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