Monday 25 August 2014

Travel To: Chicago, Illinois

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Sue - the world's most complete T-Rex

I think I'm supposed to apologize for my lack of posting last week, but I'm not going to. You know why? BECAUSE I GOT MARRIED! (!!!!)

It was crazy hectic, but it was also one great party. The most overwhelming aspect is realizing that all of your friends and family are in one place at one time, and it's for you. No one would be in that room/barn/field unless they wanted to be able to share your special day with you. What a feeling! I feel special and loved, and warm and fuzzy.

I could gush on and on.

But I won't. Because another thing I did was go on a quick little honeymoon road trip to Chicago. And that's why we're here today.

I can't say enough good things about Chicago. It's huge but inviting. It has some of the most top notch museums, galleries, and restaurants I've been in a loooong time. It's got Blues. And Jazz. And amazing architecture everywhere. It has lots of little neighbourhoods that are all unique, but also somehow totally "Chicago". It's got really good popcorn and really cheesy pizza. I was a total tourist for four days, and every second of it was awesome.

One thing we did find however is that Chicago is expensive. Every single attraction (except the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free) was a minimum of $20/person, most were closer to $30 or even $40. They offer some discounts to students, and certain evenings are free or discounted ... if you happen to be a resident of Illinois. As a tourist though it got to be a bit much. Most major cities in North America are the same way but their free evenings tend include more than just state residents. Chicago should still absolutely be a must visit if you haven't been, but this is just something to keep in mind when planning!

To help us plan, we called on the powers of the internet the day before we left to gather ideas of things to see, eat, and do. We tried to do most of it, and squeezed in a couple of our own things too. Below is a list of my favourites.


  • Millennium Park and "the bean" - no list would be complete without this infamous sculpture, and it did not disappoint. At various points throughout the year (mostly) summer, Millennium Park also offers free concerts and shows. We just missed the free orchestra, but it's just reason to return!
  • The view from the top of the John Hancock tower - also known now as 360 Chicago. Aim for a clear day if possible, but even on our not so clear day we had 2 miles of visibility and were awed at the sight. 
  • The free Lincoln Park Zoo - both Other Half and I are on the fence about our feelings toward zoos, but we decided to head up there anyway to see what we could see. As far as free goes, this one is not to be missed. We were both impressed with the quality of the park and it's upkeep.
  • Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! - This tapas bar was one we found on our own, and I literally had to drag Other Half there. For starters he's rarely a "tapas" guy, and secondly we had just gotten caught in a thunderous downpour at Lincoln Park. He was tired and wanted to go back to the hotel to wait out the rest of the storm. I insisted we make the 10 minute trek (without umbrellas, since we wisely left them at the hotel) since we were hungry and the rain was letting up enough. Success! This ended up being our favourite meal. They have a huge selection of dishes to choose from along with an excellent list of wines, beers and sangrias. This would be the stop I recommend most.
  • The Chicago Diner - meat free since '83! This vegetarian and vegan spot specializes in diner classics that have been made meat free. And it's excellent. We split some 'wings' and then each had a sandwich and every single thing was delicious. I don't what kind of voodoo they are doing to make soy taste so good, but it's working. Apparently the 'shakes are to die for, but we were too stuffed and our planned second visit never quite made it to reality - a shame. 
  • El Nuevo Mexicano - two separate recommendations means it's a 'must visit' and boy are we glad we did. Their traditional lime margarita was perfectly tart and not too sweet and the atmosphere was perfect, busy but not touristy (this place is just far enough out of the way that it seemed to be mainly happy locals - same goes for the diner above). 
  • Honourable mentions go to the things everyone will tell you to do (and with good reason) - Garrett's Chicago Mix popcorn (half cheese, half caramel, mixed together and so salty-sweet good!), and deep dish pizza (we tried Lou Malnati's, but there are tons out there to try!)
  • The Field Museum - This natural history museum started off a bit "meh" but really picked up speed when we hit the right areas. The Machine Inside exhibit that's currently running is worth the extra $$, and the evolution portion on the second floor would be where I would start next time - it's fascinating, but by the time I got there I was dead tired and could hardly focus.
  • The Art Institute of Chicago - Every major city has it's major gallery. This one just happens to be filled with some serious works of art. All the greats are represented here along with some interesting American folk art and much more. If you're an Illinois resident it's free after 5:00 on Thursdays,
  • The Architecture Foundation's river cruise - There are a few different companies that offer this cruise, but again this one happened to be recommended at least twice. The volunteer guide was exceptionally knowledgeable and recounted the stories of the buildings and their builders in a fascinating way. It was 90 minutes in the baking hot sun, but it was a highlight. 

Until next time!

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