Trying to add some education to your travels? Sure, you can visit a museum, but if you want kids to fully enjoy the experience it helps to step outside of the box. Check out Travel Hack Traveling Mom Dia Adams’ tips for real-world STEM Activities in Chicago.
I’m so happy to see the “being smart is cool” and “girls love science” attitude that comes from my ten year old daughter and her friends. It’s such a change from when I was in school. We are big fans of girls only trips, so I took advantage of the wide range of STEM activities in Chicago on a recent weekend. While we loved the museums, I also found four great ways to take STEM out into the real world.
STEM Activities in Chicago
Enjoy Pie in The Sky
Most people know about the Skydeck on top of the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower). The Willis Tower is a marvel of engineering and features a jaw-dropping view of Chicago. From 103 floors up with walk-out ledges, you can virtually step onto the ground below you. The Skydeck is famous and therefore becomes packed during opening hours.
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What if I told you that instead of waiting two to four hours in the general admission line, you could enjoy a private two hour visit?
What people may not know is that the Skydeck offers Pie in the Sky, which is Giordano’s deep dish pizza (pie) served at a private table in the Sky (deck). The dining options hide on the Skydeck’s website, so most tourists have no idea this is even possible. Nothing compares to the absolute VIP service of visiting after hours.
Seatings are limited to nine tables, but the evening we visited only three groups dined: two families of six and me and my daughter. Each table stood out over one of the Skydeck glass lookouts, which meant we got fun photos like the one above.
One thing that makes Pie in the Sky unique is that it’s not only a great venue, it’s great food. Many such offerings, such as Breakfast at the Vatican, offer standard fare at a premium price in a unique setting. Pie in the Sky takes what already is a memorable meal up a substantial notch. The three course meal includes a generous salad, Giordano’s famous deep dish with up to five toppings, either tiramisu or cannoli for dessert, and soda.
Traveling Mom Tip: You can also do breakfast or lunch, but to me dinner is the show-stopper. During October-February dinner starts at 8:30. The rest of the year it’s a later start but is worth the next day sleep-in. You need to order three days before visiting as the meal is catered and delivered.
Play With an Olfactory Chemistry Set
One way to reinforce STEM is to show science at work outside of a museum. I found a creative outlet for chemistry at Aroma Workshop. Kids of all ages get to create their own scents by mixing an enormous variety of aromas.
The staff at Aroma Workshop knows what they are doing. After we selected our ten favorites, the perfumers created a number of mixtures for us to sample. My daughter and I were surprised to learn how different scents worked together – and how they didn’t.
Our favorite part of the experience? The souvenir bottles we each received to take home. Each of us now has her signature scent. My daughter’s perfume mixes peach, vanilla, and honeysuckle while mine has more of a beachy feel. Aroma Workshop even saves the scent profiles so we can re-order when we run out.
Put STEAM in Your STEM
We added a large dash of art to our Chicago STEM weekend. I wanted to find an accessible art form that was both creative and entertaining. Blue Man Group to the rescue!
If you’re not familiar with Blue Man Group, I’ll try to describe the show. Imagine the Three Stooges as tech-savvy visitors from outer space. Without words, the Blue Men convey a wonder about the world around them. We were both transfixed from beginning to end by their antics. Any kid that can sit for 90 minutes will enjoy Blue Man Group. I saw kids as young as three in the audience, but I would definitely bring earplugs for the younger set.
My daughter adored the interactivity of both the Blue Man Group performance and the lobby pre-show activities. Be sure to get there early to explore as every spot in the lobby hides an opportunity for fun. If you’re feeling really adventurous, book a front section “poncho seat”. I won’t spoil it for you, but the ponchos were not just for show!
Traveling Mom Tip: For a quick and fun pre-show supper, check out the famous Clark Street Dogs less than a block away.
Let a Robot Bring You Slippers
If you want to bring science full circle, have I got a hotel for you! Hotel EMC2, a Marriott Autograph Collection property, is true to its namesake. From the earhorn smartphone speaker to the “wetlab” (in-room) shower, innovation greeted us at every turn. Hotel EMC2 is unique in many ways but the one your kids will remember is this:
LEO and his sister CLEO serve all sorts of amenities to hotel guests upon request. We called LEO via the in-room Alexa unit three times during our stay for water, slippers, and extra toiletries. To be honest, we didn’t actually need any of those items, but LEO was more than happy to oblige.
The rooms in the EMC2 are best for small families and kids old enough to take showers. The layout was a bit jarring at first, with the shower front and center instead of hidden away in the bathroom. However, every inch of the room is utilized so my daughter and I felt perfectly comfortable- enough so that we had to drag ourselves out of bed for breakfast. Fortunately the breakfast was worth the effort. The hotel restaurant, The Albert (after Einstein, of course) features an extensive library along with an extensive breakfast buffet. You can find a more comprehensive review of the Hotel EMC2 on The Deal Mommy.
Do you try to incorporate STEM into your trips? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.