Friday, October 24, 2014

Weekend Travel: Chicago, USA

While prolonged vacation days are much harder to come by with a full time job, my itch to travel has not quite as happily taken a back seat. As a result, most of the trips I’ve been able to make lately have been short weekend excursions around the country. And with travel, inevitably comes the need to document and since I'm not much of a postcard-writing-kinda-girl, I thought it's time I started a weekend travel series to share my travel experiences and help you plan your next weekend getaway (and okay fine, mostly to serve as my own personal diary).

First up - Chicago.







WHEN TO GO:
I went the first weekend of October and it was already god forsakenly cold and rainy (definitely not conducive to sightseeing). I hear Chicago is wonderful in the May - Sept range though, so definitely try to plan your trip for then.

WHAT TO DO:

1. Millennium Park
You really haven't been to Chicago if you don't go to the Millenium Park - it's almost like going to New York without visiting Times Square. The Cloud Gate (that big fat silver bean) set against Chicago’s cityscape is undeniably beautiful but to be completely frank, it was one of those oh-that's-it? moments. There's also a Frank Gehry concert hall and lots of sculptures by famous artists.

2. Architecture boat cruise
Highly recommend – especially on a nice sunny day. It’s a great opportunity to learn about Chicago’s history and its architecture.

3. Navy Pier
I went first thing in the morning but I hear it's pretty romantic at sunset. It’s basically a cross between the piers by the Hudson river and Coney Island.  The view is unbelievable though – you get both a nice shot of Chicago and the vast expanse of blue sky melding into Lake Michigan.

4. Art Institute of Chicago *FAV!!*
I spent almost half of my two day trip parked at this museum and still barely got to see a fraction of it. I've been to my fair share of museums and this is easily as impressive as any and has almost as extensive a collection as the Met's. 
*PS - Last time I went, if you had a Bank of America credit card, you get to go in for free.

5. Chicago Cultural Center
Beautiful stained glass dome inside. And it’s free!

6. Magnificent Mile - Chicago's Fifth Avenue




WHERE TO EAT:

I’ll start off with the Chicago classics - 

1. Lou Malnati’s - for deep dish pizza

2. Portillo's Hot Dog - for Chicago style hot dog
Chicago hot dogs differ from the normal hotdog in that they don’t use ketchup, the bun is peppered with poppy seeds and they run their “dog through the garden” (I’ll let you find out what that means on your own). I hear Hot Doug’s is a great alternative, but it was a little out of the way last time I was in town.

3. Garrett’s Popcorn – overrated

4. The Publican (brunch)
Very solid brunch spot with great flavors and well executed dishes.

5. Longman and Eagle (dinner and drinks) *FAV!!*
It’s a little out of the way but it was my absolute favorite meal in Chicago! It’s actually a good half way point between the Chicago O’Hare airport and downtown Chicago so check it out on your way into the city, or on your way out! I fully raved about this place on Yelp (you can check it out here) so I won’t do that again here.

6. Girl and the Goat (dinner) – AVOID!
Anywhere that makes you wait an hour for a table (even if you show up before 6 pm!!) has got to really, really, REALLY woo me with their food. And this place did not. This place is waaaaay overrated. I honestly have had better food in Phoenix, with NO wait.

WHERE TO DRINK:

1. Signature Lounge at the Hancock Building – AVOID!
Avoid at all costs! Yes it has a beautiful panorama view of Chicago from the 95th floor but aside from that (or I guess because of that?) this is a huge, huge, huuuuuge tourist trap. AND there was a line - a line to take the elevator, a line to get into the bar and even a line to leave… Ugh. I turned right back around as soon as I stepped out of the elevators.

2. Violet Hour
This was on my to do list but unfortunately did not get a chance to go. The reviews (and photos) look amazing – classy, quiet speakeasy with creative drinks. Definitely going to check this place out next time I’m in town.

  



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