Travel

A week in Chi-town

Chicago is a fun city to visit when the weather’s nice and you’re ready for an adventure.

I attended a beautiful wedding in Bloomingdale, Ill. (late September 2013), and then took the train into downtown Chicago. Our first hotel, which was actually a resort, claimed to have “Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired” architecture. It wasn’t until we got to the city that I realized how important this was.

Clockwise, from left panel: The bride and groom; a bridesmaid with her bouquet;
Birthday dinner on the 95th floor of the John Hancock bldg.; a view into downtown from our hotel;
a friend’s fairytale tattoo; Cloud Gate in Millennium Park

What is Chicago’s deal? (or, a tourist’s experience over a few short days).

Yes, there’s the famous deep dish pizza. I had to try it after an exhausting, bike-friendly ride around the city’s streets. (I’m partial to New York’s style but my hubby enjoyed it). Check out Pizzeria Ora. It was quiet and the waiters are friendly.

Yes, there’s “the bean,” but that’s just, literally, the gate to one of the most beautiful parks I’ve yet seen. (I had to Google the real name: Cloud Gate). It’s located in Millennium Park, a relatively new section of Grant Park. My suggestion, grab a bike and explore all the touristy areas and the streets in between. If you’re worried about wandering around, ask a waiter for some tips on the neighborhoods to avoid.

The inside of the park and the buildings lining the city’s namesake river are a marvel.

Clockwise: Another complimentary shot of Cloud Gate; Chicago’s impressive skyline from the river;
a spacesuit displayed at the Adler Planetarium;
Buckingham Memorial Fountain in Grant Park;
Navy Pier, which sits where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan

So what’s the deal? There’s this mix of architecture that mimics everything from Greek temples, to the Jazz Age’s art deco, to building’s straight out of sci-fi movies, a.k.a. “modern” design. We took a river tour on our last day (so worth it), but by then I had become acquainted with these glass and metal and brick structures for several days. Each building is unique. Some reflect the water and sky, and others stand wide across the skyline but each style seems to come together.

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The tour guide (on Wendella boats) confirmed my thoughts — Chicago’s architects were inspired by several schools and styles. Chicago’s skyline definitely left a lasting impression with its combination of all of my favorite artistic styles (classic Greco-Roman columns, black glass and steel, gold covered art deco rooftops). Definitely worth a visit!

A list of things you should do in Chicago:

– Get a free tourist map, a pen, and a ride a bike (Divvy bikes are the stands you’ll see all over the city and only $7 for 24hrs)

– Go to the pier

– Visit Grant Park: This includes Millennium Park and Buckingham Fountain, among many other things (look for art installations; research concerts on the lawn)

– Visit the museums (The Adler Planetarium was fun. Look into a CityPass if you’ll be visiting multiple.)

– Take a boat tour on the Chicago River (I rec. Wendella architecture tours – they were informative and funny)

– Have dinner at the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower if you’re willing to splurge

– Try deep dish pizza (and tell me what you think)

– Explore Millenium Park (give yourself lots of time; take every turn)

– Watch a show at the famous Chicago Theater

– Walk (or ride) around “The Loop” (you can eat at an indoor mall, check out the historic buildings and spot some art in the alleys

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