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Hyde and Seek

We had the itch. It starts with a “so, what do you want to do this weekend?”

Game on.

We both whip out our phones and start searching. Distance? 2-3 hours each way tops. Cost? With lunch $100. Activity? Something kid-friendly but not a total snore for us.

This weekend’s winner was The Oriental Museum on the campus of the University of Chicago in Hyde Park.

Despite living in Chicago for a stint, neither of us had ever visited the University of Chicago campus.  Nor had we heard of The Oriental Institute. Big mistake. The campus is idyllic, and the museum an inspiring collection of ancient artifacts.
Kid friendly? Eh. Miette was totally intrigued. But almost five years old is a far cry from two year old boy. I’m not so sure the docents had ever heard anyone belt out a dinosaur roar as enthusiastically as Brahm did when he encountered the Lammasu.

He and I made a bee-line for the exit and ran few laps around the beautiful Rockafeller chapel next door, another stunning example of architecture in the area.

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“Where’s the GD T-Rex?”

The Oriental Institute is free. A donation is recommended. It’s the perfect spot for a  first date. Wear those Warby Parkers and go armed with a few amazing facts about the Persian Empire. Then pop over to Plein Air for a nibble and gaze at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House next door. Plan your future honeymoon to Egypt. Consider a return visit for your first or second anniversary.

Then, enlist your in-laws to take your toddler to the Field Museum, where roaring at Sue is completely appropriate.

 

 

 

New Orleans With Kids

Eyebrows raised when we told people we were taking our two kids, ages 5 and 3 to New Orleans for Spring Break.  “You just cross right over Bourbon Street,” we’d say.  But in all honesty, New Orleans was my favorite family trip yet. And, despite an annual adults-only trip there, bringing the kiddos made it even more exciting as the week didn’t revolve around barstools and Sazeracs. We felt great in the morning, and did far more than had we gone alone.

New Orleans isn’t just for drunken bachelorette parties, friends! Here’s why we’re going back in April and I’m already excited.

We didn’t hear a single “I’m bored” the entire trip. How could they be? We met Mardi Gras Indians, saw Darth Vader dancing to classical tunes, ate beignets and snoballs, watched parades with kazoo bands, danced to live music on every corner, helped a Sword Swallower, went on a Kids Tour complete with stories about Jean Lafitte and a treasure hunt, hit up the Audubon Zoo, rode streetcars, steamboats, and did I mention the music? The list goes on.

Here in no particular order are my recommendation for taking your kids to NOLA.

1. Stroll the French Quarter and dance to the music. It’s everywhere, it’s free, it’s impressive.  Take some singles and tip.

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2. Hang out in Jackson Square and watch the street performers. We caught a fantastic 30-minute magic show that had my kids captivated. Touristy? Maybe. Fun? Absolutely. At another show, my daughter MIGHT have removed a sword from a sword swallower’s throat. I will forever hope it’s her craziest spring break moment ever. Wishful thinking.

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3. Check out a festival. We love the French Quarter Fest for the variety of music on every corner and the cost- It’s totally free. There are great food vendors everywhere, and the vibe is chill. All are welcome! Our kids danced their tails off. Don’t miss the opening parade down (wait for it!) Bourbon street.  The Kazoo band is a hoot (see what I did there?) and the kids took home Mardi Gras beads without their reputations being scarred for life!

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4. BOOK A KID’S TOUR. My kids still bring up the treasure hunt and pirate lore they learned on their adventure with French Quartour Kids. Well worth the price, Jill, the woman who leads the tour, is a former teacher and you’ll leave wishing she was currently YOUR child’s teacher. My daughter talked about Jean Lafitte for weeks, and it made our whole trip.  Book it, you’ll love it.

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Searching for Jean Lafitte!

5. Eat it all. Brave the lines at Cafe Du Monde and eat all the beignets.  Who doesn’t love powdered sugar covered fried dough? It’s a tourist trap totally worth the hype. If you hate lines like this Mama, send your spouse to grab the goodies while you and the kids chase birds in the park across the street.

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6. On that same note- Book a great restaurant for lunch out instead of dinner (less pressure!) and for the love of god, take the kids along. Throw them a screen if that’s what it takes and ENJOY yourself. You’re on vacation. New Orleans has some of the best dining in the country and to miss it would be blasphemous. We took ours to Peche, Domenica (the clam pizza is a game-changer) and James Beard Award-winning Shaya for amazing lunches. Go.

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Outside Shaya

7. Rent a place. We are huge advocates of renting homes while traveling. Whatever your feelings are on the pros and cons of vacation rentals, the convenience of having space, bedrooms and a kitchen on vacation are undeniable! We use Airbnb and Homeaway.

8. Ride that streetcar down St. Charles Avenue. It was little boy heaven for my son!

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9. If it rains, or even if it doesn’t, check out the Louisiana Children’s Museum

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Eye Love New Orleans!

10. The Audobon Zoo is beautiful. Songs have been written about it. They all asked for you…..

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I could go on. Dat Dawg on Magazine Street is a fun retreat for innovative hot dogs and fries, and no trip to New Orleans would be complete without a Sno-ball. We tried SnowWizard Sno-balls (4001 Magazine St) and could have easily sampled one each day without even scratching the surface of flavor combos.

This year? We’ve got an entirely different list of activities to keep us busy but one thing is for certain- There will be music, we will dance enthusiastically to it all, and NOLA will forever have our hearts.

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