Heading into town with your teen or tween? Here are 10 must-dos for your Windy City bucket list:
1. Step onto the Ledge at the Willis Tower Skydeck
More than 100 stories up the Willis Tower lies Skydeck Chicago - an absolute can't-miss Chicago experience. Open daily, it offers spectacular views - you can see up to four states on a clear day - interactive exhibits and ... drumroll, please .... The Ledge, a glass box that let's you step four feet outside the walls of the building.
2. Dance with a Belgua
The Shedd Aquarium offers an amazing array of unforgettable, extraordinary marine animal encounters. Perhaps the most up-close-and-personal is the Beluga Encounter: Guided by a Shedd trainer, your tween or teen will learn all about beluga whales as they wade into the waters of the Grainger Beluga Encounter Habitat.
3. Visit a super cool Chicago t-shirt design company
Threadless T-shirts feature designs created by independent artists from both Chicago and beyond. Their West Loop HQ (1260 W. Madison St.) showcases large-scale creations by some of Chicago's best street artists and you'll find fresh tees at outlet prices, too.
4. Spend a day at the beach
Grab a towel and your swimsuit and catch some rays on Lake Michigan. North Avenue Beach boasts amazing skyline views and a nice expanse of sand for sunning. Castaways, the beach house shaped like a boat, is your go-to place for ice-cream and snacks.
5. Set your teen loose on Michigan Avenue for shopping galore
Chicago's Magnificent Mile - Michigan Avenue - is a teen shopper's paradise. They'll find everything from the Apple Store to Forever 21. Make a pit stop at Garrett Popcorn Shop (625 North Michigan Avenue) for a bag of caramel, butter, cheesy popcorn mix.
6. Set sail on a Lake Michigan adventure with the Seadog Speedboat Cruise
The Seadog is the fastest tour boat on Lake Michigan. Two-thousand horsepower of ferocious Seadog energy will both thrill and educate as you learn a thing or two (or three) about Chicago architecture.
7. Take a whirl on the iconic Navy Pier Ferris Wheel
Spinning 150 feet into the sky, the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel is one of the best ways to catch a birds-eye view of the city.
8. Spend the evening with the Blue Men
The revamped Blue Man Group features all the elements that kids (ages 10 and up) love: a hyperactive entertainment experience featuring voiceless blue men playing with paint, Twinkies and giant smartphones.
9. Travel down into the depths of a coal mine, touch a tornado and step aboard a submarine
The Museum of Science and Industry offers plenty of fun (and shhh ... educational!) opportunitites for teens and tweens. The museum's Coal Mine has been taking visitors deep into a (mock) mine shaft since 1933. Step on the hoist and and learn more about the evolution of coal mining technology as you learn what it takes to work in the U.S. mining industry. Visitors to the Science Storms exhibit will learn more about the science behind seven natural phenomena: lightning, fire, tornadoes, avalanches, tsunamis, sunlight and atoms in motion. Finally, don't miss your chance to step inside the real U-505-the only German submarine in the United States, preserved at the museum as a memorial to the 55,000 American sailors who gave their lives on the high seas in WWI and WWII.
10. Cap off your trip with a Segway Fireworks Tour
Every Wednesday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m., Bike and Roll Chicago will not only teach you how to navigate the city by Segway but also lead the way to a top-secret spot for viewing Navy Pier's fireworks.
Photos: Millennium Park by Clayton Hauck; Threadless by Randy Aquilizan via flickr; North Avenue Beach by Adam Alexander