“We’re quite lucky to have such a big city so close by.”
I currently live in Madison, Wisconsin which is a three-hour bus journey from Downtown Chicago. As a result I have visited 3 times and there is soon to be a 4th when my two friends from England come over to stay. When I first visited Chicago we took the subway into the heart of the loop and so our first experience was climbing up the subway steps and onto the street. Instantly myself and my friends were hit by a wave of noise; car horns, trains running overhead and people chattering. It was so busy and after 3 hours of travelling in the early hours of the morning it was very easy to feel overwhelmed. Luckily I felt nothing but excitement. As in most American cities the buildings towered above us, even blocking the sun from view, and made us feel tiny and inconsequential. In a way it felt almost claustrophobic.
“I think it’s that way to the Bean.”
The Bean is an impressive sculpture and every time I’ve been to Chicago so far I have made sure to pay it a visit. It’s true name is Cloud Gate however given its shape, which to me looks like a giant red blood cell, it has gained the name of The Bean. Its reflective surface has given me many good photo opportunities and the way it reflects the city skyline is pretty cool. Millennium Park, where the Bean is situated, is also great to walk around and has several other sculptures that are quite nice to see. It’s definitely a nice place to go for some air if the streets of Downtown are getting a little intense and the Wildberry Pancake House across the street is utterly fantastic; as long as you don’t mind waiting up to two hours for a table.
“We should go see where the Obamas shared their first kiss!”
On my third visit to Chicago I thought I had covered the majority of inexpensive things to do in the city and so when my Dad came to visit I suggested, quite jokingly, that we go to the Hyde Park area of Chicago and see the rock where Barack and Michelle shared their first kiss. It even has a plaque to commemorate the event. My Dad however decided that this would be a great idea and a wonderful opportunity to hire bikes and cycle south down the Lakeshore path, giving a fabulous few of the skyline and also taking us past Soldier Field where the Chicago Bears play. My Dad cycled so slowly that a runner managed to overtake him at a very casual pace and we didn’t actually go and find the rock but rather went and had a McDonalds but I’d still recommend the ride just for the views.
“It used to be the tallest building in the world.”
The Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower, is the tallest skyscraper in the city. For just over $20 I’ve taken the opportunity twice now to shoot up to one of the highest floors to get a view of the city below and it’s incredible. The first time I went we were told that there was 0% visibility. We thought that surely you must be able to see something regardless. We quickly learnt though that 0% visibility means exactly what it says on the tin and we could see nothing but cloudy white. Thankfully though, after waiting for around half an hour, the cloud cleared and the views were revealed. In a way it was better as it felt more dramatic. On one side of the building they have installed a viewing platform in which you can step out and look down to the ground below from over 90 floors up. The second time I went up it was a glorious clear day and so standing out on the glass platform was exhilarating if a little terrifying. My Dad refused to take the jump but he did stand close enough to take my picture.
“There’s a walk along the shoreline to Navy Pier we should do.”
I’ve now done this walk three times and I have to say that by the third time it can get a little tiresome, especially in the winter months when it’s cold and the Navy Pier attractions aren’t even properly open, but I digress. This walk took us from Millennium Park, along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, over the river and out to Navy Pier which gives a good view of the city. It’s a pleasant walk and when you cross the bridge over the
river you get a great view of the Trump Tower. On my first visit I even went on the ferris wheel which was good but I should probably have saved my money for another day as the views were nothing like that of the Sears Tower. There’s also a free trolley bus back to the Loop area which has been very helpful when we felt like we’d done enough walking for a month. Unfortunately upon trying to get off the trolley bus I fell on top of a small child however with some care these calamities can be avoided.
So what’s the verdict?
Chicago is an incredible city and just walking along the Magnificent Mile is enough to put a smile on your face. The food is also fantastic and a deep dish pizza is a definite must. I feel that, unlike the more touristy cities of New York and San Francisco, Chicago is very laid back and almost relaxed. There has never been a time I have felt rushed in Chicago. It is definitely a city where I would feel comfortable living but as a tourist destination I think it might not be top of my bucket list. I love it though and I’m so glad I live close enough to have had the opportunity to visit so often.