I decided that for my birthday in the month of November, I would visit some place that I have never been before. The first stop was Chicago, IL. I definitely enjoyed this city, especially since I was able to cross a couple of items off of my bucket list. To be known as the Windy City was an understatement. It was cold! I don’t think that I could deal with the winters up North, for now I’ll stick to the unpredictable weather in the South.
Accommodations– For my trip, I stayed at the Warwick Allerton Hotel on Michigan Avenue. Built in the 1920’s, the Warwick has a nice romantic jazz feel. The rooms were nice and quaint, but rather on the small side. If you’re like me and you spend more time outside than inside, it’s not too much of a bother. Each room comes with a bar and snacks, refrigerators can be obtained for a fee. Be mindful of the bar. If any item is removed, you will be charged. It was stocked nicely with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. (FYI- there is a Walgreens a few blocks up). The beds were comfy and the water pressure was just right. That’s the most important thing, right?
Day 1– They don’t call Chicago the Windy City for nothing. My first day there was by far the coldest day during my trip. I explored the Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier, and the United Center.
Magnificent Mile– Since this was my first time visiting Chicago, I was in full tourist mode! After sleeping in, I decided to get up and explore Michigan Ave. Michigan Ave. is infamously known as the Magnificent Mile. The Magnificent Mile is lined with a variety of shops and restaurants, from the budget conscious to the upscale. The city-scape was awesome. Each building was different from the next and you could tell the difference by heading a few blocks in either direction.
Navy Pier– Located on the Lakefront, the Navy Pier is a must see landmark for any one visiting Chi-town. The Pier has unique shops and is filled with restaurants, like the famous Giordanos, Bubba Gump Shrimp, and Margaritaville. Its key attractions are the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Crystal Gardens, Day Cruises, Miller Lite Beer Garden (not what you think), Centennial Wheel, Children’s Museum, Imax Theatre, Gallery of Stained Glass, and sculptures and art. From the Magnificent Mile, you can get to the Pier by foot, Uber, Taxi, one of the numerous tour buses, or by the Navy Pier Trolley. If you are trying to save money or energy by not walking, the Trolley is a good option. Its a free trolley service that runs every half hour. It will take you to the Navy Pier, the Art Institute, and back to the Magnificent Mile, with a few stops in-between.
United Center– My next stop was the United Center. Being a Chicago Bulls fan, its only right that I see my favorite NBA team play at home (bucket list- check!). If you are a true Bulls fan, this is a stop that you must make. Outside of the arena, there is a statue of Michael Jordan, one of the greatest Bulls’ players of all time! (Well in my opinion!)
Day 2– Before heading out to continue exploring the city, I decided to grab a quick bite to eat. My explorations consisted of The Art Institute and Millennium Park.
M Burger– M Burger was close and within walking distance of the hotel. Being a lover of a good juicy burger, I decided to give this place a try. My first impression was that this was a small place. It is a counter service restaurant, that gets the customers quickly through the line. I decided to go with the M Burger, fries and a drink. I received my food rather quickly and when I bit into the burger, I could tell why. The burger was semi-warm, like they have been pre-made and sitting under a warmer, until people ordered. The fries were good and hot. I guess people were okay with this, because the restaurant had a steady flow of customers while I was there. So all in all the food was okay, nothing spectacular. I probably will never go back.
The Art Institute of Chicago– My next stop was the Chicago Art Institute (General Admission-$25). I had been told by numerous people to make sure that this was on my list. I hopped on the Navy Pier Trolley, which had a stop right in front. Before I get into my time at the Institute, I will say that be sure to wear comfortable clothing and shoes. The Art Institute is massive and requires at least a couple of hours at a minimum to visit each of the exhibits. They do, however, provide a guide for a quick one-hour tour noting the most-notable art displays. Did I mention that this place was massive? There were numerous exhibits from different time periods and cultures. My favorite pieces were:
* Study of a Young Woman– Laura Johnson Knight
* Twenty-Armed Dancing God Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles– Madyha Pradesh, India
* The Solitude of the Soul– Lorado Taft
* The Room No. VI– Eldzier Cortor
* The Rock– Peter Blume
* Self-Portrait– Archibald Motley, Jr.
* Nightlife– Archibald Motley, Jr.
* Blues– Archibald Motley, Jr.
* Bust of Said Abdullah of the Darfour People, 1848– Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordier
* Bust of an African Woman– Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordier
* F*ck You: From the Liz Taylor Series (after Bert Stern)– Kathe Burkhart
I highly recommend that this attraction is a must-see when visiting Chicago for the first time. It is open daily from 10:30-5:00pm, till 8:00 on Thursdays.
Millennium Park– Right across the street from The Art Institute is Millennium Park. Millennium Park was packed with tourists taking in the sights and snapping as many photos as their hearts desired. From selfies to group photos, cameras were flashing non-stop. One of the most famous “selfie” attractions within the park is Cloud Gate or “the Bean”. Cloud Gate is a giant bean-shaped sculpture that is awesome for snapping photos of the city skyline and glorious sunsets. Another famous attraction within the park is the Crowne Fountain. The Fountain is a interactive display of public art. It consists of two 50-foot glass towers at the each end of a shallow reflection pool. Was a little disappointed that the fountain was closed for repair. Next time!
Giordano’s– After eating at this place, I will never eat pizza the same way again! I felt like I have been eating pizza the wrong way my entire life. How can you visit Chicago and not try a deep-dish pizza?! That was definitely on my list. Giordano’s is a unique experience. You order your pizza at the counter and wait to be seated. Be prepared, it takes 45 minutes for your stuffed deep dish pizza to arrive to your table. When you bite into it, its worth the wait. I ordered a small Chicago Classic ($26.00) which was pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, and green onions.
Day 3– My last day in Chicago was an interesting one! So of course this day started with some good ol’ breakfast. I decided to treat myself to something sweet and Do Right Donuts definitely hit the spot.
Do Right Donuts– Now when you think of a donut shop, you think of the normal donuts items and kolachies or breakfast sandwiches. That’s what I thought I was getting when I went to Do Right. They have a good selection of donuts with a unique spin- all of the donuts are gluten free and vegan. Well with the exception of the maple and bacon donut. On top of donuts, they also sell chicken sandwiches. That in itself is worth the trip. I opted for the CBR chicken sandwich and homemade buttermilk glazed donut. Talk about delicious! It as was very reasonable at $9.00 for them both. I recommend that any foodie visiting Chicago put this on their to do list.
16th Street Murals- After satisfying my hunger, I decided to search for the famous 16th Street Murals. Due to the distance, I got experience the L-train and what an experience it was. I made an attempt to navigate the confusing subway system with out the assistance of a map and word of mouth from employees. I will never do that again! I will say thank god for Google Maps! I finally made it to my destination, but quickly made a decision to return to the “touristy” side. I am not sure what it was, but the area gave me a bad vibe. Which totally goes against my “I’ll explore on my own” mentality. All in all it was a unique experience.
Before I move on to my next destination, I wanted to make a recommendation- take the L-Train or Metro whenever possible. It is quick and affordable. I purchased a day pass for $10 and was able to use it for the train and bus. You can purchase the Ventra card or download the Ventra app on your phone. It is much more cost effective than taking an Uber, taxi, or renting a car.
The rest of my day consisted of visiting Grant Park to see the Buckingham Fountain (which was closed by the way), Riverwalk, and the Grand Luxe Cafe, for a good meal and tasty drink! I definitely enjoyed Chicago, mostly because I got to cross some things off my bucket list. Enjoy!