Courtney and I visited Chicago way back in July of 2013. That trip got off to a bit of a rough start (due to issues with our plane), but we ultimately loved it so much that we planned to go back. It took us a while, but five years later we made our second trip to the windy city. We had a couple more days to spend in the city than we did the last time, which gave us plenty of time to see the city at our own pace. Our home base was in the Theater District, just a short walk from Millennium Park. It was a perfect location to get to everything we wanted to see and do. We had easy access to the loop and the subway. Like most of our trips, we didn't have a strict itinerary, just a list of places we wanted to go and restaurants we wanted to eat at. There were only a couple of things we planned to do (Cubs game and 4th of July fireworks), everything else we did was decided on the morning we did them. I also packed light with the camera gear for this one. My main body and two primes (24mm and 35mm) is all I packed. I was worried that I might miss some shots, but when you travel you never get every shot you want. I ended up getting more than enough great shots from our time there. After two stops in Chicago, we can officially say it's one of our favorite cities to visit. More photos and some highlights of Chicago after the jump!
We left Portland pretty early the morning of July 4th, which put us in Chicago around 12:30 PM. That gave us the rest of the afternoon to enjoy our first day there. We went straight from the airport to our hotel. We stayed in the Theater District, which was an excellent location for us. We were close to everything we wanted to see and do. We also had easy access to the loop/subway. When we arrived at the hotel we showered and got settled in before going back out for dinner and fireworks. Before heading out we googled options for dinner. We discovered that there was an Eataly in Chicago. For those not aware of the awesome that is Eataly, it's basically a giant market full of restaurants and patisseries focusing on Italian cuisine. There was one in Boston that we thought about checking out when we were there in May, but we didn't have the time. Anyway, we decided to hit up Eataly for drinks, dinner, and dessert. Luckily for Courtney, they offered plenty of gluten-free options. I had a pretty excellent negroni and some amazing spinach ravioli for dinner. We tried a couple of pastries, my favorite being the tiramisu. After dinner, we walked around a bit more and then made our way to the river to board our cruise out to the lake to watch the fireworks. Once we boarded the cruise, we made our way along the river to Lake Michigan. We dodged a bit of a bullet with the weather. Just after the fireworks concluded a massive thunderstorm came in. The boat we were on had a covered lower level to hang in, but everyone on the boat crammed in there on the way back to dock. It seemed to take forever to get back, but at least it didn't effect the fireworks for us.
The not so great weather continued into the following day. Not only was it a little muggy, but heavy thunderstorms were in the forecast for much of the day. We decided we would do as much inside as possible. After getting some breakfast, we stopped off at Intelligentsia Coffee. I like good coffee, but I’m not exactly a connoisseur, so my recommendations for coffee should be taken at face value. I opted for their cold brew, mainly because it was ninety degrees outside. My official review: I loved it. Strong and smooth, no need to add anything to it. After our mid morning coffee break we hopped on the L to check out the Garfield Park Conservatory. We got inside just in time as heavy rain started to fall. It was actually kind of perfect being surrounded by all that green and listening to the heavy rain fall outside. We spent a good hour inside exploring each room. I highly recommend a stop there as admission is free. After finishing up at the conservatory, we made our way back into town to visit the Adler Planetarium. This was one of the things on our list to visit during our first visit but didn’t have the time to make a stop. If you plan on hitting up the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium in addition to the planetarium, then you’re in luck because all three are next door to each other. It makes sense to get a City Pass if you plan to visit all three, if you plan on just one, stick to regular admission. After Adler we went back to the hotel to freshen up before going back out for dinner. We had a reservation at Fat Rice, which turned out to be my favorite meal of the trip. I had this excellent cocktail called the jungle juice. We split their signature dish, appropriately titled “Fat Rice”, which is a spin on traditional Spanish paella. We finished the night at Margie’s Candies, which is a ice cream shop. They specialize in these massive sundae/banana split creations. This is another stop I recommend if you’re in Chicago. There was a bit of a wait, but totally worth it. If definitely had the charm of a vintage ice cream shoppe.
We fared much better with the weather the following day. It was about fifteen degrees cooler and sunny. Which worked out great because we had tickets to the Cubs game that day. Before the game we stopped off at Do-Rite Donuts. This was a must stop for us. We grabbed some donuts on our last visit and loved them so much that we continued to mention them from time to time over the next five years. In addition to their amazing daily menu, they offer gluten free options. As someone who has the luxury to compare a gluten free option to the standard, I can honestly say that these are pretty legit. There’s definitely a difference, but if you gave me the gluten free donut, it’d be hard for me to tell the difference. After Do-Rite, we walked around River North for a bit before heading to the game (which was scheduled for 1:00 PM). The last MLB game I went to was an Astros game when I was a kid, and I don’t remember much of that game or that trip. I was pretty excited just for the visit to Wrigley. We did a tour of Fenway Park in Boston a couple years ago and enjoyed the history of it all. We decided that a Cubs game was a must. The game turned out to be pretty great even though they lost. The Cubs did end up winning the series though. We decided to have a chill evening. We stopped off at Whole Foods for a bottle of wine and some food and made our way to Millennium Park. We didn’t realize they were having a free concert in the park that evening, which was a pleasant surprise. The Grant Park Orchestra performed Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. It was a relaxing way to end the day for sure.
The next day was another explore the city type of day. We made our way out to the University of Chicago to check out the campus and some of the architecture there. Going to visit a campus on a Saturday in the middle of summer is pretty ideal. Hardly any students really allows you to go and take it slow and appreciate some of the sights. One of the highlights was getting to step inside the The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library. It was pretty empty, which allowed for a great shot from the inside. After spending some more time exploring the campus, we headed to the Museum of Contemporary Art. They had an excellent exhibit called "I Was Raised on the Internet". We finished up at the museum and made our way back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner and drinks. One thing that we really enjoyed the last time was enjoying a couple of drinks at the top of the John Hancock Center, so we decided to end the evening there. It was just as great as the first time. If you're going to visit the John Hancock Center, I highly recommend going to the Signature Lounge at the 96th. You basically get excellent views of the city and you don't have to wait in line to get to the top.
Our last couple of days were Sunday and Monday. We wanted to take it easy at the end of the trip, so we focused on just checking out coffee shops and sight seeing. I've mentioned this in other journal entries, but I really enjoy cities the most when I can explore and take in the surroundings (and snap some pictures of course). There are always going to be popular spots to hit up no matter where you visit, but there is something nice abut taking some time to get lost in a city you've never been in before. Chicago is officially one of our favorite cities to visit. I'm hoping that we can find an excuse to go back soon. I'd hate for it to be another five years before we go back. Below are some more shots from our trip.