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Business trip to Chicago - Weekend recommendations

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Hi all,

I am going on a business trip to Chicago next Thursday. The trip has been postponed so many times that I haven´t really had the time to think of anything to do during my free time. I am a fairly savvy traveller and love to prepare, investigate and organize my trips. Here in Europe I usually only have to check the weather forecast, find out the best transport methods (I prefer to use public transportation and my Oyster Card lives inside my wallet) and grab my maps and guidebooks just in case.

So ... strangely enough, I am feeling that the States for me is "Terra Incognita". I have many friends here in Spain that keep going and going to New York, in my case it´s more London the place I keep going around twice or three times a year. I know that I will be OK, but nevertheless it is kind of "OMG, am I going to be able to move around and be free to do whatever I want?". It is a silly feeling, but nevertheless ...

Work days should be OK, because my colleagues will be picking me up at the hotel and dropping me back, but I will have this weekend free for myself.

Our office is located in Arlington Heights, and the hotel will be in that area.

I don´t want to rent a car, and I would prefer to use public transport. Do you know if it will be very complicated to do it, if I want to go downtown? I have seen that there is a train line, but I wonder if the main station in Chicago will be far away from the most important tourist sights.

Is it difficult, just in case, to hail a cab in case I need to get back to the train station?

The places I am more interested in are the Art Institute, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Oak Park. Is it easy to get there? My coworkers say that they also like the view from the Hancock Building and the Planetarium. Would you agree?

I must go shopping, because my friends have asked me to bring back a few small things. As most of them are books, some kids clothing and make-up ( Nars and Kiehls ), I suspect the best place would be a big shopping mall or a store? Where would you go? I would love to treat myself to a nice handbag, and I think I´ll have to check the Nine West shoes in case they are cheaper than in Spain. Another thing that one of the girls has asked for is to bring back something from Spanx ... my suitcase is going to look most peculiar ...

I have read about the InstaGreeters, and it sounds as something I would really enjoy (after all, I usually end up doing something similar when friends come visiting me in Madrid). Do I have to sign up in advance, or can I simply drop there and join a tour?

And now food, let´s leave the most important part for the end. When I´m in places like London, I usually like to have lunch at one of the museums because food is good, I don´t have to wait a lot and I can continue my visits. I am more of a vegetables and fish person, and I don´t really love burgers or hot dogs or pizza (although I eat them). As I don´t think that I will be have time to stay late and have a formal dinner with reservations and the whole thing, I was wondering if eating at the museums would also be a good idea. I wouldn´t mind a nice champagne bar with some appetizers or small dishes.

I am feeling quite out of my depth with this trip, and I really don´t get it. This summer we are going for a week to Tuscany, and I already have planned in my head the best way to drive out of Fiumicino, and the list of churches and wineries and places to visit ... including a day trip to the Isola dell´Giglio to check the Costa Concordia ;)

Thanks a lot to everybody, Cova

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