A frigid February frolic through the auto industry’s latest offerings at McCormick Place can be a fun, family-friendly excursion, even for those believing the difference between a V8 and a V6 is V2.
While a trip to Chicago’s 103rd Auto Show for legitimate side-by-side comparisons of the Porsche Panamara, Lexus LS 460 Sport, Audi A8, Mercedes S400 Hybrid and BMW 740i is an adults-only outing, here are 10 kid-pleasing ways to enjoy the show’s 1.2 million square feet.
Take a ride on the wild side
Jeep’s all-terrain course, Chevrolet Volt’s trip through the countryside, and the test tracks of Toyota and Ford let drivers cruise under the show’s neon lighting—a surreal, and cool, experience.
Play a game
For some, an afternoon away from the Xbox is akin to torture. Even for them, the auto show is no Guantanamo Bay. Autotrader’s Driver’s Choice Challenge, with a chance to win an iPad, Ford’s virtual drive down Asheville, N.C.’s Blue Ridge Parkway and Honda’s Eco Assist Challenge are three options. Old school games are also open in Ford’s Mustang Alley, and Toyota mentally challenges showgoers to determine the plural of Prius.
Be an idol
Kia Karaoke and Volkswagen’s Caraoke allow singers of all ages to find their inner Carrie Underwood or Lee DeWyze.
Hug a tree
If this year’s auto show had a mascot, it would be Al Gore. Green technology, from the plug-in Chevy Volt to the earthy Nissan Leaf, abounds. Play this scavenger hunt game: find and taunt the manufacturers failing to display some sort of eco-friendly initiative.
Meet George Jetson
One of the coolest things about any auto show is the display of concept cars. 8 are featured this year: the Ford 2012 Focus Electric, Honda’s Fit EV, the Ford Vertrek, Hyundai’s HCD-12 Curb, the GMC Terrain HD, Kia’s KV7, the Honda Civic Concept and Toyota’s Prius CE.
Channel Andy Warhol
Chevrolet’s car-as-canvas technology offers the opportunity to design and personalize a brand new Sonic—an entry-level car joining Chevy’s lineup this fall. Anyone who’s ever painted their own Chuck Taylors on the Converse website and had them arrive by mail two weeks later will love this.
Communic8 w/yr BFF
Chevrolet is, hands down, the brand most obviously targeting youth. The Sonic design (noted above) and Chevy’s “Take a photo in your Camaro” both offer the option to immediately tweet, text, e-mail and Facebook-post.
Appreciate the history
Check out the vintage cars parked in the northwestern-most spot of the show. Don’t miss the burgundy 1948 Tucker.
Salute the flag
A chance to make up for patriotism lost by Christina Aguilera’s Super Bowl anthem rendition is given by the U.S. Army’s display of vehicles and communication devices. If that doesn’t work, the American Red Cross is accepting blood donations.
Seek out celebrity sightings
See who will be appearing at the show and when.
The Chicago Auto Show runs through Feb. 20. Tickets are $11 for adults, $7 for seniors 62 and under and children 7-12. Children 6 and under are free. Most show-related questions are answered here.
Barry Reszel is a Libertyville-based at-home dad, freelance writer and producer for the not-for-profit Liberty Town Productions. He may be reached at [email protected].