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Trip Report Chicago Trip Rept - Women's Longish Weekend Sept 2012

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There were four of us. My sister and I, my sister;s friend and her adult daughter, for four very full days in the Windy City, Sept 27 to Oct 1/12. Thankfully, the daughter has travel agency experience and a built-in GPS in her brain that allowed us to do far more than we could have on our own. We had two king rooms at Hampton Inn Suites Downtown Chicago on Illinois St. and breakfast was included. It is a great place to stay with excellent staff plus there are many restaurants nearby and you are close to sights and transportation.

Day 1, Thursday: We arrived in the afternoon after a long day of flying. After unpacking, we went to Cantina Laredo for happy hour appies and drinks. Great drinks, flatbreads, and a guacamole that they make at the table. Did planning and made online reservations.

Day 2, Friday: Did the City Hop On/Hop Off bus tour for an overview of the city. Lunch at Portillo’s was recommend by tour narrator, but was a very forgettable Chicago-style hot dog and then a shared Italian hot beef sandwich which was much better. Walked to Navy Pier, had our free sample of Garrett’s popcorn and went through the stained glass museum. Dinner at the original East Side Gino’s Pizzeria to have our mandatory Chicago deep dish pizza. Two smalls with a family size salad were more than enough for 4. Writing on walls is encouraged there. After dinner, off to Buddy Guy’s Legends to listen to some good blues – Nick Moss Band was playing and venue was packed with standing room only for first hour we were there.

Day 3, Saturday: Did the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s River Tour along the Ohio River. This is an excellent tour as the docent is very knowledgeable about the history of the different areas and their buildings. Walked/shopped on the south side of the river and saw the Bean in Millenium Park. Lunched at a Potbelly (a decent chain) on Wacker and had wraps or sandwiches, smoothies and malts. Then more shopping. Was sad to discover that Filene’s Basement had gone bankrupt. We had dinner at House of Blues with a good blues guitarist playing. Among our orders were jambalaya and po’ boy sandwiches. Food was good but portions were gigantic. Unfortunately, dinner in the restaurant didn't get you to the blues club space.

Day 4, Sunday: Shopped, then took the subway out to U.S. Cellular Field (formerly Comiskey) and took in a White Sox baseball game against Tampa Bay Rays. It was do or die for the Sox and they died! Had the best hot dog with onions, beer, popcorn and peanuts. FYI, the vendors don’t throw the peanuts to you anymore. Had dinner at Weber Grill Restaurant. Food was good and grilled, but we were seated near the open kitchen grilling area so it was extremely hot. Spent the rest of the evening at Howl at the Moon on Hubbard Street, a dueling piano bar that is open 7 days a week and does mostly rock and pop music by request. It was a giant sing-along session. The Ryder Cup Euro fans came in wearing their strange costumes and suits (British flag, kilts, loud green and yellow suits, etc.) and they got right into the music to celebrate their win. This place was one of my personal favourites of the whole trip. It was packed, even on a Sunday night.

Day 5, Monday: Checked out and stored our luggage with the bellman. Walked to Willis (formerly Sears) Tower and sent two of our party up to Skywalk to stand on the ledge as they had never been before. Then did the Untouchables tour of the gangster sites, which was kitschy and lots of fun as the driver and narrator were in costume and character of the prohibition era. Lunched at Giordano’s Pizza where two tried their famous stuffed pizza and two had their hot Italian beef sandwiches. Verdict: Beef sandwich was awesome, but Gino’s pizza was preferred over stuffed pizza. Went shopping and found Charming Charlie’s, a costume jewelry and accessories store that is very large and set up by colour. Time was getting short, so picked up our luggage and went to the airport for our evening flight home.

Errata: There were more people begging on the street than a year ago, but as usual they were not aggressive. Competition has led to more creative signs than the simple “Lost job. Need money to feed kids.” Most creative one I saw read “Family killed by pigeons. Need money to buy gun and get revenge.”

I was in Chicago the first time for 2 weeks in August 2011 for my DH's work convention and I saw a lot of the sights on my own, but my evenings were always full of social obligations with DH and his colleagues, so I really appreciated being able to do the blues clubs and piano bar this visit. I really enjoy Chicago and will return one day (next year, anyone?).