Is there anything more special than a grandparent? We’re giving that a hands-down, NO! National Grandparents Day is Sunday, September 10, which gives us the nudge we need to show these wonderful folks just how special they are to our hearts. Read on for ideas to make this year’s celebration grand in ways both big and small.

Grandparents Day 2photo: courtesy of Maria Chambers

Take a Stroll
Locations sprawled throughout the city and ‘burbs offer scenic paths and low-key hiking opportunities to take a break from the hustle to just walk and chat. A cruise around the city’s lakeshore path before the weather turns chilly is a great bonding spot or head indoors to the Garfield Conservatory to mingle amongst stunning greenery. On the weekends from noon-4 p.m., the Conservatory’s Fiddleheads program offers projects that get kids and families curious about plants and the natural world.

Take your walk to the wild side at Lincoln Park Zoo where you can now schedule face-to-face time with the penguins.  Or, meander the paths of the Morton Arboretum, stopping for play structures and admire the temporary sculptures inspired by the ancient Japanese art of paper folding in Origami in the Garden before it blows out of town, October 22.

photo: Origami in the Garden

Get lost in a prairie grass maze at Kohl Children’s Museum’s Habitat Park, a two-acre outdoor exhibit with sensory-focused nature activities, or visit an oldie but goodie, Peggy Notebaert, for their daily butterfly release.

If a town nearby your strolling spot of choice has a riverwalk or walking path, be sure to bring a blanket and a basket packed for a leisurely lunch in the park.

photo: Shedd Aquarium

Make it a Day of Learning
If you’d prefer to spend time indoors, treat the grandparents to a museum visit, showing the kids the importance of lifelong learning. Chicago offers a museum to suit all interests, from stargazing at Adler Planetarium to coming face-to-very-sharp-teeth with Sue at The Field Museum or diving into the deep sea with Shedd Aquarium. Get a CityPass and hit all the museum and special attraction hot spots at once for much cheaper.

(Good to know: If your celebration date is flexible, be sure to check which days are free for Illinois residents. As a bonus, Shedd Aquarium offers seniors a $3 discount when purchasing tickets on-site)

photo: The Field Museum

Now that you’ve conquered Museum Campus, take the learning back to the great outdoors and opt for an Architectural Boat Tour – an adventure sure to please all ages! There’s even a tour that ends with a meal at Lawry’s The Prime Rib! While you’re out and about in the city, keep your eyes peeled for these Magic Fountains Worth Your Pennies or get grandpa in on the selfie action by hunting down one of these murals.

photo: Chicago Fire

Get Sporty
Got a Sox supporter in the house? Take everyone out to the ballgame on Grandparents Day where kids can run the bases and kid-focused activities are featured throughout the concourse. If soccer is your game of choice, Chicago Fire is in town on Saturday, September 9 paying against the New York Red Bulls.

photo: Blue Man Group





Take Them to a Show They’ll Never Forget
You just can’t live your life in Chicago and not see the Blue Man Group at least once. You just can’t. So, bring grandma and grandpa along for a show they’ll never forget and the kids will find totally engaging and a whole lot silly. They even have a show on Grandparents Day at 4 p.m., so it’s meant to be.

Cook up Some Memories
Schedule a whole lot of delicious fun by lining up a family cooking class the morning of Grandparents Day at The Kids’ Table Lakeview and Wicker Park. Your tiny chef can work alongside their grandparents to create (and eat!) a special meal.

If staying home seems more suitable, put on your chef’s hats and pass on some culinary knowledge. Choose a favorite family recipe or a traditional cultural dish and allow the kids to take a turn preparing the meal. Suggestion: Be sure to take photos and videos because memories made in the kitchen are those worth savoring!

Midnight Circus in the Park 3photo: Midnight Circus in the Parks

Have Big Top Fun in the Park 
Chicago’s offbeat and totally entertaining circus, Midnight Circus in the Parks, takes its act on the road, performing in parks in all corners of the city. For Grandparents Day weekend, the troupe is bringing their high-wire acts, juggling, clowning and acrobatics to McKinley Park. It’s all for a good cause, too: The tour raises money to improve public parks and playgrounds.

Get Crafty
Making a masterpiece together at Pottery Bayou in Naperville or Glazed Expressions in Downers Grove and Chicago will allow for a favorite memory to have a permanent spot on grandma’s mantle.

Grandparents Day 1photo: courtesy of Maria Chambers

And, if the treasured elders in your life aren’t near enough to celebrate in person, you can still honor them from afar. Just a few creative ideas include:

  • Conduct an interview of your grandparent — you’ll probably be amazed at what you learn!
  • Help your child write an acrostic poem or funny madlib about Grandma and Grandpa
  • Create and mail a piece of handprint art (because nobody loves those tiny fingers as much as grandparents do!)
  • And, don’t forget, simply dropping a card with a handwritten message letting someone know you’re thinking about them always goes a long way

How do you plan on celebrating your grandparents this year? We’d love to hear your creative ideas in the Comments below!

— Maria Chambers & Nicole Morris