It isn’t every day you have the opportunity to play tourist in your own backyard, so when Loews Chicago approached me about trying out their “Urban Explorer” package, I jumped at the chance. Designed for families, the package encourages hotel guests to get out and explore Chicago like never before. The program is designed to keep children entertained while navigating the major attractions of the Windy City, which isn’t always an easy task.
How Loews Chicago Inspires Visitors to See the City Like Never Before
I decided to make the trip to Loews Chicago a special one-on-one trip with my 9 year old and he was over the moon. We headed downtown mid-morning to make the most of our stay. My son was doted on from the second he walked through the door. He had no idea we were trying out the “Urban Explorer” package so when one of the receptionists left and returned with a backpack just for him, his eyes were as wide as saucers. He couldn’t believe his luck that this was going to be his to keep and he hadn’t even opened it! Thankfully the elevator ride was quick, because it was difficult for him to suppress his excitement.
The gift of the backpack overshadowed the floor to ceiling windows in our room overlooking downtown Chicago and the Chicago River off on the horizon. I was pretty excited about the view, and managed to get a few photos before he dove into the backpack, squealing with delight as he removed each item from the bag. There was a journal, sunglasses, notebook, pens, compass, water bottle, and the prized possession…a stuffed cow (as in Mrs. O’Leary’s legendary cow, the one rumored to have started the Chicago fire)! (Note: as the video shows, someone was a little bit excited by this development…)
The “Urban Explorer” has a book of scavenger hunt clues to help kids navigate the city. What I loved about the clues was that they were clever, and easy for children to understand (parents might have to help solve some of the riddles). They weren’t dependent upon one another so you could just use the clues as you visited a particular attraction. Each of the clues requires the child to take a picture of the cow (or cow-selfie) in a specific location. After your child has collected their photos (there is no set number) they can show them to the front desk for a special prize.
My son could not contain his excitement once he knew the rules. We headed out the door and he immediately wanted to know where everything was, where we were going, and how many of the clues we would be able to find that day.
The adventure begins
The first stop was lunch at one of our favorite all day breakfast places, Yolk, where my son and his cow enjoyed a delightful s’mores pancake. I thought they were going to lick the plate clean. Afterwards, we headed to Navy Pier since it is very close to Loews Chicago’s Streeterville location. I had been looking forward to seeing the Centennial Wheel, the new Ferris wheel towering above Navy Pier looking out to Lake Michigan and the rest of downtown. The new wheel can seat eight people per carriage and my son marveled at the fact it had air conditioning inside the cars. We attempted several selfies with our new found cow friend and enjoyed the ride and the view.
Afterwards, we headed off in search of the Tribune Tower and its rocks and stones from famous buildings around the world. Other destinations included the Wrigley Building, the Michigan Avenue bridge, and a pit stop at Dylan’s Candy Bar (not on the scavenger hunt, but the kid and cow desperately wanted to include it on the route). After some snacks, we headed down Michigan Avenue using other clues to find the Water Tower and the John Hancock Building. My son didn’t know we were going to go to the top of the building for a view.
Formerly known as the John Hancock Observatory, 360 Chicago has a new attraction called TILT I wanted to check out. On the way up to the 94th floor, I explained that TILT was going to lean us out from the side of the building for a better view of the city. My son wasn’t so sure. Once we arrived, the three of us marveled at the view (the cow too) and took a leisurely walk around, looking out the windows and trying to identify as many Chicago landmarks as possible. My son was trying to work up his courage for TILT as we approached and I told him he didn’t have to do it. We watched another couple and decided to go for it. Essentially, you step into a box, hold on to rails on either side of you, and the box starts tilting away from the building slowly. Honestly, I think it scared me more than my son, but it didn’t last more than a minute.
Our daredevil ways behind us, we returned to the hotel for some games at their rooftop terrace, Streeterville Social. Here we played endless games of corn hole and watched other guests take on a game of giant Jenga. I couldn’t get my son to sit down and enjoy the view, but I did get him to rest a bit for a kiddie cocktail.
A sweet reward
Our day on the town done, we called it a night and I thought the cow would soon be forgotten. The next morning however, as we headed downstairs for breakfast, my son asked that I head to the front desk to show the staff his photos. The lovely receptionists genuinely oohed and aahed at his favorite shots and then disappeared to the back room for his reward. I won’t spoil the fun, but let’s just say he was delighted by his surprise.
The newest additional to our family, Cowlvin, spent the rest of our time in the city exploring Maggie Daley Park, Millennium Park, and the Bean. At this point, I had to throw in the towel on all the fun and call it a day, because I was spent. Thanks to Loews Chicago, we saw the city like we’ve never seen before, created some amazing mother-son memories, and made a new cherished friend, Cowlvin.
If you want to see my full review of Loews Chicago and a video tour, you can find it here.
What’s your favorite place to explore in Chicago?
*We were guests of the Loews Chicago, but these opinions are entirely our own.