Friday, August 2, 2013

Destination: Chicago!

Aileen and I hadn't taken any big trips (aside from weddings and family visits) since we met my friend Ania in New York City in September of 2011, which is unacceptable for a pair of globe-trotters like ourselves! So, we decided to plan a trip to Chicago, as it's fairly close to Louisville by car and I had never been there.

Lurie Garden (Plus Aileen)

On Independence Day, Aileen and I loaded up LaFawnda (our Honda Fit) and set out on our journey. After about five hours (and $6.60 in road tolls) we arrived at our hotel. We stayed at the Best Western Plus in the River North area of town, which is just north of the Loop and the Chicago River. It was within two miles of most of the activities and attractions we had planned, so it was extremely convenient. It also had free parking, which is very rare in Chicago! Once we were all settled into our temporary home-base, we struck off into the city. We walked south through the Loop and ended up on Michigan Avenue right next to Millennium Park. We grabbed a quick lunch and then took our picture at the Bean sculpture at the park. Next, we visited the Art Institute of Chicago. The museum is impressive and includes a large amount of Greek and Roman ceramics and one of the largest collections of Impressionist paintings in the world. They had a very interesting special exhibit there called 'Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity' which explored the use of fashion in Impressionist works. After the museum, we enjoyed a walk through the Lurie Garden, got a snack in Millennium Park and then walked to the mouth of the Chicago River and watched the fireworks!

Us in The Bean

The next morning, we woke up early (not on purpose, we were still on our non-vacation sleep schedule, plus we were in a different time zone) and began the day with a delicious breakfast at Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafters. Aileen had a croissant filled with chocolate and almond while I chose chocolate and brandy. They were the best croissants I had ever tasted: extra flaky and only slightly sweet! Next, we set off for Oak Street Beach. It is a long beach that runs parallel to Lakeshore Drive along Lake Michigan in the northern part of the city center. We walked along the path and enjoyed the lovely weather. To finish off our morning, we rode the elevator to the observation floor of the Hancock Tower and enjoyed the magnificent views of Chicago from one-thousand feet up! Afterwards, we walked along Navy Pier and had a beer and our first Chicago style hot dogs (beef dog on poppy-seed bun, yellow mustard, onions, sweet relish, dill spear, cucumber slices, tomatoes, hot peppers, celery salt, and absolutely no ketchup). To finish off the afternoon, we took a cruise on the Chicago River that highlighted the city's famous works of architecture. The city is filled with some of the best examples of the Art Deco style and also has many modern and unique buildings. By the end of the cruise, we were starting to drag, so we opted for a relaxing dinner at an Irish pub near our hotel.

View from Hancock Observatory

From the top of the Ferris Wheel on Navy Pier

Trump Tower from the Chicago River

The Chicago River


Dr. Evil's Yacht

Unintentionally, we woke up early again the next morning: "Early to bed, early to rise..." you know how it goes. We had a delicious egg-centric breakfast at a place called Yolk a few blocks from our hotel then set off again to explore. We walked to Lincoln Park, by way of Oak Street Beach, and enjoyed a few hours at the free zoo there, followed by some more Chicago style dogs. We then rented some bikes from Chicago's new Divvy bike program. We rode south, back through Oak Street Beach and then checked out some of the stores along the Magnificent Mile. After freshening up at our hotel and stopping by the grocery store, we headed to Millennium Park next to the Loop in the heart of the city. They have a free concert series there throughout the summer and we enjoyed a picnic dinner, complete with a classy box of wine, as the sun set. It was one of the highlights of the trip for sure! Afterwards, we saw Buckingham Fountain, which is lit up with colored lights and "performs" along to music in the evenings.

Oak Street Beach (Plus Sean)

Picnic! Keepin' it classy with boxed wine and Best Western cups...

Pritzker Pavilion (day)

Pritzker Pavilion (night)

We started the next day with some fancy doughnuts from Firecakes, some of the best either of us has ever had! We hopped onto the Divvy bikes again and rode through Grant Park to the Field Museum. We explored the exhibits on early Americans, ancient Egypt, and prehistory, including dinosaurs! We saw Sue (the world's most complete T-rex skeleton) and Lucy (one of the most famous examples of an Australopithecus), both which belong to the permanent collection. We were kicked out of the museum, as it was closing, and walked back to our hotel to refresh. We enjoyed some authentic Chicago deep-dish pizza from Lou Malnati near the hotel to round out the day.

Sean with Sue (Watch Out!)

Aileen with Brawling Elephants

Aileen with a bust of Pharaoh Michael Jackson

I never thought Aileen's feet could seem more skinny

Chicago <3 Stanley Cup

We woke up the next day to a steady drizzle. It was as if the city knew our holiday was over. We may or may not have visited Firecakes for a second time before packing up and heading out of town. We hadn't even gotten out of the city when the sky opened up and the heavens were unleashed. We drove home through the deluge, savoring the sunny times we had enjoyed together in Chicago.


  1. What a great vacation!!! Nicely written. There is nothing better than making good memories. Thanks for sharing. Catherine

  2. So happy to see you back in the blog business. It was smart to rent bicycles, considering all the donuts and pastries you ate!! Mitzie

  3. Love reading about your trip! There is so much to do in Chicago! Keep the blog posts coming! :)