Brain Break Field Trips to Take with Your Remote Learner

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For many, back to school in 2020 means back to the dining room table or to the sweet little desk you had shipped to your front door and built this summer. Your homeschooling routine is likely more rigorous than what we saw in the spring, but when you have gaps in the schedule or the structured portion of the day is done, it’s nice to have a few outings at your fingertips to feel like you’re being social. Read on for a few ideas—some of which are educational and some just get you out the door—to give your brain the break it needs.


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Take a Hike (or Stroll Leisurely)!

Being cooped up in the house all day is hard, on everyone. Take a breather, get a bit of fresh air and put wild animal spotting on the agenda. Lace-up your boots, strap an infant to your back, maybe even bring along the fishing poles, and explore hiking spots found in our stories Discover the Not-So-Obvious Spots to Hike, Camp & Fish Near Chicago, Hiking Trails Even Toddlers Will Love and Hit the Trails! Best Hikes with Kids No Matter the Season.


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Enjoy the Art at North Shore Sculpture Park

Walk. Bike. Run. Skip. Gallop. However you make your way down this two-mile trail, you’re sure to enjoy the sights at the North Shore Sculpture Park. The paved path is lined with sculptures from artists across the world.

A fun way to allow kids to explore their creativity, capture memories AND keep them entertained is with an instant camera! They can snap pics and hang in their home office (aka bedroom)!

McCormick Blvd., between Dempster St. & Touhy Ave., Skokie; Online:


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Tour the Baha’i Temple Gardens

Take in the tranquility and beauty of Baha’i Temple with a walk around their gardens. The beautiful domed building was constructed in 1953 and designed by French Canadian Louis Bourgeois. It wows with architectural feats (check out the intricately carved stone pillars) and surrounding manicured gardens.

100 Linden Ave., Wilmette; Online:


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Take a Drive to See Wacky Roadside Stops

Many of the historic and wacky places in Chicago can be easily and safely seen from the comfort of your car to accommodate social distancing, and your kids just might think you’re slowly turning into Mrs. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus


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Get Immersed in the Colors at Chicago Botanic Garden

Visit Chicago Botanic Garden and be treated to colorful views of the North Lake, vistas of the Malott Japanese Garden, and close-ups of blooms in Dixon Prairie and the McDonald Woods. Until Sep. 20, you will also see hundreds of winged beauties and pretty petals in the Butterflies & Blooms exhibit and until Oct. 11 you can enjoy delightful sights and sounds of miniature trains traversing high and low tunnels in the Model Railroad Garden. Be sure to register for your timed entry!

1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe; Online:


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Take an Educational Cruise

We definitely have many, many bones to pick with 2020, but this year has done Chicago a solid and thrown some pretty sweet weather our way. While access to community pools and beaches have come to an end, many of Chicago’s educational river and lake tours are up and running. Head out on Chicago’s waterways, let these tour companies help you find the adventure and teach the kids a thing or two about our gorgeous city’s beginnings and its architecture.


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Captain Your Own Boat

While we mentioned several tour companies above that narrate a memorable trip along our waterways and teach a bit of Chicago architectural history, sometimes you want to steer the course yourself. Read on to learn how Chicago Electric Boat hands over the captain's hat and allows you to do just that.


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Intro the Kids to a Chicago-Style Dog

You gotta break for lunch, you might as well educate the kids on the proper way to eat a hot dog. Love ’em or leave ’em, hot dogs are big in Chicago, and if your kids haven’t begged for one yet, they will soon—and they get a pass on the sacrilege of using ketchup (for a very short time). Grab one at a legendary local spot and turn eating into an adventure.


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Visit the Zoos!

While things aren’t quite back to normal, Lincoln Park Zoo and Brookfield Zoo are both welcoming guests. . . with some new guidelines in place. Read our story Chicago Zoos Are Open! Get the When, What, How of a Zoo Visit!


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Hit the Hay and Visit an Animal Farm

A family field trip to the zoo is swell any day of the year, no matter the season—until your own little animal goes bananas because she can’t touch the giant kitty cats. Time to hit a petting zoo-style farm where getting up close and personal with nature’s creatures isn’t just safe: it’s encouraged. 


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Play a Game of Mini-Golf

Mini-golf. Putt-putt. Goofy golf. Adventure golf. Shorties. No matter what you call it, you have a blast playing it. Most of Chicago’s mini-golf courses are pure, kitschy fun and are only open for a limited time each year. So grab a short pencil and head to one of our city and suburban favorites. 


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Thrill-Seek at The Forge

The Forge: Lemont Quarries (aka The Forge) opens their 300-acre adventure park, 22 miles from downtown Chicago. Not only does the park feature the largest aerial adventure course in North America, a day of adventuring gives you access to four over-water ziplines, 5 miles of hiking trails, mountain biking, paddlesports, and a dedicated kids’ zone—while adhering to state Covid-19 safety guidelines. Sit back, read on and let the photos do the talking.

— Maria Chambers

Featured photo: Zach Lucero via Unsplash

Ahoy, Captain! Explore Chicago’s Waterways on a Family Boat Cruise

Low-Key Thrill Seek as a Family at The Forge: Lemont Quarries

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