Stunning views of Lake Michigan. Breathtaking architecture all around. Beautiful parks to relax and explore. Delicious eats galore. So rich with baseball history. It is a bustling city with a serene river running right through. I fell in love with Chicago when I first visited in 2009, and over Labor Day Weekend, with Brad by my side, I was reminded of all the reasons why.
Here are some of our favorites from this trip…
Experience views like none other. 360 CHICAGO is located on the 94th floor of the historic John Hancock Center, 1,000 feet above the Magnificent Mile (a shopaholics paradise). North, south, east, or west – it does not matter which way you look, it’s picture-perfect. Brad was crazy enough to try TILT, where he leaned at a 30-degree angle over the city. I just watched in complete fear, trying not to vomit at the thought of it. While waiting in line, there is plenty of history of Chicago to take in with well-done museum-style displays and media.
The Chicago River is totally the essence of the city. We enjoyed Wendella Boats Original Architecture Tour. Breathtaking – I am telling you! For an educational and picture-perfect 75 minutes, we floated along all three branches of the river navigating between towering sky scrapers, to-die for housing, and historical landmarks learning more about the origin of each one. Turns out we were staying in the largest hotel in Chicago, Hyatt Regency. With each bridge pass, I fell more in love with Chicago.
Millennium Park, Grant Park & Lake Shore Drive
Cloud Gate – more commonly referred to as “The Bean” – is obviously a tourist must-see. But there is so much more to Millennium Park. After strolling through the pavilion, gardens, and checking out Crown Fountain, we headed to Grant Park. Buckingham Fountain is the standout here. Plus, it is just steps away the pedestrian friendly trails of Lake Shore Drive along Caribbean-blue Lake Michigan. If only we owned a sail boat…
"I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list."
The Alinea Group
It is no secret Brad and I love food. We basically planned our whole Chicago trip around eating. Our indulgence included two astounding restaurants from The Alinea Group – Alinea and Roister.
Brad describes Alinea as not just dinner, but an experience of food, creativity, and precision. The dishes (16 to be exact), while phenomenal in taste, were also mind-blowing in presentation. Let’s talk about the scallops – served in a bowl resembling crisp sheets of paper, until a hot sweet corn broth was poured overtop bringing them back to life as scallop noodles. Or the strawberry sugar balloon – inflated with helium, edible with a soft kiss to the top and reminiscent of a (high-end) Fruit Roll-up. I cannot even explain it. To get a taste for it yourself, watch Alinea on Season 2 of Chef’s Table on Netflix.
Roister is wildly different. On the main level, an everyday menu is available. We went for the basement Prep Kitchen experience including the chef’s daily menu – well worth it! We literally sat in the kitchen where the chefs served us directly in bartender-esque fashion. The irresistible family-style servings of what I will call high-end comfort food had us wishing we wore elastic pants. We would go back again and again for the blaring Jay-Z dinner music, fried chicken with garlic bread biscuits, and their foie gras version of a Snickers bar.
The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
When my good friend and Chicago resident, Kelly, wanted to take us to The Chicago Athletic Association, I thought why the gym?! After a brief tour, we learned it was a prestigious gentleman’s club dating back to the 19th century and now home to a stunning Venetian-Gothic style hotel where much of the original Art Deco architecture and flare is still intact. We were lucky enough to get into Cindy’s Rooftop and take in a gorgeous city-light view above Millennium Park while watching fireworks off Navy Pier (also worth visiting!) in the distance.
As a huge baseball fan, a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field has always been on my must-see list. Having the Cubs without a doubt headed to The Postseason, the experience surely did not disappoint! They pulled off a 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants with Jon Lester (bitter feelings of his Red Sox days aside) pitching a no-hitter into the seventh. You can truly feel over 100 years of history in the park – form the narrow concourses and the open air, low terrace stands, to the ivy covered outfield walls, to the electric enthusiasm of the fans. The Wrigley tradition of the catchy Go Cubs Go played on in my head for at least 30 minutes after the game ended.
The Windy City. The Second City. Chi-Town. No matter what you call it, Brad and I will definitely be paying Chicago a future visit…but until then, where to next?