Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Getting my Chicago fix

It's no secret that Chicago and I are having a torrid love affair. I visited her again this weekend with my sister and niece. It was their first visit, and I had to warn my sister that I would say, "I love it here" about 100,000 times. And I did. It still remains my favorite city, and I continue to marvel with every visit about how Chicago really gets it right - probably more than any other place I've ever been to it. Yes, we're definitely still in love.

We had a short, whirlwind visit filled mostly with touristy things that I actually had never done. We stayed at the Congress Plaza hotel on Michigan Avenue. I stayed at the Congress Plaza last fall for the first time, and it's now my go to spot in Chicago. It's in a great location, has very reasonable prices, and I am just a fan of an old historic hotel. I also found out (inadvertently and much to my 7-year-old niece's worry) that the Congress Plaza is allegedly haunted. As a matter of fact it's supposed to be one of the most haunted hotels in the country. I have yet to have a paranormal experience, but there's always next time.

Michigan Ave and our haunted(?) hotel
We arrived in the late afternoon and immediately headed out to check out the city. We walked over through Grant Park to the landmark Buckingham Fountain. I had never actually seen the center jets shooting far into the air (I read later that it is around 150 feet). It was beautiful and a great way to start our trip.

Buckingham Fountain

Enjoying a beautiful walk by Lake Michigan
The weather was perfect as we walked along the lake over to Navy Pier. I had never been to Navy Pier either, and there were tons of people on a gorgeous afternoon. We visited some of the shops and then headed up to ride a few rides. I had never ridden a ride like the Wave Swinger and had always wanted to. It turns out I am a giant wimp, and along with the gusty winds was actually a little frightened. My niece was much braver than I. We also rode the carousel, and then it was already time for dinner (the lines for the rides were pretty long).

No trip to Chicago is complete without deep dish pizza. There was a Giordano's on the walk back to the hotel. There were lines out the door, but we put in our name and were seated after only ten minutes. The pizza was fantastic, as always. We stopped at my favorite Chicago spot, Millennium Park, on the way back to the hotel. I realize it was a holiday weekend, but there are always so many people out enjoying the park. We headed back to our (haunted?) hotel to get some rest after an exhausting few days.

The Bean in Millennium Park

Crown Fountain at Millennium Park

I had to force myself to get up and run on Sunday. Those three pieces of Giordano's deep dish weren't going to work themselves off. I ran toward the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower...how they could change the name is a tragedy). The streets were filled with cyclists at 7:30 on a Sunday morning. Even early, there were people everywhere. 

Willis Tower from the ground

I ran a quick 30 minute loop around the Willis Tower and back to the hotel. Breakfast was at the eclectic Artist's Cafe near the hotel. The French Toast Napolean and Intelligentsia coffee were the perfect way to start a Sunday in Chicago. We then decided we'd go up to the Skydeck in the Willis Tower that morning. There was a line down the block, but it moved very quickly. In total the wait was around an hour and a half, but they shuttle you to various points in the building with some interactive exhibits, so it didn't seem like it was that long. When a 7-year-old isn't restless, you know you've done well.

Incredible views from the Skydeck

The views from the Skydeck were breathtaking. The tower is 103 stories, and the panoramic views of Chicago are just incredible. The most thrilling part was the ledge, a glass box that holds you 1,353 feet over the city. It was thrilling and gorgeous. 

On the ledge
It was a quick 24 hour trip to Chicago, but it was enough for me to get my Chicago fix. It may last a few months. I'm already thinking I should look into a fall race there. No matter how often I go, I simply adore Chicago. I love this quote I saw this weekend by Hank Sauer: "But when I go to Chicago, I know I’m home." Until we meet again, Chicago. Until we meet again.  

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