Monday, December 13, 2010

My Chicago Trip

Chicago Skyline
(This is a long, picture filled post, but I wanted to record it all so here we go!)  So I went to Chicago for four wonderful days about two weeks ago.  A friend and I are planning on moving there next year.  This is a huge decision and big step in my life.  Since graduation, in May, I have been living at home so that I can save money to live on my own.  I have always loved Chicago and have thought about living there for awhile.  I visited Chicago for the first time in 2003 with my aunt and sister.  We had a great time and I realized how much I really love Chicago.  
Chicago has always been in the back of my mind as a place I would like to live one day and when my friend, Kristin, said she was interested in moving there it seemed like this could actually happen.  So we have been slowly saving money and figuring out when and how we are going to move to the city.  In fact, this was Kristin's first time in Chicago, so it was kind of a test to see if she really liked the city and if we were going to move there.  We planned this trip to visit some neighborhoods, look at apartments, and just explore the city.  We had a fabulous time and I grew to love Chicago even more!  
Happily walking through the city.
We flew out of Orlando early Wednesday morning and arrived in Chicago to snow flurries!  As soon as we got off the plane we could feel the chilly wind of Chicago so we made sure to grab our coats, gloves, and hats from our luggage.  We bought our first, of many, train tickets.  The train system in Chicago is called the L because it is elevated in some areas of the city.  It is one of the best ways to get around, and we found this to be true, as we rode the L everyday.  Riding the L into the city also gave us a great view of several neighborhoods and the city skyline.  We stopped by our hotel for them to hold our luggage until we could get into our room and then went off to get food. 

We had been up since 4:30 AM and were quite hungry so we went in search of some deep dish pizza.  Lucky for us, Gino's East was only a short walk from our hotel.  The place is covered in graffiti.  Guests are encouraged to add their own message or note to the wall of many.  There is writing on the seats, walls, chairs, and even ceilings (I don't know how they got it up there!).   

Big Slice of Deep Dish Pizza!
We got there soon after opening.  Kristin and I shared a small sausage deep dish pizza.  The pizzas take about 40 minutes to make so we both ordered small garden salads, that were quite tasty, as we waited.  

Later that day we went to an apartment search place.  The realtor showed us two very nice places that were in our price range so we could get an idea of what apartments were like in Chicago.  This was great to see as we got a real idea of what kind of places we could live in.    

Thursday was our planned "Tourist Day."  We visited all of the well known tourist attractions and places in the city.  We took a double decker tour bus to get to the different locations.  The day started with a delicious breakfast at Yolk
Everything on the menu looked good.  I decided on a scrambler with mushrooms, green onions, cheese, and tomatoes.  It came with a whole grain pancake and fresh fruit.  It was delicious!  Kristin got a Mexican scrambler that was great as well.  

After breakfast we walked over to the Navy Pier and took some pictures with the statues nearby.  We then hopped on the tour bus.  The tour guide was very entertaining.  We got off at the Willis Tower to go up to the Sky Deck.  You go up to the 103rd floor in a minutes time.  My ears popped several times since we were going so high and fast.  The view of the city was spectacular.  They say on a clear day you can see the surrounding states!  They also have these clear glass boxes, called "The Ledge" that stick out of the building for you to stand in.  It was kind of freaky.  It doesn't feel right to be up that high and kind of floating out.  I stepped very carefully out onto the glass, but we got some cool pictures.  

The rest of our afternoon was full of shopping and more sightseeing.  We stopped at the big Macy's, Garret's Popcorn, Millennium Park, etc.  
One of the Christmas window displays in front of Macy's.
Modeling some interesting hats at H&M
The obligatory mirror shot in the Bean.
And we had a fabulous lunch at Epic Burger.  
My Epic Burger
Oh my goodness this was an excellent meal!  It is an eco-friendly place that uses grass-fed beef, organic veggies, bio-degradable silverware and napkins.  The burger and fries were oh so tasty.  I would eat here all of the time if there was one nearby!

Thursday night we went to The Second City to see a show: The Absolute Best Friggin Time of Your Life.  We took the L across town and walked into the small theatre.  It was a relaxed atmosphere where they served drinks and food while you watched the show.  It was an ensemble piece that was written by the cast.  It was a wonderful show that made us laugh out loud several times.  The show was extra long because it was one of the cast members last night.  We didn't get back to the hotel until one in the morning. 
At The Second City show
Friday we scheduled a neighborhood tour with a Chicago Greeter.  It is a great free service in which a local volunteers their time to show people around different areas of the city.  We met our greeter, Susan, at the Chicago Cultural Center to begin our tour.  We all took the L over to the Ravenswood/Lincoln Square area and walked around the neighborhood.  Susan showed us around the town and had tons of information about the area.  It was a wonderful tour that gave us some insight into what life in Chicago could be like and where we will be living.  The neighborhood was cute and it is just a short train ride to the city.  (I wish I had taken some pictures of the area, but unfortunately I didn't.)

Later we headed to the Lincoln Park area and walked around the shops.  We stopped by Molly's Cupcakes and picked up some cupcakes.  Kristin got a red velvet one with cream cheese frosting and I got the pumpkin spice.  Plus I had to bring some mini cupcakes back home.  They were pretty tasty.  I think the speciality ones are the way to go though.  

In downtown Chicago the Christkindl Market was happening so we headed over to check it out.  It is a German festival that began in 1545 and came to Chicago for the first time in 1996 and since I love the holiday season I had to check it out.

There was a huge Christmas tree put up and a Menorah for Hanukkah.  We had a lovely time walking around to all of the tents set up and checking out handmade ornaments, statues, wood carvings, scarves, jewelry, toasted nuts, spiced wine, pastries, etc.  There were even a few carolers walking around.  

Saturday was our last day and we woke up to find 3-5 inches of snow on the ground; it made the city look beautiful.  
We walked through the snow to Lou Mitchell's for breakfast.  
The place was pretty busy, but we managed to squeeze through the restaurant to get to our table.  As we passed the hostess stand we were offered a small donut hole that was delicious.  After taking off our hats and jackets I began to look at the menu.  They had a little bit of everything and it all sounded good.  Our waitress came and when we asked for a recommendation she said everything was good and she has yet to find something that isn't.  Kristin got cup of coffee, that is touted as being "the best," and she agreed that is was "really good!"  I decided on to get one scrambled egg, potatoes, turkey sausage links, and a pancake.  After we ordered they brought us a small bowl with an orange slice and a prune, plus they gave us each a fun size milk dud.  When the food arrived it was pretty big.  My one egg looked like three and Kristin's two looked like five; they were very fluffy.  The pancake was great; they probably had the best maple syrup I have ever tasted.  Since the meal was big we didn't end up eating it all, but what we had was so good; we left with full bellies.  

After breakfast we walked to Harpo Studios.  On our way we passed a cute dog park covered in snow and decided to stop and take some pictures; it was just so pretty.

We also made some tiny snowman. 

Then we arrived at Harpo Studios!  Everyone was off until the new year so we just walked around the building and check out the Oprah Store.  The store had lots of O printed things from bags to dishes to clothes and it was all pretty pricey.  I ended up grabbing t-shirt that was on sale.  
I also found out there were Trader Joes stores in Chicago and I had to stop and pick up some fruit bars.    There are no Trader Joes here in Florida so whenever we visit somewhere there is on we stock up on some of our favorite products.  

We had been going and going all four days and it finally caught up with me late Saturday afternoon.  That darn IT band began to act up and I was getting tired.  By then it was time for us to head to the airport so we walked to the L.  On our trip back we happened to catch the Christmas train.  You know I love Christmas, so this was right up my alley.  The train was covered in lights and Santa was on a flat bed in the middle of the train.  Inside they played Christmas music and had little North Pole and Christmas themed ads on the top of the train.  It was a packed ride, but fun!  

We had a marvelous time on our trip to Chicago and I am even more excited about moving there.  (And good news Kristin loved Chicago too!  I knew she would!)  I am still working to make sure I have enough money for the move, but we are organizing and planning everything out.  I am excited to see how everything works out!

Have you ever been to Chicago?  What do you love about the city?  
Thanks for reading if you made it to the end. :)


Nichole said...

I could scream in excitement!! This is the PERFECT trip. Be sure that next time you go to Rockit Bar & Grill.

I love that city and would totally move there if I was single!! AGH so excited for you!

Anonymous said...

I've never been to Chicago, but I have always wanted to. I am dying to try their deep dish pizza.

Anonymous said...

Chicago is a fantastic city! I've lived in suburbs my whole life, but absolutely love spending a day downtown.

Some of the favorite things: Chicago Art Museum, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Millennium Park (Winter--Ice skating and Summer--There's usually concerts going on). See a show at the Cadillac Theatre.. Eat at Santorini in Greek Town. Navy Pier's beer garden. Lou Malnati's pizza.

Cate said...

Thanks for all of the recommendations! :)

JenMarie said...

I just went last weekend and had a blast too! I used some of your recommendations! :)
And posted some of my photos on my blog as well.

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