Chicago Trip Report

Sep 8th, 2009, 12:13 PM
  #1  
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Chicago Trip Report

We had a wonderful visit to Chicago Sept 4-7. Thanks to all the fodorites who gave such helpful suggestions.

Day One (Friday Sept 4) Flew from our home in Panama City, FL (PC) to Chicago. We left PC at 6:00 am and we were on the ground at O'Hare by 10:45. We chose to fly through Memphis, rather than Atlanta, and were very happy with our decision. The Memphis airport is much smaller and thus we had less walking to make our connection. Once we arrived at O'Hare, we bought 3 day passes ($14.) for the Chicago Transit system. It was worth every penny. We took the Blue Line to Clark/Lake and caught a taxi from there to our hotel, the Swissotel at 323 E. Wacker.

The taxi fare was about $6.00, not including tip.The entire trip from the airport to the hotel took about 45 minutes to an hour. We were at the hotel by noonish, and thought it would be too early to check-in, but we were wrong. We waited less than two minutes in a very short line, then checked in and was told our room was ready. As we were headed to our room, a long line had formed.

Our room was lovely with a partial view of the lake. It was very spacious and clean. The only negative was the wall paper was peeling very badly in two separate parts inside the closet.

After getting settled, we made reservations on the Chicago Architectural Foundation River Tour for 3:00 p.m. With a few hours to kill, we headed south on Columbus the over on Randolph (I think) and walked to the lake. We walked along the lake and headed north to Navy Pier. The weather was great -- sunny and breezy. We walked along Navy Pier and I wanted to check out the stained glass museum, but we didn't have time. We caught a free trolley and headed west toward Michigan Avenue. We bought our tickets for the River cruise and walked up and down Michigan for a few blocks.

Stopped in a Walgreen's for a snack and a ball cap for $7.99. *** More on that later. Was surprised to hear the broadcasting from the WGN building. Once we boarded the boat for the River Cruise, I realized DH needed the ball cap more than I --He is bald, and his head would burn in the sun. Our docent for the river tour was very, very informative, and we enjoyed the tour. A bit of warning --this tour focuses on architecture -- hence the name of the tour. If you want just a guided tour, this is not the tour for you.

We had plans to meet a friend of DH, so after the cruise, we walked across the river and boarded a water taxi for our next stop. Our friend, Nancy, met us at a metro station, I believe it was Ogilvie, and we rode the train home with her. She worked in downtown Chicago but lives in a northwester neighborhood, Edison Park. We had dinner at Moretti's and it was delightful and delicious. Our waiter inquired in a most gracious manner about our thick southern accents. His family came from Virginia, but he had married a Chicago girl. For those of you who don't know, most of the folks in northwest Florida have some form of southern accent. DH is from southeast Georgia and I am from southeast Alabama, but we have lived in northwest Florida for our entire adult lives.

After the meal, Nancy rode us around the neighborhood and we were very impressed with the landscaping and the neatness of the area. Each home had its own style. DH and I live in an new subdivision where all the homes are one story brick -- imagine cookie cutter. That is why I love to ride in neighborhoods when visiting different areas. Nancy lives in a low rise condo (only 3 or 4 stories) in a beautiful neighborhood. We visited with her in her home for a few hours, and enjoyed catching up. Although a native of Chicago, Nancy had lived in Panama City for 10 years before returning to Chicago. Although this was my first time to meet her, we discovered we knew a lot of the same people in PC because we both work in the legal profession. DH and Nancy enjoyed reminiscing. She drove us back to our hotel about 10:00 pm. We slept well after a long day, as we had been up since 4:30 am. More to follow.
gracie is offline  
Sep 8th, 2009, 03:57 PM
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Glad you enjoyed yourself, Gracie. Also glad to hear that you work in a legal profession as those illegal ones tend to be frowned upon in some circles.
Citylghts is offline  
Sep 9th, 2009, 08:44 AM
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Trip Report Continued --
Before I left from home, I typed a list of places we wanted to visit, along with the address and directions to reach said locations from our hotel, i.e., what bus or train to take. That was extremely helpful to have on one sheet of paper.
Day Two -- Saturday, 9/5/09 took a bus down State Street to the Nordstroms Rack for a little shopping. I wear a hard to find shoe size, and usually "rack up" at Nordstroms Rack in other cities, but not this time. We shopped at TJ Maxx. By this time, we were ready for some breakfast. A TJ Maxx sales associate directed us to the Pittsfield Cafe on Washington Street in a historic office building. The breakfast was delicious, less than $15.00 for both, and with very generous portions. After breakfast, we headed over to Macy's for more shopping, then headed back to our hotel. We stopped at another Walgreen's so DH could get his own generic ball cap for the White Sox/Red Sox game. I took a nap while while DH read the papers. At 1:30, we boarded a bus and then transferred at State/Lake, to catch the redline south to U.S. Cellular Field. By the time we reached our stop, the train was packed which fans. I had left my sunglasses at the hotel, and was worried about sitting through the ball game without the sunglasses. We found our seats, which which were in the shade, so I didn't even need the sunglasses and DH didn't need a cap for his bald head. Really enjoyed the game, the sights and the smells of food. Sat next to some lovely folks Red Sox fans from Rhode Island. After the game, took the redline north to Grand and walked north to the Hancock Tower and Macy's. Along the way, we stopped at a Bentley dealership and window shopped. We don't see many Bentley dealerships in northwest Florida Did more shopping and walked back along Michigan to Wacker. Somehow ended up on the road below our hotel, so had to backtrack to get on the correct level. Returned to the hotel for a brief rest. DH wanted to eat pizza at Geno's. I had been planning every step, and was tired of the responsibility. I asked DH to take over. He got directions from the concierge, but he didn't write them down, so we wandered around for over an hour. We finally found Geno's and arrived around 9:45 p.m. After a short wait, we were seated. We ordered a small deep dish, and it was more than enough. I loved the crust but didn't care for the sweetness of the sauce. Just not what I am accustomed to. Enjoyed sitting at table on the sidewalk. Found out my college football team, the University of Alabama, had won, but DH's team, Georgia had lost. Returned to the hotel around midnight and quickly fell asleep.
Day Three (Sunday, 9/6/09) Our plan was to see the Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio and then meet friends from Wisconsin who had driven in to town for the day. These friends used to live in Panama City, and they introduced DH to me about 6 years ago. Some days I don't know whether to thank them or curse them.
We walked along Wacker to the Corner Bakery for breakfast, but the line was very long. We had just passed Houlihan's, where there was no line, so we backtracked and had the breakfast buffet at Houlihan's. Shortly after we were seated, the line at Houlihan's was very long, so we felt ourselves lucky. The food was so-so. The buffet was around $9.00. per person. We walked to the station and took the greenline to Oak Park and the home of Frank Lloyd Wright. We especially enjoyed the walk from the station in Oak Park through the neighborhood. Only had time for the interior tour of the FLW home and studio. DH and I are not fans of the prairie style architecture, but we were excited to see the house and studio. We are in the planning stages of building a waterfront home and the tour reminded me to consider some important elements. The museum volunteer was very knowledgeable, but we felt a bit rushed, as there was a tour just behind us. But I am glad we took the tour. I would like to have seen other examples of FLW's work. We walked back to the station and retraced the greenline back to downtown. We walked up Michigan, did some window shopping, and met our friends at the ESPN Zone for an early dinner. (They picked the restaurant, as they have three kids --two boys and a girl.) Food was good but nothing special. We enjoyed catching up and walked back to our hotel and then down to Millennium park and along the Lake. Soon it was getting dark and time for our friends to drive home. more to follow
gracie is offline  
Sep 9th, 2009, 08:59 AM
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Glad you had a great trip.
What did you think of US Cellular Field?

There is a Pittsfield Cafe? Wish I had known that. I was born in Pittsfield, MA.

1 other comment - must be interesting in your house with a Univ Of Alabama and a Univ of Georgia grad...
tchoiniere is offline  
Sep 9th, 2009, 10:31 AM
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Not as interesting as Bama and Auburn would be.

Gracie, thanks so much for your trip report - I'm headed to Chicago for the third time this weekend and looking forward to hearing about the rest of your trip! So glad you enjoyed the CAF tour. We did that my first time in the city and it's still one of my favorite things.
jent103 is offline  
Sep 9th, 2009, 10:46 AM
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tchoiniere -- I thought US Cellular field was great. Access on the red line was so simple. It was easy to get in and to get out, and the seats were comfortable. I don't have anything to compare it to, as it was my first pro baseball game. (Of course I have been to youth baseball games and seen pro games on TV, but never a pro game in person.)
jent103 -- it does get tense in our house during college football. Right now, my Mom is upset because one of my nephews is dating an Auburn grad. I think she is being silly, but she is 82 and she won't change. DH and I went with my brother, his wife, three nephews and a nephew's wife to the Bama-GA game in Tuscaloosa in 2007, when GA won. DH was gracious about his team's win. When Bama played the Dawgs in Athens last year, my side of the family rented a cabin in Gatlinburg that very weekend to celebrate the completion of our Mom's chemo. It was DH, me, my parents, my two older brothers, their wives, four nephews, two wives of nephews and one great niece. DH went to the basement to watch the Bama-GA game and had to endure our stomps and cheers. I watched part of the game with him, but mainly stayed upstairs with my family. My nephew, his wife and their 8 month old baby also watched the game in the basement, not because they were pulling for GA, but so the little one could crawl around without getting stepped on.
gracie is offline  
Sep 9th, 2009, 10:51 AM
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Oh, DH is not a GA grad, just a big fan. My parents, brothers, their wives, their children, and I all graduated from Bama. One brother and I also have graduate degrees from Florida State, but our heart is with the Crimson Tide.
gracie is offline  
Sep 9th, 2009, 11:06 AM
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Right now, my Mom is upset because one of my nephews is dating an Auburn grad.

That's hilarious (unless you're the nephew and his girlfriend, I guess!). I grew up in Knoxville and my whole family are diehard Tennessee fans, but I work at Vandy now and went to grad school at UNC (that's what made me a college basketball fan, in addition to a proper Southern football girl). My brothers are always suspicious that I've forgotten my roots!
jent103 is offline  
Sep 10th, 2009, 06:49 AM
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Day Four (Monday, Sept 7) Our last day in Chicago. We took a taxi to the station on State and caught the blue line to O'Hare. We left the hotel at 8:30am for an 11:10 am flight because we were concerned about traffic delays due to the closing of certain parts of Michigan for Oprah's deal. However, we had no delays. Going through security at O'Hare was a breeze -- only two people ahead of us in line. Our flight departed on time and we arrived home about 3:30 pm.

We did not get to see the Art Institute, Lincoln Park Zoo, or Jersey Boys, as we just didn't have enough time. I will just have to return again and make those a priority! It was a wonderful trip and we loved Chicago. It was clean, the people were kind, getting around on public transportation was easy, and we loved all the green space.
One final note on our hotel, Swissotel. We got a terrific rate of $88. per night. The hotel staff responded quickly to our few special requests. We liked the location -- we could easily walk to many points of interest and public transportation was also nearby. There were not many families at the hotel, which I like, as I am not crazy about screaming children.
gracie is offline  
Sep 10th, 2009, 07:18 AM
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gracie, twice I have gotten Swissotel on Priceline. LOVE IT. The Palm (restaurant) is good there too.

Some people don't like the lake "stick-out" on landfill and so the extra walk back to MI Avenue, but I like it and LOVE its views too. And for all the other reasons you did, the same, too. There and right on the River are my favorite Chicago lodging locations.

Glad you had fun.

BTW, DO NOT expect U.S. Cellular Ladies' Rooms at other ball parks. LOL!

Jersey Boys was fab. Art Institue is an absolute must. Come back whenever you can.
JJ5 is offline  
Sep 10th, 2009, 07:19 AM
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And good trip report. Glad you didn't have any big problems on the exit route.
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Sep 10th, 2009, 07:26 AM
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Well, this is a coincidence: My screen name is gracie04, I live in P'cola, and was just in Chicago in May!

I've enjoyed reading your report. You got a great deal on your hotel!

Johanna
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Sep 10th, 2009, 07:48 AM
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One thing you may have noticed in our trip report is that I didn't mention much about the restaurants. DH and I are not "foodies" and he does not drink wine. His only request was that we have deep dish Chicago pizza, which we did at Geno's. We were so busy that we would usually just eat wherever we we could find a place that was not crowded. Our friend Nancy took us to Moretti's in Edison Park and we were very pleased. Very reasonable prices and good service. We also grabbed some food at the ball game and hot dogs at different locations as we were walking on Friday and Saturday.
gracie is offline  
Sep 11th, 2009, 05:50 AM
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Glad you enjoyed Chicago, gracie. Thanks for posting.
CAPH52 is offline  
Sep 30th, 2009, 08:00 PM
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gracie- glad you enjoyed the trip and my beautiful hometown of Chicago. I can't believe you never got to any of the fabulous museums, the Art Institute, the Planetarium or the Shedd Aquarium! You MUST return soon! (Christmas is incredible in Chi-town. Maybe a mid-December long weekend? Imagine the stores all lit up in their Christmas finery and maybe a snow flurry or two!)
sarge56 is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2009, 10:09 AM
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sarge56-- DH and I want very much to return to Chicago. Even my city-hating older brother and his wife want to come with us! I really regret missing the Art Institute and Jersey Boys, but I was trying to accommodate DH and his desires on this trip. If we came in December, it would have to be the week between Christmas and New Years. Is it very cold that time of year? We are Floridians, not used to very bitter cold.
gracie is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2009, 10:25 AM
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Gracie,

While we've never been to Chicago for the holidays, we've been there once for Thanksgiving weekend and the weather was surprisingly mild. We were ok with the leather jackets that we brought. OTOH, we were there in the middle part of October a few years back, and did we really need to use our long winter coats which we brought (just in case). It was frigid!!!

While I love Chicago so much, I don't think we would plan on a visit during the holidays because we always do a LOT of walking. That won't be fun for us if the temperature were to drop to down to the teens. (Then again, we're going to NY this Christmas, but we just HAVE to spend Christmas in NY at least once in our lifetime!
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