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  1. As a child growing up in Chicago, I only thought of Hyde Park as where the Museum of Science and Industry lived. I'd go there on family trips or field trips, once or twice a year, always making sure to pay a visit to the baby chicks. On one memorable visit, my 8th-grade class ran into Davy Jones inside the Hall of Nobel Prize Winners. But for all the times I traveled to Hyde Park, I never truly visited the neighborhood. As an adult with children of my own, I've made a point to get out and really explore our city. I often craft whole itineraries based on their geographic proximity to one or two key places. I'll pull up a map on my computer and my kids will peer over my shoulder shouting out requests (usually asking me to find the nearest ice cream place) and we'll embark on our trip, sometimes pulling over if something new catches our eye. Here are some of our tried-and-true favorites in Hyde Park. Smart Museum of Art: An intimate but robust museum, the Smart hosts monthly family drop-in activities that are perfect for slow winter days. Not only are they free, they’re very high-quality projects. On February 3, it'll be celebrating everything blue with a Family Day inspired by the artist Yves Klein. There's even a cafe in the lobby for the caffeine jolt you’ll need after all that exhausting art-making. 57th Street Books: We almost never come down to Hyde Park without a visit to this iconic bookstore. The labyrinth of connected rooms and low ceilings make the whole place feel like it sprang from an author's imagination. Their selection of children's books is nicely curated and it can special order anything that's out of stock. Salonica Restaurant: Whether we are in the mood for standard breakfast fare like scrambled eggs and pancakes or Greek diner staples like gyros and moussaka, Salonica always has us covered. Their children's menu is a great value and service is excellent. Expect a wait on weekends. Nichols Park: My kids are always up for a trip to a playground in any kind of weather. Even in the middle of winter, we keep our eyes peeled for new or special parks. Nichols Park playground was renovated in 2016 and is a great place to blow off steam when the weather is above freezing (and even sometimes when it's not). Ice skating at Midway Plaisance: Rent skates or bring your own; this rink operated by the Chicago Park District is on the beautiful stretch of land that once hosted amusements for the World's Columbian Exposition including the original Ferris wheel. With the gothic architecture of the University of Chicago as a backdrop, this is one of my favorite vistas. Especially at dusk when the lights from the University buildings are twinkling. The Bakery at Piccolo Mondo: "Can we get hot chocolate?" I hear this one a lot and you probably do, too. My kids always want something “fancier” than your typical Starbucks treat. This Argentinian bakery has one of the coolest versions I've seen: It's called the "Submarino" and you get a glass of steamed milk served with a dark chocolate bar for a DIY hot chocolate that you mix yourself. Needless to say, this one's a big hit. Museum of Science and Industry: I've saved the best for last. Not much new can be said about this place except that you might not be aware of one of the city's best membership deals. At the annual fund level ($300) and above, you get invited to several special events throughout the year that really make it worthwhile. Our favorite is the annual Boo Bash with a buffet dinner, open bar, dessert station, and free admission to the coal mine and other special exhibits.
  2. There are lots of families who already call Lincoln Park home, but many more who haven’t yet explored all it has to offer! Summer is a great time to take advantage of the parks, the markets and the free activities hosted in Lincoln Park. In keeping with our theme of three things—one inside, one outside, one that involves food—these are the top things to do in Lincoln Park. Inside Where can you see the first “L” car, learn about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and turn yourself into a larger-than-life Chicago hot dog? The Chicago History Museum, of course! Admission for kids (under 12) is free, adults who are Illinois residents enter free on Tuesdays from 12:30–7:30 pm. Insider tip: Pick up a membership to the Chicago History Museum or one of its affiliates and get free entry to all of those museums: DuSable Museum, National Museum of Mexican Art and National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture. All are well worth the investment, and since they’re a bit off the tourist circuit, you likely won’t have to battle the crowds and lines to enjoy their exhibits. Outside From the south end of Lincoln Park all the way up to the Lincoln Park Conservatory, you can enjoy miles of beautiful paths through the park. Stop by the Lincoln Park Zoo—one of the only free zoos left in the United States! My kids have been especially charmed by Seiku the polar bear, one of the zoo's newest additions. Ask a zookeeper about his training times and you could get an up-close-and-personal encounter with this powerful animal! It seems there’s always something going on around this stretch of Lincoln Park: soccer games, festivals, impromptu concerts—you name it. We love checking out Green City Market on Wednesday mornings, where you’ll never run out of delicious food options to try. Come say hi to me on Wednesday, August 30, at 10:30am—I’ll be reading to kids at the Club Sprout tent! Food We all know Chicago has as many opinions for pizza as there are restaurants in which to eat it. And I love them all. If pressed, however, I’d tell you that my favorite is right here in Lincoln Park: Pequod’s Pizza. That caramelized cheese crust makes my mouth water just thinking about it! Plus, if you go on a weekday for lunch, you can get a 7” pizza plus a drink for $4.95! Lincoln Park has a gem around every corner and it’s easy to fill a whole day just wandering past the parks, the shops and the turrets, those beautiful, rounded towers on corner buildings fashioned after German castles. Bring your imagination (and your appetite) and have a great time! Kathleen Dragan is a South Looper and a mom of two Chicagoans. You can read more about Lincoln Park and many other neighborhoods in Kathleen's children's book Rickshaw Reggie, available now! Follow her on Instagram @RickshawReggie to see more of her Chicago adventures.

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