Following a Yellow Brick Road

Hello Friends,

This is another family adventure from our weekend. With such a beautiful late summer day on Saturday, we had to get out. Wife Googled parks in the city and found “Oz Park ” in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Who knew?

The main draw was statues of the main Oz characters. Obviuosly, here the girls are sitting on Dorothy’s pedestal. Arranged around two sides of the park, these statues help set a playful tone.

Nick Chopper, a.k.a the Tin Woodman guards the northeast entrance of the park.

Just inside that entrance stands the scarecrow. He is near the “quiet area”, his gentle nature an appropriate reflection of this calm patch. Filled with flowers and decorative plants, it stands apart from the playground and greenspace of the park.

The Cowardly Lion stands at the southeast corner of the park. He has the bonus of being app-enabled and can call you and talk with you. More importantly, he defends the pickle ball court. And yes, the people who play there too.

The playground at Oz Park is amazing. Shade is abundant and kids climb all over multiple ornate wooden structures. There’s tennis courts, pickleball courts, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, open space, the playground- really something for everyone.

We broke for lunch and headed down the street to Chicago Halal. Not much more than counter tops, this place has some kind of magic to their food prep. The gyro meat was cut small and had a delicious searing on the edges.

The girls ate well on their cheeseburgers too. So overall, our family dug Chicago Halal. I know that’s a weak review, but maybe some of you foodies out there can drop them a visit and do a proper one.

So here’s a weird thing about the afternoon: the lack bathrooms. Despite the beauty and playground amenities, Oz Park does not have any bathroom facilities. Chicago Halal also lacks bathrooms facilities. We tried to pitstop at a Starbucks near the park, but no, no toilet. What?!? Bit of a downer on a our day, but we salvaged it. You know who had a bathroom? Same people who have old-school soft serve. Oh yeah, Dairy Queen.

If you haven’t been to Oz Park yet, just follow Webster east, about to Halsted. Visit with the friends from L. Frank Baum’s Oz series, or maybe get in on some wooden paddle and wiffle ball action. Lincoln Park holds plenty of restaurants, both new and fresh as well as tried and true. So food is easy to find around Oz Park. Just be sure you plan your adventure ahead, so you don’t make your own yellow brick road.

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Zoo Camp

Hello Friends,

Man, how the summer has flown! I hope you can forgive my absence. We have been both travelling and entertaining family here at home. The girls have enjoyed all kinds of summer adventures so far. They’ve travelled, had beach visits, sampled children’s museums and my favorite, attended camps!

We are wrapping up our summer at the Lincoln Park Zoo Conservation Camp. I wrote last summer about Sweetie’s adventures at LPZ Camp, and now Cricket is old enough too.

Gettin’ comfortable with the group

The girls enjoy the crafts and games, and especially love the daily trips into the zoo to check out the animals and their behaviors.

Very comfortable!

The zoo and camp are located in the very accessible Lincoln park neighborhood, so kids come from all over the city. We randomly reconnected with some friends from swim lessons. One of those wonderful coincidences where both the older and younger siblings are the same age. Good times!

I hope your summer is wrapping up well. Travels? Camps? Whatever your adventures are I hope your kids are loving it. Next week…school!

Summer Camp Fun

Hello Friends,

I hope you are enjoying your summer adventures. Some of my best summertime memories are from summer camp days. Whole days spent running around, playing games like kickball and capture the flag, art and crafting, and swimming. There were the years when Sister-Younger-Older was a camp counselor, a very cool “in” for my young, four-eyed chubby self. There were my early teen years as a “junior” counselor, keeping the younger campers organized. Our summer camp was a bike ride away from home. No overnight camp for me, but still good memories.

We first signed Sweetie up for camp sessions at Lincoln Park Zoo two summers ago. While that was fun, it was only half days because of her age. Last year we added on two weeks of St. Viator camp. The Cricket was too young last year so she was in D³ Day Camp all day, every day. But this summer everyone is old enough for some sort of camp!

Sweetie gets a full summer; two weeks at St. Viator camp, five weeks at Kilbourn Park camp (through the Chicago Park District). and three weeks at Lincoln Park Zoo! The Cricket is in a “play” camp three half-days a week for six weeks and two weeks at LPZ camp (that birthday cut-off almost got us again!).

Right now they are both fully into their Chicago Park District camps. We heard good things about the Kilbourn Park camp, and that was cool because it’s our go-to park. Cricket does claim that she doesn’t want to go pretty much every day, but it seems like every junior counselor knows her name. Given all the hugs that she gives and gets, something good is going on. They dig all the theme days and love the field trips.

Is camp part of your summer adventures? Day camp or overnight? Whichever, I hope you and your kids are making great memories this summer. Remember the sunblock and water bottles, maybe some bug spray too. We’ll see you out there.

Beatin’ the Heat

Hello Friends,

Wow, what a sweaty day! The phone says we got to 94°, the car said 100°. Either way I don’t really care, it was hot in the Chi’ today!

After errands and camp we sprung Wife from work early and hit the backyard. Today was a day for the kiddie pool. A bit of a random post, but I thought I would share.

So, how did you beat the heat today?

Gone fishin’

Chilly rain and overcast skies made a perfect day for…the aquarium! Sweetie and I spent today down at the John G. Shedd Aquarium.

Uh, Dad, there are no fish out here.

Uh, Dad, there are no fish out here.

Today the admission was waived for Illinois residents, so free day at the Shedd! The plan was to have a group meet together to enjoy the day, but illness struck two of the households and another two canceled. The result was a Dad-Sweetie adventure day!

A detour favorite

A detour favorite

Sweetie got a kick out of all of the fish. Of course it was entertaining watching her point and talk to all of the fish. It was pretty fun listening to her call the smaller fish “babies” and make shushing noises for the fish that were sleeping (those not actively swimming). Many of the exhibits have water levels above three feet, so she could enjoy the fish even while sitting in her stroller. We both enjoyed checking out the crowds as well. With a full aquarium the people watching was great!

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I have been going to the Shedd since I was a child. I was reminded of this by all of the day camp and school group students that surrounded us today. The last time I went was two years ago for wife’s birthday (she was actually pregnant with Sweetie). We took part in the “Trainer for a Day” program that the aquarium hosts. We spent that afternoon behind-the-scenes with an actual trainer and got hands-on with the beluga whales. So to all of the adults out there: When was the last time you went to the Shedd?

"carp" a diem!

“carp” a diem!

The Shedd Aquarium will be free for Illinois residents again on Monday, June 16 and Tuesday, June 17. They open at 9:00 am. and it was much more enjoyable early in the day (when we left the ticket line was long). There is still parking to contend with, which will set you back $22. And they frown on “outside” food, so we dropped about $20 on lunch. I will forgo the the cliché from the credit card commercial here, and just say a day at the aquarium with my daughter was pretty great.

So much to see

So much to see

As is customary with so many experiences here on the detour, I found myself grateful for many things today. It starts with the friends who called to say they couldn’t make it. Given that they could have just blown me off, I appreciated the heads-up that they weren’t coming. That way I could just focus on Sweetie. Overall, I was thankful for the free day. The Shedd and all of Chicago’s museums have free days. It is just a matter of getting out and taking advantage of them. Lastly, I am thankful to a pair of students who found my lost cell phone and brought it to the Guest Services desk. That’s right, just after snapping some shots at the Caribbean Tank I lost my phone. Not realizing this, we went for a diaper change and headed toward the cafeteria. So I noticed my phone’s absence about fifteen minutes later and scuttled among the free-day crowds re-tracing my steps. It was then I spotted the Guest Services desk and decided to ask if it had been found. After I properly identified my phone I was informed by the man at the desk that “two elementary school girls” had brought the phone to him. Even he was surprised. I asked if he knew their school and he said no, so I just want to put my gratitude out there to the universe. And if this scenario sounds familiar to anyone out there, please let me know so I can thank those two students! They saved our good day!

Good times!

Good times!