later, it was being torn down to make room for a bigger better Ferris wheel called, The Centennial Wheel.  So, of course, I had to ride it!  It was my first and last time.  Watching the sunset from atop the Ferris wheel, was an unforgettable moment.  It as absolutely breathtaking.

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Adam and I met up with the rest of the family at Giordano’s Chicago-Style Pizza for a scrumptious dinner under the stars.  If you are ever in Chicago, Chicago-Style pizza is a must! Ben had been looking forward to that moment our entire trip…and he was thrilled!

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We stayed at Navy Pier with a couple of cousins who’d come to meet us for dinner.  We watched fireworks over Lake Michigan with the city skyline twinkling in the background.  It was magical, and the perfect ending to an already amazing day!

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Our last day in Chicago began with an unforgettable breakfast at Filini’s which was conveniently located in the lobby of our hotel.  We stayed at the Raddisson Blu hotel, which boasts beautiful rooms with balconies overlooking the Chicago River and Navy Pier.  The chic decor in lobby was striking.  Accents of gold and fuschia added pops of color; walls of candlelight against mirrored tile created a dazzling yet warm and cozy atmosphere; and feathered jeweled chandeliers of butterflies danced from the ceiling.  It was a gorgeous place.

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We then visited Millenium Park, so the kids could see “The Bean”!  We took lots of photos! They were mesmerized! It was the perfect ending to our mini vacay!

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I’ll always remember this quick trip to Chicago for Natalie’s birthday.  We made so many memories that I’ll forever be grateful for.

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