Friday, October 12, 2012

beth and richard's guide to chicago

When Richard found out that his annual surgery conference was in Chicago this year, I decided to go with him if I could take the time off. The Hill is pretty quiet during election season, so I booked a flight and off we went. We made the most out of our four and half days there and definitely want to go back when it's warmer. In no particular order, our thoughts on what to see and do in the Windy City:

1.  Ride the Ferris Wheel at the Navy Pier. 
We actually found the Navy Pier to be a little cheesy (think the new Myrtle Beach Pavilion), but it's still worth a visit to experience a great view of Lake Michigan both from the ground and at the peak height of the Ferris Wheel. According to our docent on the architectural boat tour, the Navy Pier is the most-visited attraction in all of Illinois. 

looking down on the Pier and Chicago skyline from the top of the ferris wheel

view of a lighthouse from the end of the pier

2.  Take an architectural boat tour. 
I did some research before we went on the various boat tours available (the Chicago Rover runs right through the middle of the city), and repeatedly read the Chicago Architecture Foundation's was one of the best. It did not disappoint, and the tour guide gave a perfect overview of the city's history, layout and notable buildings. It was a little chilly on the boat, but the information and scenery was so interesting that I barely noticed.

our seats at the back of the boat

beautiful Wrigley buildings

Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in the middle of the skyline

Chicago's Merchandise Mart, the world's largest commercial building- I needed my brother's sweet interior designer girlfriend to be able to shop here!

in front of the Trump tower, where Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls recently bought a condo on the 84th floor

3. Go see the Bean in Millenium Park and the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. 
If only to snap photos to prove you were in Chicago, as these are two of the city's more recognizable landmarks. 

the Bean

Buckingham Fountain

4. Appreciate one of the nation's best collections of art at The Art Institute of Chicago. 
I just wish we'd had more time here. We saw most of the better-known pieces housed at the AIC, but there was so much more to explore. The gardens alone are gorgeous, and our porch was inspired by their fall mixed pots. Inside there are works by Seurat, Monet, Picasso, Renoir, Degas and Gauguin, to name a few. It may be obvious that my favorites are the Impressionists, but I appreciate the modern pieces as well and loved being able to see them all up close.

our planters are just a bit smaller than this one

Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, inspiration for Sondheim's musical, Sunday in the Park with George

American Gothic by Grant Wood- the inspiration for Wood was actually a farmer and his unmarried daughter, not a married couple as I always assumed

Georgia O'Keefe's Black Cross, New Mexico

The Red Armchair, Pablo Picasso

5. Cheer on the Cubs at Wrigley Field. 
The Cubs were terrible this year. The Astros, who they played while we were there, were even worse. But the combined poor records of the two teams coupled with the Bears playing in the Monday Night Football game meant we got great seats for a low cost. I'm used to Turner Field and Nats Park, both full of lights, bells and whistles, so it was fascinating to see a stadium without a huge video board, in a residential neighborhood. The Astros won, but it really didn't matter. The experience was worth it either way.

loved seeing the iconic Wrigley marquee

WRAMC general surgeons at play. We were keeping a close watch on both the Nats score and the Braves score.

the scoreboard behind us is still hand-turned

6. Catch a sunset from 94 floors up at the Hancock Observatory.
Or at least, the tail-end of a sunset. We didn't quite make it in time for the full thing, but we had an amazing view nonetheless.

looking out to the west- on a clear day, four states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin can be seen from the Observatory)

disregard the spot on my camera lens- bird's eye view of the Navy Pier

Chicago's Gold Coast

7. Laugh out loud at Chicago's Second City.
Second City is nationally known for its many famous alums, including Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell and Mike Myers, just to name a few. Much of the Saturday Night Live cast got its start at Second City. So when Richard suggested we go, I figured it would be a good experience. In full disclosure, I am pretty conservative, and Second City is not. Chicago loves its homegrown President, and the city is certainly left-leaning. But if you can take the jokes in stride, the talent of the Second City cast is superb. And Second City was incredibly gracious and hospitable to Richard and his colleagues when they found out they were active duty Army. Their kindness and warm welcome is something I will never forget. 

Second City theatre

inspired to be silly

8. Eat. Eat. and Eat Some More. 
I am making up for it this week by severely restricting calories and sugar intake, but Chicago sure does have some delicious food. We started off with popcorn from Nuts on Clark at the airport, sampled Garrett's popcorn as well, feasted on Giordano's deep dish pizza and visited the restaurants of celebrity chefs, Stephanie Izard (the only female winner to date of Top Chef) and Rick Bayless- the Girl and the Goat and Frontera Grill. And to cap it all off? Cinnamon rolls, featured on the Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." I'm still thinking abou those cinnamon rolls. 

Girl and the Goat, with Richard's med school classmate Corey

Frontera Grill- eating Frontera's fall guacamole, made with grilled apples and pickled jalapenos

Old School Frontera Trio- ceviche tostadas, chicken taquitos, and corn masa quesadillas 

churros at XOCO, the Rick Bayless-owned eatery next to Frontera Grill

Ann Sather cinnamon rolls

9. And the proverbial cream cheese icing on those rolls? I got to see two sweet South Carolina girls who I adore spending time with. Jacqueline, who also went to Clemson and worked as a Hill staffer in the South Carolina delegation in DC, and I met for lunch on Tuesday at the delicious Gage (their pumpkin beignets were downright heavenly). On Wednesday, I took the train out to Wheaton to see my friend Alison. We had a lovely lunch at Honey Cafe, and I got to see Wheaton College, where she and her husband teach, and meet her adorable little one who is just three months old. Seeing these ladies made a great trip even more special. Now we just want to go back in the summer time so we can add cruising on Lake Michigan to our list!

with Alison and little Charlotte in their Wheaton home

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