This past weekend I got to take a trip with my youngest son to the Windy City. This was the first time he and I have done a vacation together, and with kids getting older, who knows how may more trips will be in our future. When I asked him where he wanted to go for Spring Break he chose Chicago, and so I booked a trip for the weekend.
We headed out early Friday, with our primary goal being to get to the first stop of the trip, Galloping Ghost arcade. This is a video game arcade that he heard about online, that is filled with hundreds of retro video game cabinets. The drive down was uneventful, and we arrived around 2pm. Just as promised, the arcade delivered with huge doses of nostalgia. On the drive down I was telling my son about a particular game that I remember playing in the 80’s. All I could remember about the name was that it had ‘xeno’ in it somewhere. It was a side scrolling alien shooting game, and was unique because three people could play simultaneously on three slices of the screen. I remembered playing the game a bunch as a kid, but never saw it, or heard about it, after that.
We walked into Galloping Ghost and bought our all-day pass (games are free to play after you pay the entry fee). Within walking 10 feet, my son says, “Is that the game you were talking about?” Sure enough, there is was: Xenophobe. We walked over and played a few rounds, and sure enough, it was just like I remember it. The rest of the visit passed in a haze of pixelated nostalgia. This arcade was huge, and in the few hours that we spent there we only scratched the surface of everything we could play. Soon enough though it was time to go get dinner and get checked in to our hotel.
We hit a ramen place in LaGrange and then drove into the heart of the city to stay at the Congress Hotel, right by Grant Park. The hotel was old and historic, and had an amazing view of the park and the lake. We kicked around the hotel for the night and relaxed after a long day of travel. The next morning I got up early to get in a short run, witnessing an amazing sunrise over the lake. After 5 miles I headed back up to the hotel room to get cleaned up and figure out the plan for the day.
We decided to walk over to Millennium Park for a bit and then head to the Field Museum. There’s lots of museums on the shore, but it costs a lot of money to do them all, so we picked one. The field museum ended up being a ton of fun, and my boy actually really enjoyed himself, seeing all the cool exhibits. We capped off the morning with late lunch at Lou Malnati’s to introduce him to Chicago style deep dish pizza. I hit a taproom for a quick drink and then we headed back to the hotel to chill for a bit.
Later that evening I would be participating in the Ten Junk Miles podcast, but we still had some time to kill. So after a bit of Pokemon Go playing during the Community Day event, we hit up a candy store, and then picked out a souvenir to bring home from a local tourist shop. I then headed out with my friends to do dinner and the podcast, and it turned into a really late night, not crawling into bed until after 11. Originally, I had planned a long Sunday run with Scott Kummer, but I spent the night fitfully sleeping with a stomach full of too much greasy pizza and beer. After waking up yet again at 4am I decided to bail on the run and just relax for the morning.
Our plan for Sunday was to hit the Museum of Science and Industry before heading out of town. This is a great museum, and has one of my favorite train displays of anywhere I’ve been. We spent a couple hours there, taking in the sights, and then grabbed some lunch for the start of our journey back. We had decided to break the trip home up a bit, by first stopping in Madison, WI to hit up another game arcade. Geeks Mania was nowhere near the size of Galloping Ghost, but it had a few things that Galloping Ghost didn’t have. It also had some pinball machines, so I got to play a bit of that instead of just video games. Overall, the video game nostalgia was pretty awesome this weekend, and I can see a few more trips like this in my future.
After this we headed up to Eau Claire for one more night in a hotel. We decided to stop early since we weren’t in a rush, and it meant that we didn’t need to do the final couple of hours in the dark. Since we were on vacation I wanted it to feel like it, and so one more night in a hotel bed seemed just fine. We took it easy and I got to watch some Food Network, before hitting the sack. The final push home was nice and easy, and now we have all day to clean up and get ready for the rest of the week.
This trip ended up being an amazing experience, as it allowed my son and I to connect and hang out with each other on an adult level. It was the first vacation we had done like this, and it ended up being really fun for both of us. Since my son is still figuring out what it is he likes/doesn’t like in a vacation, this was a great way for me to help him discover that. We kept our schedule pretty open and only had a few things penciled in throughout the entire weekend. It allowed us to shift plans and change direction quickly, which helped make the entire trip a lot more fun.
As a parent it’s fun to spend time with your adult-ish kids, and get to know the people they’re becoming. I’m hoping for other opportunities like this in the future, but despite that, this weekend is a fond memory that I’ll cherish for a long time.