We arrived in Chicago very early on a Wednesday morning. Cabs from O’Hare to the city are pricey, so I thought I’d add a little adventure to our day and take the train (the El) instead.
Getting to the subway was easy enough; about a 10-minute walk from our gate. I was glad to see that the fare machines are very similar to what we have in DC, so I bought my farecard right away. A flat rate of $2.25, and the girls were free!
Funny thing… I had no idea what our stop was! I remember reading somewhere that it takes about 45 minutes to get to downtown, so I figured I’d keep an eye on my watch and just play it by ear.
We went by what seemed like a million stops, and I realized that there weren’t many people left on what was once a very crowded train. So I pulled out my laptop and brought up the BlogHer ’09 Conference Guide that had details about transportation. Sure enough, we had missed our stop. By a lot.
We promptly got off the train and crossed the platform. “We can’t go BACK already, mommy!! We JUST GOT HERE!!” is what Maya yelled when she realized we were getting on a train going the other way. I explained what happened, and she seemed even more annoyed – “You could have looked at a MAP!” Usually I’m not keen on her talking to me in that tone, but she had been awake since 4am, so I let it go.
A few minutes later, we were in the heart of downtown and caught our first glimpse of Chicago.
We hung out at a nearby Starbucks for a while, then walked and walked, and walked some more, looking for somewhere to have lunch. Maya let out a squeal when she saw what looked like a huge McDonald’s, and I begrudgingly consented, only because it looked interesting. I soon found out that this was the Rock ‘n Roll McDonald’s.
The prices here were outrageous. I don’t see much value in an $8.00 Value Meal, you know? But the girls got a kick out of the escalators and the upstairs museum, and had a lot of room to run around, so we stayed.
The hotel we stayed at the first night was just around the corner from the Magnificent Mile, so I was able to do quite a bit of window shopping. Burberry, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Ferragamo… we don’t have those stores around here. 😉
Later that night, my mom and little brother arrived, and my girls were officially in their hands at that point. We moved to the Sheraton the next morning. In the 3 days that I was at the conference, they got to see quite a bit of Chicago. Below are the highlights.
I could see the Navy Pier from our hotel room. The fifteen-story ferris wheel caught my eye right away. My brother was going to ride it with Maya, bought the tickets and everything, and when they were about to get on she changed her mind.
They went to Millenium Park, where the huge Cloud Gate sculpture is located. It’s more commonly known as “The Bean” because of its distinct shape. It’s so neat the way it reflects the city, the sky, and the people walking by.
The highlight of the trip for Maya was probably the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) ; she’s talked about it everyday since. The Willis Tower is North America’s tallest building, and gives you the best view of Chicago. At 1,353 feet (412 meters), the Skydeck on the 103rd floor is the highest observatory in the city. You can see 40 – 50 miles on a clear day.
The Ledge is the newest attraction on the Skydeck. Glass boxes extend out 4.3 feet from the side of the skyscraper, providing never-before-seen views of the city.
There were so many other places we wanted to check out, including the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Art Institute, Hancock Observatory, the Water Tower, and Lincoln Park Zoo. I would’ve like to explore the city on a Segway, or take a boat tour. But there just wasn’t enough time.
On our last day there, my brother stood in line at the famous Gino’s East and came back with a delicious deep dish pizza. The crust was crispy and buttery, the sauce thick, the cheese plentiful… but what was really unique was the sausage. It was in the form of a patty, covering every inch of the pizza.
I may have been stuck at the hotel most of the trip, but my daughters had an amazing time exploring the city, thanks to my mom and Michael. I’ll never be able to thank them enough for providing them with such an unforgettable experience!