Chicago Mini-Trip Report

Aug 1st, 2007, 08:22 AM
  #1  
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Chicago Mini-Trip Report

Chicago
July 27-July 31

We have wanted to go to Chicago for quite a while, and Southwest was advertising a $39 fare, so off we went. We arrived at Midway Airport after a very pleasant flight. The taxi ($27) drove us down Michigan Avenue. Our hotel, the Red Roof Inn, had a fabulous location – one block from the Magnificent Mile on E. Ontario Street. Located in a historic building, the hotel was once called the Richmont. The staff was very friendly and helpful, however the room had few amenities. The bathroom door wouldn’t remain open, there was no shower cap, the remote from the TV was missing, there was little shelf space and the 24 hour coffee machine was empty for 23 hours, but the room was clean and very affordable. ($125 per night)

It was early afternoon, and a beautiful day. We took a walk up Michigan Avenue, visited the water tower (now showing a photography exhibit) and the pump house. Most Chicagoans think these highly ornate buildings are grotesque, and Oscar Wilde hated them, but they are certainly unusual. We then rode up to the 97th floor observatory of the John Hancock Building. From here you can see four states and the lovely coast on Lake Michigan. There is an exhibit which contains photographs that depict the history of Chicago. We wandered around Bloomingdales and did some window shopping. Michigan Avenue is decorated with beautiful floral displays (obviously permanent) and mannequins dressed whimsically by students and fashion designers. (a temporary exhibit.). We walked to Lake Shore Drive and watched triathletes training in the water, then arrived at the Navy Pier. We visited the Smith Stained Glass Museum which contains wonderful windows from houses in the area, and then ate at Rivo. The upper level is upscale, but downstairs is a lovely sidewalk café that has a wonderful view of the pier. The service was excellent. We ate salad with grilled chicken accompanied by a very nice wine. ($50 with tip). We then caught an architectural boat ride, where we learned how Chicago, after the great fire, became a magnet for some of the world’s great architects. As night approached we walked along the magical riverwalk until we arrived at Millenium Park. The sky was clear and the Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor reflected the illuminated buildings. Kids and adults alike love playing with their distorted reflected images. What a fun place! The Pritzger Pavilion, designed by Frank Gehry, gleamed blue and red against the backdrop of the skyscrapers. We took a romantic walk back to our hotel, admiring Chicago’s glorious architecture.

7/28
We had breakfast at the Weber Grill on State Street. They have a wonderful $12.95 buffet with quality food and an omelet bar. We learned about Steve Weber, who worked in the steel mills and realized that the containers would make great barbecues. The staff at this casual restaurant is very well trained and pleasant. Our plans were to take the El to Oak Park, but first we walked along the river and visited the Merchandise Mart with its busts of famous retailers (Chicagoans call them “Pez” statues) and the Frank Lloyd Wright Brittanica Building. We took an interesting ride west on the El. We were very impressed with the clear and efficient P.A. system and the fact that announcements are made warning against drinking, gambling, playing radios and eating. The cost is $2 per person, but there is also an unlimited ride day pass available for $5. We arrived in Oak Park. Along the street, we met friendly people who were eager to share their love for their beautiful neighborhood with us. We admired the Victorian and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style houses, each different and unusual, and marveled at the ingenuity of the design of his own home. We also visited his Unity Temple and Hemingway’s birthplace. His parents were wealthy and the home was very modern for its time. It was the first in the area to have electricity, and a laundry chute which was a real innovation at the turn of the century. We also learned that his mother was an artist and musician, and that his father and uncle would tell Hemingway stories which inspired many of his writings. We arrived back in the city and had dinner al fresco at Bice by our hotel. Again, the food (we are big chicken and salad people) was very nicely presented and the bill again totaled about $50. We enjoyed the people watching and the occasional horse and carriage that passed by. We then headed back to the Navy Pier for Venetian Night – a fireworks display followed by a boat show. The pier was beautifully lit up and there was a full moon in the clear sky.

7/29
We had breakfast at the Weber Grill and headed for a walking tour of the sculptures in the Loop. Chicago spends a fortune beautifying the city! Flowers everywhere and sculptures by every major artist grace huge open areas in the loop. We saw a Picasso, a Dubuffet, a Miro, and a huge mosaic wall by Chagall. It would take all afternoon to see all of the art work in this area. We also admired several theatres, then headed back to see Millenium Park in the daytime. What a place for children! The Crown Fountains are such fun to watch as the pictures change and the children wait with delight for the water to pour out of the mouths. We saw the Pritzger Pavilion from every angle, now silver in the sun, and a docent took us through the Lurie Gardens, which are constructed on the roof of a garage. The flowers create a beautiful landscape with the skyline in the background. Now, on to the Art Institute to see the Impressionist collection (one of the finest in the world due to the fact that many Chicagoans went to Paris and bought the unsold paintings) and of course, American Gothic, which was first shown at the Art Institute. We walked down past the Buckingham Fountain, modeled after one from Versailles, and followed the temporary globe exhibit which lines the walk along Lake Michigan. There are approximately 120 globes, each one created to teach something else about saving the earth. Boats are in the harbor, and the walk ends at the (Marshall) Field Museum of Natural History. We headed toward Michigan Avenue and walked among the l0 foot tall “Legs” sculptures. A bridal party was climbing on the sculptures, and we caught the bride and groom on top of one. (They were having great fun until she broke her shoe!!) We headed north up Michigan Avenue and had dinner at Rock Bottom Café on Grand Avenue. (Dinner, our regular fare, came to about $45 with a bottle of wine).

7/30
Today we had breakfast at Starbucks on Michigan Avenue, and then we headed up the Gold Coast to see the historical houses. We went as far as Lincoln Park, then headed to Old Town, reminiscent of Brooklyn Heights. The neighborhood is very young and with it, and has great old buildings!! We then caught a bus and walked around Ukranian Village, where immigrants still live. There is the beautiful Cathedral of St. Nicholas, but it is closed for renovation (they’re installing an elevator for the handicapped) and a newer church with beautiful mosaics. We then took the bus back in order to catch a train to Wrigley Field. What a treat! We arrived just as a Cubs game was beginning and we were caught up in the crowd of fans. Wrigley Field reminded us of the old Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and it was so touching and nostalgic. People stand across the street to catch balls during pre-game batting practice, and viewing stands have been erected on the roofs of neighboring buildings so fans can see the game. They also opened up a wall so you can peek into the field and watch the players warming up. We met a man who was catching pre-game balls and talked “shop” with him until the game began. It was time to head back to Old Town. We had purchased tickets to Second City. Earlier in the day, we met a young lady who has a boutique (Sara Jane) on Welles Street. She recommended that we have dinner in the delightful and highly acclaimed restaurant, Topo Gigio, and we had a very fresh, delicious seafood salad and great house wine ($75). On to Second City for a laughter filled night. As we walked back to the hotel, we spoke of how clean, friendly, beautiful and safe the city seems.

7/31
With only a few hours until our flight, we had breakfast in Starbucks and walked around the streets surrounding Michigan Avenue. The weather was beautiful. It was a perfect long weekend.
partypoet is offline  
Aug 1st, 2007, 10:01 AM
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Party,

Thanks for the great trip report. We took a "mini-trip" to Chicago a week before you. Also stayed a few blocks off the Magnificent Mile (at the Hampton) and agree that the walk down to the Field Museum was great! Loved Millennium Park and "the bean" (giant shiny object - irresistible)! Watching the kids play beneath the fountains as changing faces spit water was also a blast. Agree that the city was beautifully landscaped. People were outdoors everywhere having fun. Also walked north to the Oak Street Beach and people-watched and walked on the path down to the Ohio Street beach. The lake was beautiful. Good idea about taking the El to Oak Park. We'll try that next time. We took the El to/from the airport and thought it was a great deal at only $2 each way!
OnVacation is offline  
Aug 1st, 2007, 10:17 AM
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Glad you enjoyed our fair city-we certainly love it. Come again soon. The recent Traveler magazine has a big article on Chicago's new and old architecture that you might find interesting.
swalter518 is offline  
Aug 1st, 2007, 10:18 AM
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I hit enter too soon. Here's the link...
http://www.concierge.com/cntraveler/...rticleId=11120
swalter518 is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2007, 05:48 AM
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Thanks, swalter for the wonderful article. I've been reading everything in sight on Chicago architecture since we got home!
partypoet is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2007, 06:45 AM
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There is a new book, called Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. It is about Frank Lloyd Wright and his marriage to Mamah Cheney. A review is in the Arts section of 8/2's New York Times. Sounds fascinating!!
partypoet is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2007, 07:24 AM
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saving
nanabee is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2007, 08:04 AM
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My husband and I also took our first trip to Chicago, July 12-15. We had such a great time that he's thinking we should move there! We couldn't believe how clean the city is (we work in NYC). Loved watching the kids keep cool in Crown Fountain and taking pictures of our distorted reflections in "The Bean." Had to try the food Chicago is famous for so we went to Gino's East one day for lunch for deep dish pizza and The Chop House another night for steak. Mmm, good stuff.

We got a great rate at the Swissotel, a very nice hotel located on E. Wacker and near N. Michigan Ave. and walkable to so many things. There was an online deal for $100 a night, so folks check the hotel websites first when looking for a good rate.
wheretogonext is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2007, 09:19 AM
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Great report, pp. Chicago is fantastic!
sunbabe is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2007, 10:07 PM
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Really enjoyed your trip report, partypoet.

If you are still looking for interesting literature on Chicago, I highly recommend "Chicago In and Around the Loop: Walking Tours of Architecture and History" by Gerard R. Wolfe.
exiledprincess is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 05:45 AM
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I posted some pictures on webshots. If you want to see them, click on http://community.webshots.com/user/irmart.
partypoet is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 06:45 AM
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I loooove your photos partypoet, especially the Cloud Gate at night. You have a great eye.
wheretogonext is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 07:44 AM
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Join Date: May 2007
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My DH and I will be there in a few weeks, thanks for your great report.
nanabee is offline  

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