A short stay in Chicago, Illinois offers travelers tons of options. Our trip was focused on the City Center area. We were hoping to enjoy the museums and shopping possibilities. From Kansas City, we were only looking at a 1 1/2 hour flight, so it’s a great destination.
Our Temporary Home in Chicago
We chose to forego a car rental, and selected a hotel near public transportation routes. Chicago has excellent choices in public transportation, so keep this in mind when planning a visit. The Hyatt Centric Magnificent Mile sits one block off the famed shopping mecca, so it seemed to be a perfect base. Little did we know that right across the street is a hospital. We were a little shocked the first night, when ambulances would come wailing up. Fortunately, we were able to laugh about this, and it made great a conversation topic. Besides our room and the elevator, we barely used the amenities. We did try out the pool and hot tub one evening, and found it acceptable. We did notice assorted artwork throughout the hotel. The fact that they can make light of the city’s nickname was amusing to us.
The hotel was about one mile from the Navy Pier, so we took off to explore. Along our way we made mental note of some of the nearby restaurants. We have always felt that Kansas City is a great city for foodies. What we were discovering was that Chicago was no slouch in this department. So many great looking eateries, and only a couple of days to try some. This almost seemed like torture. We spent a couple of hours on the pier, before heading back to get ready for dinner.
Our dinner this first evening was at MK Restaurant. We were hoping this would be a top notch start to our dining experiences. The food, atmosphere, and the presentation did not disappoint. This place has earned its stellar reputation, and chef/owner Michael Kornick has set the bar high for other places in town. Even the taxi ride back to our hotel couldn’t scare the delight out of us.
A New day in the Windy City
Our second day began with a light breakfast at Corner Bakery, which was across the street from our hotel. Today we would be tourists, and our goal was to visit the famed Michigan Avenue. This street is a major artery for north-south movement in Chicago. The over-sized sidewalks line the street, and shoppers stroll with packages in tow. Our visit was in early summer, and we took note of the beautiful landscaping. It created a peaceful buffer between pedestrians and motorized vehicles.
As we explored the mile, we noted the way that the old and new buildings intertwined in the skyline. We read that this mile long stretch contains over 450 stores, around 275 restaurants, and about 50 hotels. So many of these are packaged in multi-story skyscrapers, that visitors to the city spend a lot of time craning their necks. Of course, by looking up at times you will see some amazing architectural designs.
Not all of the sights were restricted to outdoors. The architectural design was just as wide once you entered the various shopping areas. Some buildings we entered held a single store. The next door may be the start of an indoor mall. The variety of merchandise was just as wide as the décor. While I can shop most people under the table, (Yeah that saying may not fit there, but oh well.) there came a point that I was ready to head back to the hotel.
A Sporty Dinner
After a short rest, we donned the appropriate attire for a night of dining and sports activities. A short walk back up Michigan Avenue brought us to Water Tower Place. This indoor mall is home to Harry Carey’s 7th Inning Stretch. A relaxed atmosphere, and an upscale bar food menu make this a popular place for sports fans. Especially if they are fans of Chicago sports. After a satisfying meal, guests can spend some time at the Chicago Sports Museum. Admission is waived if you have your dinner receipt, and the attraction is quite enjoyable. By the time we headed back to our home base, we were exhausted. I was sure that all the ambulances in the city wouldn’t disturb my sleep that night.
Another Long Walk
Our final full day began a little later than the previous. West Egg Cafe was a breakfast eatery we had spied on our earlier walk to navy pier. Today seemed like a great chance to try it out. We chose our go-to eggs and bacon breakfast, and washed it down with some fresh made coffee. With our energy levels recharged, we went off to explore a little farther out. We headed over to Lake Shore Drive, and worked our way down to the Chicago Riverwalk area. We crossed the river, and after a bit found ourselves along the bank.
Kansas City has toyed with the idea of a useful river walk area, but has never quite accomplished what other cities have created. In Chicago they have embraced their river area, and even promote water sports. As we strolled along, we saw multiple tour boats plying the waters. We have often seen bikes for rent in various cities we have visited. We couldn’t ever remember seeing kayak rentals in other places. There are a few shaded spots along the walk that offer seating opportunities. We chose one, and just took in all of the walkers, runners, bikers, and kayakers who were using this area.
What Is That?
Soon we returned to our exploration, and continued our southern expedition. About three blocks farther, and we came to Millenniums Park. This 24 acre green space was a welcome change from all of the asphalt and skyscrapers. We strolled through the walkways, and enjoyed the lush landscaping. This park contains a large playground area, as well as a skating park, and climbing walls. If you continue down Lake Shore, you will come to Buckingham Fountain, and eventually the Field Museum. Here is a great opportunity to see “Sue” the Tyrannosaurus Rex. This area is also home to the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and Soldier Field. Soldier is home to the Chicago Bears football team.
On our return, we wandered back through the green space. The entire area is well maintained, and very popular with walkers and joggers. As we approached the northern end of the park, we spotted the Cloud Gate sculpture. This huge mirrored art piece is often referred to as “The Bean”. The place is very popular with tourists, so be prepared to have guests in your pictures. After a few minutes, we realized we needed to head back to the hotel to get ready for our last evening in Chicago.
Up to the Highest Heights
Before dinner we wanted to experience something else not found in Kansas City. We had spent the last couple days looking at all of the tall buildings, but had not been in any of the Skyscapers. Another exciting taxi ride, and we found ourselves at Willis Tower. Formerly known as the Sears Tower, it is the second tallest building in the United States. The mass of glass and steel rises 1450 feet into the air, but we were only going up 1353 feet. This trip presents guests with the opportunity to experience The Ledge, which are the glass boxes that extend four feet out from the edge of the building. After a stop on the 99th Floor, we finished our ascent, and waited our turn to step out into what felt like thin air.
With this final thrill completed, we turned our attention back to the city. This last evening passed like a blur. Dinner and a couple of drinks, before taking a final stroll down Michigan Avenue. Even after dark, this place has a magical feel to it. Just walking along, checking out all of the window displays, and prolonging the time spent in the Windy City.