Couples + Family

Drool vs. Drool: 5 Ways to Have a Romantic Vacation (Even With Kids)

(Photo: Mlenny/Getty Images)

Navy Pier, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Shedd Aquarium … there are plenty of reasons for your kids to fall in love with Chicago. But that doesn’t mean you and your spouse can’t find romance here, too. These off-the-beaten-path activities will wow your youngsters and set your heart aflutter, too.

  1. Take a Chicago River Cruise. What could be more romantic than cruising along the Chicago River after dark? Kids of all ages are welcome on all of the Chicago Architecture Foundation‘s river cruises, even the First Lady Cruises, which depart at 7:30 p.m. most nights. Docents lead the hour-and-a-half-long tour that covers the history and origin of roughly 50 buildings along the river. And a fully stocked bar beckons on the lower level of the boat, so you can clink glasses as you keep one eye on the kids and the other gazing at the stunning skyline.
  2. Explore Maggie Daley Park. Speaking of unobstructed skyline views, you can also catch some pretty romantic ones at the Maggie Daley Park and recreation center. This winter, hundreds of couples held hands as they skated around the quarter-mile skating ribbon, while their kids stayed close behind clutching steaming cups of hot cocoa. In the warmer months, walk or roller skate the ribbon or just relax while the children get some energy out on the state-of-the-art play attractions like a mirrored maze, climbing wall and spiral slides.
  3. Enjoy a meal with a view. Two things that don’t mix are little kids and long lines, so bypass the latter by taking the tots for dinner at The Signature Room at the 95th instead of waiting in line for the John Hancock Observatory. Not only will everyone in your party enjoy the never-gets-old view of the stunning “grid,” but you can order a glass of wine with crab cakes and oysters while the little ones nosh on grilled cheese and chicken tenders.
  4. Find romance at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The Lincoln Park Zoo might sound like it’s strictly for kids, but the 35-acre space has also set the scene for many a first date and wedding proposal. Case in point: The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, complete with rock formations, wildlife and serene pools, is the perfect hidden pocket for a family picnic. From there, stroll along the calming nature boardwalk, or in the winter, walk the Zoo Lights holiday display. Take a romantic spin on the historic carousel, and end the day with dinner at nearby French bistro Mon Ami Gabi, where the kids’ menu comes with games and items like chicken fingers and French bread pizza.
  5. Satisfy your sweet tooth. In 1965, The Beatles played Chicago’s Comiskey Park and celebrated afterwards over ice cream sundaes with their dates at the historic Margie’s Candies on Western Avenue. The candy and soda shop has been open since 1921 and still serves decadent homemade ice cream concoctions and chocolate confections today. Tiffany lamps hang over brown vinyl booths complete with mini jukeboxes (the ones where the Beatles and Al Capone both sat are marked), while photographs and memorabilia fill the glass cases. Settle in and feed each other sinful scoops of a chocolate honeycomb chip sundae while kids quickly suck down peanut butter shakes topped with whipped cream.