After the weddings, and the college tours, and the time in Wisconsin, our Midwestern tour took us next to Chicago. We had tickets to see the Chicago Fire play, so we arrived mid-afternoon to walk along Lake Michigan and grab pizza before the game. We happened to get caught - and therefore pretty wet - in a sudden torrential downpour, but my parents somehow own enough rain gear for six adults and four children of varying sizes, and this kept us from ending up completely drenched.
The Fire won the game, we witnessed one of the greatest goals I've ever seen in person, the girls scored some cool swag, and we all had a great - albeit slightly damp - time.
After the game, we drove about 30 miles south of Chicago where we stayed overnight, and a few hours later (it was a very short night), we hit the road again, this time bound for St. Louis.
Despite driving through St. Louis probably dozens of times in my life, I/we had never stopped and actually done or seen anything in the city. So we made a day of it, visiting the Arch and then the City Museum, which is the biggest, weirdest, and most physically demanding children's museum I've ever seen. The City Museum is designed for kids of all ages (including big kids like Will and even bigger kids like Tom), and takes up an entire multi-story building on a full city block. There are indoor and outdoor areas, including a parkour arena, a pinball arcade, a circus ring, an aquarium, multiple caves and tunnels, a three-story treehouse, a rooftop Ferris Wheel, and a 10-story slide. Needless to say, everyone had a great time.
"If You Go" Note #1: if you visit the City Museum, don't wear a dress (like I did) or white bottoms (like Hallie did). There's SO much climbing and SO many slides, and we both regretted our choices of attire.
"If You Go" Note #2: Our hotel in St. Louis - "The Last Hotel" - was really cool, but fair warning - despite being literally across the street from the City Museum, it isn't particularly child-friendly...something that wasn't advertised when we booked our stay.
The following morning the 10 of us went our separate ways: the four Ferri back to Texas, my parents and sister back to Wisconsin (Sara was meeting friends for their annual girls weekend), and my BIL, niece, and nephew back to their home near Peoria, Illinois.
It can be challenging to travel/vacation as an extended family - multiple drivers and cars, different styles and speeds of travel, and a wide variety of bedtimes, wake-up times, temperaments, patience levels, etc. - so we try to occasionally acknowledge this, as it helps everyone tap into their inner reserves of flexibility, understanding, kindness, etc. Because at the end of the day, or trip, the memories are worth it.
There's SO much more to do in both of these cities, but we only had less than a day in each of them. We've done A LOT in Chicago over the years (we used to visit regularly growing up, and Sara and Jeff lived there for a few years back in our 20s) but we'd like to return to those venues - and visit new places - with the kids next summer. I'm not sure if we'll stop in St. Louis again next summer, but at least we can finally cross it off of our "to visit" list!