The Run Down

Do you know what's better than roasting s'mores around an open campfire? Watching your kid's eyes light up when they experience that for the first time. For this guide, we've got you hanging out at the only sanctioned firepits along Lake Michigan. But before that, you'll have pancakes, steak, and eggs at a beloved diner nearby in Hyde Park.

1. Breakfast @ Valois Restaurant

2. Campfire @ Promontory Point

1. Valois Restaurant

You’re starting with brunch at Valois Restaurant, right in the heart of Downtown Hyde Park off 53rd and Lakeshore Drive.

You’re here for good food and a slice of Chicago history. Clocking in at over 100 years old, this is perhaps most famously known as former President Obama’s favorite Chicago breakfast spot and a place he still frequents when he’s in town. You can just drop that fact on your kids when you want to change the conversation away from their latest Disney show obsession. Let me know how that goes over…

Now onto the food — here are a few tips to get you going.

– Order at the counter. There’s usually a decent line during the breakfast and lunch rush, but it moves quickly, so have your order ready as you approach the front.

– All food is served cafeteria-style, with staff behind the counter building your plate as you peruse the long line of buffet trays.

-Apparently, President Obama’s favorite dish is steak and eggs.  A side of pancakes or French toast is also right on the money.

2. Promontory Point

We’re moving onto this itinerary’s main event at Promontory Point. It’s about a 5-minute drive from Valois and a site along Lake Michigan where you can find a collection of stone fire circles that run against the shoreline.

If you’re driving, there is a decent size lot near the entrance at 55th and South Shore Drive. Across from the parking lot, you’ll follow a walking path leading to a pedestrian tunnel that goes beneath Lake Shore Drive.

Once you reach the other side, you’ll have your pick of fire circles, but the best spot sits at the North end of the park, with dramatic skyline views. To get there, exit the tunnel, hang a left, and follow the path directly to the site.

With kids, this might seem like a lot to plan for, but here are some notes to help make this as easy as possible.

– You’ll need to bring your firewood, but luckily there’s an Ace Hardware about a block from Valois. They have firewood for sale all year long.

– For s’mores ingredients and other snacks, there’s a Trade Joe’s across from Ace Hardware.

– Because of its popularity, snagging a spot can sometimes be tricky — especially on good weather days. But if you’re there by early afternoon, you should be able to secure a spot.

– Even if everything is taken, it’s normal to share these fire circles with other people and families visiting at the same time.

Here’s a view from the fire circle with Downtown as your backdrop.

If you’re coming on a warm summer day, this area along the rocks (and also next to the fire circles) is a popular swimming spot.