Notes from my Minivan: Why We Cover Chicago


I spend a lot of time in my minivan driving four kids here and there, there and here. It’s one of the few places where I can actually think, sometimes. These are my thoughts, scribbled on napkins and receipts—a look into raising kids and living in Lake County.

Note: all opinions belong to me and only me and do not reflect those of our advertisers, partners, or other writers.

Why we Cover Chicago

You may see the stories on iO Improv or our Spring Break in Chicago series and wonder why? Or pass right over them thinking, “This is Little LAKE County,” and yes, we are all aware of the big city looming south of us. Maybe you pass these stories up with a shake of the head or a scoff. Take the kids to the city? Pay for that parking? Why bother?

Why? Because it’s part of our experience, and we think you should experience it too.

We tell you about our experiences, both in and around Lake County and in the city because when you live so close to a world-class city you need to take advantage of it.  You owe it to yourself and your children to be willing to explore it.

We are really quite lucky in this way.  Living so close to all that a big city has to offer, yet we get to drive home at night to our comfortable suburban homes. Part of what makes living in Lake County so great is our proximity to the city, yet in our day-to-day, we can enjoy the convenience, fresh air, and green spaces of Lake County.  Can you imagine carrying an infant bucket seat up the stairs of your three-story walk-up apartment?  No thanks! But a drive in the car or a ride on the Metra means we can access the same entertainment for much less than Bucktown rent.

When I was a kid living in the northwest suburbs (not Lake County, much closer to the city), we frequently visited small ethnic stores, favorite parks, and beaches. However, every time we drove “into the city,” meaning we went Downtown, or to the museum campus, it was a big deal. My parents sweated and complained, traffic made them mad, and getting there was generally unpleasant. I was well into my 20’s before I drove into the scary city on my own. In fact, I worked in the South Loop for a year at the mercy of the El before taking the plunge and driving in myself.

why we cover chicgao

A few months of driving around the city and you know what, it’s not scary! It’s just crowded and busy. After five years of commuting into the South Loop for work, I can say I have seen as bad or worse traffic in the suburbs. Hello? Two-lane roads and tractors? Fog? Route 120?

The reason we take our kids in the city and encourage you to do so as well is that it’s worth it. Dare I say there is more experience and educational value in one day in the city, whatever you do than another week of soccer camp?

I will never forget the first time (high school) I went to the Art Institute. We took the train and a bus, and that bus ride was almost as much of an education as the Monet exhibit. I learned more about socioeconomic status, culture, people, and how privileged my suburban life was in one short bus ride than in 4 years of college.

If you haven’t taken your kids into the city yet, vow to make this summer the time you try. Start small, visit the outskirts, like Andersonville and the Swedish American Museum. Visit a classic that you remember from school field trips as a child, the museums offer free and discount days. Or visit someplace you have never been, like the Notebaert Nature Museum.

Yes, it will take all day.  Yes, there will be traffic. Yes, it will cost more. But the kids will think you are the coolest parent ever. They may even have something to write about for their next school report.

Notes from my Minivan: Why We Cover Chicago
About Melissa Haak 626 Articles
Melissa is mom to 4. She used to dream of traveling the world, now she dreams of a clean kitchen. She can be found on most social media sites as @PBinmyHair because with this much hair and four kids, you're bound to find something in it.

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