I’m recently returned from a four-day excursion to the “Windy City.”
That is not a cute nickname, by the way; it’s a warning. Hold on to your hat. Also, your body warmth, because Chicago is out to blow both right off you.
Having said that, I loved it. But I am admittedly non-typical in my attitude towards cold and snow and such.
Still, that wind. Wow.
One of my prized possessions is a Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) scarf, knitted for me by my mother-in-law. Unfortunately, I don’t often get to wear it around Atlanta, as a 12-foot wool scarf is a bit more than required for our mild winters.
Oh, was I glad I packed it for Chicago. How bad is 20-degree wind chill? Even with that scarf wound a few times around my face, I could feel my nose and cheeks burning with cold after just a few minutes outside.
Despite that, my wife and I did get out to explore the area of Chicago known as “the Loop,” which is where we spent our first couple of days.
Things We Did
Howell & Hood: This fantastic eating establishment is located in the historic Tribune building. The menu is fancy American pub food, which is good, but the highlight is the beer list, which includes 115 offerings on draught. These are all lovingly described in the menu, and the serving staff is the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic I’ve ever encountered in a beer bar, rivaling what you expect to find in a brewery tour. We enjoyed a few heavy winter beers while watching snow fall outside. Lovely.
The Chicago River: It’s beautiful in February, with large ice chunks bobbing along as it makes its way through the city. I’d advise taking it in from a hotel room window or other enclosed, warm space, though.
The Art Institute of Chicago: Wow. Just wow. We only had about three hours to spend here, which was barely enough time to hit the highlights. This is a museum that begs to be taken in slowly, over two or three days. If I lived in Chicago, or reasonably close to it, I’d buy a membership straight away. Among my favorite bits: the Impressionists collection, the Modern collection, and the huge collection of Japanese woodcut prints. We didn’t even get to most of the ancient, Europeon, or African collections, nor the weaponry. We also missed “Nighthawks,” as it was out for restoration. Bummer. That’s a personal favorite. We did get to see most of the other celebrated holdings, though, including “A Sunday on La Grand Jatte,” “American Gothic,” and several entries in Monet’s Haystacks series. There were also some van Gogh paintings, which, to tell you a bit about how impressive this museum’s holdings are, were not even mentioned in the “quick tour” highlights.
Cloud Gate: It’s a giant silver bean. Uh, okay. Shiny.
Pizza: Deep-dish, Chicago style. I had to have this at least once, in Chicago, and we managed to squeeze it in. Unfortunatley, I didn’t get a crack at stuffed pizzed. I had also wanted to take a pizza tour, but, even if time allowed, those apparently aren’t offered in winter.
Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!: If you’ re a fan of this NPR news quiz, and you’re planning to visit Chicago, make sure to look up show times well in advance, as tickets go on sale (and promptly sell out) six weeks before each taping. In short, it was awesome. The cast was great, and it was delightful to watch them perform and then answer questions and mingle after the show. Wonderful people, all.
I’d like to point out that everything in that list is something my wife and I looked into shortly before going to Chicago. We were in town for a wedding, not because we had Chicago on our list of vacation spots. However, once we knew we were headed there, we sought to find the sort of things we would enjoy.
That’s sort of our general philosophy with travel. Find the fun. Every place has something to offer. Take a minute, find what interests you, and enjoy.
3 thoughts on “Travel Log: Chicago”
I love The Bean!
I'm not a fan of deep-dish pizza but I must admit, reluctantly, that I enjoyed what we had at Giordano's. I'm an East Coast girl and that's my preferred style of pizza, TYVM.
We saw Wait Wait when it came to Indy and it was SO FUN. That's so cool that you thought ahead to get tickets!
I love Chicago. Another fun thing to do is Blue Man Group. It's not cheap but you can usually get a special that includes tickets to the Willis Tower or John Hancock building. Last time there we did the Willis Tower after dark and that was pretty cool (and not something that was planned).
Sounds like you had a good time!
East Coast pizza is my native style, too, but I love all things pizza, and I couldn't resist the opportunity to try a Chicago-style pie in Chicago. Mmm.
WWDTM was the first thing that came to mind when I thought of traveling to Chicago. Maybe I had just listened to one? Dunno. Anyway, I looked it up, set an alarm, and ended up having to step out of a family breakfast during the Christmas holidays to buy tickets when they went on sale. Worth it.
I didn't realize Blue Man Group was associated with Chicago. Hmm. We considered the Willis Tower tour, but that was a bit north of where we stayed at first and way north of the wedding site. Maybe next time.
Other next time stuff: I want to visit the Field Museum and see Lucy. I want to spend another day at the Art Institute. I want a pizza tour!
There's also the Museum of Science and Industry (cool) and Shedd Aquarium (maybe less impressive to you since there's a big one in Atlanta).