Monday, October 29, 2012


When my last Top Ten Tuesday was posted late, I mentioned that it was due to a very busy week. One part of that busy week was stressful and work-related, but the other part, happily, was a vacation! A mini vacation (Thursday-Sunday), but a vacation nonetheless. Where did I go?


Although I've lived in the Midwest my whole life, I'd never had the pleasure of a visit to Chicago. But faced with the idea of a travel-less year (and in the wake of a travel-full study abroad semester), Chicago looked like the perfect place to mark off my travel wish list. It's nearby, affordable, and perfect for a fun weekend trip!

My boyfriend and I got there by train, which I would highly recommend if your state is adjacent to Illinois. We used Amtrak and paid only $50 each for a roundtrip ticket. Compare that to the cost of gas money and paying for a parking space and it's a fantastic deal. The journey was a bit longer than it would have been driving, but since neither of us were at the wheel, we were free to do whatever we wanted on the way (reading, sleeping, homework, games, snacks, etc.). And because the seats are a bit bigger (and have more leg room) than your average airplane seat, taking a nap on the way is very do-able (and depending on the time of your trip, might be a good idea). 

Halloween decorations along the Magnificent Mile.
On our first full day, we headed to the Magnificent Mile, a stretch of Michigan Avenue filled with shopping and restaurants. If you're here with girlfriends, this is definitely the place to go. And if you're here with a boy, drag him along anyway :) There are all kinds of shops (Apple, Lego, Nike), so he won't be bored. 

Some of my favorites: H&M, Forever 21, Topshop, The American Girl Doll Store, Zara, Apple.

Of course we couldn't go to Chicago and not try some deep dish pizza. If you haven't had it before, it's almost like a pie: deep, stuffed, and very filling. I expected not to like itthinking it would be too over the top and heavybut it was delicious and my favorite meal we had in Chicago. 

So if you're looking for some great deep dish, head to Exchequer's (I have no idea how to pronounce that, by the way) on South Wabash. The pizza is fantastic, and if you don't believe me, listen to the Chicago Tribune (they named it #1 deep dish in Chicago) and Roger Ebert (he gave it 4 stars). The fillings are plentiful, the cheese is gooey and scrumptious, and the price is great. We got a 10" with half sausage/mushroom and half chicken/onions for $13 and it was more than enough food.

One must-see Chicago landmark is the sculpture Cloud Gate, more commonly known as The Bean. Found in beautiful Millennium Park, the Bean was designed by Anish Kapoor (an Indian-born British artist) and constructed between 2004 and 2006. It's a really fun sculpture and I love how it reflects back the city skyline. It isn't just something to look at; it interacts with its audience and surroundings. 

And of course, due to its mirror-like surface, it's perfect for taking self-portraits.

Another popular attraction is Navy Pier. Unfortunately, on the night we stopped by, it was raining and all the crowds had gathered inside. If you go on a nicer night, there are lots of things to do (I've heard) like ride the ferris wheel or other carnival rides, go the IMAX theater or Shakespeare theater, visit the Stained Glass Museum, or the Children's Museum. And of course, there are a lot of restaurants. The next time I'm in Chicago, I'll have to stop by again and give it another chance. Due to the rain, we didn't stay very long.

The Conservatory.
I did, however, love Lincoln Park. It's a bit further north than the bulk of activity in the city, but definitely worth the walk. Bigger than Millennium Park and further removed from the city traffic, it was  a lovely place to escape the hustle and bustle. Plus, there is a free zoo, a free conservatory, and lots of open space for picnicking or playing a game of football or frisbee (if that's your thing). 

And to get to Lincoln Park, walk along Lake Michigan. The view of the skyline is great. Plus, you get to look out at the boats, lighthouse, and might even get to see an otter! (I'm not sure if they're common, but we saw one and it was adorable).

The view from the Hancock Building.
Another must-see is the view from the Hancock Building. If you're under 21 or traveling with someone who is, you can go up to the Observatory Deck (which costs around $15, I think). But if you are 21, I urge you to take advantage of the Signature Room on the 95th floor. The view is just as great and there's no ticket cost. However, you must buy a drink once you're up there (no freeloaders!). The drinks are very expensive ($14-20), but wouldn't you rather pay for a drink+view than just a view? My drink (called in Pears in Paris) was delicious, but cost a hefty $15. The view was totally worth it though.

To be fair, I have to mention a downside of the Signature Room too. This is how it works:

You wait in line to get up to the lounge and then once you're there, you wait in a little line again to be seated. If you're lucky, you'll get a seat alongside a window. If you're even luckier, you'll get a seat on the best side of the building. If you're not so lucky, you'll be seated in the center, where the view is obscured by other people's tables. However, everyone is free to walk around, so you can always wander to the windows and take some pictures. Plus, if you're a woman, take advantage of the view from the bathroom. Strange, I know, but the bathroom is along a window on the best side of the building. Women are always taking pictures in here, so join in on the fun. It's a fantastic view.

We, by the way, were very thankful to be on the second-best side of the building, seated along the window. It was fantastic.

In Millennium Park.

It was a wonderful weekend and I can't wait to go back someday. There's so much more to see than I've mentioned here. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an e-mail or leave a comment below.

Have you ever been to Chicago? What was your favorite part?


  1. I love Chicago. The Chicago Architecture Foundation gives great tours, and I love the museums especially the Museum of Science and Industry and the Art Institute. Last time we were there, my husband and I also ate at a restaurant called The Girl and the Goat, which was wonderful.

    1. I've heard those tours are great. My boyfriend is an architecture student (and intern) so I had a private architecture tour throughout the trip :)

      And next time, I will definitely be going to the Art Institute. I wanted to go to Shedd Aquarium too, but it was incredibly crowded (long, long line) when we tried. And thanks for the recommendation! I just added The Girl and the Goat to my list of places to go whenever I return to Chicago.


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