We spent a few days in Chicago. It's a great city but, unfortunately, they were in the middle of a heat wave and high humidity while we were there.
We stayed at the Millennium (now Regal) Knickerbocker on Walton just off Michigan Drive. The rate deal through Orbitz was fine, but open rack rates are outrageous. The property was originally a speakeasy and, supposedly, Lawrence Welk recorded his shows there. But the glory days are long past. Although the staff was very nice and helpful, the building was in bad shape and few amenities were available. For such a high rate, I expect a luxury hotel and this certainly wasn't. It would also be more convenient to stay in The Loop close to the museums, and that's what we'll do when we return.
Our first meal was Chicago deep-dish pizza at Giordano's.(http://www.giordanos.com/main.php)
Luckily, we arrived before the Cubs game was over, so our wait was short. By the time we left, a crowd was waiting. The pizzas were fabulous, but the small size that supposedly serves 1 or 2 people would have been plenty for 3. Good as they were, the pizzas at Mangia here in Austin are better...almost the same, but a little less cheese. It was a fun Chicago experience, though.
We did a lot of walking. If the weather had been better, it would have been the high point of the trip. The architecture is beautiful and the Chicago River reflects the skyscrapers. Next time, I want to take one of the water tours. It's very easy to get around, with the grid layout and mass transit.
The Shedd Aquarium is a must-see.
It was really crowded on Sunday, but still fun. I was impressed with the building itself...all the water-related decorations and fixtures. The dolphin show in the theater is fun, mostly because of the fabulous view of Lake Michigan through the windows.
Steve and Emily went to the Field Museum and delved into the fossils and dinosaurs. (http://www.fieldmuseum.org/) I hope to make it there someday!
Cindy and I made a quick pass at the Art Institute of Chicago. (http://www.artic.edu/aic/index.php) The European collections are amazing. Of course, the Impressionists are the big draws and I certainly enjoyed those. But the early European collection was magnificent. We didn't even have time to see the American Art wing. Next time!
We finally saw the Blue Man Group. (http://www.blueman.com/) Very, very fun. I felt like a kid: laughing loudly, playing, being silly. There are several traveling shows and, if you haven't seen them, bring a kid (yours or borrow one) and have a great time.
Blue Man Group was performing at the Briar Street Theater, so we walked down Halsted through Lakeview to the Lincoln Park area. These are both very cool urban neighborhoods which call for futher investigation. Emily dreams of living somewhere like this.
We took a chance on Sapori Trattoria in the Lincoln Park area. (www.saporitrattoria.com) Though the service was glacial, the portions were huge and most of the food was outstanding Italian-American goodness. The only disappointment was the asparagus salad, which was a creamy mixture of nearly raw asparagus bites over greens. However, the appetizer of the day, avocado bruschetta, redeemed the place. Steve had the largest portion of lasagna I've ever seen. In general, portions at Chicago restaurants are huge and it's probably a good idea to split entrees, unless you have access to a fridge and microwave for leftovers. Also, reservations are a must if you're going to the restaurant after 6:30.
We couldn't be in Chicago without getting some quality red meat! So we checked out Capital Grille. (http://www.thecapitalgrille.com/Locations/
We didn't have reservations, but it was Monday evening and we were early.
Yum! Top-notch steaks and the best mashed potatoes we've ever had. Be warned that no wine is available by the glass, so you will be ponying up for a pricey bottle.
Sunday night seems to be a great time to go to the observatory at the top of Hancock Center (no wait!). (http://www.hancock-observatory.com/) We arrived at sunset and enjoyed watching the lights go on around the city. The beautiful views also illustrate how vast this city is. Even though it's such a huge city, the people are almost unanimously friendly and helpful to tourists.
On Monday afternoon, Cindy and I braved the heat at Millennium Park. (http://www.millenniumpark.org/artandarchitecture/)
The Frank Gehry performance space was amazing. I heard a native saying she had never sat anywhere in the area where the music was less than outstanding. The "Bean" is a crazy sculpture inspired by a drop of mercury. It reflects and distorts the landscape and people around it and inside it. Kids of all ages enjoy looking at themselves in the rounded surfaces. I, of course, had fund taking photos of the reflections.
The supposed reason for this trip was for Emily to tour Northwestern Univ. She and Steve thought Evanston and the NW campus were gorgeous and Emily was very impressed with the academic avenues available there. If she gets accepted, we'll send her up during a Chicago winter to stay in a dorm (with Gracie?) for a couple of days so she can see what she'd be in for!