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Trip Report yk's I ((L)) Chicago Nov 2010 Trip Report (+ 24 hrs in Dallas)

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First of all, I ((L)) Chicago!

Second, thank you to the Fodorites who have both directly and indirectly helped me with my trip-planning. I have asked plenty of questions and received many helpful replies; at the same time, I have also read numerous Chicago trip reports which were each a gem on its own.

Who?
yk & Mr.yk (in our late '30s)

Why?
Each fall, we normally take a 1-week trip to Europe. We were thinking of Amsterdam this year, however, I was unable to find tix that are under $1000. Well, how about a domestic trip then? Even though we have been to most major US cities, we managed to skip over Chicago every time (well, I've been to Chicago once, for about 12 hrs during an Amtrak layover).

At first, we were going to spend an entire week in Chicago. But I was also planning a separate weekend visit to Dallas (to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary - we were married in Dallas). In the end, I booked an open jaw ticket with us flying from Boston to Dallas for 24 hours, then Dallas to Chicago, and Chicago to Boston. Our tickets were about $350pp, which was definitely cheaper than 2 separate r/t tickets to Chicago and Dallas.

When?
First week of November, 2010

Our Interests?
Art & Architecture, classical music

I'm going to focus this trip report on Chicago. I may add a few words on our short stay in Dallas at the end, if anyone is still reading by then.

Instead of giving you a day-by-day description, I'm going to post the TR by topics. But here's a brief run-down of what we did in Chicago:

Five Museums
• Art Institute of Chicago
• Museum of Contemporary Art
• Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows
• Shedd Aquarium
• Museum of Science and Industry

Seven Architecture-related tours
• FLW's Home and Studio tour
• FLW's Robie House tour
• Robie House neighborhood walking tour (U of Chicago campus)
• Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) River Cruise
• CAF Tiffany Treasures tour
• CAF Downtown Deco tour
• IIT campus tour

Outdoor attractions
• Millennium Park
• Grant Park
• Navy Pier

Three evening shows
• Billy Elliot
• NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me live taping
• Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream by the Lyric Opera of Chicago

I'm sure those of you who have been to Chicago (or local Chicagoans) know that it is an expensive city. We were able to save quite a bit of money with some of these yk's Money-saving tips
• Many museums have free community days. Here's a list: http://www.explorechicago.org/city/en/supporting_narrative/events___special_events/special_events/tourism/Museum_Free_Days.html
• If you have Amex, it's worth going through this list of "Sweet Deals" http://www.choosechicago.com/pages/sweetdealslanding.aspx
• Chicago's Office of Tourism website also has discount vouchers for dining, entertainment etc: http://www.chicagoofficeoftourism.org/chicagocoupons/index.html
• For shows, try Hottix.org which sells tickets at half-price, and don't forget Goldstar.com
• We stayed at an apt I found on VRBO, which not only is cheaper than most hotels, we also saved money by cooking dinner in the apt on most nights.
• Once we've bought our plane tickets (~ 3 months ago), I subscribed to Groupon Chicago. Through its daily deals, I purchased the CAF household membership at half price, as well as a couple of restaurant coupons at half price.

Safety
Since we haven't been to Chicago, I've asked quite a lot of questions about walking around in Chicago and in nearby neighborhoods. Overall, we felt safe during our entire stay. Sure, there are some areas along the Blue Line and Green Line that are sort of an eye sore, but we didn't encounter any problems on the subway or buses. We also walked around in the IIT campus in Bronzeville, the U of C campus in Hyde Park, rode the Green Line out to Oak Park (and back). All were fine during the day.

We walked in the Loop many times at night and felt very safe there too. We also walked through Millennium Park and Grant Park around sunset and had no trouble whatsoever.

Transport
We got around Chicago by the "L", by buses, and on foot. We each got a 7-day CTA pass for $23. We ended up taking 14 rides so we got our money's worth with the pass.

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