First Visit to Chicago

Old Mar 9th, 2011, 07:21 AM
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First Visit to Chicago

My husband and I are planning a 5 night trip to the Windy City. We'll be there from March 30-April 4. In addition to information from guide books and the web, I would love to hear some of your favorite things to do there at that time of year.

If you enjoy Chicago, please let me know what you would do with your five days (five nights, 4 full days). Thank you so much.
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Old Mar 9th, 2011, 07:33 AM
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When we visited, it was all about the museums and the architecture.

I recommend you consider buying the City Pass if you plan on visiting a lot of the museums. You get admission to the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum and Skydeck Chicago and a choice of two others--I'd choose the Art Institute and the Museum of Science and Industry. The museums in Chicago are among the best I have ever seen.
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Old Mar 9th, 2011, 07:51 AM
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At that time of the year it will still be little chilly so be prepared with layers of clothing.

Now here is what I would do:

96th Signature Lounge in the John Hancock Building. DO NOT confuse that with the Observatory which is a floor or 2 above the lounge. For the price of the ride up to the observatory you can have a lunch or couple of drinks and enjoy the same views. It includes free elevator ride up to the restaurant/lounge.

Italian beef sandwich at Al's #1 place on west Taylor street. Nothing special about the place but the sandwich is one of Chicago's best and also a Chicago tradition. Also, a Chicago pizza joint is in order.

Don't just visit the downtown area the whole time. Try to find out about the ethnic neighborhoods, Polish, German, Mexican, etc. You'll find many interesting stores, restaurants and just a different atmosphere.

Museums - Art Institute of Chicago, Field Museum, Chicago History Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, DuSable Museum of African American History, etc.

Have a night out at Gibson's Steakhouse on north Rush Street, not the suburban location (expensive but well worth it).

If Second City has a show (the original Saturday Night Live) crew came from there, try to catch it.

finally, do some window shopping on north Michigan Avenue, or perhaps do some real shopping.....

Have a wonderful trip to the best city in US!
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Old Mar 9th, 2011, 08:11 AM
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Oak Park if you like Frank Lloyd Wright. We've had a nice tour of ethnic groceries in ethnic neighborhoods:

http://www.yelp.com/list/evelyn-thom...y-tour-chicago

The Loop has some interesting buildings, with nice interiors:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...7623200372490/
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Old Mar 9th, 2011, 09:04 AM
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Hi arindasue,
Theater: "God of Carnage" will be playing at the Goodman Theatre. Great cast of actors (David Pasquesi is a big improv name in Chicago, too)... should be great. (normally I'm all about the Steppenwolf, but their "Sex w/Strangers" was a play I didn't care for.

Improv: The afore-mentioned Pasquesi stars in a late night improv show called TJ and Dave at ImprovOlympic. It's LATE at 11 pm Wednesday nights -- which could be tough if you're getting into the city that day. But it's a fun experience, pure Chicago long-form improv -- always ALWAYS sells out by 10 am that day... only $5.

WALK: If the weather's nice and you like to walk, I'd go to Lincoln Park Zoo. Take the 22 Clark or 36 Broadway Bus to West Lasalle Drive stop (1 stop past North Ave). Start here in Lincoln Park just north of West Lasalle Drive/North Avenue), wander northbound past South Pond, past the "Farm in the Zoo," through the zoo, exit zoo to the Conservatory, and cross Fullerton to pretty North Pond. (I've never been to the nature museum that's there...looks dull and not heard much about it except for the butterfly room.) You can either go east to the lake, or west for brunch/lunch at the North Pond Cafe or west to Clark Street for a neighborhoody restaurant (like Lilo's Empanada's or Hai Yen Vietnamese or Molly's Cupcakes). The area around Clark/Division is loaded with restaurants (between 2400 to 2900 N Clark).

Second the incredible Art Institute (have a snack in the south garden under the lovely Hawthorne Trees) and then move north the Millenium Park to see the Gehry open-air theater. Chicagoans are very proud of that park - it's gorgeous. Also, across the street from the park, the Chicago Cultural Center usually has art exhibits, and a beautiful Tiffany glass dome to gawk at.

You'll have a great time! Dress warm, though!
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Old Mar 9th, 2011, 09:05 AM
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As AAFrequentFlyer says, the weather will still be iffy at the end of March.

In addition to the suggestions you've already received I'll add the Oriental Institute on the Univ of Chicago campus. If you go to MSI, it's nearby and has a good collection of Egyptian and Near East art. Check http://oi.uchicago.edu/ for info.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers walking tours around The Loop that focus on a district or architecural style. The tours last 1-2 hours. Info is on the CAF site at http://caf.architecture.org/.

The Chicago History Museum is interesting but is in the midst of installing two large exhibits, so two galleries are closed. Still, you can see the first L car and handle objects covered after the Great Chicago Fire.

Transit passes would also be a wise investment. They allow unlimited rides on all CTA trains and buses for a 24-hour period. A 1-day pass is $5.75 and a 3-day pass is $14. You can purchase them from vending machines at both airports or at most CVS or Walgreens stores around the city. You'll find maps and a trip planner at www.transitchicago.com.

If you want to get outside the central business district, you can take the Red Line subway toward 95th Street and exit at Cermack to visit Chinatown.

Michigan Avenue, the Magnificant Mile, is the city's prime shopping district. You'll find Saks, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's Tiffany's and Cartier and dozens of other stores. Also, pay a visit to State Street and wander through the former Marshall Field's (Macy's). Nearby, you'll find Old Navy, Nordstrom Rack, Loehmann's, Filene's Basement and TJ Maxx. When you reach the north end of the Mag Mile, if you turn left on Oak Street, you'll find the premium stores such as Barney's New York, Prada, Hermes, YSL and Jimmy Choo.
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Old Mar 9th, 2011, 09:08 AM
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Hi arindasue,
Theater: "God of Carnage" will be playing at the Goodman Theatre. Great cast of actors (David Pasquesi is a big improv name in Chicago, too)... should be great. (normally I'm all about the Steppenwolf, but their "Sex w/Strangers" was a play I didn't care for.

Improv: The afore-mentioned Pasquesi stars in a late night improv show called TJ and Dave at ImprovOlympic. It's LATE at 11 pm Wednesday nights -- which could be tough if you're getting into the city that day. But it's a fun experience, pure Chicago long-form improv -- always ALWAYS sells out by 10 am that day... only $5.

WALK: If the weather's nice and you like to walk, I'd go to Lincoln Park Zoo. Take the 22 Clark or 36 Broadway Bus to West Lasalle Drive stop (1 stop past North Ave). Start here in Lincoln Park just north of West Lasalle Drive/North Avenue), wander northbound past South Pond, past the "Farm in the Zoo," through the zoo, exit zoo to the Conservatory, and cross Fullerton to pretty North Pond. (I've never been to the nature museum that's there...looks dull and not heard much about it except for the butterfly room.) You can either go east to the lake, or west for brunch/lunch at the North Pond Cafe or west to Clark Street for a neighborhoody restaurant (like Lilo's Empanada's or Hai Yen Vietnamese or Molly's Cupcakes). The area around Clark/Division is loaded with restaurants (between 2400 to 2900 N Clark).

Second the incredible Art Institute (have a snack in the south garden under the lovely Hawthorne Trees) and then move north the Millenium Park to see the Gehry open-air theater. Chicagoans are very proud of that park - it's gorgeous. Also, across the street from the park, the Chicago Cultural Center usually has art exhibits, and a beautiful Tiffany glass dome to gawk at.

You'll have a great time! Dress warm, though!
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Old Mar 9th, 2011, 09:10 AM
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Sorry... don't know how I posted twice...
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Old Mar 9th, 2011, 09:55 AM
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Bring a jacket -- temperature can get chilly.
Restaurants: Girl and the Goat make a reservation NOW (near Harpo Studios), RoSal's on Taylor Street, and the great and delicious Frontera Grill. Garrett's Popcorn!

To do: Art Institute (good courtyard restaurant for lunch if it is open in March/April). Chicago Architecture Tour (on boat so dress appropriately). Millenium Park to people watch. Shopping on Michigan Ave.

Have Fun!
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Old Mar 9th, 2011, 11:32 AM
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You may have passed right over the suggestions to do the Architecture Tours as just too stuffy and boring. The boat tour is remarkable - a little-known "must" IMO - even if you're mostly bored by thinking about architecture. It gives you a great view of the city from the river, which is impossible to get otherwise. And the docents know a lot, so you get historical anecdotes, etc. There's also a plain old boat tour (with food) that doesn't go as far and is far more boring. But yes, in March-April it'll probably be furrreeezing, so be prepared to layer and wrap. Worth it, though.
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Old Mar 9th, 2011, 11:40 AM
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Will the boat tours even be running?
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Old Mar 9th, 2011, 12:48 PM
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DH & I were in Chicago for 6 days last November. Our interests are mostly architecture and museums. We ventured out to Oak Park and to Hyde Park area. You can take a look at my trip report here:
http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...-in-dallas.cfm
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Old Mar 17th, 2011, 09:30 AM
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Hi,
We were in Chicago last summer for a long weekend & loved it!!! You will have a great time. We did spend most of our visit outdoors because the weather was sunny & gorgeous, so we didn't visit any of the larger, well-known museums but I can give you a quick rundown of what we did for sightseeing & restaurant suggetions.

Sightseeing:
Chicago History Museum - the only museum we visited; free on Mondays, small but VERY interesting, a hidden gem.

Saw a show at Second City - definitely worth it.

Chicago Architecture Cruise - one of my highlights because Chicago's architecture is amazing!! It will be chilly when you are there but definitely worth it. I agree with JJ495 that the cruise gives you a great view of the city from the river, which you otherwise won't get.

Millenium park - saw the "Bean" sculpture & Crown Fountain

Grant Park - saw the magnificent Buckingham Fountain

Navy Pier - rode the ferris wheel for great views of Lake Michigan & the city. May not be open when you go.

Walked along Magnificient Mile.

Restaurants:
Witt Hotel rooftop bar for drinks & appetizers
Havana - Latin American food - pitcher of Mojitos, delicious ceviche
Tempo - huge breakfast, near Michigan Ave.
Chinatown - lunch, good & cheap
Red Rooster - French food & near Old Town
Orzo's - on Wells St., Italian, delicious, has lovely grape arbor patio which I assume won't be open when you are there.
Topo Gigio - Wells St., Old Town, delicious Italian food

Hope this helps.
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Old Mar 17th, 2011, 02:09 PM
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Here's my initial Chicago itinerary and subsequent trip report:

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...ack-wanted.cfm

Saw a lot and ate at some good "local cuisine" spots.
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Old Mar 19th, 2011, 06:12 PM
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My husband, son and I will be in Chicago that same week. Wonderful info everyone!
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Old Mar 19th, 2011, 10:47 PM
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First and foremost, you should take a look at one of the websites such as Metromix, Time Out Chicago, the Chicago Reader, etc. to see what is happening when you are here. Only you can tell what would interest you the most (attractions, things to do and dining), based on your budget and itinerary.

It's very hard to make suggestions to you if you don't mention things such as your interests and budget. Chicago is a world-class city, so it is very unlikely that you'll have any lack of options, though.

Since it's your first trip to Chicago, you'll probably be spending a good deal of your time doing the "touristy" things. But I strongly, strongly recommend that you take some of that time and explore the other areas. Perhaps in visiting some neighborhoods further from the city's downtown.

That being said:

Chicago Greeter service. It's free, but you have to reserve in advance. You choose what you want to see, such as a particular neighborhood or by interest.

Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Art Institute and/or Millennium Park. The Art Institute is immediately to the south of MP on S. Michigan Avenue. Whereas the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion has concerts in the summer, the Harris Theatre is the venue when the weather is colder. Take a look at their calendar.

As mentioned, stop in at the Chicago Cultural Center. They have free exhibits and concerts.

The Museum of Science and Industry in the Hyde Park neighborhood: Particularly the U505. The third "Body Worlds" exhibit has just opened. In addition, the University of Chicago campus and their Oriental Institute and Smart Museum of Art are also in the Hyde Park neighborhood.

The Field Museum of Natural History is located in the Museum Campus, along with the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. Sue, the world's most complete T-rex skeleton, is a star attraction at the Field and they have a very good exhibit about horses. Also recommend "Inside Ancient Egypt", "The Ancient Americas", and I always visit the Grainger Hall of Gems and Hall of Jades.

Cuisine: Thank goodness Chicago cuisine has evolved from pizza, hotdogs and Italian beef, although most visitors will try one or more of these. Chicago is a premier dining destination, with one of the best restaurants in the Americas here. However, since you don't mention budget nor preference, no way to start making recommendations.

Blues or jazz club? Do your research ahead of time online and go for the act. One of the websites you might want to take a look at is the Jazz Institute of Chicago's. The Green Mill (in the Uptown neighborhood) is an iconic jazz club, which has been frequented by various famous (and infamous).

If one of the neighborhoods which you want to explore happens to be Lincoln Square, you might be interested in attending a concert at the Old Town School of Folk Music, although they do have concerts at the space on Armitage from time to time (and I think one will be happening when you are here).

If you enjoy early music, HIGHLY recommend the Newberry Consort. They are having an encore performance on April 2, 8 p.m.. Here's their website: www.newberryconsort.org. If you are interested I would send an e-mail to them confirm if the concert is at the Fourth Presbyterian Church or at the Ida Hoyes Hall in Hyde Park.

Most sports fans make a pilgrimage up to Clark & Addison to see Wrigley Field. The Home Opener is on April 1. Even if you don't have tickets to the game, it is still a scene to experience around Wrigley Field. You take the Red Line 'L' to the Addison stop to get there.

The weather can be either nice or wicked. If nice, recommend that you do some walking in one of the parks (perhaps Lincoln or Grant), along the lakefront. Still too early for seeing the recreational harbors in full bloom, though.

Whatever you do decide upon, get a CTA visitor's pass for unlimited travel on busses and 'L' system. Well worth it.
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Old Mar 19th, 2011, 11:03 PM
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I forgot to mention a couple of things:

If you are interested in Chicago's history, we have a museum for that, too: Chicago History Museum. chicagohistory.org It's located right in the area of the juncture of three of the city's neigborhoods: The Gold Coast, Lincoln Park and Old Town. Take a look at their tours, as well. One is on April 2.

ChgoGal: The Nature Museum is really geared towards children, although I do think the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven is really nice to see in the winter.

And it's now called the iO, not the ImprovOlympic.
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Old Mar 20th, 2011, 10:10 AM
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It will always be ImprovOlympic to me.
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Old Mar 20th, 2011, 05:10 PM
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LOL, ChgoGal. The lawyers have spoken and must be heeded.
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Old Mar 20th, 2011, 06:00 PM
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Give us more of your interests and we can give you more specifics. For baseball fans, a trip to Wrigley is a must. The offer great behind the dugout tours on certain days that my DH and Dad loved doing. Check the Cubs websites if you are interested. The Wrigleyville/Lakeview area has tons of neighborhood restaurants. If you go to Wrigley, head just west to Southport and there are tons of unique restaurants and shops. Boystown, just to the east and south of Wrigley, and Lincoln Park, due south of Wrigley, both have tons of restaurants and shops. Lincoln Park is also due west of the Zoo if you head in that direction.
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