This winter has lasted about 1000 years and the reign of the White Witch really needs to come to an end. Not to mention that we have a very limited discretionary budget right now, we are in desperate need of some family time that does not involve reruns of Avatar the Last Airbender or euchre, and we aren’t feeling real creative. Just leaving the house seems exhausting. General admission to The Field Museum of Natural History is free in the month of February so we gave it a shot. We hadn’t been in decades and it was way better than I remembered.
The Field Museum is open 364 days a year 9a-5p although we didn’t actually walk through the door until 10a (which apparently still seemed like the crack of dawn to the teenagers). We were shocked to find that even though it was a free day, there was NO LINE. Like literally no one was there. It proceeded to get more crowded as the day progressed but for the most part, pretty manageable.
Run down on The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago:
It was 36 degrees and pouring rain so we decided not to SpotHero parking off Roosevelt for $12 and instead used Soldier Field parking for $20 / 4 Hours ($25 / Over 4 Hours). We walked about a block in the rain and the whole experience was super easy. You pull in on the east side of Soldier field, grab a ticket, park the car and pay for the parking on the way back to your car, stick the paid ticket into the machine to open the gate and there is easy exit access to 90/94/55/LSD.
The regular general admission to the Field Museum (normally $24) is actually pretty awesome, especially for free. It includes all of the typical Field Museum stuff you remember. The dinosaurs, plants, gems, evolving planet, those creepy taxidermied animals, etc. My son and husband play Smite and were on a search for all of the gods that they’ve played in the game. There are quite a few in each section with examples of sacrifices and their history. The quest helped to keep their interest. The free day admission does not give entrance to the 3 special exhibits. The Underground Adventure, China, and mummies are all extra. Normally $38 for all of those and includes one 3D movie. On free days, a full access pass is $23. We bought it because we hadn’t been to any of the exhibits, but honestly, probably not worth it. I wouldn’t buy it again.
The extra exhibits are fine, but all in it was an extra $86 for the four of us. I felt like that was pretty high. The underground exhibit was shockingly detailed. In a weird way, seeing all of the tiny organisms working in our soil made me even more excited about gardening this spring. China was cool. Lots of interesting artifacts and an impressive map of how the dynasty spread. The mummies were one of my favorite parts but unsettling. My daughter and I did have a moment of gratitude and thank the souls for the use of their body in a museum for our education. We picked the Egypt 3D movie and enjoyed it a ton.
The dining on the main level is considered gourmet and has some delicious looking food. The seating area has the feel of al fresco… but outdoors is the museum’s main area. There is a cool bar that serves draft beer and I think a Field Museum branded vodka (which I noticed too late). I like the ambiance of the whole thing but a single serve of Gallo cab was $14!! I had bought it before I realized how much. Obviously in the future I would smuggle. It seems like they let you bring in a lunch and have an eating area in the lower level with only vending machines. The dining downstairs is more typical: Pizza, hot dogs, burgers, salads, mac and cheese. Pretty much every item is $10, what one would expect at a museum. There are at least six vegetarian options. We didn’t eat there because we had already spent $106 on parking and the all access pass. That was well beyond our “free day budget” so we went home. We had also been there about 4 hours which was the max for the teens. Jake and I could have stayed all day.
Basically, a good few hours that avoided the wet cold of winter. If I went again, I would want to stay longer and I’d skip the extra exhibits. I might hit another 3D movie because they are only $5. Free day wasn’t as packed as I thought it would be and a good experience. I think Jake and I will go again sometime soon on a free day. https://www.fieldmuseum.org/our-events/free-admission-days
Miscellaneous Advice, Randomness, or Minutia:
- Parking across the street for $20 is nice if you are with people who aren’t fans of walking or the weather is bad. Our fam squad gets really tired of slow museum walking. We would have preferred to save the $8 and get in a nice brisk walk straight down Roosevelt.
- Don’t miss the gems. They are super cool. There is even this awesome dagger.
- If you have a sensitive kid, possibly skip the taxidermied animals. It is interesting to see such a variety up so close but it is unsettling.
- Bring food and drinks. They didn’t check backpacks when we were there and the food was too expensive to make it worth it.
- If it isn’t a free day, membership is probably worth checking before buying passes. It has to be almost worth it.
- My teenagers decided that the museum isn’t great for little kids. They felt like it was interesting as older kids.
- There are student discounts with an ID. Make sure your teens bring their IDs.
Galleria Mall - Houston
We flew into Houston and hit the Galleria Mall for a few hours. The mall is beautiful. Parking was shockingly free. We just don't get that in Chicago. The fountain from the sky was worth seeing. The indoor ice rink was fun. We liked the food court a ton. It had a bunch of healthy, unhealthy, and vegetarian options. My daughter and I hit Sult'an Pepper. The name made me laugh, it was the highest rated place in the food court, and the food appeared moderately healthy. The menu was confusing and the price was high but it tasted pretty good. We spent about 3 hours at the mall and that was enough time for us.
Once again, my review of this is not going to be perfectly accurate. We had rough weather to really enjoy the experience. The island is interesting. It is very long and has a shuttle that has stops along the route. We didn't get to use it because the stops weren't convenient and it seemed easier to just drive. In nice weather, it looks like a good bike ride but pretty long. The road runs on the beach, so there is very little ocean-front property. The public beaches are clean but have a lot of rocks as breakers. At the far north end of the island is ALL of the action. This is where you will find the carnival rides, adorable historic town with souvenir shops and quaint restaurants. Don't miss the Stranded Corner Cafe. It is buried in the back of a building but has margaritas made with fresh fruit. They are the absolute best and I had quite a few. Well worth the $7, especially since the town is NOLA style... meaning you can carry any non-glass beverage with you as you shop. Street parking was easy but annoying because you needed to move the car every 2 hours. I find cities who do that really short-sighted. We spent about hours walking around and felt like that was a solid amount of time.
We also hit Jimmy's on the Pier while a storm was rolling in. The food was fine (I actually didn't like my fish tacos but my husband's burger was good). The atmosphere was amazing. You are right over the water and the whole experience was lovely. There is NOTHING beyond Jimmy's. We drove for 45 minutes and barely hit another establishment. If you are trying to find lodging and want to be even reasonably close to the action and entertainment, find a place south of Jimmy's.
It is probably because we are children of the 80s but NASA was awesome. If you are a family of 4+, strongly consider the membership. For our family with bigger kids, it was $125 to buy tix and parking. To buy the membership it was $130 and included parking, we got to skip lines and get a discount on food. It was well worth the extra $5. We went on New Years Day and it wasn't very crowded. We took both tram rides. Both are on an outdoor tram so best to pick a day that isn't dreadful out. Both were interesting. Lunch was delicious in the food court. They had wine! And I don't remember how much it was exactly but reasonable. Like maybe $6? We
Hermann Park & Conservatory
LOVE Hermann Park in Houston! To me, it rivals Grant Park and Central Park. It is in the middle of Houston and has manicured gardens as well as forest areas, ponds, and a Japanese garden. It was such a nice walk. There is an adorable little train that goes around the perimeter. It is $4 a person or $7.50 for an all-day pass. We were there on a random Friday afternoon and the line to get tickets and then get on the train wasn't worth it for us. Not to mention that what we wanted was to stretch our legs on the only nice day of the trip. The park itself is free. We walked around for about 3 hours. The lunch options were not stellar so we actually left the area and looked for lunch elsewhere. You would think that some places would pop-up because it is such a great area. It was near the natural history museum and art museum and zoo. All seemed pretty expensive and since it was nice out, we skipped all of them.
Hi! Kelly here! Photographer, writer, sister, mama bear, wife, selfie taker, multi-tasker, and over-thinker extraordinaire-- This is my spot to write about whatever randomness comes into my life. FB always has updated posts, but if you aren’t on social media or want an email when there is new content or just want to make me feel encouraged and supported: