“It’s an hour-long wait from here,” said the attendant. Yikes! Thankfully when we showed her our Chicago CityPASS vouchers, she ushered us to a separate Fast Pass lane and in less than 10 minutes we were 103 floors up on the Skydeck Chicago at the top of the Willis Tower (which I still call the Sears Tower) looking at a phenomenal view of the city. This was one of the many perks of buying the Chicago CityPASS!
Our family wanted to see as many of the major attractions while in Chicago, but ticket prices were quickly adding up. That’s when we discovered the Chicago CityPass which offered us premium entry to 5 destinations. The savings was 50% off of the VIP, express tickets which included lots of bells and whistles including Omnimax, IMAX, 4D, and 3D movies as well as special exhibits.
The Chicago CityPASS is definitely the way to go for families that want to minimize time spent waiting on long lines to buy tickets. The 10 minutes it took us to get to the top of the Skydeck was as much time as it took us to get through the lines at all of the other attractions combined! In addition to the express ticketing we saw at least one special show at each place.
Here’s what we did during our scant 4 days in Chicago:
- We took it easy that afternoon by walking both inside and outside along the water at Navy Pier. While inside, we went through the free Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, which has a really nice collection including pieces by Tiffany. We also caught a feature film in 3D on an IMAX screen. The especially neat part was that we got to reserve our seats.
- We went to the Willis Tower’s Skydeck Chicago for 1 to 1.5 hours to get a feel for the city’s layout, architecture, and major sites. While there, we stepped out on the Ledge – a small, enclosed pop-out box that enabled us to be outside of the Willis Tower and feel like we were standing mid air!
- We walked through Millennium Park where my daughters were fascinated by the Cloud Gate sculpture aka “The Bean”, an enormous reflective metal sculpture shaped like a bean. We spent 1 to 1.5 hours at the park, but easily could have spent a few hours there having a picnic lunch if it had been warmer and we’d had more time.
- We finished the day at the Art Institute of Chicago for a couple of hours where one of our relatives got us in for free using her membership. It could easily be an all-day adventure at the museum with its wide assortment of artwork including pieces by masters like Picasso, Renoir, Monet, Pollack, Seurat, and Rodin as well as Grant Wood’s iconic painting American Gothic.
- We began the day at the Museum of Science and Industry where we quickly explored several exhibits including space travel (with an Apollo space capsule), aviation (with a Boeing 727), genetics (with a chick hatchery), submarines (with a German U-505 submarine), and today’s inventors (with some cutting edge inventions on display). Although, we only spent half the day there, we easily could’ve spent an entire day at the museum.
- The second half of the day was at the Shedd Aquarium which included a wide assortment of aquatic creatures including beluga whales, dolphins, sea lions, rays, giant clams, saw nose fish, jellyfish, turtles, eels, and lots of other fish! Once again, we were there for only a few hours, but it easily could’ve filled close to an entire day.
- Our last day in Chicago began at the Field Museum, home to Sue, the most complete T-Rex ever found. This destination was so highly anticipated that it got its own post!
- The last major stop on our odyssey was the Adler Planetarium which got shorted on time because we spent so much time at the Field Museum. In less than 2 hours we saw a planetarium show and learned about our solar system. We probably could’ve spent half a day there.
As we left the planetarium, we saw a sign about the Chicago CityPASS that said something along the lines of pay like a penny pincher and be treated like a VIP – that’s exactly how we felt!
- Skills: Visual acuity, fine motor, curiosity, gross motor
- Preparation: It’s best to buy the tickets ahead of time and simply turn in a voucher at the first site you visit. The Chicago CityPASS gets you admission to the Shedd Aquarium with VIP Entry including a 4D show, the Willis Tower’s Skydeck Chicago with Fast Pass, the Field Museum with an All-access Pass to special exhibitions and a movie, the Museum of Science and Industry with VIP Entry including an Omnimax movie and flight simulation ride or the 360 Chicago (the John Hancock Obervatory) with VIP Express, and the Adler Planetarium with VIP Entry including 2 shows or the Art Institute of Chicago with Fast Pass Admission including special exhibitions.
- Cost: $94 for adults and $79 for children ages 3-11. If you purchased these tickets separately they would be $187.95 for adults and $155.95 for children. If you wanted to visit the places we did without the extra bells and whistles, it would still save you $19-23.
- Time & Energy: You have 9 consecutive days to use all of your tickets starting whenever you use your first ticket. All of the big museums could easily be a day unto themselves.
- Contact Info: You can check out the Chicago CityPASS and each attraction’s site:
- Chicago CityPASS (http://www.citypass.com/chicago)
- The Willis Tower’s Skydeck Chicago (http://theskydeck.com),
- Shedd Aquarium (http://www.sheddaquarium.org)
- The Field Museum (http://fieldmuseum.org),
- The Museum of Science and Industry (http://www.msichicago.org)
- The Adler Planetarium (http://www.adlerplanetarium.org)
- The Art Institute of Chicago (http://www.artic.edu)
- Millennium Park (http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/millennium_park.html)
- Navy Pier and its Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows (http://www.navypier.com/things2do/rides_attract/smith_museum.html)