Brownie Troop 765 heading to lunch with their dolls. (Hillary is in the center with long blue dress, hat, and matching doll.)

Chicago is known as the Windy City, a popular shopping destination, and a fun place to take a weekend trip. It is only a 6 hour train ride from where I grew up in Michigan, so I have been there many times over the years. My favorite memories of Chicago are from several childhood trips with my friends and our moms!

I was in 2nd grade on my first Chicago trip. The doll megastore “American Girl Place” had just opened and that was very exciting news for me since I was obsessed with their historical fiction books and my doll, Samantha. My friend Kylie and her mom joined my mom and I for a weekend of shopping and sightseeing. Of course we spent several hours shopping for our dolls and even eating lunch with them, but there was so much more to see and do! We visited the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier and I was in heaven. I can still remember how much fun we had, and those memories even helped me 15 years later when I worked in a children’s museum. Later we ate dinner at Ed Debevic’s – a 50s style diner where the staff is really rude. Our waitress was named Flo and we had teeny tiny ice cream sundaes. They played “Going to the Chapel” on the radio during dinner, so I remember riding on the luggage cart through the halls of the hotel with Kylie singing that song later that night.

We visited Chicago the next summer with my Brownie troop. Again, we spent a lot of time shopping with our dolls and visiting museums. Sue the T. Rex was brand new at the Field Museum and it was amazing to see how big she was! We made the trip to Chicago yet again the next year, this time with my friend Chelsea and her mom, and my little brother tagged along. My favorite part of that trip was visiting Disney Quest, which sadly closed later that year. My brother was a bit young for the 3D virtual reality pirate ride, and we still laugh about him throwing his 3D glasses overboard when Blackbeard’s ghost appeared.

Enjoying a beautiful summer day with friends in Chicago.

I have been to Chicago several times as an adult, but these girlhood trips still stick out in my memory. Remembering all of those fun times with friends and family makes me smile, and also wonder why I have such vivid memories of small details. I hope that someday my girlfriends and I can meet up in Chicago again, and maybe even have our own little girls who can make their own memories.

-Hillary Hanel
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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