As I was planning my flight for a quick business trip to Chicago, I looked at my family calendar and at the flight options and I tried to figure you the minimal impact on my household while getting flights that work for me. I needed to be in Chicago for one day, for a conference, but it started at 8AM on a Monday so I’d have to fly the previous day. As I looked I was appalled to see that the last direct flight on Sunday was 10 AM. That meant I’d still need to leave my house and family by 8 AM and miss the whole day with my family. In addition, due to the time change, I’d land at 4 PM and basically lose the whole day in travel. But, there was a 6 AM flight, that got in at noon, landed in Midway, and gave me most of the day in Chicago. If I was going to miss the day with my family, I was going to take advantage of my day in Chicago!
Stop 1: Food
Landing at lunch time, by the time I got to my hotel to drop off my bags, I was hungry. And I knew what I wanted, an authentic Chicago deep dish pizza. I had asked my Lyft driver where to eat and he recommended Giordano’s. So I went in. I was immediately hit with a large line of people. I went up to ask for the wait time.
“Come, a stop just freed up at the bar”
Sometimes it pays to travel solo 😃
I sat at the bar and ended up striking up a conversation with an Aussie who was in town for business. He had ordered a small pizza and offered me a slice as I was waiting to be served. Honestly, I really hungry, so I took him up on it. It was heavenly. Gooey cheese, lots of sauce, and a delicious crust. When the waiter came over I immediately ordered one. “Pizzas are taking 45 minutes”. What! I didn’t want to waste that much time. I had my slice so I ordered a chicken parmesan sandwich and a beer. It was also delicious, but I wish I had had a whole pizza. Next time.
Stop 2: Millennium Park
Once I was done with lunch, I walked over the block and a half to Millennium Park. Originally designed to usher in the third millennium, it was completed in 2004 and today is the top tourist destination in Chicago and the Midwest. It’s 319 acres in the center of the city, and is used as a public space for concerts, for public art, and for any gatherings.
I entered at Wrigley Square, at the northwest corner. It contains the Millennium Monument, a beautiful semi-circle of Greek style columns. It was built as a monument to the private donors who in the end saved the project and helped bring in the necessary funding to complete the park.
I next walked past the Jack Prizker Pavilion. Also known as the birds nest, it’s a stage framed by curing plates of stainless steel. The pavilion holds seats, but has plenty of lawn space for the fun summer concert that the park is known to hold.
After admiring the pravillion, I turned the corner to see the sculpture I came to see, the Cloud Gate. Known to most as “The Bean”, this sculpture is smooth reflective steal in the shape of a bean. People love to go up and take pictures of themselves in the bean. But the best part of this sculpture is actually to actually go underneath the archway. From there you can look up and see it’s not really a bean, but a portion turns inside. So standing directly underneath the middle, you can see yourself from multiple different spots. It’s truly amazing.
Finally, I went over to the Crown Fountain. This is an interesting modern pierce, and interactive video sculpture. It is black concrete with a reflecting pool, but plays videos of different faces. The video is aligned to time with the water, so it looks like the face is reacting to or creating the water’s effects. The water was no on when I visited (this is close to winter in Chicago) but the video was playing, so you could look up and see three story tall faces changing and staring down at you. Worth checking out.
Stop 3: Nutella Cafe
Once I was done with the park, I went out and started to walk back up toward the river and noticed a Nutella Café, and decided to stop and get a little snack. Hey! I had walked a lot I deserved it. At the Café I ordered a Nutella hot chocolate and Nutella croissant. Yes, they were amazing. But the coolest thing was personal labels for your Nutella. You could get a Nutella jar with a personalized label! I was informed that I could not bring it carry on the plane (How is Nutella a liquid?!?!) but they did sell just the label. I printed a few, one for my mom, my sister, and my kids. Who doesn’t want a personalized jar of Nutella?
Stop 4: Magnificent Mile
Now that I had done some culture, it was time for some shopping. I crossed the Chicago River and started to walk and window shop on Magnificent Mile. Magnificent Mile is an upscale shopping section of Michigan Avenue. There was Prada, Nordstrom’s, Nike, and other high end stores. I ended up going into Sephora. Makeup is one of the small personal luxuries I like to shop for. I ended up getting a lovely lipstick, cream eyeshadow, and liner. Could I have bought it at home, sure! But I wouldn’t have a story behind them if I did that 😃.
Stop 5: Chicago River
It was starting to get dark, so I walked back to the river. Here I saw a wedding party taking photos by the river, all dressed up. It made me actually take in the background and look at the river. I saw how it lead all the way out to the lake, and was impressed by the way it seemed to cut through the city, without seeming impacting the modern skyscrapers and buildings. There was a walkway along the river, but it was getting dark quickly so I decided to skip the river walk. But I did get to sit by and hear a street performer play his keyboard as I waited for my Lyft to pick me up.
As the sun set, I rode in a shared ride to visit my husband’s cousin who lived not too far from downtown. We were meeting for dinner and so I could chat with them and play with their three witty boys. But as I looked out their roof-deck at the lit up downtown Chicago skyline, I could see why people endure the harsh winters of this city. It’s so full of life, history, food and culture. This is a city that values public art, and gold pizza crusts. Sports and music. This is a city with it’s own unique vibe and one I hope to visit again in the near future.