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Before your trip, check in with the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (tel. 877/CHICAGO [244-2246]; www.choosechicago.com) to find out about upcoming events and travel packages. (They'll also mail you a packet of materials, if you want.) Click the "Maps" link on the right side of the home page for links to maps of Chicago neighborhoods. The Illinois Bureau of Tourism (tel. 800/2CONNECT [226-6632], or 800/406-6418 TTY; www.enjoyillinois.com) will also send you information about Chicago and other Illinois destinations.

Once you're here, you may want to stop by one of the city's two official visitors' centers. The Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph St. (at Michigan Ave.), once the city's public library, is a beautiful landmark building that's worth a look as you're passing through the Loop. Its visitors' center is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 6pm, Saturday from 9am to 6pm, and Sunday from 10am to 6pm; it's closed on holidays.

The Chicago Water Works Visitor Center is in the old pumping station at Michigan and Chicago avenues in the heart of the city's shopping district. The entrance is on the Pearson Street side of the building, across from the Water Tower Place mall. It's open daily from 7:30am to 7pm. This location has the added draw of housing a location of Hot Tix, which offers both half-price day-of-performance and full-price tickets to many theater productions around the city, as well as a gift shop.

Website Extras -- Scanning the websites of museums and other attractions before you visit can enhance your trip when you get here. At the Field Museum of Natural History website (www.fieldmuseum.org), you can download an MP3 audio tour of the museum's permanent collection; you can also print out a Family Adventure Tour, which sends kids on a scavenger hunt throughout the museum. The Millennium Park MP3 audio tour (available at www.millenniumpark.org) includes interviews with the artists who created the park's eye-catching artwork. And if you're intimidated by the massive size of the Museum of Science and Industry, check out the website's Personal Planner, which will put together a customized itinerary based your family's interests (www.msichicago.org).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.