Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Shopping Chicago: Taking the Train & American Girl Place

In my area many people take the train to Chicago for day trips.  I have always wondered how they have done this.  Especially since the only train that I was aware of costs around $60 per person each way!  That is NOT a deal!  So, this past summer, a friend and I did some research and went on a mother/daughter shopping day in Chicago.  Here's our experience:

What we discovered is that there is a commuter train (South Shore Line) that takes you from South Bend, Indiana to Chicago, Illinois.  The train ends in Chicago at Millennium Station (it's underground but very easy to find your way out).  

We decided to get on the train at the Carroll Avenue station.  This was close to our driving route and appeared to be the safest to park our car.  It is a busy station but there appeared to be plenty of parking (overflow parking for busy days).  Parking at the station is free and you can park overnight!  They do not have the station monitored overnight but it is well lit and they claim to have very rare cases of break-ins/damage.

You can purchase your tickets online, at the station, or on the train.  For the trip out we purchased tickets in advance for a set time through an app that South Shore Line offers.  What I learned on the way back is that it's much easier to just purchase tickets on the train.  That way you are not committed to a specific time or location to get on the train.  Also, there are some deals that you can take advantage of.  We paid close attention to the times of day that the kiddos could ride for free with a paid adult.

The ticket vending machine at the station.

So excited for our adventure.  Of course, a stop at American Girl Place.  You will notice that one girls face is blurred.  This is a friend who I am blurring for her privacy.

On the train - lots of room to store our bags for the trip back.  
It took close to 2 hour for us to get to Chicago since they stop at every station along the way.  Looking back - it would be a lot faster to just drive.  But, then we would have to figure out parking and fees once we were there.  Plus, I hate driving in large cities.  They do have restrooms on the train.  They can get a little messy as the toilet water splashes all over during the bumpy travel.  But, it's still an option if you need it.  You can also bring food and beverages on the train.

The end of the route brings you right across the street from Millennium Park.  Of course we had to check out the "bean".

I needed this picture with the building from the Adventures in Babysitting movie.

Water Tower Place (mall) is not that far and it was a beautiful days so we decided to walk instead of taking a cab.  Plus, it added to the experience as we passed many unique shops and a variety of street vendors/protesters.

Many great picture opportunities!

This was from a visit earlier in the summer but it shows the outside entrance of the Chicago American Girl Place. 

The special part of this trip for us was to have a mother/daughter lunch at American Girl Place.  My daughter and I had never done this and we loved it!

Seats for the doll.
FYI - the bow on the napkin is actually a hair tie that you can keep.

"Would You Rather" cards for fun conversations during the meal.

Mini sweet rolls to start out with.

More appetizers.

The main course.
There were plenty of options.
My daughter picked cheese pizza.
I had a great past dish with a ton of veggies!

Dessert:  Chocolate mouse and a cupcake.
Great presentation and the cupcake was amazing!

In the store you will find these in the bathroom stalls and at the hand washing station.
They keep your doll in a nice safe place when you need some hands free time.

Right outside of the 2nd floor of the American Girl Place is the Lego store!
This is another picture from earlier in the summer.

Lego store
I do not have a picture of it but there is also a Disney Store and Hershey store near the mall.

Another great view on the way back to the train.
Would I take the train again?  Absolutely!  I can see this as being a fun adventure for many different reasons.  Especially during warm weather days.  

  • We walked from the station to the mall and then back.  It would have been easy to grab a taxi but we didn't need one.  However, we were prepared to use a taxi if our purchases were more than we could comfortably handle for the walk.
  • Our kiddos were free for our ride into Chicago but we had to pay for them to ride home.  It wasn't that much and seemed a much better option than having to shop an extra couple of hours (until the kids ride free promotion started again) just to avoid the cost.
  • American Girl Lunch (or other meals):  You need a reservation!  It is expensive and it doesn't mater what day of the week it is - they seem to fill up!

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