Chicago – My Kind of Town

When a conference I wanted to attend was in Chicago, we decided to add a couple days on and make it into a mini-vacation!

My conference was located in Near North Side and, since I knew I didn’t want to waste money and time traveling back and forth, I booked us at the Omni right on Michigan Ave. I LOVED this hotel – it’s all suites, which was perfect for hanging out in the room (especially for Jason), and it worked out great when I had a conference call and he was watching TV. It had a very large bathroom, wet bar, desk, two TV’s, and a nice view. The rate was comparable, or cheaper, than many other hotels nearby and I was literally 100 ft from the church my conference was held at.

The room:

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We took a 630am flight out so were at our hotel by 830am and, shockingly, had a room already! I was stoked that we were on the top floor and had a great view:

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We were starving so we headed out to a local restaurant I had scoped out prior – Beatrix. It was only a couple blocks from the hotel and had a more unique breakfast menu that didn’t cost a fortune. {We found quickly that the food nearby was priced more like Disney prices!} It was delicious – I’ll be posting full restaurant reviews on my food blog later this week.

Since we only had 3-4 hours of sleep the night before, and already had a hotel room ready, we really took it easy with a mix of shopping and resting. And a bit of Shake Shack mixed in 🙂

One of the malls close to our hotel was Water Tower Place, and it had a few unique to us shops – including The Art of Dr Seuss art gallery!

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They also have a HUGE American Girl store. I fought my way through the children to gaze at Samantha, the doll I always wanted. I’m old. When the books came out, it was just Samantha, Kirsten, and Molly and I remember getting that doll catalog in the mail and just dreaming of Samantha being mine! 8 year old Aimee would have moved into this store – it was amazing.

(this is just the first room – it’s two floors!)

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Later that night, we walked down to Rick Bayless’ quick service restaurant, XOCO, for some amazing Mexican food followed by a jaunt through Eataly, the place that 37 year old Aimee would love to move into.

If you’re now wondering if all we did is eat, it may seem that way. My to-do list was mostly restaurants mixed in with a little touristy stuff.

On Sunday, we hit up brunch at Ditka’s, located fairly close to our hotel. He’s evidently some football guy 🙂 Again, pics and more details on my food blog soon! From there, we grabbed the L train out to Wrigley Field!

When we first planned the trip, I thought that the Cubs would be traveling all week and we were going to do a stadium tour instead. This was so much better!

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The stadium is smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood and there are literally people sitting on rooftops and balconies watching the game. Much of the seating is covered, which is different for me and I missed the getting-a-tan part of baseball games, but it was really comfortable. The place was PACKED!

Because it was such a lovely, sunny day, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to visit SkyDeck after the game.

There are 2 observation decks in Chicago – one at the Sears Tower and one at the Hancock Tower. Since Sears had the sky boxes, and was slightly higher, we went there. I had read that lines get long, and to visit meant waiting in a series of long lines, but we totally lucked out. We went on Sunday late afternoon and only had to wait for 2 elevators full of people before going up. Coming down took the longest but even that line moved quickly. It wasn’t horribly crowded up there, either!

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As we exited the gift shop, I immediately smelled something familiar from my childhood. I stopped, whipped my head around, and started to search for the source. There it was, tucked into an alcove behind a group of kids. A wax. figure. machine.

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At this point, Jason thought I was insane as I went weaving through the kids to get to the machine – he had never, by the way, even heard of, much less used one.

I knew I had used one on vacation as a kid but couldn’t place where or what figure I had made. But I knew that smell and it had vacation memories attached.

This one had 2 choices and we decided to get the Chicago skyline. I watched with awe as it made our figurine and dropped it into a shoot. I’m sure people thought I was insane!

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And here is our figurine!

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After we got home from the trip, I called my mom to ask her specifically about the wax figurine and where that memory came from. Know where I made one? Chicago. Age 5. One at the zoo and one at the Science and Industry Museum (where we, incidentally, made another one!). She said she’s never seen a machine any other place and that’s the only time we made them. Smell is an amazing memory trigger!

Armed with my new favorite souvenir, we set out for pizza at Giordanos, which is just across the street. I’m not a pizza fan but I gave it two thumbs up!

One of the top things suggested to us was an architectural boat tour. Jason could not get on board about a 90 minute tour of buildings but when I found a 30 minute speedboat tour instead, he was all about it. So Monday morning, we walked to the Navy Pier to meet our tour. The pier was not on our to-do list, as it’s mostly touristy kid-centric activities, but meeting the boat there meant we got to at least say we’ve been!

The view from the pier back to the city:

26211am on a Monday morning is not prime time for a boat tour so our boat had maybe 15-20 people total and we got to sit on the very front.

263265It was a beautiful warm day – until you start flying all over the lake. I couldn’t feel my face and my teeth literally hurt but it was loads of fun. The boat was incredibly smooth!

285305After our trip around the lake, we wandered down to the Marshall Fields on State St – which, I know, is Macy’s now. Shame.

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It’s huge and beautiful inside – reminded me quite a bit of Macy’s Herald Square.

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Then we wandered to Millennium Park, just to say we went. It was SO NICE outside!

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We walked back to our hotel from there, stopping at shops along the way, and ate a quick dinner so I could go to the first night of my conference.

Tuesday and Wednesday were conference days for me so we just did dinner together. Jason golfed, saw a movie, and shopped some while I was busy. We ate some GOOD food that I’ll share soon, too!

On Thursday morning, we used Uber to visit the Museum of Science and Industry, aka, the coolest museum ever.

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You could spend days there but we stayed 4-5 hours and saw everything, though that included cutting through some areas and not stopping to do any of the hands on stuff.

In one area, that focused on how toys are manufactured, you could buy a toy for $5 and watch yours get made.

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Obviously we did it.

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The weather exhibits were awesome and so was the area about the body. We both found out what we’ll look like at age 72, and it ain’t pretty!

The airplanes are cool and so is the largest miniature train set I’ve ever seen!

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We passed several wax figurine machines and while I was tempted to buy an entire collections worth, we decided to just get one – a jetplane.

It was nearly closing time and we had a reservation at Girl and the Goat so we took another Uber to the restaurant. It was all sorts of amazing!

Friday brought a cold front with it and we were quite unprepared. We just layered on clothes and went out in search of a few last minute souvenirs, including my sand. Since we were so close to a beach, I really wanted to visit and collect sand for the display I have at home. Friday was definitely NOT beach weather but we walked/blew there anyways.

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Funny story: I brought a ziplock with me for the sand, which I then just shoved in a pocket of my backpack. I can tell you with complete certainty that my sand is very safe. The TSA agents tested it at O’Hare on the way back :/ They spotted it on the machine, I told them it was in there, and they removed samples of it to be tested in some liquid. The agent seemed confused that I was taking home sand but was nice enough.

After a quick stop at Sprinkles Cupcakes after our brief beach visit, we were about ready to meet our ride to the airport.

Overall, a great trip with good weather and awesome food!

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