I set out to Chicago this past weekend with some co-workers from my day job. We left out of MCI (Kansas City) airport and flew into MDW (Midway- Chicago). We had exactly 2 days of traveling from the moment we arrived. We bought our flight tickets about 4 months ago because the sooner you get them the cheaper the flight. We flew Southwest because they are awesome and you can earn free flights when you rack up miles from everyday purchases.
We arrived ahead of schedule as it was only an hour and ten minute flight. We stayed at the Hyatt Place Midway which was about a 15 minute free shuttle from the airport.
First thing was first - The famous Chicago deep dish pizza. I am a picky pizza eater so I was quite eager to try this "amazing" pizza as most people describe it to be. We ended up going to Giordanos which is one of the top places to go with multiple locations in the area. We chose the one that was about a 15 minute walk from our hotel as we got wonderful directions from the hotel front desk staff. We ordered our pizza and you should definitely follow the recommendations on the menu in regards to feeding per person because these pies are HUGE! They came and looked unbelievably amazing, mouth watering to the last bite delicious. I was very pleased with our experience.
We all had been up since 5am that morning so we called it an early night and pledged to wake up early to get started on our busy day.
Saturday morning we had complimentary breakfast which by far exceeded my expectations for hotel breakfasts. There were hot and cold dishes that were restocked immediately once they were gone. Bacon, eggs, toast, breakfast sandwiches, fruit, cottage cheese, yogurt and a variety of hot and cold beverages. We got onto the free shuttle from the hotel that dropped us off at the train station/airport. They were both connected so it made things familiar and easy. We bought a train ticket valid for 3 days with unlimited rides for $20.
It was pretty easy to ride the trains as long as you knew where you were going. We may have gotten a little lost once or twice but that's because we were having too much fun before we realized the mistake.
Riding the trains is definitely an experience as this is the most popular means of travel for most Chicago residents and tourists. It can get very crowded the closer you get into the center of the city.
Our first place to visit was the Shedd Aquarium. We arrived there right as they opened at This is the best place to look out over the water and see the Chicago shoreline - Great place to take pictures outside!
When we got to buying our tickets we decided to byu (or I made everyone) purchase the Chicago City Pass. This was $98 per person and included VIP admission to places that were already on our list to see. If you went to all that was included you saved over 58% of what the total cost was - in our case we ended up saving $20. And your Chicago CityPASS booklets are good for nine (9) days starting with the first day of use.
Shedd Aquarium - VIP Entry
Skydeck Chicago - Fast Pass
The Field Museum - VIP Entry
Museum of Science and Industry - VIP Entry or 360 CHICAGO - Express Entry
Adler Planetarium - VIP Entry or Art Institute of Chicago - Fast Past
The aquarium was very nice. It had a variety of everything and was themed as you went through. Best time to go is as soon as they open because it is not crowded and you have ample time to see everything. Great place to take the kids.
One of the coolest things I have ever seen was also at the Shedd Aquarium. We had the choice to see "Sea Monsters - A Pre-Historic Adventure". The quality and storyline of this 25 minute film was so entertaining. It really made you feel like you were there with the effects, vibrations, mist and pokes. I highly recommend this as everyone in my group loved it.
Some of the other cool things the aquarium had that set itself apart from other places I have been to was the ability to touch star fish and pet a sting ray. They also had exclusive feed the shark tours that were for an additional fee. Overall, excellent place to visit.
We wanted to get from where we were to the Navy Pier which was a very long walk/train ride from the Shedd Aquarium. Luckily, these was a boat taxi/tour that left from the dock of the aquarium that took us straight to the Navy Pier for $10 a person. This was an exciting way to look at Chicago from the water and also another great opportunity to get some pictures.
The next thing on our list was the Chicago Dog. Yes, we wanted to try everything that Chicago was known for and apparently this is one of them. If I would have seen the Chicago Italian beef sandwich I would have went with that first because WOW it looked good. I have had these previously (not in Chicago) and I am a fan. The one we had inside the restaurants at the Navy Pier was ok, wish I would have tried the Italian beef instead.
There were a ton of fast food options inside at the Navy Pier and well as sit down restaurants. I liked the atmosphere around the area as you could get an alcoholic beverage to go and walk around the grounds. There were signs up where you could not pass with the drinks as a friendly reminder.
Of course we had a drink from Margaritaville and headed to the huge Ferris Wheel that overlooked the Navy Pier and gave you a great view of the city. It goes around twice with occasional stops. They said that it didn't move but when were at the top I definitely felt the wind blowing (scared of heights that I am). The cost of this ride was $15 ($12 for military discount).
We window shopped around for a little while picking up small things to take back with us and then decided we needed some real shopping and continued on foot to the "Magnificent Mile". This was the known strip to shop and eat on in Chicago. About 30 minutes later we made it there.
We visited The American Girl store, Pandora and Victorias Secret - a little something for our kids, us and the husbands ;) We also stumbled upon the 360 Chicago Observation Deck which was formerly known as the John Hancock Observatory. This was included in our CityPass book (value of $20 plus tax). An added feature of the this attraction was the new TILT. You pretty much hang off of a glass window and look at the city as the glass tilts. No thanks for me but some of the girls gave it a try ($8 more).
This was a place where you could sit and relax after looking out of the glass windows of everything all around - a complete 360 view. Very happy we did this because the fog was down quite a bit from the morning.
Some more shopping later we realized that on a Saturday night it is super important to make reservations for dinner otherwise you are going to wait a really really long time. We found a nice place similar to Panera Bread - It was "Corner Bakery Café". Oddly this place was not busy in the slightest. They offered sandwiches, soups, pastas and salads are a reasonable price. I think we all paid under $10 for our meals. *They also have a gluten free items* What do you know - We were right across from the Trump Tower at this point.
Chicago at nighttime is a pretty fascinating place. Maybe this is because when I travel I am usual in bed before 9pm with my family since we have a young daughter. I enjoyed walking through the streets and gazing at the bright lights. Side note I would never travel alone in the city because it could be very dangerous if you do not know where you are going.
We got around faster at night it seemed and visited The Bean and Millennium Park . It was not crowded at all. I actually really liked the different perspective with it being darker out. We continued walking to see the fountain but at this point I did not take any pictures because my feet were so sore from the traveling of everything that day. 13 miles later - we jumped back on the train and called it a night.
Our last day in Chicago we went to the Skydeck Chicago. This was were you could overlook the city in a big glass cube. Unfortunately, when we arrived they said the visibility was zero. We decided to go up anyway because it was already paid for from our CityPass (value of $22). We had a lot of fun looking onto the foggy city that was not there to us at all. It made things easier for those of us who were scared of heights to take pictures on the skydeck. They digitally edited them when we came down which was cool since we didn't get to see the top. I would compare this to the 360 except this varied slightly with the floor being glass in one area. I would suggest one or the other, really no need to see both unless you have the CityPass.
Our final attraction was back to where we had originally started - near Shedd Aquarium - The Field Museum. This had Dinosaur exhibits that I was so excited to see. I think that this is also another great place to go with kids because the would enjoy it as well.
The Field Museum also offered a 3D short film - Galapagos 3D. A short summary of how the Galapagos Islands came to be and some of its extraordinary inhabitants with how they are believed to have gotten there. Not as good as the 4D experience at the Shedd Aquarium but still pretty neat and informative. At this point of our trip we were running through the exhibits and only looked at the Dinosaurs. There were many other things there to see, probably could spend a day. We continued on to our last stop - Chicago Chinatown.
We wanted some authentic Chinese food for lunch as this was our last meal before the airport. We found a very delicious restaurant with thanks to Trip Advisor - Emperor's Choice. This place was very clean and the service was outstanding. We made it there around 2pm and did not have to wait at all. As we sat down and began being served the restaurant did get busier. We had crab rangoons, wonton soup, hot and sour soup, chicken chop suey, chicken fried rice and ginger chicken. Everything was fabulous and we had a ton of leftovers. In Chicago, you will come across many homeless people and people who ask for money. We decided to pack up our leftovers and hand them out to anyone we came across that looked like they were in need - Best decision ever.
Chinatown consisted of just this strip you see pictured above - maybe 2 blocks of shops and restaurants. It was so interesting to see a complete culture change within the same city limits we were in just 10 minutes away.
Overall we spent approximately 48 hours in Chicago - Essentially a weekend. It was jam packed of fun activities and was an amazing experience with 5 of my lady co-workers. If you love to travel - DO IT!! There is no better time then now because so many things get in the way.
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