A Whirlwind Visit to the Windy City
Posted on January 31, 2020
My husband and kids are really into Pokémon. Me, not so much. So, when the Pokémon Go festival came to Chicago last year, and they got tickets, I wasn’t sure if I was going to go with them. What was I going to do at a Pokémon festival? The festival was being held in Grant Park, which is a block or two down from Millennium Park where the famous giant bean is. Really, it’s all just one giant park. I found a huge list of things to do, within easy walking distance from Grant Park: a huge library, a quirky toy store, museums, rooftop bars where you can see the city for just the price of a drink. I decided to tag along after all.
We went a day early to have some extra exploration time. Our plan was to spend most of the day at the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free to visit. However, it ended up being a cold, rainy day, so we had to find indoor activities instead. We visited the Engine 18 firehouse, which is used as the set for “Firehouse 51” on NBC’s Chicago Fire. Hubby is a HUGE fan of the show. His reaction to visiting “Firehouse 51” could totally be defined as “fan-girling”. He was completely star-struck, despite the fact that they were not filming at the time, so we didn’t get to see or meet any of the people on the show. Engine 18 is very welcoming to visitors. You can walk around most of the firehouse, say hello to the crew, and even purchase souvenir stickers and t-shirts. They even have a couple of the props from the show. Spoiler alert: the prybar is actually rubber so no one gets hurt. We had planned to have lunch at Lottie’s Pub, which is set for Molly’s Bar on the show, but apparently everyone else had the same idea, because there was no parking available within at least two city blocks in any direction. So, we settled for a drive-by and had lunch elsewhere. We spent the next several rainy hours exploring the Chicago History Museum. We learned about the Great Chicago fire; there was an interactive exhibit on all the musicians who came from, or frequented, Chicago; they had a huge exhibit on Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights movement (I think we spent more time on this one than any of the other exhibits); one exhibit followed the timeline of fashion on the silver screen and showed how it influenced everyday American fashion. It was fun. There was a lot of interactive bits to keep kids interested. Although my daughter, at 15, was a bit old for all that, she did it all anyway. We finished our day off with a fancy dinner at The Gage. We couldn’t not eat there, at least once. I mean, Gage is our last name after all. We joked with the maître d’, as he seated us, about getting a family discount. BTW, that was a big fat no, haha.
The next day was the festival. We all took an Uber from the hotel to Grant Park, but once they were checked in as festival guests, I bid them adieu and headed to The Art Institute of Chicago. I spent ALL DAY there. Can I give you a tip? Make sure you have a map, because this place is HUGE. Like, huge. To help you keep track of where you are, all the rooms are numbered and those numbers can be found on the map. Another tip, if you’re with a group, and someone needs to take the elevator, you should ALL take the elevator. Why, you ask? Because the elevators and the steps don’t necessarily go to the same place, even when it looks like they would. I didn’t have to worry about that, because I was on my own, but I did get lost trying to find food when lunch time came around. One more tip: there are benches throughout to rest – use them. Even if you don’t think you’re tired yet, take a quick sit down. Did I mention this place is huge? If you’re not tired yet, you will be. SO take advantage of the benches. I didn’t right away and began to regret it about halfway thru the day when my feet, legs and back started to ache (wow, I sound like on lady LOL).
I spent way too much time in the miniatures exhibition. I was just so amazed by the amount of detail that went into each and every tiny room. Period appropriate furniture, rugs, portraits, dishes, chandeliers……you name it, those little bitty rooms had it. And there were so many of them, spanning centuries of décor from many different countries. There were exhibits of Muslim art, ancient art, modern art (I rushed through that area – I don’t care for modern art. I think it’s weird, and makes absolutely so sense), Van Gogh’s self-portrait was there, as well as “A Sunday Afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte” which was way bigger than I ever imagined. I spent a lot of time looking through the older paintings like “Venus and Mars with Cupid and the Three Graces in a Landscape” painted by Domenico Tintoretto sometime between 1590 and 1595….. or “The Allegory of Peace and War” painted by Peter Paul Reubens in 1776, which was one of my favorites…..or “Odalisque” painted by Jules Joseph Lefebvre in 1874, which was another of my favorites. I love these old, moody paintings. The colors of them are amazingly still so clear and vibrant, especially when you consider how long they’ve been around. I love how all of today’s body “imperfections” are painted beautifully in these old paintings: full curvy figures, less-than-flat bellies, rolls and lumpy bits. They are all perfect in their imperfection. As the owner of a Rubenesque body, this art is a balm for my soul.
**Caution: the slideshow below shows the paintings I mentioned above, some of which contain nudity**
My last tip for this museum? Plan to be there the whole day. Like, the WHOLE day. There were a few areas I didn’t make it to, and I was there from open to close. The museum just happened to close at the same time that the festival wrapped up for the day. So, I met up with the fam, and we got an Uber back to the hotel. After a long day of walking, for all of us, we just decided to order pizza and chill in the hotel room for the rest of the night. I don’t know if Chicagoans would say this is “THE place” to get pizza, but deep dish, Chicago style pizza from Giordano’s is amazing (I mean, just look at all those layers of sauce and cheese! yum!) and they deliver! We spent the remainder of our evening watching the city from our room on the 17th floor!
Oh! It was foggy almost the whole time we were in Chicago, so we didn’t realize it until the fog cleared up just before we left, but our room had a view of Lake Michigan! Would have been a gorgeous view on a clear, sunny, summer day!
What’s your favorite thing to do in Chicago? Do you have any cool, off-the-beaten-track places you would recommend? Those are my favorite kind of places, the kind that most tourist don’t know about, but they’re totally worth a visit. I’m sure I’ll be back to Chicago again someday (I’ve already been there three or four times) so drop your suggestions in the comments, and maybe they’ll end up on my next Chicago itinerary!
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