The Windy City

Emily and I in front of the Bean.

Emily and I in front of the Bean.

One of the things Emily and I like to do most is travel. Part of this is encouraged by the fact that we live on opposite sides of the country, so travel is necessary if we want to see each other in person. As it happened, we both had time off from work around the holidays, so we decided that instead of one of us traveling across the country, we would meet somewhere in the middle. We decided on Chicago. It seemed like a fun city with a lot to see and do, even if the temperature was supposed to linger around zero degrees the whole time.

Between the two of us, Emily and I have been to a lot of cities—New York, D.C., Los Angeles, London, Paris, etc. After traveling to so many cities, we have established a sort of standard for the activities we do and the places we visit. We always find good places to eat, fun parks to walk around, cool museums to visit, and neat bookstores to explore. These are four things that we have found are almost all worth looking into in new cities, though each city ranks differently in those four categories.

Eduardo's Enoteca.

Eduardo’s Enoteca.

Chicago had a lot of fun places to eat. For New Year’s Eve, we went to a very small Italian place called Eduardo’s Enoteca. The place was lit by twinkly lights and seated only about ten parties. It was small and quiet, but the food was delicious, authentic Italian food with a vast selection of wines and homemade pastas. It was so good, we ended up going back for our last dinner in the city. We also sampled some donuts from Firecake Donuts, ate at the local Shake Shack (my favorite burger place ever), had some authentic Cajun food at Heaven on Seven, and tried deep-dish pizza from two different restaurants. If food is your thing, Chicago is definitely a city you should visit.

When we travel, Emily and I play quite a bit of tourist, so of course we went to Millennium Park to see the Bean. For something that is a simple reflective statue, the Bean (or Cloud Gate) is really fun. There was also ice skating below that was playing fun music. We went during the day and at night to see the city’s reflection in the curved surface of the Bean. Though Millennium Park was not as big as I though it would be, it is only one of many parks in Chicago that I’m sure are a bit more beautiful when it isn’t the dead of winter and the grass and leaves are green.

An elderly couple admiring La Grande Jatte.

An elderly couple admiring La Grande Jatte.

The first thing Emily and I did in Chicago (besides order in deep-dish pizza from our hotel room) was visit the Art Institute of Chicago. You know, the museum from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. After visiting the Louvre, the Met, the British National Gallery, and the National Gallery, and the Getty Museum, you think we would have had enough of art, but that is simply not possible. The Art Institute had some amazing pieces, including numerous pieces by famous Impressionist painters, Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist”, and “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat. If I had to pick one museum to see in Chicago, this was would be it.

Walt Disney's recreated office from the Disney studios in Burbank, CA.

Walt Disney’s recreated office from the Disney studios in Burbank, CA.

But we also visited the Museum of Science and Industry because they were having an exhibit on Walt Disney, who was born in Chicago. The other exhibits in the museum were probably more fascinating for children, the apparent targeted audience of the museum, but the exhibit on Walt Disney was great. There were drawings and concept art from his early work, like Oswald the Rabbit, to his classic films, like Snow White and Cinderella. The exhibit also had a recreation of his animator’s desk and his office in the Burbank studio. There were costumes from modern Disney films like Enchanted and Maleficient, Walt Disney’s numerous awards, and props used for animation, such as the storybooks from Cinderella. Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White. And at the end, visitors could sit through a short animation academy and learn how to draw a Disney character. Emily and I drew Minnie Mouse.

The bookstores of Chicago were probably the most disappointing part of the trip. We went to the Myopic Bookstore, which was fun but very small, and Powell’s, which felt very much like a chain bookstore. But perhaps Emily and I are spoiled after bookstores like The Strand in New York City. Still, I walked away with cool old paperback copies of Lloyd Alexander’s Pyridian books.

Twinkly lights near the Water Tower on Michigan Avenue.

Twinkly lights near the Water Tower on Michigan Avenue.

But there were worse things than the bookstore misadventure. Emily and I got lost several times trying to navigate Chicago’s public transportation system, both busses and the ‘L’. Still, there were some lovely surprises on the trip. The hotel, which was right on the river and had a view of the city and Lake Michigan, upgraded our room so that we ended up having a perfect view of the New Year’s fireworks. There were twinkly lights everywhere. All of the Magnificent Mile (the shopping strip of Michigan Avenue) was lit up by lights. So even though it was very cold, it was still magical.

While I enjoyed wearing my coat and scarves and getting to see a bit of snow, I might recommend visiting Chicago during a warmer time of year. But Chicago is worth visiting any time of year. There is a lot to do and see and a lot of good food to try. Even though it was cold, the trip was totally worth it.

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