A long weekend in Chicago: Part 1

A long weekend in Chicago: Part 1

Exploring the Windy City’s parks and architecture

When you live in Europe, one of the cool things is that you are never more than a train ride or short flight away from exploring a new city over a long weekend. Now that we are living in North America we can now have long weekends exploring a new set of cities, that ordinarily you would not be able to holiday to in a weekend from Europe.

So over the 2015 Labour Day weekend, we flew to Chicago. Despite being less than 200 years old, Chicago has developed some stunning and beautiful architecture and public spaces.

Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower
The Wrigley Building (left) and Tribune Tower (centre) are landmarks of the Chicago skyline.

There is plenty to see and do too. We thought that 3 days in the city would be plenty. After all, this is how long we’d had in other American cities like Seattle and Boston, and in both cases we felt like we’d done all the main things we wanted to do.

But we departed Chicago with a nagging frustration that we hadn’t seen as much of it as we had hoped – or rather that once there, we had uncovered more of it that we wanted to see. In hindsight, an extra 2 or 3 days would have been nice and more relaxed.

Here’s the lowdown on what we did get to do though:

Explored the Loop

The Loop is Chicago’s downtown. The name derives from the fact that Chicago’s ‘L’ trains (‘L’ being short for elevated) have always looped around downtown. This is apparently where the phrase ‘in the loop’ comes from.

Chicago The Loop 'L' Train
The ‘L’ trains loop around Chicago’s downtown.

There are walking tours available, but wanting to do things at our own pace, we went on our own tour. Starting off on Magnificent ‘Mag’ Mile, we headed up to the Chicago River and the Michigan Avenue drawbridge. We checked out the beautiful Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower, castigated Donald Trump for emblazoning his glass skyscraper with his name in two storey high letters, and debated whether Marina City is attractive or ugly.

Wrigley Building
There is just so much to look at on the Wrigley Building. One of our favourite parts was the Ghirardelli Chocolate shop on the ground floor!
Tribune Tower
The gorgeous Tribune Tower features elements from other famous landmarks from around the world, including Edinburgh Castle, the Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, Westminster Abbey, the Parthenon and Cologne Cathedral.
Marina City and Carbide and Carbon Building
I thought that Marina City (left) was great – note the car parking in the lower third – Emma was undecided. Topped off in gold, it’s difficult to miss the Carbide and Carbon Building (right).
Magnificent Mile start Michigan Avenue Bridge
The Magnificent Mile starts at the Chicago River and the Michigan Avenue Bridge
Mag Mile architecture and bird boxes
Along the way of the Magnificent Mile, architecture and street features range from the serious to the fun.
Chicago Water Tower and John Hancock Center
The Chicago Water Tower, and the John Hancock Center (4th tallest building in Chicago, 8th tallest in the USA) are landmarks as you move north along the Magnificent Mile.

Delving further into the Loop we came across the Rookery, and uncovered other beauties which we did not know existed, such as the Chicago Board of Trade Building and the Harold Washington Library.

Chicago Theatre
The iconic Chicago Theatre.
The Rookery and Harold Washington Library
The Rookery (left) – unfortunately we couldn’t get inside, as apparently it’s quite something. The Harold Washington Library (right) grabs your attention as soon as you catch a glimpse. Each corner is adorned by an owl.
Chicago Board of Trade
The Chicago Board of Trade façade

Relaxed in Millennium and Grant Parks

Completed in 2006, Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, more commonly known as the ‘Bean’ has quickly become one of Chicago’s icons. This isn’t the only cool thing in Millennium Park. There’s the Crown Fountain (consisting of video sculptures which spit water at giddy children), the open air concert venue  (otherwise known as the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Great Lawn), the Nichols Bridgeway to the Art Institute of Chicago, water features adjacent to wild grasses and flowers with their throngs of bees in the Lurie Garden, and the BP Bridge snaking its way over the highway.

We joined the masses at the popular Cloud Gate in Millennium Park. Can you spot us in any of the reflections?
We joined the masses at the popular Cloud Gate in Millennium Park. Can you spot us in any of the reflections?
Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Great Lawn
The Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Great Lawn.
Crown Fountain Chicago
The Crown Fountain periodically spouts water from its video face sculptures onto a happy group of children.
Millennium Park face sculptures
The Crown Fountain faces aren’t the only ones on display in Millennium Park.

A 15 minute walk away is Grant Park. The walk is well worth it, as the spectacular Buckingham Fountain greets you. Every hour, on the hour, a 150 foot (46 metre) jet shoots up from the centre of the fountain for 20 minutes. When it’s 33° outside, standing downwind of the spray from the fountain is more than welcome!

Buckingham Fountain
We enjoyed the cool spray from the huge Buckingham Fountain on a searingly hot day.
Lurie Garden Chicago
Plunging our feet into the water feature adjacent to the Lurie Garden was another way of cooling off. To clear up any possible confusion, the hairless legs and pedicured feet are Emma’s.

You can check out all of this, and more, in our video here, or below.

Stewart

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