Sunday, July 19, 2015

Travels | Chicago | Top Ten Favorite Things

Sunday, July 19, 2015
Here are a few of my favorite things I did in Chicago, IL during my last minute weekend trip! I knew this was turning into a travel blog. I didn't mean to travel so much. New Orleans was a trip that I've been looking forward to for a while, and then both Paris and Chicago were last minute trips that I couldn't pass up. My main objective for this trip was to get a true sense of the city, it's neighborhoods, spend time with friends, and see as many museums as I could. I was in the city for four full days and yet, there is still so many museums to see and so many things to do!
THE BEAN | Now, the bean is something everyone visiting Chicago must see. However, it was never something I was super excited about, until I saw it in person. The crisp reflection of blue skies, green trees, grey skyscrapers, it was incredibly beautiful. If not for the crowds and my rush to visit the Art Institute before lunch plans, I would have stayed, mesmerized, for hours.
ART INSTITUTE | Two local friends recommended I visit the Art Institute, this being my first trip to Chicago, and so I made my way there after the bean. I knew there were going to be some great, classic art pieces, BUT - I had no idea how many incredible pieces of priceless art are actually housed here. Sure, I remember the scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off when Cameron stares intensely at the little, pointillism girl in the painting A Sunday Afternoon at the institute. But the museum is also home to Pollock, Picasso, Rodin, Monet, Dali, Van Gogh, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, and my favorite, Grant Wood's American Gothic. In person, American Gothic is stunning. There was a crowd around the painting and I nearly teared up when I saw it. It's so beautiful, there are no words to describe the feeling it gave me, only that I wanted to stay there, in that space, in front of that painting, forever. The crowd dissipated and I was left alone, on a bench, staring at the painting, attempting to write about it in my journal. Maybe it's also in that moment that it hit me: I'm in Chicago. I've been making plans to move here for years. And there I was, there, exploring somewhere that will be home some day.
LAKE MICHIGAN | After getting lunch with a friend that I used to work with, she took me walking through Lincoln Park, past the zoo, to the beach! The beach on Lake Michigan is even more packed than Clearwater beach in Florida where my family lives! When the weather is beautiful, Chicagoans are outside enjoying every breath. Then we walked closer to the downtown skyline, where the grass was lush and families were having picnics. We sat on the edge of the lake for a long time, admiring the skyline (does it ever get old?) and catching up.
CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM | When I say history museum, I'm sure some are bored already. But I have to say, I was so impressed with this museum. It was so engaging and interesting and the exhibits were SO well done! One of my favorite exhibits was the Secret Life of Objects. There were historical objects like the lamp that caused the Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago, and the plaque described the incident from the lamps point of view. There was also a pair of glasses from a murderer that were left behind at the crime scene. The glasses that belonged to the murderer were the evidence that convicted him of the murder. The plaque said something along the lines of, "I brought two killers to justice... I was there. I saw everything happen. I am the evidence, and the witness." Eerie, but so wonderfully imaginative. I was really looking forward to the dioramas of the city in the past, like of the World's Fair in 1893, but unfortunately, it was under renovations. I already can't wait to go back to this museum!
ARCHITECTURE BOAT TOUR | One thing I learned about Chicago was it's rich history in architecture. I learned about this on the plane ride there while reading the guide book I picked up at the bookstore last minute. I didn't have time to explore the internet for the best things to do in Chicago, so I picked up an old fashioned travel guide, fold out map and all. My friend has lived in Chicago for a year, and she hadn't taken the architecture boat tour yet, so we decided to do it together! It was a great way to spend the afternoon! The tour guide joked that they had the cheapest drinks on the river - which, at $5 a cocktail, was probably true, and a nice little treat while boating with the sun peeking in and out of clouds. I learned so much about the different architecture styles, and I wish I could remember all of the architects names. One stunning fact that I learned was that the Chicago fire happened 20 years prior to the World's Fair. Not only did the city rebuild in 20 years, but they were ready to host an international exhibition in that time!
THE FIELD MUSEUM | I am not sure what to say about this except that I was awestruck. I've been wanting to visit this museum since I knew of it's existence. Being one of the largest national history museums in the world, they have the largest, most complete T-Rex fossil, Sue. Not only that, they also have the taxidermy Tsavo lions that were man-eaters. There were so many amazing exhibits including an insects underground world, an entire hall of taxidermy animals and birds, a hall of gems and one of jade, Evolving Planet with incredible dinosaur fossils, and an ancient Egyptian exhibit that's reminiscent of a tomb  with mummies. There's so much more that I have yet to explore like the Vikings exhibit. Not only were the exhibit beautiful, but the building itself is stunning and magnificent. I stayed all the way until closing, wishing I could stay there forever.

AIRBNB | I made quick friends with my Airbnb host, and her sweet Italian greyhound! Being able to cuddle a puppy at night was comforting since I had to leave my own greyhound behind at home. She made me feel right at home, and on the first night when I had no plans, she invited me out to dinner and drinks with her friend. We went to a restaurant that she recently did the interior design for (of course, her apartment is just as beautiful) and we went dancing afterwards in Wicker Park where her other friend was DJ-ing. Yay for new friends! This isn't really one of my top ten, but it was totally worth the mention, considering I had such a great experience with it!

LITTLE GOAT | A friend from middle school (middle school!!!) met me at Little Goat, a restaurant by chef Stephanie Izard, a culinary institute that I couldn't wait to try. We both ordered sandwiches, sharing each one so that we could enjoy both. The pulled pork sandwich came with spicy mayo (love love love) and colesaw on it, which was such a deliciously sinful sandwich. We also had a goat burger with cheese and caramelized onions on top - oh my heaven. I don't know if I could pick just one. I cannot wait to try more off her menu someday.

RM CHAMPAGNE SALON | After dinner at Little Goat, with full bellies, we went to RM Champagne Salon for dessert and drinks. The restaurant was dimly lit with candles everywhere illuminating a decorative fireplace and exposed brick wall. We picked assorted mini desserts from a display case and shared. From cream puffs to macarons to mini-cakes, we were pleasantly surprised with each one. I have to say, I really liked the genepy macaron, a flavor I've never had before. It was similar to chartreuse or absinthe. My absolute favorite flavor of macaron in the world is "reglisse" or licorice. Like absinthe, licorice can taste very bold and it's not for everyone. However, in a macaron form, the flavor, like with genepy, is subtle and a perfect accompaniment to the sugary cookie.

SCOFFLAW | One of the nights I didn't have dinner plans, I made my way to Scofflaw in Logan Square. It was close to where I was staying and was supposed to have amazing cocktails. I went alone, and how I wish I had someone to go with because I had such a good time - even alone! I waited in line a few minutes for capacity to die down, and then they let me in. I snagged a seat at the bar, while groups of friends and dates sat in lounge furniture by the fireplace or in booths by the window. The menu boasted ten or more gin cocktails (Erin, when are we going together?), and on top of that, they make their own Scofflaw Gin, in-house! I stayed for hours, writing in my journal about the past few days of exploring. I stayed well past midnight, and when the clock struck 12, they brought out fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. What a treat!

BIG STAR | Everyone in Chicago knows Big Star for tacos and drinks. My friend and I cozied up to the bar during a rainy afternoon and enjoyed some cheladas which is a Mexican beer with a salt rim and lime, so refreshing. Plus, you cannot beat a $4 drink. I hear this is the place to go to sit outside on their patio when the weather is beautiful. There's a lot happening in that corner of Wicker Park so I bet it's the place to see and be seen, and there's a great view of the El train too. Even though it was raining, I enjoyed hanging out here for a little and then walking through Wicker Park afterwards with an umbrella. 

6 comments :

  1. I'm a midwest girl so I love Chicago. It's honestly one of my favorite cities, that's exciting you were able to go there. My top 3 favorite places are L'Appetito an Italian diner at the base of the Hancock building (although I think there is a second location), the Museum of Science and Industry (my favorite museum in the world) and Lurie Garden in Millenium Park. There is a little man-made stream you can put your feet in which feels great after all the walking you do in the city.

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    1. So glad to hear it's one of your favorite cities! I love being here so far! I hope to go to MSI this weekend, and I made note to hit up your other favorites! Thank you for the recommendations!

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  2. Oh this sounds like a perfect itinerary. I saw your update and I am so excited for you - your pillow will make more sense now! XO

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    1. Yes - the pillow has been waiting patiently for this day! xo

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  3. Oh, your photos are so awesome! I've been dying to go to Chicago (can you believe I've never been anywhere in the middle of the country??) and whenever that day comes I'm going to refer back to this point and basically copy your entire itinerary. Is that okay? You must've been in HEAVEN with The Field Museum! That's so up your alley :) xo

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    1. Too funny! It was only recently that I made it any where west of the eastern countries too! And whenever you visit, you must come see me and I'll be sure to find the best croissants and French restaurant in the city!

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