Ford Kids in Chicago, 2023 (Part One): Scavenger Hunt Across the City, Mission to Mars Escape Room, Ethiopian Dinner at Demera, Blue Man Group

The big day is here! We’ve got the Ford kids for another Day in Chicago, with a lot of big plans this time around.

We had a blast last year (and in all honesty probably tried to pack too much in). This year, we didn’t quite learn our lesson, as we also had a pretty busy day in mind.

To start off, we had a scavenger hunt planned. If you’re interested in recreating this (or just want to play along), here’s a PDF of all the clues.

Bob was driving the kids into the city, and we arranged for them to be dropped off at the entrance to the Chicago Yacht Club. There’s a small turnaround spot at Lake Shore Drive and Monroe that made for a really great dropoff location.

We walked with the kids across the way to Maggie Daley Park. Once inside, we gave them the first envelope with the first clue.

We had a few ground rules: No running. We had to cross every street together. The kids could use their phones to look things up. The kids could ask strangers for help. Liz and I would refrain as much as possible from answering any questions.

The kids would try to figure out where the clue is leading them. And when they were ready, they needed to take a selfie that included all three of them. On presenting this photo to us, we would then tell them if they got the answer right or wrong. If they got it right, they got the next clue.

For most of the morning, our plan was to have the kids lead us around the city. We’d course-correct as needed, but left it mostly up to them.

We also tried to emphasize that it was ok to stop and take a lot of detours, to explore. And the overall goal wasn’t to try to rush from place to place, and to finsh the game.. but to explore the city along the way.

Clue #1.

The kids got this first clue pretty quickly. We started walking towards Millennium Park, and got a bit distracted along the way.

Walking towards the Bean.

The kids getting into position.

A photo of a selfie.

This is the actual selfie from Audrey’s phone.

With Clue #1 solved, they got their next envelope.

Clue #2.

A terrible mistake on my part: the clue we gave them had a mistake. In the original, the last line was: Just remember: going counter-clockwise is the rule.

In actuality, the proper direction was clockwise. We figured this out on the fly a bit, but this clue was definitely a challenging one.

Studying, deciding.

Eventually, the kids talked to one of the nearby vendors and asked about the trains. And got (rough) directions towards the CTA.

After a bit of prompting and guidance, the kids found their way to the station at Washington/Wabash.

Selfie, in front of the Pink Line schedule.

Clue #3.

This was a tricky thing, when Liz and I were working on the clues. We originally tried to pack too much into a single clue, leading the kids to the CTA and then to a destination.

So we broke it up into two separate clues: one to get to the platform, and another for the destination.

Part of the selection for this spot was the fact that the Pink Line was the train to board. And the Pink Line only went in one direction around the loop… so there was no way we’d accidentally go the wrong way.

I had a few versions where I wanted the kids to board a Blue Line train, which would have forced them to figure out how to navigate the proper direction. I think this clue worked out well, as we ended up staying in a contained area… but maybe for next year.

A selfie, taken outside the Harold Washington Library.

Clue #4.

Up on the 9th floor.

Selfie taken at the Winter Garden.

In hindsight, we should have not allowed phones for this clue. They did a quick Google Search and found the garden. Paige ended up asking for directions from the woman at the front desk… but I think it would have been more challenging (and more fun) to have had them figure this clue out sans phone.

Clue #5.

The kids, deliberating where to go next.

Outside the Art Institute.

The submitted selfie.

Liz and I also got asked to join in the selfie!

Clue #6.

Taking a brief pause.

Debating where to go, for the next clue.

Outside the South Garden, which is just south of the main entrance of the Art Institute.

Note: this was a favorite spot where Liz and I would meet for lunch, back when we were dating. It’s also where I proposed to Liz (and where she said yes).

We picked this area figuring that the water would be on, but bummer… no. Still, it was a secluded spot, which we mostly had to ourselves – even today.

A selfie in front of the Fountain of the Great Lakes.

Clue #7. This was one of my favorite clues. But a quick Google Maps search allowed them to easily figure out the destination.

Still – the act of getting close and looking for the object was pretty fun, even if they had a sense of what they were looking for ahead of time.

Of note: around this time, the kids were getting slower and their energy was starting to lag. This was probably the best time for us to have gotten lunch, but we had a few more clues yet to go. This was circa 11:30 AM.

In front of the Bronze Cow. Part of the 1999 Cows on Parade event, this guy is still outside the Chicago Cultural Center.

Interesting trivia (and something I didn’t even know as a Chicago resident): the cow’s eyes are etched with two landmarks: the Water tower and Picasso’s Untitled sculpture (in Daley Plaza).

Selfie of three kids and a cow.

Clue #8.

Looking up at the Preston Bradley Hall Tiffany Dome.

Looking up.

The quotation around the dome is from Joseph Addison:

Books are a legacy that a great genius leaves to mankind, which are delivered down from generation to generation as presents to the posterity of those who are yet unborn.

A fitting quotation, as the Cultural Center was constructed in 1897 as Chicago’s first central public library (many years before the Harold Washington Library would come to be).

The kids, prepping for their selfie.

Their selfie and future album cover.

Clue #9.

This clue wasn’t the best, as the logo I found wasn’t quite used as much as I thought. But the kids found their way to the right spot, and we got ourselves a corner table.

For most of the day, downtown was pretty quiet – with fewer people than I would have thought. I expected the Game Room to have had a small amount of folks, but we mostly had this place to ourselves!

After lunch, walking down Michigan Avenue… we stopped in a Tourist Trap to look at souveniers and novelty t-shirts. Ah well, what can you do.

Sunglass selfie.

Next up: we wandered a bit, and arrived for our reservation at The Escape Game.

We had fun last time doing an escape room together, and Liz and I decided another one was in order.

The one we landed on was called Mission: Mars.

The space was very cool, with lots of interesting interfaces and interactions.

The kids, working together on a puzzle.

Looking around inside.

One of several puzzles.

This was a tough one.

Made it, just in the nick of time!

We ended up asking for one clue. But other than that, I think we did really well overall. With just 1:15 left on the clock!

Group victory photo!

Fast forward a bit to our dinner at Demera.

Liz and I had Ethiopian food on the shortlist of places to try. But when Paige asked about trying Ethiopian food unprompted, it was a done deal.

Post meal, getting ready to head out.

We had a little extra time to kill, so drove to our last destination… and walked over to a nearby dessert place and got some ice cream. And then got in line for the final stop…

Blue Man! Feels like we were just here, but it was still a fun time.

Listening to the kids (Paige and Audrey in particular) shouting with the audience at all the prompts was quite the experience. And exactly what Blue Man intended, I think. Fun to see the show again, and to be next to the kids who were seeing it for the first time.

We got done late, and had about an hour’s drive back to Valpo to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. The kids were mostly quiet in the car, and we had a pretty peaceful drive back. Audrey was on her phone the whole time, and Sebastian started snoring about 20 minutes in.

A long, adventurous day… trekking around downtown Chicago, and a lot of exploring around. Definitely fun to share the city with these kids, and to also remind ourselves of all the amazing things the city has to offer.

Clue Prep
Day in Chicago with the Holders: Art Institute, Game Room, Blue Man Group
A Day in Chicago with the Ford Kids: Sears Tower, Fox in a Box Escape Room, Lunch at Revival Food Hall, Redline VR, Korean BBQ at San Soo Gab San
Playing Games with the Fords

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