Chicago - end of May

Old May 9th, 2011, 08:57 PM
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Chicago - end of May

This will be our first time in Chicago and have heard it is a beautiful city.We booked three nights at the Elysian on a fairly good promotional rate, but I don't know much about it, other than it is fairly new, and supposedly a 5 star hotel. Does anyone have a comment about the Elysian in terms of location, amenities and luxury?
For sure we will take the architectural boat tour, but my husband is not a big fan of museums and art galleries, so if I can only pick one, which one would be the one not to be missed? We are seniors so we aren't looking for a strenuous itinerary, but I'd really like to know what other interesting things there are to do fill 4 days, other than great shopping on Michigan Ave..
Since we will be taking the boat tour, does it make sense to take any other tours of the city? Also, does anyone have a recommendation for a good fish restaurant?
Thanks for any help.
Elaine22 is offline  
Old May 9th, 2011, 09:02 PM
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There are two museums that I love in Chicago, but they're very different from each other: The Art Institute and The Museum of Science and Industry.

Walking around Millenium Park is enjoyable.

We had an excellent meal at Joe's Stone Crab.
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Old May 9th, 2011, 09:44 PM
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We toured the Elysian when it first opened. It is a little west of Michigan Ave and the lakefront in an area that has become more gentrified. Walk the lakefront walking paths as well as the paths along the Chicago River. You will be near a McCormick and Schmick's on Rush for excellent seafood.
Millenium Park, the northern end of Grant Park south of the river, is wonderful with it"
S frank Gehry outdoor performance shell, the Bean sculpture. Take the pedestrian bridge to the Art Institute's Terzo Piano for lunch.
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Old May 10th, 2011, 06:48 AM
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For other activities, you can also check or Those are the sites of the visitor bureau and city.

In addition to the river cruises, the Chicago Architecture Foundation sponsors many other walking, bike and segway tours of the city. They focus on a district, type of architecture or specific large building. Check their schedule at

If you're interested in theatre, check the Chicago League of Theatres' site at In addition to Broadway in Chicago which presents touring shows, there are several local companies who have won the Tony Award for Regional Theatre including Steppenwolf, Lookingglass and Goodman. The league site also has a link to its discount site, Hot Tix.

Your hotel sits atop the Red Line subway or you can walk 3-4 blocks to Michigan Avenue where there are several bus routes to take you almost anywhere in the city. Transit passes may be a wise investment as they allow unlimited rides on all CTA buses and trains for a 24-hour period. A 3-day pass is $14 and is available at both airports of most Walgreens and CVS stores in the city. For transit info and a trip planner, check
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Old May 10th, 2011, 02:26 PM
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Does Chicago have tours?! Why, sometimes I think you couldn't swing a cat and not hit one! By all type of locomotion: Walking, biking, kayaks, boats, helicopters, busses, trains and/or segways. And of all types of subjects: Architecture, food, history, sports, horticulture, theatres, parks, of breweries and by pub crawls, coffee roasting works, cheesecake factories, the list goes on.

Honestly, though, here's my answers to your inquiries:

Elysian: An Excellent property. That's with a capital "E", as you can see. Are you dining at Ria? The location is in the Gold Coast neighborhood, which is just to the west of the Magnificent Mile - although I hope you just don't spend all of your time in those areas.

Architectural boat cruise: Do you mean the Chicago Architecture Foundation's River Cruise? If so, you should know that it only covers those buildings on the main, north and south branches of the Chicago River. And there's a whole lot more to Chicago than just that.

Tours: First on the list, you can utilize the *free* Chicago Greeter service (free but you must reserve in advance). YOU are the one who chooses the location in Chicago or area of interest to personalize your own tour. Let's say, though, that you run out of time for the reservation, and you cannot reserve one. There are InstaGreeter tours on (I believe) Friday-Sunday beginning at the Chicago Cultural Center on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Take a look at the Chicago Architecture Foundation's website. Over 85 walking tours - in all areas of the city - as well as by different conveyances. As mentioned above, their River Cruise is highly recommended.

And now for the history of Chicago: Tours by the Chicago History Museum: Their tours are usually in the neighborhoods surrounding the museum itself: Lincoln Park, the Gold Coast; and Old Town but some are in other areas as well.

Museums: If only one - IMHO, the Art Institute. I would not suggest the Shedd Aquarium for your purposes. Since your DH is not fond of museums, I sincerely doubt he would be any more endeared of one packed to the gills with huge crowds of people, many of them raucous children.

Which brings us to the next place you might want to take in a judicious amount, if at all: Navy Pier. If you are coming Memorial Day weekend or when there are fireworks - and you really don't like crowds - avoid it then. That being said... The Chicago Shakepeare Theatre is a wonderful troupe and venue. The Smith Museum of Stained Glass is free and really quite nice. The views from the far east end of the Pier are exceptional. You might even want to take one of the lake cruises or the harbor taxi from Navy Pier to the Museum Campus (that's where the Field Museum of Natural History, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium are located) - that's where they board.

Just to the north of the Art Institute is Millennium Park. When you see the place, please keep in mind that this park is not built on the ground - it is built over railroad yards. They have tours of the park, as well. Free.

Not sure how long you are here, but I would suggest a walk in the park: Lincoln Park. To get there from your hotel. You walk north on State Street up to Division and then east 1 block over to Astor Street. Astor Street is widely considered one of - if not THE - most beautiful streets in Chicago and is only 4 blocks long. The CAF has walking tours of this street and, on certain days, you can even tour the Charnley-Persky House, designed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Once you get to the north end of Astor Street, if you look to your left (west), you'll see the Cardinal's mansion (large red masonry building with many chimneys). To the northwest is the Chicago History Museum. But you would be going north. Straight ahead of you will be a grassy area and you will see an underpass (under LaSalle/North). Once you go through that underpass, you are no longer in the Gold Coast neighborhood but are in the Lincoln Park neighborhood - the portion closest to Lincoln Park, the park.

On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, one of the very best farmer's markets in the city is open for business: the Green City Market Not only do they have their foodstuffs and other items for sale, but cooking demonstrations by some of the city's better and best chefs are held there.

If you continue walking north for a block or two, you will see the Farm in the Zoo (the big red barn and silo). This is a portion of the free every day Lincoln Park Zoo. Immediate to the Lincoln Park Zoo is the Lincoln Park Conservatory, also free everyday. If you walk east on Fullerton (street immediately north of the museum, you can find the "hidden" Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool.

NOTE: As you are walking along this area, you will come upon the historic landmark Cafe Brauer. This is a beautiful building of the Prairie Style inside and out (although you no doubt won't get to see the inside). You want to go to the back of this building (there's a sandwich/salad/grilled items/ice cream restaurant there). One of the most excellent photo ops of the city skyline can be had from this area.

The Lincoln Park Zoo is very compact and can be covered in less than 3 hours.

There are two public gardens as well in this immediate area - the one just to the northwest of the main entrance of the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the one just across Stockton (affectionately called "Grandma's Garden").

I know from your initial posting that you are seniors and don't want a strenuous itinerary. You can walk portions of this, if you wish. The #151 (Sheridan) bus goes directly from stops on N. Michigan Avenue to the Lincoln Park Zoo, if you so desire. And there are benches all along Stockton, from LaSalle/North to the Zoo and beyond.

Last note: One of the nicest spots to dine is just to the north of this area - North Pond. You can easily walk to it (4 blocks) from Fullerton - I like to take the nature path between the lagoon and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum - planted with many wildflowers native to the area. Or you can take the #151 (Sheridan) bus or a very short cab ride.

Does your husband like sports? Then you might consider going to a Cubs game at historic Wrigley Field - or at least taking a tour of it. Red Line 'L' up to Addison station or for a much more scenic, albeit slower, route - walk over to N. Michigan Avenue and pick up the #146 NB CTA bus at Walton. It runs express up to Belmont along Lake Shore Drive. You can transfer to the #152 WB (Addison) bus to get to Wrigley Field.

If you want to go to Wrigley Field from the area around the Lincoln Park Zoo, you walk over to N. Clark Street (anywhere from a block to 3, depending on where you are - since the street runs northwesterly) and pick up the #22 NB (Clark) bus. It stops right beside Wrigley Field.

Do you need any more suggestions?
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Old May 10th, 2011, 02:36 PM
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P.S. Here is the website of the Lincoln Park Zoo, which contains a map of the different areas mentioned above.
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Old May 10th, 2011, 03:02 PM
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I wrote a reply to you but posted it on the wrong Chicago thread. Here's copy and paste of my post:

We visited Chicago last November for 6 days. apart from the CAF boat tour, we went on 2 other walking tours with them (Art Deco, and Tiffany Treasures). We loved both and would have taken more tours with them if we had more time! We also did several architecture tours - FLW studio in Oak Park, and FLW's Robie House in Hyde Park.

As for entertainment, we got 1/2 priced ticket to see Billy Eliot one night, and another night we went to a taping of NPR's Wait Wait Don't tell me (loved it)!

You can take a look at my trip report. We visited 5 museums, and perhaps my description will help you decide on one.
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