Chicago : Must See Sights

Is it me or does everyone else think we should all get a vacation after a vacation? Whew, this week back to work has been tough.

Over the fourth of July holiday my mom and I met up in the Windy City for a long weekend. I had never been to Chicago and must say it was a great place to take a long weekend and explore! We hit all the major sights and then some that were a bit off the beaten path.

I did all the normal blog searching to see what everyone thought were the places we HAD to go and honestly came up a bit empty. In true blogger fashion I figured why wouldn't I tell you about all the great places we went!

We decided to get to town as early as we could on Thursday morning, even if that meant a 6am flight - yikes!

After checking into the hotel and freshening up we headed out to see the sights. A great place to grab lunch and eat outdoors (if the weather is nice) is the Maggie Daley Park / Millennium Park. 

Maggie Daley has a FANTASTIC children's area with play grounds and water features - plus its just so pretty.

Literally right next to Maggie Daley is Millennium park which is known for its famous art piece - The Bean. What I wasn't aware of is Millennium park is made up of so much more! There are great manicured lawns and gorgeous landscaping. Grab lunch to go at the near by Tavern or Protein Bar and head over to the park. You wont regret it.

Next up: Architectural Tours on the River. I didn't think I would find this as interesting as I did. It was well worth the $45 and 90 minutes.

We chose to go with the more accredited tour guide : Chicago's First Lady and they did not disappoint.

The river cruises give you a whole new perspective on the city and allow you to see parts that you might not make it to otherwise. If you are traveling with a history buff this will be their favorite part of the trip by far. Bonus, they serve all sorts of drinks to enjoy while cruising.

One of our most favorite spots that we happened on was a little slice of heaven called Old Town. Its just north of the river and spans a few blocks (from Armitage to Division on Wells) with all sorts of amazing food and cute shops.

We actually stumbled upon Old Town while looking for a dinner spot before a Comedy show. We loved the area so much (and the food but more on that later) that we came back the next day to see more.

One thing I would tell everyone to do while in Chi Town is to see a comedy show. Did you know Chicago is FAMOUS for its comedy? Big names like Bill Murray, Steve Carell, Mike Meyers, Robin Williams, Tina Fey, and Martin Short all got their start in Chicago's comedy circuit. Seriously, its a great evening outing and sure to put a smile on your face. While we were there we saw Date Me at the UP! Comedy club... we might have even been sat on the front row. Thankfully we didnt end up apart of the show. 

Other great places to visit when the weather is nice and the crowds are small would be the Lincoln Park Zoo and North Beach.

We didn't stay at the Zoo long (its free and a holiday weekend... you do the math) but it would be a great place for the whole family to enjoy. The beach, however, was delightful even with its crowds. From what I could gather, sunny beach days are few and far between but we happened to be there during a sunny 78 degree day. It was great to just lay in the sand and soak up some rays.

My mom was interested in seeing the Tribune Tower just north of the river - we took a little stroll over there on Thursday and looked around. To be honest, outside of a pretty building we couldn't gather what was so special about it. Then we walked outside and realized its the outside that makes it so special not the inside. All around the building there are rocks/bricks/stone from all over the world mounted in the walls of the building. Everything from the Alamo to Normandy beach were represented. Even good ole Oklahoma!

Our last night in town as we were walking back to the hotel I remembered that I had read about the John Hancock building. I wasnt too keen on paying $$$ to stand out on the stratosphere but read the views at the John Hancock building were a fantastic alternative. We headed over to the Signature Lounge and waited around 30-45 minutes to get on the elevator and head up to the 95th floor and get  a table. You do have to buy a drink/food to be at the lounge but the views are so worth it. My suggestion, get a reservation at the Signature Room (one floor below) and enjoy a nice dinner and drinks without the wait while the sun sets. Oh, and dont forget to use the ladies room - it has some of the best views in the entire place!

Okay, Ive shown you a million pictures of pretty buildings but lets get to the real meat and potatoes. Shopping! Everyone raves about the Magnificent Mile but I will be the first to tell you its an uber crowded area with stores you can get most anywhere - think Times Square.

We found our favorite shopping was in Old Town, Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, and Bucktown. The Spice Market and String a Strand in Old Town were great!

These are all great areas to rent a DIVY bike and cruise from shop to shop. DIVY bikes are $10 per bike per 24 hours that you "check in" and "check out" every 30 minutes. Keep it longer? No problem it is just a small fee (think $2) for an extra 30 minutes. Plus the DIVY bikes even have an app that points you to the nearest docking station.

Whew. Do you feel like you are on information overload? There is still so much more to tell you about... like all the great food! I'll fill you in more on that soon!

So tell me, have you been to Chicago lately? What were your favorite spots?

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