Pre-teen boy in Chicago in mid-September: what should he do/see? The sky's the limit....
August 18, 2012 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Fun things for an eleven-year-old boy to do in the city of Chicago, September 14-17. Money is no object. I need as many interesting suggestions as possible!

I'm pretty good when it comes to knowing fun stuff to do in Chicago for my peers, but this is an unusual situation. I've been looking at the general Chicago tourism sites, but other than things like "Cubs game," and "Blue Man Group," I'm not sure what would be enjoyable to an eleven-year-old boy.

The kid will be supervised, and will have adults who can drive him wherever, so transportation is taken care of.

All ideas are welcome.
posted by chonus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Pretty standard, but: the Field Museum (dinosaurs, Tsavo lions, lots of other animals; ancient Egyptian stuff) and, if he has any interest in marine life, Shedd Aquarium.
posted by aintthattheway at 1:08 PM on August 18, 2012

Shedd Aquarium. Museum of Science and Industry. Ed Debevics..
posted by Sassyfras at 1:09 PM on August 18, 2012

Oh, also, there's a Chicago gangster history tour if he's into that kind of thing. I haven't been on it, but it looks fun. You may want to call beforehand and see if they consider it too mature for an 11-year-old.
posted by aintthattheway at 1:12 PM on August 18, 2012

when i was a kid, september was when the lake finally got warm enough for swimming, so i would suggest cannon balls at concrete beach (near oak street beach).
posted by justjess at 1:13 PM on August 18, 2012

Those of you who know eleven-year-old boys better than I -- do they really want to go to a museum for fun? I would have thought that kind of thing was relegated to "field trip," school-like stuff.
posted by chonus at 1:15 PM on August 18, 2012

U-505 Submarine is at the Museum of Science and Industry - you can go on board.
posted by quodlibet at 1:17 PM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

do they really want to go to a museum for fun?

The Field Museum is pretty cool if he has any interest in animals -- it has a T-Rex, man-eating lions, animals from all over. It definitely depends on his interests, but I think he'd like it if he's at all bookish or inclined toward nature/science.
posted by aintthattheway at 1:18 PM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Museum of Science and Industry IS fun. My kids LOVE that kind of stuff.
posted by Sassyfras at 1:19 PM on August 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Field Museum is legitimately cool. The Museum of Science and Industry... not so much. IMHO.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:28 PM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

We used to go to Chicago every year with my family and the Museum of Science and Industry was the coolest as far as we were concerned. Not at all just a field trip activity.
posted by goggie at 1:29 PM on August 18, 2012

Great America would have been my suggestion, but for heaven's sake, they're closed for a private event that weekend! WTF? I suppose if he really likes amusement parks, a little research might find out which company is using the park that day, and perhaps a way to get a ticket. Maybe a local MeFite knows?

There are a number of water parks in the suburbs, if you don't mind the drive. You could even do a day trip up to the Dells for a day of water parking.

The Bears are not playing that weekend, but you can still get into the store, and perhaps they will be conducting tours of Soldier Field. Conveniently located across the street from the Field Museum, and you don't have to move your car to visit both.

The Sox are also away that weekend, so it's possible there will be tours available of Cellular Field.

The Cubs will be doing whatever it is they do that weekend. Wrigley Field is definitely worth a look-see for a baseball fan, even if the team is not.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:39 PM on August 18, 2012

Oops, sorry, I missed that you mentioned Cubs game in your post. More suggestions:

Does he like outdoor stuff, like hiking, or canoeing? If you don't mind the drive (about 1 1/2 hours from the city) there is a neat stretch of the Fox River where you can rent canoes, and be dropped off and picked up by the canoe company. Be happy to dig out more info if you're interested.

Great hiking (and about the only hills you'll find in the area) at Starved Rock State Park, or even the Forest Preserves in Palos Park.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:43 PM on August 18, 2012

I'll nth the Museum of Science and Industry recommendation, and also add that if money really is no object, the special exhibits are worth it. I think the MSI has had a few years of kind of mediocre exhibits but it's really bounced back lately; I went with some friends shortly before our college graduation and we had a great time, despite being well outside the museum's target age range. Shame the Mythbusters exhibit closes on the third.

I liked Navy Pier when I was a kid, but this is disputable among Chicagoans, and is probably why it's not mentioned earlier in the post. But if you want to do it, something extra fun might be taking the water taxi from downtown.

Speaking of boats, he might enjoy taking a boat ride on the Chicago River - there are a number of companies that give boat tours, and it's a somewhat unique experience in that the river runs through the city and is one of the best vantage points from which to see it. It's another thing I loved when I visited the city as a kid.
posted by capricorn at 1:50 PM on August 18, 2012

back to recommend Margie's Candies, an awesome old timey ice cream parlor in buck town
posted by justjess at 1:59 PM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you're worried about him really enjoying a museum, I will tell you that I took boys age 8, 9, 11, and 13 to the Field Museum earlier this summer and they all loved it. The Genghis Khan exhibit that is there right now is fascinating, and they also loved the Underground Adventure. Each kid was only sorry they didn't get to spend more time savoring the exhibits; I could easily have taken them back the very next day and they'd have loved it.
posted by not that girl at 2:02 PM on August 18, 2012

These are good ideas, thanks! Some friends have found some more unusual things like the Chicago Pizza Tour (frankly sounds like something I'd want to do!) and Segway rentals. If you've got more, please do keep 'em coming.

And thanks for reminding me about Margie's... now I think a trip is in order for myself...
posted by chonus at 2:14 PM on August 18, 2012

The Skyscraper formerly known as the Sears Tower
Navy Pier (and esp. the ferris wheel)
El Circo Cheapo (7 pm show)
posted by drlith at 2:22 PM on August 18, 2012

El Circo Cheapo is only on the first Saturday of the month. Drat! Looks cool!
posted by chonus at 2:28 PM on August 18, 2012

The submarine tour at MSI was only about fifteen minutes. You get shuffled through really quickly. The quality of the exhibits in general seemed very poor -- no substantial documentation, some pretty obvious errors in what they did have. It's a pricey ticket for fifteen minutes in a sub.

Field Museum was amazing, though.
posted by samofidelis at 2:49 PM on August 18, 2012

There's a game of Journey to the End of the Night going on Saturday from 6pm to midnight. It's basically a city-wide game of tag with a few hundred people.

It's been a while since I was 11, so maybe it'd be too much running around, but I could see it being fun for a certain type of kid.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 2:52 PM on August 18, 2012

When I was that age I was starting to explore culture and develop my own taste, but I was stuck in the burbs with no money.

Some things I would have really enjoyed:

-go to quimby's, give them a small budget to get some zines or buttons or comics, take a photobooth strip

-go to reckless records, again with the small budget, let them explore the descriptive little reviews on the labels. encourage them to take a long time, find something new. you might be the spark behind their future teen music obsession!

-take them to a limited release movie at landmark, gene siskel, logan theatre, the music box, etc

-American Science and Surplus! so much weird great shit

-assuming they eat meat, they are required to eat a) a Chicago dog B) a weird game meat dog at Hot Doug's or Franks and Dawgs

-take the out for some real serious ethnic food
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:50 PM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was in Chicago earlier this year, and I thought the Field Museum was fantastic. The Museum of Science & Industry was fun too, and it had lots of hands-on exhibits that I think would be great for most kids.

I was wandering around the Navy Pier which was pretty blah in general, but on pure random inspiration I took a Seadog speedboat tour on the lake. I expected it to be cheesey - and it was - but it was also really fun if you like riding a very fast boat. All the kids on the boat loved it. My video I took of us spinning around is here.
posted by gemmy at 10:11 PM on August 18, 2012

The Boring Store.
posted by raf at 10:33 PM on August 18, 2012

Uncle Fun on Belmont is a great place to while away an afternoon. And a stop at Scooter's, also on Belmont, might be the perfect way to cap it off.

Love the ideas about taking him to Quimby's and Reckless Records. Also, if he is like the 11 year olds I know here, a visit to the Lego store in Water Tower Place (Michigan & Chicago) might be a good time.

Time Out Chicago has a kids section and the listings in general are usually pretty good (though I can't vouch for the kids section since I never read it.)
posted by deliciae at 11:51 PM on August 18, 2012

I took an 11 y/o boy to dinner at Medieval Times in the Chicago burbs a couple years ago and he thought it was zany fun.
posted by lakeroon at 5:46 AM on August 19, 2012

A visit to millenium park is pretty obligatory, the bean's fun to look at (and take photos in), and there's a super cool fountain (he might be on the edge of not wanting to splash around in it, but there'll be plenty of other kids doing it.
posted by kylej at 8:07 AM on August 19, 2012

Fishing in the beautiful Humboldt Park lagoon. Or by the Notabaert Nature Museum (by Lincoln Park Zoo, another good and free one). Or, if you're doing MSI, fishing in the gorgeous lagoon by the Japanese Zen Garden behind the museum.
posted by Lieber Frau at 1:03 PM on August 19, 2012

Someone was just telling me that they had a fantastic family day on the Chicago River piloting their own rented boat.
posted by eamondaly at 7:12 PM on August 19, 2012

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