It's amazing how sometimes a one-day jaunt can really make it seem like you had a big vacation. I highly recommend thinking in these terms.
Some day-trips can be free, and others not. We chose the "not" this time, and spent one day in Chicago. It was a very pleasant day indeed. Chicago is such a congenial city with an atmosphere of friendliness and general well-being!
Visiting my parents allowed us to drive to South Bend, where we caught the old South Shore train for a 2 1/2 hour ride straight into the heart of Chicago. My Younger Son and I had planned a perfect itinerary which gave us the following:
We rode the elevated train to the Sears Tower area.
We went up into the Sears Tower.
We enjoyed watching the interaction between a large Amish group and the "big city" employees there. Young employees were taking photos of families for the official Sears Tower photo (which the Tower would try to sell us later); I whispered to the young man that the Amish might not like to have their photos taken. He was startled, but didn't really care. After herding the 15 into a reasonable group, and being ready to take the photo, the Amish patriarch finally realized the intent, and politely put a stop to that; but I'm not sure he ever did understand WHY they wanted to take a photo in the first place. It WAS very disconcerting to me too!
I do not have a photograph of that incident.
We ate our packed lunch in a beautified area amongst the skyscrapers.
Then with a self-guided tour in hand, we walked the financial district and the shopping district with architecture in mind.
The Daley Plaza (Picasso)
Tiffany Mosaic Dome--the largest of its kind--on the ceiling of the former Marshall Field's Department Store
The Great Clock at Marshall Field's
The Rookery, remodeled by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1907.
We got on a city bus, went to Navy Pier, and sailed on a tallship.
My two sons helped to hoist the sails.
We ate at a restaurant that served excellent gluten-free food for us, spent a very fast time at the Art Institute, and slept much of the way home on the train.