The Windy City

By now, you all know I grew up in the Chicago suburbs.  Thus, the city of Chicago will always hold a special place in my heart.  During past Illinois family visits, we always managed to squeeze in at least one trip into this iconic city.Chicago, IllinoisWhen I was in my twenties, I thought nothing of driving into the city.  With the exception of a school bus, public transportation was foreign to me.  Plus, I always preferred the freedom of driving my own car.  Now a days, I wouldn’t fathom driving in Picasso Chicagodowntown Chicago traffic, opting instead to take the train and walk to all the amazing sights this city has to offer.  Plus the Metra Transit System is just so very convenient.

With Lollapalooza scheduled during our targeted downtown venture, we chose to forgo a Chicago sojourn during this Illinois trip.  The addition of hundreds of thousands of concert goers invading the city acted as a deterrent to us like Raid to a bug.  Ah, next time I’ll do a better job checking event dates.

It you’ve never visited Chicago, I highly recommend you do.  Obviously it’s one of my favorite cities.  Here’s a sampling of things to see and do……

1.   Millennium Park is a wonderful place to stroll around.  This 24 acre park was constructed in the late 1990’s.  Sculptures, water features, a music venue, and gardens are a pleasure to explore during a warm summer day.  The “Cloud Gate” elliptical sculpture other wise known as “The Bean” is a photographers delight.  The Chicago skyline is uniquely reflected in this seamless stainless steel structure resembling a drop of mercury.

Millenium Park Chicago

Me back in 2009 in front of “Cloud Gate” aka “The Bean”.

2. – Next door to Millennium Park is the Chicago Art Institute Museum.  I was in elementary school the first time I visited this beautiful art museum.

Art museum lions

I’m standing behind one of the famous copper lions in front of the Chicago Art Museum.

Although at the time I found the visit rather boring, today I’m extremely grateful to have been exposed to this level of art at such a young age.   I remember one painting in particular making an indelible impression upon me (I was a mere eight years old) – Seurat’s –  A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte.

French Impressionist art

My daughter stands in front of my favorite painting. Georges-Pierre Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte

Until this day, this Seurat is one of my favorites.  So much so, that I had a large print hanging in my home office that I purchased at the museum.  Did you know there’s not one brush stroke, only dots?  The entire canvas is composed of dots. Amazing!

French Impressionist art

We had a reproduction of this Monet hanging in our living room.

I’m such a huge fan of French Impressionism that our sticks and bricks home was decorated almost exclusively with art purchased from the Museum Shop.  And they remain waiting for me in a storage locker 🙂

My 2009 visit with my daughter, is most memorable.   Ashton had just completed a college prerequisite “Art” course of some sort and was sharing all kinds of fascinating tidbits on various artists including Seurat and Monet.  Until this art class, she hadn’t realized she grew up surrounded by famous works of art.  Cultured, indeed 😉

3. – A nice walk down Michigan Avenue (Magnificent Mile) is a shoppers delight but head south and it’ll take you to the Field Museum.  Everyone loves the Field Museum; young and old alike.  The new dinosaur room even impressed me and I’m not necessarily into dinosaurs.  I can most likely be found in the Gem Room salivating over the largest pink diamond or blue sapphire.

Chicago's Field Museum

My son and I visit the Field Museum in 2007

My son, Logan, has always had an interest in dinosaurs…. what boy doesn’t?  He was in elementary school when the original Jurassic Park movie was released and visiting this display had his imagination running wild.  However, the Field Museum offers so much more than dinosaurs and gems.  Free admittance day is usually on a Monday and thus a perfect time to take a quick stroll through the museum without feeling a need to dedicate an entire day.  Two hours in a museum is usually long enough for me.

4.  Skyline;  I’ve had the privilege of traveling to most of America’s major cities as well as those in Germany.  That said, in my opinion Chicago has the most photogenic skyline I’ve ever seen.

photogenic city

Me and daughter in 2009 with the Chicago skyline in the background

With the exception of being in a boat on Lake Michigan, the next best place for a Chicago skyline photograph is near the Adler Planetarium.  One of these days, I’d like to be here at sunrise to photograph the skyline.

5.  Architecture;  you just have to love the amazing architecture Chicago has to offer.  Willis TowerFrom the Sear’s Tower (aka Willis Tower) to the John Hancock building to the old water tower to the original Marshall Field’s on State Street (now Macy’s), the mix between new and old is not to be ignored.

You could spend an entire day just walking around Chicago looking at buildings.  I know, I’ve done it.

Not to be missed is a visit to a sky deck/observatory.  I’ve been to both the Willis Tower and John Hancock and although I prefer the view out of the Hancock building, others prefer the Willis view.  Regardless, a visit to one is a must.

6.  We all know what a taxi is, but did you know Chicago offers a water taxi?  This is a fun way to get from the Field Museum to Navy Pier or from Navy Pier to the train station.  In an effort to give our legs a break, we’ve taken both.  It’s a great way to see the city from another angle.

Trump Tower Chicago

The Chicago River. Trump Tower (tall bldg. in background)was still under construction in 2007.

7.  Entertainment; Chicago is known as the Second City….. second to New York Chicago, IllinoisCity. Therefore, there’s always wonderful theater and live entertainment to be found.  My favorite; Second City.  Here’s a list of comedians who got their start at Chicago’s Second City – list.   Many ended up later joining Saturday Night Live.

And then there’s Wrigley Field and Navy Pier with their own entertainment venue.

Seriously, there is so much to see and do in Chicago that I feel guilty ending my list here, and don’t even get me started on the shopping.  So many fantastic shops.  Moving on….

Grant Park

Ashton in front of Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park

Lodging in Chicago is also part of the adventure with endless options.  We stayed at the historic Knickerbocker Hotel several years ago and enjoyed it.  We flew from Denver to Chicago partly to spend Christmas with family but to also expose our children to the city around the holidays.  If I had to visit Chicago in the winter, December is the perfect month to do so.  The holiday decorations are incredibly pretty.

Chicago’s a huge city offering an abundance of things to see, do, and experience, but a little street smarts will serve you well.   Safety first and always be aware of your surroundings.

Chicago, Illinois

Me and Logan near the Field Museum – 2007

Chicago has long been associated with gun violence; from the Al Capone days to today’s gang violence.  Much of the gang activity is within their neighborhoods and not much of a concern for any of the areas I’ve mentioned in this blog post.

What about RVing in Chicago?  I’ve recently read a couple of blog posts on people boondocking (dry camping) at McCormick Place, Illinois’ premiere conference and convention center.  In both instances (at separate times) the couples found themselves parked in the parking lot alone.   The only RV on site…..  Hmm, I wonder why?  Fortunately, they both had an uneventful and safe experience.  However, it’s not a place I would stay.

Staying in the country at the Paul Wolff Campground surrounded by forest preserve and cornfields sounds like the perfect place to camp for anyone wanting to visit Chicago with an RV.  From there, a one-hour train ride into the windy city will allow you to enjoy all this marvelous place has to offer. the windy citySo why is Chicago nicknamed “The Windy City”.  Since the city sits at the shores of Lake Michigan it does experience a fair amount of wind from weather, but no more than a bunch of other places.  The power of the name lies in the metaphorical use “windy” for “talkative” or “boastful.”  Early on, Chicago politicians became famous for long-windedness.  Chicagoans were also considered braggarts.

But in another way, Chicago is actually earning the title of “windy city”.  Architects and engineers did not foresee the effects of tall buildings and air current.  In some areas, the wind is literally sucked down into the streets.  It may be perfectly calm in one area and extremely breezy in another.  Ladies hang on to your dresses, and men your hats!

There you have it….. Chicago, my kind of town

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62 thoughts on “The Windy City

  1. I have only been to Chicago once and it was in February so I got to experience the Windy City at its coldest but I loved it. The architecture, shopping and restaurants seemed to eat up all my spare time. I really should return I the spring or fall.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this comprehensive and gorgeous tour of Chicago, Ingrid. You sure covered all the hot spots, and more, and your photos are terrific. It’s one of the coldest cities I’ve ever been to, with the piercing wind coming off the Lake, but I still like to visit in the warm months. Great post!

    • It does get cold near the lake…. it’s called “lake effect” 😆 There’s so many fantastic things to see and do in Chicago but in an attempt to keep the post manageable I focused on some of MY favorite things. Glad you enjoyed!

    • You welcome and thank you for the link. Great photography ideas. When we decided to return to the Midwest for 6 weeks this summer, we wanted to embrace our surroundings as tourists, with open eyes and minds. It’s been fun doing so and taking in new sights we never knew about.

  3. What a fun tour of a city that you know so well! Thanks for all of the great tips, Ingrid. We’ll definitely put Chicago on our list for a future visit. Eric and I really enjoy cities with good public transportation and lots of art, including public art. The bike path sounds like a wonderful bonus.

    • September would be a good time. Kids are back in school. August heat over. No bugs (by Midwestern standards). Usually not tornado season and it doesn’t snow yet. Whew, so many things to think about lol. Riding a bike along the lake is a fun way to take in the skyline and beautiful parks.

  4. We enjoyed our visit to the city about ten years ago. We went for a wedding in Bloomington and drove up there a few days before the wedding to check it out. Son also had a private lesson with one of the trumpet profs at Northwestern, which was very neat for him. Chicago pizza was awesome, too! 😉 Not on my diet now, for sure.

    • Sounds like a fabulous opportunity for your son. ALL the food is pretty darn good in this part of the country. I’m afraid Al and I have picked up weight hanging around the family eating. Oh well, the mountains will work it back off and we’ll get back to Paleo soon. But first we have some brats and cheese to munch on with some serious Packer Fans. Can you guess where I am today?

  5. We have no interest in those cold Chicago winters, but we love visiting the rest of the time! Was there a few months ago, and enjoyed a repeat visit to Kingston Mines — a real institution, and fun even if you’re not a big blues fan. Chicago is also home to the world’s best gluten free donut, at DoRite Donuts just south of the river downtown. A must-stop for Celiacs. 🙂 And boy do we love the Art Institute. Did you know Seurat went *blind* painting that iconic masterpiece? So many dots… it makes sense…

    • No I did NOT know Seurat went blind painting that masterpiece. From cross eyed to blind with those dots 🙂 I’m sure we could sit here and list off a bunch of fabulous restaurants in Chicago, but those donuts sound amazing. Great city to VISIT. I’d never move back. Who knows, after this Midwestern excursion I may never go east of the Rockies again 😉

        • I left IL 25 years ago. First stop Las Vegas for 4 years followed by Colorado’s Front Range the next 21. Now we meander the four corner states predominantly with some branching out from time to time. What mtn state are you in?

  6. Great Post – thanks for sharing the wealth of things to see and do in the Windy City! I have not been there in ages and cannot remember much because I was a kid. Happy Week – Enjoy 🙂

  7. As always, I love to read your items, everything comes to life before my eyes. Sinatra’s song was great. I missed Sinatra’s other song related to Chicago, just after your daughter’s picture near Buckingham Fountain… the theme song from “Married with children” 🙂

    • Thank you. There’s been some great movies and TV shows that take place in Chicago. I always enjoy, since I can relate. And of course, songs. I forgot “married with children”. 🙂

  8. Oh Ingrid, great post. Chicago is right up there as one of favourite US cities ( in fact before we visited Philadelphia last year we thought it was pretty hard to beat) wouldn’t like to be there all winter, though.

    • Winters can get brutal but it really is festive in December making it almost worth enduring the weather. Glad you’ve had a chance to visit Chicago. I’m beginning to wonder where you “haven’t” been 😆

  9. Great memories in Chi-town. My dad met Al Capone on many occasions running the bars in Calumet City. My Godfather suffer a close call with him too. Catching up with blogs…sounds like you’re gaining your strength back and sure you’re enjoying family time. Enjoy WI! You’re probably already there 🙂

    • Thanks C. We’re heading out in the morning. Sounds like you have some interesting family history. Never a dull moment around Chicago 🙂

  10. We visited Chicago on one of trips west and had a wonderful time. We parked way outsdie the city and just made the drive in. Since we had our bikes, we were able to find parking outside in a neighborhood and just rode into the city. You forgot to mention how bike friendly the city is and the amazing path along the water. That was my favorite part. I loved the fact that you could sit on the beach right outside your office building! The beach was packed with people enjoying the beautiful lake and sunny day:) What a unique location for such a huge city.

    • Oh darn, I forgot the lakeshore. You are so right, the lakeshore is wonderful for bike riding and it’s beauty is one of the main attractions that sets this city in a special class. On our next time through, I’ll do another post detailing the lakeshore 🙂

    • In the past I’ve been rushed walking around Millennium Park and since it’s relatively new, I didn’t know what to expect. Lots of neat things to explore. Next time through Chicago I think I’d like to overnight downtown to be able to take in the skyline in early a.m. and late p.m. Fun, fun city!

  11. Now you have me singing that Doris day song from ‘Calamity Jane’. I’d love to visit Chicago one day, but only if it isn’t too windy. 🙂 Lovely photos of your gorgeous children, and I really love The Bean capture.

    • Haha Sylvia, I didn’t think of that song. Chicago’s a great city worthy of a visit, wind and all. I was hoping to get back into the city for a little photography with my good camera, but alas family trumps 🙂

  12. I have always wanted to visit Chicago and now more than ever! I also read those blogs where people stayed in the city but it didn’t sound safe to me so I was glad to read your last blog about staying outside the city and taking the train in 😊

    • We loved the Paul Wolff Campground and it’s a great place to stay with the RV and yet explore Chicago. We all need to figure out individually our comfort level on boondocking but the wrong neighborhood tilts the odds of a potential downside 🙂

  13. Ingrid I have never been to Chicago but certainly hope to at some point. I will remember this post to return to when the time comes. Lots of great information here which I appreciate you sharing. Nice to see your family as well. 🙂

    • I think you’d really enjoy a long weekend in Chicago taking in all the sights. Whether a girls outing or romantic getaway, there’s plenty of ways to get into trouble 😉

  14. Visited Chicago years ago when all that traffic didn’t bother us so much. Nice to know there is a way to get around without driving. December is a great time to visit most large cities as the tourist crowds are smaller but the decorations and lights add so much to the scenery.

    • I too wasn’t bothered by the traffic years ago and today I can still handle it, I just don’t like it. Christmas decorations cheer up any place that’s gloomy in the winter and of course adds beauty. We still have so many places west of the Rockies to explore that I think it’ll be a couple years before we head east again.

  15. I had never thought about visiting Chicago in the past but your blog post has got me very interested. I also love the Seurat picture.and have a print at home. I’m also a fan of French Impressionism. My daughter is studying a medical based degree but she is also a passionate portrait artist and so we visit art galleries whenever we can. Thank you for a lovely tour of where you grew up and sharing more about your family. I found it most interesting.

    • The Chicago Art Museum has an incredible art collection and ranks as one of the top art museums in the world housing some of the greatest works. Funny that we enjoy the same Seurat as he isn’t all that well known. I’m sure you’re proud of your daughter… smart and talented. Thanks for enjoying my tour 🙂

  16. Great tour of your home City – thanks😀. We visited once a couple of years back and loved it – great architecture and green space. We took a boat tour along the historic canals which we’d known nothing about prior to our visit.

    • Naperville is a wonderful community. If I had to move back to IL, Naperville would be at the top of my list. Hubby and I used to live just 15 minutes east in Hinsdale. Highly recommend a visit 🙂

  17. Chicago is everything (and more) than my Detroit was prior to 1967, Ingrid. Diana turned me onto the Windy City, and we love to go there whenever we can. 🙂


    • And now you know where to park the RV should you want to return. I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get into Chicago during this trip, but I just wasn’t feeling up to it. Next time 🙂

  18. Ingrid, You pretty much nailed it! Don’t forget deep shish Chicago style pizza or a Chicago style hot dog – NO KETCHUP! I live 40 miles west of downtown and I don’t get downtown enough – maybe once a year. Busy schedules on weekends with sports and kids we stick to ‘burbs. A great place is the Morton Arboretum not far from us – enjoy the daffodil glade in the early spring or the fall leaves, or the Winter light show. There is so much to do in the area – you can’t miss. Also, for the sports fan – the Cubs (not a fan) or the Sox (sort of a fan) have a great venues and then there are the da Bears (football), Bulls (basketball), or the World Champion Blackhawks (hockey). Make me want to bust a move and make the Air and Water show this weekend. Sounds like you are having a great visit. Have a great weekend.

    • I had to stop the post somewhere but the list does go on. I used to frequent the Morton Arboretum. Loved it in the fall. My first date with hubby was at Giordano’s Pizza (no longer a fan of the deep dish though). During our dating years, we would go into the city all the time. Once married, we rarely took the time or effort but always enjoyed it when we did. It’s been a wonderful Illinois visit but I’m ready to head into WI.

  19. Although I grew up a little further south of Chicago than the suburbs I tried to get to the city as often as I could. This was a great blast from the past for me Ingrid.

    • Hmm, I recall two bloggers talking about running around Chicago together. Was that you? LOL I must admit, I really hated passing up a trip into the city this visit, but I’m not up to all day excursions just yet.

      • When we were last in Illinois it was for a short time, so yes, there were a couple of bloggers that literally ran around Chicago to take in a few sights during their limited time. 😉

  20. Den and I have gone in for Bears games…and once to Navy Pier and a stop at the original Billy Goats Bar. Our son and his wife LOVE the city (she grew up on the South Side near Midway), but as we age, Den and I stay away. Gotta tell ya, I just read the book “The Devil in White City”..a true story set in the World Exposition a.k.a the Chicago World’s Fair about 1890’s..It is a must read for anyone like you, who knows Chicago..and there is a serial killer (true story) who did away with many young women right in the middle of that fair…The best news is, they are making a movie of it…I cannot wait to see it…If you ever find the book, I think you would enjoy it..Lots of Chicago history there!!

    • I love the grounds, park and waterway where the World’s Fair took place. Serial killer? Nope, not my thing, opting for Romantic Comedy’s. My Mom used to get me all worked up with fear when I’d venture into the city. Thank goodness I never told her about the long nights drinking and dancing in Greek Town…. oop ahh!

    • After being away so long, it’s amazing to see things in a new light. I’ve discovered an appreciation I don’t think I had previously.

  21. Lovely ‘kids’ 🙂
    Chicago has always had it’s allure for us. Living only 80 miles away in MKE, then IN Chicago in the late 60’s, in Geneva in the 70’s… there’s so much to do and it’s always new! It’s too bad that it’s not coping with the 21st Century as well as Minneapolis has done — and the wage disparity threatens to suck the life out of the city. But we still love a visit or two each year if we’re in the area.
    It seems Kane County has a couple campgrounds that are new-ish and quite appealing.
    Thanks for your POV!

    • Thanks Peter. Last week I met an old friend and as a half way point we settled on lunch in St. Charles but wish we’d met in Geneva. Both are lovely suburbs but I think Geneva may offer more.
      Yes there’s another Kane County CG to the south of Paul Wolff that is supposedly equally as nice. Ah, I’m sure we all have our opinions on the issues affecting the city. I’m not sure there’s a fix. I wanted to go to Lincoln Park, but it was recommended I not…. rather sad!

  22. Chicago is on my list of cities of I would like to visit some day. A few of our friends have been there & loved it! I shall have to tuck this little gem of a post away in the hopes that I get there at some point!

    • I hit only ‘my’ highlights on this post. The train is so convenient and makes visiting easy. We took the train from O’Hare Airport to downtown. Spent a couple of days running around the Chicago and then took the train out to the suburbs to visit family. And since that was during a December, no one had to brave icy roads. Fun city!

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