Sightseeing with a Baby in the Summer Heat

My sister Laura, who you may remember as the talented art student who painted the mural in Lillian’s nursery, currently lives in New York. She moved out there to go to college and lives there year-round, attending courses during the school year and working during the summer. We’d been considering taking a road trip out there with my parents, both to visit Laura and to see some of the famous New York City sights while we’re there.

An aerial photograph of New York City, showing part of Central Park.

A random New York photo showing Manhattan and Central Park, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Since neither Joe nor I have ever been on a proper tourist-style trip to NYC, we started making a list of some of the places we wanted to visit — Times Square, Central Park, the World Trade Center memorial. But then we started wondering: how much sightseeing could we reasonably expect to do with a baby in tow? Would Lillian tolerate being in her stroller and on-the-go all day long? If it was hot outside, would she just end up fussy and miserable? How exactly would feedings, naps, and diaper changes work out?

Before we set any unrealistic expectations — or worse, made any non-refundable reservations — it seemed like it would be wise to try and figure out the answers to some of these questions. So a couple weekends ago, we devised an ingenious super-scientific experiment to simulate a day of New York City sightseeing right here in Chicago.

We took a Sunday and planned a day downtown — ride the train into the Loop, do a lot of walking with the stroller, and check out some of the tourist-type attractions that our own city has to offer. It was about 95 degrees outside, one of the first really hot days of the year, so it also provided a good worst-case-scenario of what it would be like to be outside with a baby in the summer heat. (Worst-case-scenario because if it’s hotter than mid-nineties, forget any concerns about the baby, we’ll be staying indoors so we don’t melt ourselves.)

In the stroller on the train headed downtown. So far so good!

The following were some of our concerns with spending a day with a baby outside in the summer heat:

Dehydration – We’d heard that babies can get dehydrated more easily than adults (more info on that can be found here) so this was something we wanted to watch out for. Our solution was to fill one of Lillian’s bottles with plain purified water, and anytime Joe and I felt thirsty enough to stop for a drink, we’d offer her some as well. Sometimes she would take a few swallows, sometimes she’d be uninterested. Over the course of the day she probably had about three ounces, which isn’t much, but still a lot more than she has on a typical day (which is none).

Sunburn – Sunburn can also be a serious concern for a baby’s sensitive skin, more so than for adults (more info on that here). To fend it off, we picked up a bottle of SPF 50+ baby sunscreen and a big floppy sun hat to help shield her head and face — so between that and the built-in canopy on the stroller, she was very well-shielded. (The sun hat may have been a little too big and it kept sliding down over her eyes, but she didn’t seem to mind.)

Joe and Lillian in Millenium Park.

Naps – Babies need their sleep, and Lillian has been on a pretty predictable nap schedule these days. But if we were out and about all day, would she be too distracted and stimulated to be able to get that much-needed downtime? This was something we worried about a little, but it didn’t turn out to be a problem; she had no problem dozing off in her stroller, and ended up taking one nap in the noodle restaurant where we had lunch and another nap in the shade of Grant Park.

Napping in the stroller in various places.

Feedings & Diaper Changes – These didn’t turn out to be that challenging, since there were plenty of public restrooms with changing tables — the only minor downside was that it was a little crowded, with at least one other mom and baby ahead of me each time. And feeding could be done pretty much anywhere that had a bench or chairs for us to sit down. We were even able to feed her one solid meal using the stroller as a makeshift high chair.

At this point, you may be wondering if with all of these baby-related accommodations, there wouldn’t be any time left to do anything… but we actually managed to cram a fair amount of sightseeing into the day. Like a visit to the gigantic reflective Cloud Gate sculpture in Millenium Park that has been affectionately nicknamed “The Bean” due to its shape:

The Cloud Gate Sculpture (AKA The Bean) in Chicago

The Cloud Gate Sculpture (AKA The Bean).

And a stroll over to Buckingnham Fountain, which is ridiculously huge and has a water jet that shoots 150 feet into the air every hour:

Buckingham Fountain in Chicago

Buckingham Fountain in all its fountainy glory.

We even got a chance to check out the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Model City exhibit, which was surprisingly awesome (in addition to giving us a chance to get out of the heat for a little while). It’s an elaborate, accurate scale model of Chicago cast in colorless plastic:

An overview of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Model City exhibit.

An overview of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Model City exhibit.

The amount of detail put into this thing was pretty incredible, and it was really neat to be able to walk around it and look at all the familiar landmark buildings from every angle. My favorite part was how the Cloud Gate / Bean sculpture was actually shiny and reflective in mini form:

Detailed closeups of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Model City exhibit.

A detailed view of the buildings along the Chicago River (left) and the Bean sculpture (right) in the Chicago Model City exhibit.

Lillian seemed to find the indoor museumy places a lot less interesting, though, and would just lean back in her stroller blowing raspberries the whole time. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty well convinced that continuous fart noises are baby-speak for “this is boring, let’s go back outside!”

Less than enthralled in one of the indoor gift shops.

But overall she wasn’t really fussy at all, and generally seemed to be less bothered by the heat than we were ourselves. On the way home from the train at the end of the day, I was tired and sweaty and my feet were sore and I was just ready to be home, and meanwhile Lillian is bursting out into random giggles in her stroller. I don’t even know what was so funny, but she was having a great time apparently!

So I guess the big lesson we learned from the experiment was that this baby is up for just about any adventure we can throw at her — and as sad as it may seem, we probably have to worry about ourselves wearing out before she does.


  1. Aww!!! That is one happy baby!!! Yep, she looks like she can handle travel very well! I can’t wait until you all can travel back down here again and until we can come see you. Love you all!!

  2. Let’s face it: we grownups don’t wear sunbonnets, sunblock or head to toe clothing, because that’d make it hard to drive or even walk. If you don’t have to worry about that (because you’re a baby in a stroller, or a rich tourist in a chauffeur-driven carriage) then you too can laugh and enjoy the ride! And there was probably more at her eye level outside than in. Hurry down here for another visit, and we’ll do our best at chauffering you!

  3. Really, now is probably a good time for travel, before baby Lillian learns to walk. She could handle it, but y’all would be exhausted!

    You have lots of fun times ahead, as you and Lillian explore the world!

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