Tuesday, 14 August 2012

My weekend in Chicago

Chicago is an incredible city, even in the short amount of time we had I think we managed to pack in a lot.
Firstly, the transport system is great, super easy to navigate and will get you anywhere you want to go for a very small fare...no expensive taxis for us!
Our hotel was basic but clean but in a great location just a couple of blocks from Michigan Avenue and the fantastic Grant Park and Millenium Park, which is where we spent our first evening taking in a free open air concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. We dined on meat-stuffed ciabattas from Panera and sat on the grass surrounded by hundreds of Chicagoans - many with some very elaborate picnic set-ups.

Due to the jetlag we were up early on Saturday morning and so we headed out to see the city. We took a stroll North up the lake shore path (that would be the shore of Lake Michigan which is so big it just looks like the sea because you can't see the other side) admiring the boats along the way and on up to Navy Pier. For those that don't know, Navy Pier stretches out into Lake Michigan and hosts a number of rides - the Ferris Wheel is a must for great views of the city - restaurants, a conference centre, boat rides and more. We rose the ferris wheel, went on a boat tour and grabbed some lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern & Grill.
After Navy Pier we made our way over to Michigan Avenue and the shops of the Magnificant Mile. At the top end of the Mile is the John Hancock Tower which, though not the tallest building in the city, has arguably the best views - the best being from the ladies restroom! Rather than paying the $15 to visit the observatory on the 94th floor we instead visited the Signature Lounge bar (for free) on the 96th floor and spent the money on a couple of cocktails instead. The lift takes a mere 40 seconds to rise over 1000 feet and the views from the top are indeed spectacular, as are the cocktails!
After hitting a few shops we headed back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before dinner - the rest was indeed necessary as we worked out we'd walked over 16km over the course of the day! We went out for some famous Chicago pizza (Yummy!) and then back to Navy Pier for their weekly firework display.
After the long day we headed off for an early night ready for another day of adventuring in the morning.
Day 1 in Chicago: Millenium Park open air stage, view from the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, view from the Signature Lounge 95th Floor of the John Hancock Centre, The Magnificant Mile
Day 2 began with a leisurely breakfast by the lake and then a short train-ride up to Wrigleyville, the home of Wrigley Field and the Red Sox baseball team. The place was buzzing as there was to be a game on that afternoon but we decided not to go and watch it as we wanted to carry on exploring with the little time we had. We meandered around the neighbourhood, taking the opportunity to wander into the residential areas and peep at a few houses and searching for a few kooky shops mentioned in my Lonely Planet guidebook. Best of all was Uncle Fun's, a strange little shop housing all manner of weird and wonderful toys, books, games, dress-up items and much more. The girl behind the counter was the epitome of 'odd-ball' and delighted in pointing us in the direction of many a random thing.
We made our way back towards 'The Loop' to a short rest before dinner. As it had been Andy's birthday the week before I had taken a recommendation from a colleague and booked us a table at the Smith & Wollensky restaurant. We dined on gigantic steaks and even managed to squeeze in dessert before the restaurant brought over a little birthday treat for Andy (a chocolate cup filled with a delicious chocolate mousse and whipped cream with a candle in it - thankfully they refrained from singing him Happy Birthday!) before we wandered back into the night to admire the city.
Day 2: Wrigley Field, Uncle Fun's Toy Shop, a cool bike rack, the river by night
We were up early again on Monday so decided to go and see Cloud Gate, or as it's affectionately known, 'The Bean', at Millenium Park before everyone else was up. We'd been to see 'the bean' a number of times over the weekend and every time it manages to look different from the last, capturing new views of the city and those that inhabit it. We were lucky that we were 2 of only 6 people there so early to see it glisten in the morning light. 
Again we breakfasted by the lake, drinking in the sun as the first few joggers made their way along the shore path ready to start their day. We didn't have time for much else as we had to check out of the hotel and get Andy off to the airport (I was staying for a few more days for work) but I can definitely say that Chicago is an amazing city; there is lots more to explore than we were able to in our short time and I would love to go back.
Cloud Gate aka The Bean!
So that's our weekend in Chicago. Have you ever been? What was your favourite part?

No comments:

Post a Comment