Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Share the Love: Adventures in Chicago and Beyond with the Adler Planetarium

Even though the beautiful and boisterous city of Chicago with all of its amazing culture and sight seeing and family destination is in our suburban backyard, my young family has only ventured there to enjoy pieces of its wonder a few times.

Call me wimpy, but I've let this gem rest just outside of our stomping ground until this summer because I've been sort of intimidated by the thought of taking our two rambunctious and curious boys to Chicago to enjoy some of what the city has to offer by myself.

But when the Adler Planetarium invited us {as in both parents plus the boys!} to come check out the museum and its new Welcome to the Universe Exhibit, I knew I had to man up; I rationalized that two parents with two arms each should easily be able to wrangle and chase two tiny tornadoes throughout the great big city.

And, honestly, what could two little rambunctious and curious boys love more than a day spent exploring the vastness of not just Chicago but also our planet and solar system?

If you answered nothing besides actually riding in a Starship Cruiser with Master Yoda and Luke Skywalker, you're pretty much right on target; we actually had to discuss myriad times before our trip that Darth Vader and Obi One would NOT be at the planetarium, as it was not the home of Star Wars. {Ahem.}

To say that we enjoyed our time spent exploring The Adler and Chicago would be an understatement; though it's been weeks since our trip, my boys are still talking about our Chicago staycation.

Generously, Swissotel Chicago gifted us with a room to call home base during our Adler exploration trip.

We so enjoyed our stay at the #Swissotel #Chicago!
G insisted I take a picture of us in the bathroom of our Swissotel room, and he excitedly pointed out that there was a phone next to the toilet in case you need to call for help. 
The boys, 5 and almost 3, were like bees drawn to honey when they walked into the room and saw the large picture window spread out across the wall just beyond our beds. We must have looked out the window for at least 15 minutes exclaiming excitedly as tour boats floated down the Chicago River toward Lake Michigan.

Gorgeous view here at the Swissotel. Le sigh. My creativity is a stiring.
The view from Swissotel Chicago
Of course, that was about the stillest they were during the entire weekend because our staycation was hopping with stops at Lou Malnati's on the Gold Coast for dinner, Millenium Park, the lakeshore via Shoreline Sightseeing water taxi and, of course, the Adler.

We spent the bulk of our time exploring the vastness of the life beyond our planet at the Adler. Upon arriving, we picked two shows to enjoy: 3D Sun and Welcome to the Universe.

Our oldest was mesmerized by the 3D Sun show until it became a little too real, and he needed to exit the show so we could talk about how the sun probably would not shoot fire balls at the Earth. We quickly moved onto exploring some of the large telescopes, the planets, pieces of moon rock and the solar system models before the next show began.

Our Solar System exhibit
When we entered the waiting area for the Welcome to the Universe show, I wasn't sure we'd actually be able to tear our oldest away from the interactive, motion-driven floor-to-ceiling video games on the walls. He quickly discovered that he could make the various spaceship shadows on the walls move by using his body to direct them. At one point, he declared, "Mom! Look! I'm using the Force to move this! ... Where ARE we?!"

May the Force be with you. 
When we finally were able to tear him away from the interactive walls, we found seats inside the Grainger Sky Theater and settled in for the presentation of Welcome to the Universe.

Light saber fighting with Melissa's jedi before Welcome to the Universe began.
The movie screen in the Grainger is spread magnificently across the dome-shaped ceiling, and from our vantage point beneath, it felt as though we were looking up at the actual night sky in Chicago. When the tour of the Chicago night sky morphed into exploration of the other planets and then our solar system, I couldn't get over the depth of the picture on the screen.

And our tour didn't end there; we then went beyond our galaxy and into neighboring ones, traveling past the Andromeda and the Coma Cluster of galaxies. I have never felt so small, so tiny as I did when we were experiencing the universe from our little chairs in our little city of Chicago on our little planet. The vastness of our universe was mind boggling and so incredibly cool.

And the movie was so realistic, I felt like I was really in a spaceship moving through the galaxies.

My youngest, who I expected to be totally distracted throughout the entire presentation, actually sat on my lap the whole time with his eyes glued to the "night sky" and exclaimed "wow!" "beautiful!" "stars!" through the duration of the show.

E and I were absolutely blown away by the beauty, the artistry, the precision and the magnificence of the Welcome to the Universe show. And I'm sure John would have been, too, had he not needed to escort our oldest from the theater after the poor kid said he thought the room was spinning. {See? Really, it's that realistic!}

We ended our tour of the Adler by making our own craters in the Our Solar System exhibit. Because, honestly, could we really end our Chicago staycation without leaving a gaping hole in something? I'm thankful such a mess was neatly contained inside the display box instead of sprawled across a restaurant table or the hotel beds.

Making craters at the #Adler
Making holes in things we were welcomed to make holes in.
So now that we've successfully spent an overnight in Chicago and we didn't lose either child in any city or space blackholes or make holes in things we weren't welcome to make holes in, I think it's safe to say we'll be back.

And the Adler will certainly be included in our upcoming space and beyond adventures as the boys grow older and taller {they want to do the moon jump} and their interest and curiosity about our planet and space deepens beyond the Starship Cruiser.

But, hey, this was a great start.

Full disclosure: My family was invited by The Adler Planetarium to be members for a day so we could share our experiences at the Adler with our friends here. Generously, the Swissotel Chicago gifted us with a room for the night while Lou Malnati's Gold Coast fed us dinner on the house. Shoreline Sightseeing provided our family with transportation via water taxis, too. As always, all opinions are expressed are genuinely my own. 

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