Chicago – Places to see, things to do

Penny W-TStarred Page By Penny W-T, 1st Jun 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>North America>United States>Illinois

When you have a son who enjoys extreme sports, you have to be prepared for all the unusual travel opportunities that might arise - and in our house they arise frequently !

Where to now?

Shortly after returning home from the New York marathon some years ago, my son bounced into the room saying “guess where we are going next year?” I had accompanied him when he went to run in New York – the trip of a lifetime for me (that will come in a later story) – so I just raised an eyebrow - ?
Chicago, he announced, and the year leading up to this new trip simply flew by.
We planned for a week, arriving a couple of days prior to the marathon event, and a few days after for us to sightsee. So what would there be for us to see?

Where to stay?

Chicago lies on the shores of Lake Michigan and from all that we read, it is a beautiful city. So we were keen to see as much as possible and made copious plans. We booked a week’s stay at the Blake Hotel, which turned out to be a wonderful period building and well positioned to get out and about. Of course the main focus was on the race, which was due to start and finish in Grant Park on the lakeside. He had booked me into the hospitality suite at the Finish line so that I could soak up the atmosphere of the event, and be well catered for during the day.

Exhibition Hall - Marathon Expo

But this piece is not about the race; that is for my son to do on his own pages at another time, and I am overrunning my tale. On the Saturday he had to go to the exhibition hall to register for the event, and where the race expo was taking place. So we took a taxi from the hotel on the morning and made our way there. The exhibition hall is an amazing piece of architecture, and we knew we could spend all day there exploring. The Marathon expo filled a whole hall of the building with a variety of stands as well as eateries and drinks stands, and it made it a lovely day out. Duly registered for the event the next day, together with a bag of race ‘goodies’ we gathered an assortment of ‘freebies’ that are always available at such events that would make mementoes of the holiday when we came home.

Aerial views of the city. . . .

We soon discovered the tallest skyscraper in Chicago is the John Hancock tower, so that was a must see sightseeing visit. You can buy a ticket and ride the elevators to the very top and the 360 degree views of the city, (each side of the building at this floor is window) and the vista has to be seen to be really appreciated. Of course you are also aware of exactly how high up you are, and reassured by the strong railings around the windows!

Adler Planetarium

Following Race Day we had decided on an assortment of ‘things to do.’ One excursion was to the Adler Planetarium, both of us are interested in astronomy so this was an obvious choice. It was not a disappointment. The typical dome shaped roof of the building is reminiscent of all planetaria, and is an imposing and eye catching building close to the lakeside. There are impressive views across the waterway from the plaza-style walkway around the building. Inside it is an amazing collection of displays, exhibitions, and things to do. It is also well equipped with seating so that you can sit and rest between shows and display areas, and there is also an excellent cafe with views across the lake.

Signs of the Zodiac

Interestingly the exterior of the Planetarium is decorated with plaques denoting the 12 signs of the zodiac, which of course, are astronomical, but also relate to that other ancient science of Astrology, and these two sciences do have some interaction. Being a circular building, these plaques form a continuous circle, in much the same way that the signs of the zodiac traverse our skies. It was a hot, sunny day, so we explored slowly and then sat outside in the cooler air to survey the scene across the waterway.

Field Museum

Another excursion was to the Field Museum, an imposing building, that I have subsequently recognised in various TV films. In the main entrance hall there is a complete skeleton of a Tyrranosaurus Rex named Sue. I instantly recognised her because there had been excellent documentaries on TV about her discovery, I think in the Montana area where a huge number of dinosaur remains have been uncovered over the last few decades. After all the research she had been donated to the Museum and is a worthy centrepiece.
There is also a very rich Egypt ‘room’ full of artefacts casting a fascinating insight into the days of the Pharaohs, and reminding us all of the most well known mummy ever uncovered – King Tut. Ironically, he is remembered above all other Pharaohs because of his tomb, rather than his life – he was only 19 when he died. He truly achieved what all Pharaohs sought – immortality.
It was also around the time of Darwin’s 200th birthday – and their Darwin exhibition was of great interest to me, as he had been born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire in England, and at the time I had been working for a newspaper in that area, having prepared several pieces about Darwin around that time. So this exhibition was also a must. Fortunately there was also an excellent tea room here, because this museum really needs several days for research, so we had a couple of ‘resting the feet’ breaks as we tried to see as much as possible in the day we had dedicated to this visit.

Exploring history

We spent a day exploring the Navy Pier (which will be another story) and also went on what should be a ‘must do’ tour – ‘The Untouchables. As Chicago was the city of Al Capone, there is much made of his activities around this city and this bus tour was a real insight. Operated by two ‘historic character enactors’, the tour was led by two ‘spivs’, who transport you back to the time zone and take you around the Chicago that existed at that time. The location of buildings where much of his slaughters occurred, but which are no longer there, were pointed out with due reverence, and you really do see parts of Chicago you would NEVER find as a ‘tourist’. A beautiful church was pointed out that still has bullet holes inflicted during one of the street battles that were common at this time. This tour covers a good couple of hours and was a sitting down activity! On our return to the start, we happily purchased our untouchable souvenirs as reminders of our trip back in time.

Explore as much as possible . . . . . .

Shopping on the Golden Mile was another escapade, and over the week we discovered a wonderful range of eateries – pancake houses, pizza parlours, Chinese restaurants, and the inevitable ‘Starbucks’ on the opposite corner to the hotel was our first call of the day. As the hotel restaurant was ‘under renovation’ and therefore closed, we were able to ‘order in’ from local take-aways and we found two excellent ones that we used a couple of times during our week. As a sports person my son also obtained for us tickets to a ice hockey game at the local stadium and this was an evening not to be forgotten. In fact the whole week constitutes a never to be forgotten trip and rates high in my trips of a lifetime memories.

Tags

Adler Planetarium, Chicago, Field Museum, Grant Park, Ice Hockey Sport, Marathons, Travel, Usa

Meet the author

author avatar Penny W-T
Published articles on education themes, travel, history and writing techniques. Written a book on WW1 - Gallipoli, and travel books. Run a marketing network for small businesses.

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Comments

author avatar Retired
1st Jun 2013 (#)

This is simply wonderful and made Chicago come alive right here. thanks for sharing

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author avatar Penny W-T
1st Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you for your comments. I shall check out the information you kindly supplied.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
1st Jun 2013 (#)

So super...:0)...I have always wanted to see Chicago, thanks Penny-:0)

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author avatar Penny W-T
1st Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you Delicia. I hope it has tempted you to make a visit. So glad I had the opportunity to travel to these great places with my son.

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author avatar johnnydod
1st Jun 2013 (#)

Brilliant your efforts were well worth it Penny.
You are a great wikinutter

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author avatar Penny W-T
1st Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you Johnny, I'm a nut that's true, although my children have always referred to me as 'eccentric'! It's the writing that does it.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
1st Jun 2013 (#)

great piece this Penny...I did go when my nephew was at college there and found it a most interesting place....altho spent most of my time helping him furnish his new apartment!!!

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author avatar Penny W-T
1st Jun 2013 (#)

Thanks CNW. It is always useful when people who have been to a place make a comment. I know I am working in the right direction then.

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author avatar Mike Robbers
1st Jun 2013 (#)

Nice travel guide. Chicago is an excellent destination and you did a great job in presenting its many interesting places.

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author avatar Penny W-T
1st Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you for your comments, and taking the time to read the page.

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author avatar Eileen Ward Birch
1st Jun 2013 (#)

I have an internet pal in Chicago who has promised to be our guide if ever we get there.

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author avatar Penny W-T
1st Jun 2013 (#)

You should add on a trip next time you are in Pittsburg Eileen. When are you going to get a travel guide to Pittsburg on here?

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