In putting together my annual preview coverage of the Chicago Auto Show this year, I decided it was time to mix things up a bit and get even more of the family involved. After all, the Chicago Auto Show touts itself as a family-friendly event, and as someone who grew up attending the show and now takes his own kids, handing over coverage to a pair of younger eyes seemed like an obvious thing to do. It’s no secret that The Rock Daughters™ are well-versed in four-wheeled, fun – a pair of girls with more Hot Wheels than I ever had as a kid, semi-skilled drivers (of Power Wheels and the like) themselves, and a fixture in my coverage of “grownup” rides. In fact, whenever a press fleet vehicle arrives here at Rock Father HQ, if the girls are home, they’ll go outside with me to greet the driver. So, for 2017, a plan came together for our oldest daughter, Addie, to attend one of the pre-show “Media Preview” days with me, armed with a camera to capture the show through the eyes of a child. In an age where what and “who” constitutes “media” is evolving, websites and YouTube Channels are helping drive the age of reporters to a much younger level, as a new generation of auto lovers prepares to take the torch and run with it into the future – a concept that might even be threatening for some.* Here’s a look at Addie’s photos, along with some Rock Father Picks for family activities at this year’s Chicago Auto Show!
There’s a lot to love at the Chevrolet booth this year, and they’re packing some family fun into the mix with an appearance by The 2017 LEGO Batmobile, as featured in The LEGO Batman Movie (more on that HERE). They’ve also got interactive stations set up where kids (and grownups) can record a 360 video, and get their own set of Topps trading cards printed up. And, the vehicles are great, too!
Toyota‘s display (previewed here) is decked-out with a ton of new tech and new rides, but also some great photo opps that kids are gonna love. Addie gave a big thumbs-up to the M&M NASCAR, along with green screen photo stations that turn still pics into animated “Extreme Sports” GIFs featuring skateboarding and BMX biking. For those wishing to take a ride, their test track is serving up some great in-car experiences. Fans of Chicago baseball will notice the Tundra from the Cubs’ victory parade, in addition to other vehicles decked-out for both North Side and South Side ball clubs.
Nissan has a great lineup of vehicles at the show this year, but it’s their Rogue One: A Star Wars Story display (previewed here) that kids are gonna dig. Aside from the fantastic custom and production model Rogue One-inspired Nissan Rogues, there’s an interactive Stormtrooper VR experience, a massive Death Star, and some scale models of famous ships from the film.
The folks at FCA have a huge spread, and while Daddy loves the Mopar goodness and the American muscle of cars like the Dodge Challenger and Charger, the Chrysler Pacifica remains a must-see minivan for families. Continuing what they started last year, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Play Zone offers a space for kids to both unwind, and get some energy out. There’s a ball pit, climber and slide, video games and more – definitely something to check out! For those seeking adventure, get behind the wheel of a full-size driving simulator, or try one of the test tracks, including the famous Jeep display – still serving-up high-climbing indoor, off-road action.
Visitors to the Ford display are gonna want to spend some time chatting with Hank the Robot. Addie and Hank hit it off and became fast friends (see our Facebook live video here), and your kids will want to meet him, too! He’s a fast learner, and brings some smooth dance moves to the Auto Show party.
And Kia continues to rock the Auto Show with a special School of Rock version of the Sedona, while also showing off the new GT Stinger and Niro. Kids can check out an interactive music experience, hop into a video photo booth, or get a picture with the Kia Hamsters, who we kept missing.
Check out the Rock Father Rides™ section of The Rock Father™ Magazine for more coverage of the 2017 Chicago Auto Show. The show runs February 11-20, 2017 at McCormick Place. Click here for tickets and details.
*About that asterisk: I was hired to do my first professional writing gig when I was 15. I was also the host of a cable access television show at the time, a novel thing in the era of VHS when something like YouTube would’ve been considered impossible. Being a kid back then, in what some would’ve called extraordinary circumstances, I learned quickly that it was not impossible to break certain rules to accomplish some pretty great things. I attended media events and press conferences (my first was with Magic Johnson) at which I was the only “kid” in the house. Later, as I’d begin playing music and performing in bands, I faced a similar age fight as an underage guitarist fronting a band playing 21+ shows. Nearly three full decades later, I’ve built a career out of doing things that I’ve been told “can’t” be done – despite the fact that I’ve either already done them, or am in the process of. Sometimes, rules are made to be bent and broken, and what I learned all those years ago is that most of the time it all comes down to asking permission. With the Chicago Auto Show, there is a loosely-enforced “no kids” rule for their Media Days – something not listed on their website, but in the finest of fine print on the credentials themselves. For this adventure, Addie had a CAS-issued media pass, and I asked for permission – and that permission was granted. She was not the only child present for the first of the Media Preview days, as we did encounter a few others – but someone in the hierarchy of the CAS board took issue with this and tried to have us escorted from the event… after having been there all day. There was some back-and-forth between security and staff, with a lack of communication being the primary problem, and one security staffer calling the “kid policy” a “grey area,” while pinning the source of the issue on one CAS staffer. The end result is that we were allowed to stay, but with it already being late in the day and my spirits soured, we still ended up heading out a few minutes later. Funny enough, Addie’s picture had even been displayed on the digital social board at the CAS stage throughout the day and no one had any problem with that.