Is there anything more special than a grandparent? We’re giving that a hands-down, NO! National Grandparents Day is Sunday, September 11, 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. Take your walk to the wild side at Lincoln Park Zoo. Or, meander the paths of the Morton Arboretum, stopping for play structures and admiring the current frog sculptures in Ribbit! The Exhibit before it hops out of town, September 25.

Morton Arboretum Ribbitphoto: Ribbit! The Exhibit

Say hello to the new kid in town by sneaking a peak at Kohl Children’s Museum’s newest attraction, Pollinator Garden 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.

Adler What is a Planet 2photo: Adler Planetarium

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. (Good to know: If your celebration date is flexible, be sure to check out which days are free for Illinois residents. As a bonus, Shedd Aquarium is free to seniors Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., September 7-September 29.)

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! While you’re out and about in the city, keep your eyes peeled for these Magic Fountains Worth Your Pennies.

Kids Table 3photo: The Kids’ Table

Cook up Some Memories
Schedule a whole lot of delicious fun by lining up a family cooking class the Friday before the big day at The Kids’ Table Lakeview. 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 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!

— Nicole Morris