A few weeks ago I visited the great city of Chicago for the first time! I paired a work trip with a day off and had the opportunity to visit my good friend (and old roomie) and her family. If you haven’t been to Chicago I highly recommend you go in July. Weather was perfect and everyone was out and about to celebrate the temps after a long cold winter.
I was in the middle of my IDLife 28-day Challenge and I will be the first to admit that the challenge took a bit of a hiatus while there. It’s really hard to go to a city and not want to try the foods which are more often than not the foods that aren’t so healthy for you. On Sunday I explored the West End where my friends live. It’s the former meat packing district that has been transformed into cool restaurants where the outdoor seating is in the alleyways. Very clever. We had delicious bbq at Green Street Smoked Meats, and my pulled pork sandwich seriously rivaled NC and TX BBQ. Who knew the Midwest had it in them! For dinner my friends grilled shrimp and orzo, and we made panzanella salad and homemade chocolate shaved mint ice cream topped with chocolate gelato. Mmm mmm good.
10 am: Wendella architecture river and lake boat tour
This is a must way to explore and get your bearings straight (especially for first time visitors). I was amazed at not only how old some of the buildings were, but also the thought and care taken in designing the city. I especially loved all the old bridges we passed under.
11:30 am-1 pm: Magnificent Mile and lunch at Lou Malanati’s
I made my way down Michigan Avenue where a bunch of the upscale shops are located. Although I didn’t shop I don’t think I even made it all the way to the really swanky shops (so perhaps I did the Magnificent 1/2 Mile?!). My hunger was getting the best of me so it was time for deep-dish Chicago-style pizza–another must. I ordered the $9 lunch special of a side salad, personal pizza and soda (root beer). The pizza was just the perfect size with a crisp buttery crust that melted in my mouth. Wisconsin cheese was the first layer, then the sauce (could taste the tomatoes), and sausage (which I learned has the kind of status that pepperoni has on pizza back East, it was one big piece across the pizza, not diced as you would find on East coast which I found interesting and slightly disturbing at the same time). I added some hot peppers and a little salt, pepper and Parmesan for some extra zing. Overall, pleased at my first deep dish experience (at least straight from Chicago), but next time I’ll go for mushrooms over sausage. I am, however, partial to New York style.
1-2 pm: Walk along the Riverfront
Walked over one of the old bridges and meandered along the riverfront. So many people were out and about enjoying their afternoon and eating lunch with colleagues. There are a number of little restaurants and places to rent kayaks along the way.
2-3:30: Navy Pier
I continued my trek to the Navy Pier which honestly felt like a bit of a tourist trap. There is a small amusement park there, a mini-indoor mall, and an indoor garden. It was hot out there! I treated myself to some Garret’s popcorn (another Chicago favorite) before heading to the next adventure.
3:30-5 pm: Bike along Lake Michigan
The only other Great Lake I’ve ever seen is Lake Superior and you can read about the running adventure here. The Great Lakes fascinate me probably because I grew up going to the ocean and to me a lake is much much smaller. I felt drawn to finding one of the beaches along Lake Michigan and knew the fastest way to see a lot along the trail would be by bike. Luckily there is a bike share service called Divvy (cost me all of $9). Once I was able to figure out the system and popped a bike out of its holder I was off to the races. After a few miles I found two different beaches which reminded me of a lake park beach that we went to as kids back in NJ called the Sportsman’s Club. After a good trek in the bike it was time to make my way back. I had one more stop to go.
5-6 pm: Millennium Park
At last I made my way to another Chicago destination and boy was it crowded! I took a bunch of photos of the surrounding area and the park itself. Most famous being the Bean, a silver bean shaped structure that provides an amazing reflection of the city scape. Little did I know, but before the park was built in 1997, the area sat as an industrial wasteland. Certainly nothing like that anymore!
It was a full and very rewarding day to explore a city by boat, foot and bike! And my Fitbit set a new record logging in at 27K steps (over 10 miles). Fun times!