From the moment we arrived to the moment we left on a plane back home, Chicago was a ‘homerun”. Chicago is a quintessential American city that has options to satisfy even the most discerning person. It has professional sports teams, a skyline that rivals New York, high end shopping, world class restaurants, top tier colleges and numerous festivals throughout the year. Chicago is also a beautiful place-with an amazing lakefront and numerous parks. Check out how we spent our first time in the city and some that we hope you will find useful.
The Shedd Aquarium (Museum Island)
The aquarium is one of the most visited aquariums in the world, so it’s a good idea to buy tickets in advance to avoid standing in long lines. Our agenda was not finalized when we went to visit the aquarium, so we stood in line for an hour before then deciding to buy the CityPASS. Not again! This aquarium can easily keep one entertained for 3-6 hours, depending on how many activities you decide to do. Current exhibits include: Amazon Rising, Caribbean Reef, Abbott Oceanarium, Polar Play Zone, Waters of the World and Wild Reef. Currently, there is a temporary special Amphibian Exhibit as well. In addition, there are 4D movie experience’s, a stingray touch and a dolphin show available for additional costs.
2. Adler Planetarium (Museum Island)
After spending time at the aquarium we went to athe Adler Planetarium. Our admission was free with the CityPass and we got the benefits of the Anytime All-Access Pass. This meant we got access to all exhibits, the Atwood Sphere and shows. We only had 2 1/2 hours to spend at the Planetarium before meeting up with a friend, but we were able to see the SkyWatch Live show and look at a few exhibits we were interested in seeing. For a list of all the and shows available, please visit the website.
3. Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (Jackson Park)
We went to visit this museum after brunch on a Sunday andt this place was packed. They have separate lines for people buying tickets and for the CityPass card holders. Be prepared to stand in line for at least 15 minutes, even with a CityPass because everyone has to pick their shows. With a CityPass, one show and the regular exhibits are included. Everything else, costs extra. We only did what was available with the CityPass and spent over 5 hours in the museum. The museum is 3 levels and
We had a great time of all three and would highly recommend them for both adults and children. Our recommendation is to research the museum free days/free passes/discount days, or to buy the CityPASS if planning to visit multiple attractions.
1. Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) River Cruise
This 90 minute cruise was narrated by a very knowledgeable volunteer for the CAF. There is plenty of seating below and above deck. If it is a nice day, this is a great way to experience a river cruise while learning about Chicago’s changing relationship with the Chicago River and the architecture along the river front. With the continuing growth, the guide has a lot of information to provide, so there is very little time for questions/discussion. It is helpful to have a cursory knowledge of Chicago’s most famous architects to keep up with the discussion. It was easy to get up and move around the boat to take pictures. It is appropriate for anyone of any age or physical ability, although most little kids will not be entertained by the information.
2. Wrigley Field Tour
We are avid Braves fans, but we grew up watching the Cubs. We knew the teams would be playing each other, but were disappointed to find out the games would be in Atlanta while we were in Chicago. We decided to take a tour of the famed park. We bought group tour tickets for $25/person through the Cubs MLB Website .
This experience was a definite trip highlight and would recommend this to any baseball/park fan. It is a walking tour with steps, so it is helpful to be in moderate physical condition. There were accommodations made for people with strollers/wheelchairs, although some areas are not wheelchair accessible.
This is one of Chicago’s hippest and creative neighborhoods. Due to our schedule, we only had a few hours to explore the area. We had dinner/drinks at Piece Brewery and Pizzeria. This place is busy and very loud, but the service/pizza and beer selection was excellent.
When we finished dinner, we decided to do some exploring. Geek Bar caught our attention since our friend, Jennifer, that came along is into the Comic Con scene and was interested in checking this place out It’s a gaming restaurant that encourages dress up. I did not take pics because I did not want to intrude on the customers.
After dinner, we went to check out Myopic Books, which houses Chicago’s oldest and largest used book collection.
When finished browsing there, we needed a caffeine fix and went to find Warmhole Coffee. It is an 80’s themed coffee house that serves Halfwit roasted coffee drinks and offers various food menu items. Seating is available both inside and on the front sidewalk. The service was friendly and the drinks were delicious.
This is where upscale shopping and magnificent architecture combine with Michelin Star restaurants and upscale hotels to make up Chicago’s most well known area of Chicago. This is also a popular area for tourists to roam streets and sit in green space across form Hershey and Godiva.
We were looking at options for viewing Chicago’s skyline at the highest vantage point and settled on brunch at the Signature Room. It $45 for all you can eat hot entrees/cold bar/desert bar and the server was great and very patient with questions/picture requests. It was a great experience and an easy way to get that 94/95th floor view without having to wait in line or pay $40 fast pass fee.
This is a quaint neighborhood just outside Chicago filled with independent stores and restaurants. We strolled up and down N. Clark Street, the “Main S.” of this town. We made ourow way to the Brown Elephant, which we saw a number of people entering. It is a non profit resale shops that benefits the Howard Brown Health Center. They have a wide selection of clothing, books, furniture, ace cessories and are known to have 50% furniture sales.
On the day we visited, it was a really hot day, so we decided to trade our normal coffee break with an ice cream break. We saw a sign advertising root beer floats that looked absolutely scrumptious at George’s Ice Cream and Sweets. It was the perfect choice. We had plans for the evening, so we walked back to Berwyn Station to take the train back to our hotel. This is a neighborhood I could have spent all day in.
Wrigleyville is very much linked with baseball and bars. The neighborhood is filled with Cubs themed restaurants and merchandise stores. The neighborhoods in the area are upscale, residential streets lined with brownstones and shade trees. The proximity of the houses to the park allow many homeowners to enjoy views of the game from their rooftops, some even installing seating on their roofs. We walked around there the area a while after finishing the Wrigleyfield Tour, went to a few merchandise stores and had lunch at Uncommon Ground.
Where We Stayed:
Hyatt Regency McCormick Place is a perfect choice if you are attending an event at Soldier Field. It is a 15 minute easy walk to the field. There is a CTA bus line outside the hotel and trains are within a few blocks. Taxis were always available with about a $15 charge to downtown and $12-$15 to Museum Island. The hotel rooms were spacious and the coffee bar/cafe was excellent.
The Godfrey Hotel. A nicely appointed boutique hotel with a short walk to Loyola University and the Magnificent Mile shopping area. The rooms were big and had double vanities. The hotel had a restaurant, which we did not try. There were several coffee shops/restaurants within a short walk and the CTA train lines were half mile walks.