Tales from our Chicago Staycation: The SilverLEAF Chronicles 10

August 6, 2016 at 6:16 pm Leave a comment

Contributed by Dr. Sarah

This year on our family summer vacation, the SilverLEAF got to join us– on our staycation. The SilverLEAF happily brought us to downtown Chicago, to the streets of the south side of Chicago, and to the Skokie Lagoons. Usually the all-electric SilverLEAF gets left behind while we rent a conventional gasoline-powered SUV for a road trip, or take a plane. But the SilverLEAF served us well on this year’s urban adventures.


Our plan this year was that each of us— the two dudes, my mom, and me— would plan a day, including the all-important meals. My 11-year-old dude chose a trip on the Chicago Water Taxi to Chinatown. We’d done the trip some years ago and enjoyed it, so it was time for a reprise. I chose kayaking. My 13-year-old dude chose a history tour.  My mom chose an outing to see the new-ish Stony Island Culture Bank, created by the great designer and urban thinker, Theaster Gates.

Here are some photos from our ride on the Chicago Water Taxi to and from Chinatown. The pagoda that serves as the entrance to the park where you get off the water taxi in Chinatown:IMG_8487

We really enjoyed the dim sum at Three Happiness. We way over-ordered, and ended up bringing home about 10 pounds worth of leftovers. No pics, sorry!

I personally really like this artistic rendering of a map of the Chicago river on the river-facing side of a downtown building as we rode back from Chinatown:


The coolest thing— in my opinion— about the water taxi to Chinatown? You get to see parts of the city that you literally can’t see from anywhere else.


The 11-year-old DudeSter’s assessment: “10 out of 10. Would do it again!” Spoken like the tween he is.

My mom’s pick— a visit to the rundown South Side bank that urban re-designer Theaster Gates’ turned into a lovely cultural center— was preceded by a meandering trip in pursuit of soul food. With Yelp as our guide, we decided to check out Five Loaves.  Our trip was so circuitous that we got there just after it closed. Thanks again to Yelp, we found our way to Daley’s, where the dudes loved the fried chicken and the fries, and my mom enjoyed the chicken noodle soup so much that we took extra home for her.

We then made the short hop over to the fabulous, rustic-yet-classy Stony Island Arts Building.  Very accessible from Lake Shore Drive, not far south of my old stomping ground, the University of Chicago campus.

Take a look at these photos of the current exhibit and the building which convey the roughness of the old structure while capturing its renewed elegance.

For backstory on this exciting urban culture project, see this article in Slate.

In a non-urban vein, my 11-year old and I went kayaking at the Skokie Lagoons, off the North Branch of the Chicago River. We got really up close and personal with a gray heron who was slowly, slowly stalking a fish.

When my 13-year old dude’s day came, instead of touring historic sites in Chicago, like the site of the Haymarket riots— his original idea— he just wanted to hang out with us, and mostly with me, so he said. He can be a little excessively sincere at times— which makes me doubt his sincerity— but I took it at face value. On his day, we did hang out, mostly at home, he rode his bike quite a bit (per usual), and we ate pizza— his pick.

We spent one night at The W Hotel on Lake Shore Drive. The decor was a little too “Las Vegas” for us, but there was a great view from one of our rooms:


We didn’t make it to the National Mexican Museum, which had been on our tentative wish list. Next time!

My take on the staycation concept. This was our first. One challenge was that as a self-employed professional, it was a bit hard to fully disengage from work. The calls and emails kept coming in… However, I really liked not having the stress of hauling ourselves over some long distance. And of course, as a committed eco mom, I loved how low our ecological impact was. Oh yeah, and it’s a lot to cheaper do a staycation. We’d do it again!


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