PPM's Top 5 Chicago Exploration Spots

Chicago is big, really big, and with its wide grasping expanse, there are quite a few things to do and see this summer. Exploring Chicago can be fun and rewarding with countless attractions, festivals, and museums to seek out. So we put together PPM’s top 5 explorations to enjoy this summer in Chicago. What’s even greater about our list is that all of these places listed below are easily assessable with Chicago's public transportation, the CTA. So if you live in Lakeview, Lincoln Park, the Gold Coast, or River North, our top 5 stops are just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

For our residents, we highly recommend taking the CTA Redline, as it drops you off fairly close to each destination. Chicago's public buses do the same trick. Just look up what number arrives nearby and which will drop you off closest to your destination. Finally, you can always grab an Uber or a cab for a quick ride downtown. But, enough about that, let’s take a look at some fun exploring you can do this summer!


Discover the amazing world of amphibians at Shedd Aquarium’s newest one-of-a-kind exhibit, with more than 40 species of salamanders, frogs, newts, and worm-like caecilians. Encounter frogs in all the colors of the rainbow, come face-to-face with a giant Japanese salamander, measuring more than four feet long, and learn how these cold-blooded creatures are threatened by habitat loss, climate change, and common chemicals like pesticides. Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr. | Hours and ticket options vary; check website for details |

Numbers in Nature: a Mirror Maze

The Museum of Science and Industry’s new permanent exhibit reveals and explains the mathematical patterns found in nature, from the nested spirals of a sunflower’s seeds, to the ridges of a mountain range, to the layout of the universe. Navigate the seemingly infinite mirror maze, a fascinating yet challenging space that envelops guests within what appears to be an endless pattern. Produce digital animation with fractal branching. Stand before a mirror and discover the many patterns in the human body. And pluck a harp to understand how even music contains the same, familiar proportions found in nature. Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr. | Extended summer hours; check website for dates | Price included in museum entry; requires a free timed-entry ticket |


(Through October 4, 2015) Go beyond the legend of brutal seafaring invaders and plunderers and learn the truth about the Vikings, that they were innovative explorers, traders, and craftsmen. The exhibit explores the power of mythology and the symbolism of Viking ships, and offers fascinating insights into their domestic life, death rituals, and the importance of travel and trade to their existence. The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. | 9a.m. – 5p.m. |$31 all-access pass, $25 seniors and students with ID, $21 kids |

Robot Revolution

(Through January 3, 2016) Explore how robots will change how we play, live, and work. Interact with dozens of robots, each one specialized in one of four content areas: cooperation, smarts, skills, and locomotion. Hands-on elements, intriguing video, and thought-provoking questions enable guests to recognize the amazing ways that robotics can better society. Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr. | Extended summer hours; check website for dates | Prices vary; requires an additional, timed – entry ticket |

Randolph Street Market Festival

(May 24-24, June 27-28, July 25-26, August 29-30, & September 26-27) The West Loop’s indoor/outdoor market offers around-the-clock entertainment, a beer garden, fashion shows, artisan food vendors, activities for children, and more. The festival's Indie Designer Market boasts more than 250 select purveyors of high-quality vintage, salvaged, and re-imagined finds. Randolph & Ada St. (outdoor market) | Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Washington St. (indoor market) | Sat-Sun 10 a.m.-5p.m.|$10, $5 student with ID; good for both days |



Now That I Know About Chicago's Public School Options, What Do I Do Next?

I thought three postings about public school choices would provide enough information to help decide where your child will go to school.  Then it dawned on me that I have spoken to enough people who have had no clue about options outside of their neighborhood schools that I should go on to part four and discuss how to pursue these options.

Your Planned Property Management home is within the boundaries of an excellent Chicago Public Schools elementary school, but there are several other paths one can take.  I will concentrate on magnet, classical, and gifted schools, as these are the most likely alternatives for elementary school.  After that, I will outline paths to Chicago's Academic Centers, International Gifted Centers, and end with selective enrollment for International Baccalaureate high schools.

Magnet Elementary Schools - Magnet schools specialize in a specific subject area, such as math/science, fine arts, world languages, or humanities. These schools accept students from throughout the city and reflect diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.  Students are randomly selected through a computerized lottery. No testing is required.  Magnet high schools offer one or more specialty programs, such as fine and performing arts, agricultural sciences, or International Baccalaureate programs.  The application process usually begins in September of any given school year for the following year’s inclusion.  Cut-off for applying is normally in the second week of December.  CPS performs a computer lottery toward the end of the month in February.  Notification letters are mailed the third week of March. Siblings of students who will still be enrolled in the school are given preference, but still must apply.  Each school has a few different permutations.  All the schools offer tours to interested applicants. A couple of links to more information are: for a list of magnet schools and application information and a list of frequently asked questions.  Each school also has information detailing admissions criteria.

Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools – These include Regional Gifted Centers and Classical Schools. The application process starts in the beginning of October for the following school year.  All regional gifted centers in Chicago require testing for admission. Children are selected for entry based on their performance on an aptitude test administered by the Office of Access & Enrollment (OAE). Your child is eligible to apply for first grade during the fall application period of the year they turn 5 by September 1. This is typically his or her kindergarten year. Fill-in spots in the Options Program may be available in second through eighth grade.  Acceptance criteria include the Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools (SEES) application and an entrance exam.  Admission testing is required. All age-appropriate students applying for grades K-4 will be tested. Testing eligibility for students applying for grades 5-8 is based on the student's NWEA MAP scores in reading and math. Enrollment for classical schools is by application and examination. Children entering kindergarten through sixth grade are eligible to apply.  The process is very similar with the Regional Gifted Centers.  A link to the CPS page for Classical Schools is and it contains a list of schools and application procedures.  For information on CPS regional gifted centers, go to  All the schools give tours.

Academic Centers and International Gifted Centers:  Academic Centers offer an accelerated program for students in grades seven and eight. The programs are housed in seven high schools.  You apply in sixth grade.  Admissions are determined by a combination of GPA, the score on the standardized du jour, and an Academic Center entrance exam.  International Gifted Programs are for grades 6-8. You apply in fifth grade. The program includes intensive study of English, French, social studies, laboratory science, mathematics, technology, arts, physical education, library science, and advanced research.  The admission process in similar to that of the Academic Centers.  Start looking for application dates at the beginning of October.  A great resource is found at the following link: .  This site also has information about elementary options.  The CPS web page can be found at for International Gifted Centers and for Academic Centers.  These programs normally have specific tour dates for prospective students and their parents.  Some schools do not inform students of these options, as they do not wish to lose their top students.

Selective Enrollment and International Baccalaureate High Schools:  Selective Enrollment High Schools provide academically advanced students with a challenging and enriched college preparatory experience.  The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is a comprehensive and challenging pre-university program for academically advanced and highly motivated students.  As a rule, students apply for both to increase the likelihood of gaining a spot at a top CPS high school.  Admittance is based upon GPA, the score on the standardized du jour, and a Selective Enrollment entrance exam (only for Selective Enrollment high schools).  Some IB high schools have adopted the program school-wide but have a separate intensive program for top students.  Start inquiring about the admissions process at the beginning of the 8th grade school year.  Many schools will inform students of dates for applying, testing, and tours.  It's best to stay on top of it yourself. will get you to the CPS site for the Selective Enrollment process and questions. takes you the CPS site for the IB High Schools.

All the programs described above are highly competitive.  If you speak with parents, stories will range from total delight to absolute horror.  Best to gather all the information yourself and find out for yourself.  I found it stressful but ultimately satisfying.