If you are like me you occasionally watch the news, increasingly less so these days. It seemed like every time I turned on the news there was a headline screaming about how many people were shot overnight in Chicago. It seemed like it was about as safe as Syria.
When my best friend since I was 5 years old moved to Chicago and asked me to visit, it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I boarded the plane. I flew Southwest (55 minutes in the air for dirt cheap on a fare sale. Thanks!) and arrived at Midway, where I was immediately greeted by the scent of fresh popcorn. There is a Garretts popcorn there, which is quite famous and scent travels throughout the terminal.
After being picked up in a sedan, we dropped our bags off at the W Lakeshore where we were staying. Our room wasn’t ready yet, which was kind of disappointing since I am a Starwood gold member and I did ask a month in advance for early check in. We stored our bags and headed off to explore. Chicago is a beautiful city with so much to offer, it seemed like every corner had an architectural treasure or a piece of history. Here are the highlights of the weekend. Be sure to bring your walking shoes and fat pants for eating because regardless of the weather you are going to do a lot of both.
1. Millennium Park and The Bean- Park is huge and pretty, and the Bean is one of the top tourist attractions in Chicago. You can see the skyline reflected in the metal and it makes an iconic photo.
2. Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain- one of my favorite sights. Grant Park is host to many festivals and events, this weekend was a marathon. I could see the Lake and the Chicago skyline, but the fountain is truly spectacular. It reminds me of a Bernini fountain in Rome (art history nerd). It was a beautiful day, and I’m pretty sure I spent almost an hour walking around taking pictures.
3. Architecture Tour- I was totally blown away by the gorgeous architecture in Chicago. The Wrigley Building, the Chicago Tribune and Merchandise Mart were just a few of my favorites. Spend an hour and a half cruising the Chicago River (Shoreline Cruises has booze!!!) while listening to the history of the city. I loved it. This is a Must-Do.
4. Navy Pier and Centennial Wheel- The Navy Pier is full of shops, restaurants, and bars. Open containers are fine, so wandering the pier with a margarita from Margaritaville on a warm summer day is fab. My friend has a little boy so we made a stop in the Children’s Museum which was great. The Centennial Wheel is a brand new enclosed Ferris Wheel/ London Eye type ride that is climate controlled with leather seats. At the top you can see the whole city, the lake, and the pier.
5. Lincoln Park Zoo- It’s completely free, they only ask for a donation as you walk in. When you walk in, it feels like a zoo, botanical gardens, and art museum. The Lion House is beautiful and currently undergoing a $30 million renovation. The African Ape House is magnificent. They have plenty of room to play indoors and out. It is easy to get close to them for great viewing. The zoo is impressively landscaped but more so is the Nature Boardwalk with a bridge and city views.
6. Magnificent Mile- High end shops and restaurants, think of it as Chicago’s version of Fifth Avenue. Here you can find Chanel, Louis Vuitton, my favorite, Neiman Marcus, my boyfriend’s favorite, a giant Under Armour store, and best of all a Nutella cafe!
7. Skydeck at Willis Tower- Formerly Sears Tower, they added several glass boxes on the side of the building so people can take photos 103 stories above the street. One of my favorite things. Do not do this if heights bother you in any way.
8. Signature Lounge at John Hancock Tower- John Hancock offers its own observation deck called Chicago 360, but they also have a fantastic bar and restaurant. We managed to score a corner table for drinks. Go at sunset. Tip* Women’s Bathroom has the best view in the whole place- sorry guys, at least you never have to wait in line.
9. Dinner at RPM Steak- this is owned by Giuliana and Bill Rancic. Bill won the Apprentice and is a well -known businessman in Chicago. Giuliana was on Fashion Police and is an E! News Babe. The two of them did a reality TV show together as well. Anyways, we had dinner there one night and it was SOO GOOD. My boyfriend had the steak and I had the halibut. We also had cheese popovers, crispy brussel sprouts, mushrooms, blue cheese whipped potatoes, and baked alaska with salted caramel ice cream. Whoa.
10. Pizza. Clearly, Chicago is famous for their deep dish pizza and if you ask 4 people from there where they place is, they will give you 5 different answers. We had Giordano’s which was thick and cheesy. They also had some fab apps.
At no point did I ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe in anyway, and I’m already dying to go back. When I do, I’m totally bringing more spandex and trying that Donut tour…