Chicago from Smashburger for eating their "Windy City Burger." Knowing that St. Patrick's Day is one of the best times to visit Chicago, I decided to book the trip for March, knowing it would be cold, but it would be fun. It was fun, but at 80 degrees it wasn't cold by any means.
I left on Thursday from Sacramento with Stephanie, a friend that I met through social media almost a year ago, and landed in Chicago on Thursday evening. We took the eL to our hotel and decided to find some food. Our goal, something quick and not too expensive ... we ended up at one of the nicest restaurants in city, Joe's. It was great food and helped give us the energy we would need for the rest of the trip. The mac & cheese and stone crab were huge highlights.
Friday we both had to work for a little while in the morning, then ate breakfast at our hotel and headed to our next hotel, Trump Chicago. After leaving our bags with the bell desk we headed to the Shedd Aquarium, which was amazing. Beluga whales, dolphins, jellyfish and a huge variety of other really cool fish.
After the Shedd Aquarium we went next door to the Field Museum. Dinosaur bones, Mummies, and Genghis Kahn exhibits were highlights, but many of the other exhibits were interesting and we both learned a lot from each of them, the spaces on the Pacific Islands, Africa and Alaska were some of the ones I enjoyed the most. After the museums we walked along Lake Michigan and the Chicago River back to our hotel for drinks with one of my friends from high school at Trump's Rebar, then went out for stuffed pizza at Giordano's.
Saturday we woke up early, had breakfast delivered to our room and headed to the top of the John Hancock building while walking down the Magnificent Mile. From the observation deck we could see the entire downtown skyline, across Lake Michigan and even watched as they turned the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day (actually done with orange dye). On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a few stores including American Girl, with a niece on the way I had to buy something for her. After a quick stop at the hotel it was back to sightseeing. We walked up to The Art Institute of Chicago, with stops at the Marilyn Monroe statue and the "bean," while braving crowds going in the opposite direction that we wanted to travel. The art museum was cool and is home to a few Van Gogh's and my favorite picture, American Gothic. Only being a few blocks away from the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) we decided to head up 103 floors and see what the view was like from The Ledge. Honestly, a little freaky to look down at your feet and see the street 103 stories below.
On St. Patrick's Day evening we took the eL to Wrigleyville where there was a massive block party in the area of Wrigley Field. We walked though the crowds to have a sandwich and the largest mozzarella sticks, before finding a few other pubs for Irish brews and dancing. Rather than fight the crowds on the eL we chose to walk back to our hotel, this also gave us the opportunity to check out the parties along the way and see more of the city. 4.5 miles was a long ways, but with perfect weather, lots of people roaming the streets and a stop at a 24-hour Starbucks we made it.
After sleeping for about four hours it was time to wake up, head to Sixteen at The Trump (their restaurant, conveniently on the 16th floor) for a $90 breakfast (not including alcohol, Chicago cannot sell alcohol on Sunday's before 11 a.m.). Breakfast was very tasty and gave us the energy we needed to complete the day. An architectural boat tour with Wendella Boats was a great experience and very informative. Then we walked along the river to Navy Pier to see one of Chicago's top attractions. Heading back down the river we both recognized that the next time we were in Chicago a bike tour would be fun. We stopped for a few more drinks at Rebar, then it was time to start heading to the airport. We made two quick stops for a fabulous cup of coffee (Stephanie's a Barista) and to try a "Chicago Dog" before getting on the eL and heading to Midway.
If you're going and want to do the "tourist" stuff, consider the City Pass, half-off most admissions and takes the guess work out of what to see.