photos by me and charles
Can’t believe it’s almost been a year since Charles and I went to Chicago last year! To be honest, Chicago wasn’t in our plans last year. We always make an effort to fly somewhere new every year and we tend to fly towards the end of August right before school starts. Our initial plan was to go to Kaua’i. After having the best 9 days on O’ahu last year in May, I HAD to go back to Hawai’i BUT we needed to go somewhere new so Kaua’i was the plan. We’ve never been to the island of Kaua’i but it’s still Hawai’i. Win-win. The only thing that was stopping us from booking our flights was the fact that my boyfriend was waiting for a “clear” from one of his managers to go on vacation. I carefully monitored the prices of the flights and such and I was worried the prices were just going to keep going up since he still hasn’t heard anything from his manager after two weeks or so.
Finally, after getting his vacation approved the prices went up. I was bummed. But then we always try to make things work. We decided to postpone our Hawai’i trip until October and then I asked Charles, “How about Chicago?” His eyes lit up and we proceeded to check the packages from Expedia and found one for A LOT less than Kaua’i. Win-win. But enough of that, let’s talk Chicago.
Surprisingly, the weather was quite pleasant the first three days we were in Chicago. The fourth day was incredibly humid and the last day it rained the whole day. Because of the weather on the last day, our flight was delayed and we weren’t informed UNTIL we got the gate. Our fault I guess but anyway, on our flight back to California, our plane was flying near a storm which left the last few hours of our flight so bumpy, it would be on my list as one of the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced. Of course, this is no reflection on Chicago itself because we were way passed Chicago by that time but I thought I just throw it out there.
Where to stay
For this trip, we stayed at Hotel Blake in South Loop. It was a nice hotel in a pretty good area (but not close enough to some attractions). We were in walking distance BUT it was still a bit far. But the hotel was good. It was clean and pretty big.
Eat a Deep Dish Pizza
The deep dish pizzas are phenomenal in Chicago and this is coming from a girl who is not a fan of deep dish pizza AT ALL. Like BJ’s is okay and all but man, deep dish pizza in Chicago is the way to go. Lou Malnati’s was delicious and so was Gino’s East. When we came back to California, we tried a Chicago-style deep dish pizza but it wasn’t the same. So bummed. So don’t forget to get a deep dish pizza when you’re in Chicago!
Chicago-style Hot Dog
While you’re at it with the deep dish pizza, why not try a Chicago-style hot dog? One thing about Chicago-style hot dogs is that they don’t use ketchup on their hot dogs. It’s against the law really to put ketchup on your hot dog haha. It’s against the law so much (and I say that with extreme exaggeration) that while dining at Max’s Take Out Restaurant for some hot dogs, a fellow next to us was secretly trying to eat his hot dog with ketchup. He was actually pretty good at being discreet but eating a hot dog with ketchup is usually frowned upon (hence why he was so discreet).
So what’s so different with Chicago-style hot dogs besides the “no ketchup” rule? Instead of ketchup, they use mustard as well as a beef hot dog, chopped onions, a pickle spear, tomatoes, some really bright green relish, a pickled pepper, and a poppy-seed hot dog bun. My thoughts on it? Different but very messy. I don’t know how you eat a hot dog here without the use of utensils but it was pretty good nonetheless.
We wanted to try Hot Doug’s but it was too far from where we were staying and to find out that they’re closing for good in October made me wish we made an effort to go but if you’re heading to Chicago between now and October, make sure you stop by Hot Doug’s. Prepare yourself for the wait though.
Dine at The Signature Room at the 95th in the John Hancock building for the view. Even better, head to the Signature Lounge at the 96th for just the drinks only. The view up there is amazing. You can see the buildings that make up Chicago’s skyline. Also from up there, you can see how crazy HUGE Lake Michigan is.
If you are a Nike fan as well as a Michael Jordan fan, definitely stopped by Nike Chicago on Michigan Ave. You can see Jordan shoes on display and it’s pretty cool and it’s only appropriate that they have Jordan shoes displayed in Chicago! And it’s free. Who doesn’t love free-anything?
For those who aren’t so scared of heights, or if you are like me, want to overcome your fear of heights, hang out on the ledge at the Skydeck. I know, they were recently in the news, but we had a ton of fun taking photos on there. I wanted to go both during the day and at night but since we were pressed for time, we only got to go at night. Still ended up with some cool photos. Be aware though, not a lot of people are “photographers”. There’s usually a line to go on a ledge and when we were there, the people before us in line turned around and ask us to take a photo so we figured we would do the same. We asked the person behind us to take a photo and it wasn’t how we expected it to be. They took a good photo but they didn’t take a photo of the bottom so it looked like we were just standing in front of a window instead of a ledge so keep that in mind. But what worked out for us is that we we waited in line for the actual photographers to take a photo of us and not only do you have a photographer taking your photo, but you have the ledge all to yourself. Sure it’s going to cost money since you have to buy the photos but I thought it was worth it!
Don’t forget to stop by Millennium Park to see “the bean”. If you want photos with hardly anyone there, go really early in the morning. Otherwise, a lot of people go there throughout the day and especially if you go to Chicago during the summer months. That bean is actually called “Cloud Gate” and is a sculpture made by Anish Kapoor. It’s amazing up close since it looks so seamless yet plates were welded together to make it.
The last full day we were there, the park was showing a movie at the park and there were tons of people there. Definitely check out their website for events since they also held concerts when we were there!
If you love museums and art, head over to The Art Institute of Chicago. Their permanent collections consists of beautiful artwork from famed artists like Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet. Seeing these art up close was exciting (and I can’t wait to visit the Louvre Musuem in Paris to see Mona Lisa next year!).
When we were there last year, the Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibit was going on. Beautiful, and I mean, BEAUTIFUL exhibit. They featured huge Monet paintings and beautiful, BEAUTIFUL dresses to go along with it. I love pretty dresses and seeing pretty dresses from the past was exciting for me. The details: the pleats, the ruffles, the dresses were so grand and elegant I was in awe at this exhibit. So glad that we went.
This is probably one of my favorite things to do in Chicago. This place isn’t for everyone and I would know that because not a lot of people are huge economics fans. People always tell me how they dreaded economics in college. Charles and I both have a bachelor’s degree in business economics so this place was fun for us haha.
But anyway, this is one of the Federal Reserve Banks in the nation and inside is the Money Museum. It’s free and you need a valid ID to get in. You go through a metal detector because this is obviously a federal building and you enter a room full of facts of the economy. You can see a briefcase full of a $1,000,000, watch a video in the small theater, test your skills with spotting counterfeit bills, or learn that at one time, there was a $10,000 bill. $10,000. I know. I would hate to lose a $10,000 bill.
Don’t forget to pick up some shredded currency as your souvenir. They shred bills that have been taking out of currency and neatly packaged them for you in a small bag!
A friend suggested that we stopped by here (Thanks Diana!) and we are so glad we did. This place has some pretty good pistachio glazed churros. We went for breakfast but I wish we had went for dinner!
Our favorite place to eat in Chicago? The Gage. This restaurant is definitely on the higher end as far as price-point but until this day, we still talk about the amazing lunch we had there and I’m so sad that they got rid of the entrée that we loved so much! To top it off, we had an amazing waiter who made our lunch so pleasant. For our appetizers, we ordered a scotch egg and battered fried pickles. For our entree, I ordered some prime rib with steak diane sauce and it was too good. Don’t quite remember what Charles ordered because I was too busy enjoying my lunch haha. The Gage is definitely a restaurant we will be returning to the next time we’re in Chicago.
For a cheaper lunch alternative, head over to Cafecito. Voted one of The Top Cuban Sandwiches in Chicago from the Huffington Post, Charles and I found this place while looking for cheap, good eats. It wasn’t too far from the hotel we were staying and we dined here twice and ordered sandwiches and coffee both times.
So this is what we did in the 5 days we were in Chicago. There were so much more to do (like watch a baseball game or grab drinks at a bar) but it’s going to have to wait till next time!