“Chicago… my kind of town” – Frank Sinatra
This impromptu trip with my family was so fun. The city is so unique and exciting and I enjoyed everything we did. We kept admiring that the city was so clean, happy, and friendly. There were green parks in so many places! Chicago is definitely a city you can breathe in.
We had a jam-packed weekend, so I’ll describe the various places we went and what was most fun about them!
This beach is a long stretch of sand and shore right on Lake Michigan. My cousin and her partner were nice enough to host my family and me on this trip and they took us to this beach to have a picnic. We joked that us Californians were not experiencing a “true” Chicago summer because it was really only 90 degrees instead of the usual 100 or more. This breezy location offers stunning views of Lake Michigan (which to Californians just looks like any old ocean… but it’s a lake…) and brief views of the downtown skyline.
Here, we set up our picnic and strung up the slackline to laugh at our pseudo-acrobatic talents. This beach is also a dog park where many Chicagoans can bring their pups to frolic in the shallow waves of the Lake. Coming here at sunset provided a lovely lake breeze that cut through the humidity of the day. One great thing about Chicago is that there seemed to be plenty of parking wherever we went. This beach/park had plenty of people but was not crowded.
Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co.
The following morning we embarked on our journey on the Chicago Double Decker Bus Tour, which also served as our taxi service, allowing us to hop on and off at various tourist locations across the downtown area. We were able to gain valuable insight into the history of the city such as facts about the World’s Fair, Chicago-style pizza, the Great Chicago Fire, as well as the world’s first Ferris Wheel and the invention of Wrigley gum. I recommend this bus tour for its sightseeing, transportation services, as well as the uniquely varied tour guides we had each time!
The Field Museum of Natural History
One of the stops on the bus tour is the Field Museum, Chicago’s natural history museum where the largest T-Rex skeleton, Sue, is on display. We were able to see the exhibit entitled “Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair” which displayed curated artifacts from the Exhibition, allowing the museum-goers to experience the perspective of the people who attended the World’s Fair 100-plus years ago. While the exhibit was really interesting, I would have liked to have seen more on the fair itself instead of what was presented at the fair. I think the idea of the fair taking place in Chicago was more interesting to me than what was actually seen back then. But it was still really cool to see artifacts from many different cultures across the world, especially considering how ground-breaking it must have been for people of that time to see such tools and clothing from cultures they have never heard of.
Another fun exhibit at the Field Museum was called “Evolving Planet.” It was structured as a timeline, where the museum-goers walked along through rooms that represented eras of Earth’s history from single-celled organisms to the present day. I saw each mass extinction that happened on the planet and learned about the ocean and land creatures that are now ancestors of present-day animals. This exhibit also had a whole room of dinosaur skeletons. Pretty cool.
There was also an exhibit about Ancient Egypt, which is a great fascination of mine. You enter into a pharaoh’s tomb and walk through the catacombs of the pyramid and are able to see sarcophagi and jewelry from the time period. The Egyptians had such interesting customs and myths surrounding their culture.
After the museum, we found a hot dog stand that served Chicago Dogs. Apparently, you cannot add ketchup to a Chicago Dog because that would not be authentic. A Chicago Dog comes with a poppyseed bun, onions, mustard, salt, relish, a pickle, peppers, and tomatoes. It was tasty, and good even without ketchup!
For dinner, it was necessary to our trip that we experience Chicago-style pizza at Giordano’s. For those who have not been enlightened as to what the beauty of Chicago-style pizza is, here it is. It’s like a pizza pie, stuffed with cheese and toppings of your choice, then atop the top layer of the pizza is the sauce with all the yummy herbs and spices.
Fattening? Yes. Delicious? You know it. And don’t worry, Giordano’s delivers their frozen pizza across the continental US. What are you waiting for? Go order!
Sears Willis Tower Skydeck Ledge
Chicagoans still refer to the now Willis Tower as the Sears tower. But anyway, on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower are four giant glass chambers jutting from the skyscraper out over the looming city below. This tourist destination known as the Skydeck is a must-see for adventure seekers. We went at night and stepped out onto the glass floor only to have our stomachs flip at the idea. This attraction is worth it for the views and the rush you get from standing in a glass box over the city.
Architectural Boat Tour
The next day we boarded Chicago’s First Lady for an architectural boat tour. The Chicago River cuts directly through the city, offering stunning views of both the winding river and the crazy-cool, unique buildings that Chicago has. Our tour guide had a story for each building, such as the “warehouse-to-your-house” concept of renovating old warehouses into apartments, and the tallest building designed by a woman. There were a lot of photo opportunities on this tour and a lot to see. Plus the boat had a bar, so that adds some fun to the trip!
Located in larger Grant Park, Millennium Park is home to the Bean and other sculptural wonders. It was a crowded and muggy day, but the skyline looked really cool and the Bean was fun to take pictures of! There is a large, beautiful amphitheater where there are free orchestra concerts in the evenings. Currently, there is an art installation of these huge LED brick fountains that display faces and offer a huge puddle of water for people to play in. This site is for different public art installations and changes every so often. It must be fun to visit seasonally to see the changes.
The Art Institute
Across the way from the Bean, there is the Art Institute, which is a museum of impressionist and post-impressionist art, as well as decorative arts and modern art. It has two buildings that make up the museum: the main Italian Renaissance entrance on Michigan Ave, and the Modern Wing. This was my favorite tourist attraction from this trip. The museum is huge and there was so much more to see than what we had time for. I’d love to go back one day.
This museum is the permanent home for some very iconic paintings including American Gothic by Grant Wood, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges-Pierre Seurat, one of van Gogh’s self-portraits, Paris Street; Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte, and Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.
But my favorite part was the exhibit that was currently on display called “Magritte: the Mystery of the Ordinary 1926-1938.” I remember studying Magritte’s work in school and really liking his weird, creative, surrealist take on still-life imagery. The exhibit was all dark except for his paintings, and you weren’t allowed to take photos. The images below show you his stunningly strange paintings that really make you think. His work is haunting, yet funny and weird, yet lucid. I was excited we got to see that exhibit.
On our final day, we ventured to Navy Pier, a huge pier with a replica of the 1893 World’s Fair Ferris Wheel (except half the size of the original). The Pier also had a beautiful indoor garden, a stained-glass exhibit, and plenty of eateries and souvenir shops. It was enjoyable to walk around the Pier when it was overcast because it actually seemed to cool down for once. It was a busy destination but fun to walk around.
Below are photos! Woo! Taken with both my Canon Rebel XS and my Galaxy S5. Resized for the blog. And here is my story of a first hand account of someone at the fair who rode the world’s first Ferris wheel.