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.When 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 downtown 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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. From 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.
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 City. 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….
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.
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. So 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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