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Bleary eyed as we touch down in O’Hare airport, I was immediately regretting my decision to take a red-eye flight. I was cursing myself my mind as I deplaned.
Sure, a red eye to the East coast makes sense. That flight is at least 5 hours, if not longer and you can get a decent night’s sleep. But flying to the middle of the country? What was I thinking?!
And so starting my 24 hours in the beautiful city of Chicago.
After navigating through the airport, I managed to make my way onto the Chicago subway system. First stop? The ACME Hotel to drop off my bags so I wouldn’t have to haul them around during my morning of exploring. I had a full day ahead!
Bags dropped off, I knew exactly where I wanted to go. Chicago is a surprisingly walkable city with a logical grid-like pattern. Arriving so early in the morning meant the streets were relatively quiet and it was interesting watching the city come to life. It was still quite a comfortable temperature, but I could feel the heat coming. I meandered my way through the streets and arrived at my first destination.
Cloud Gate & Millennium Park
Visiting Cloud Gate, or the bean as many people affectionately call it, is a photographer’s dream. It’s no wonder people are pulled there. So many great angles and reflections to capture. Fantastic selfie opportunities. Needless to say, in my tired and hot state, I may or may not have over indulged in selfie taking (and then later lots of bean jokes on social media).
Bean there, done that // Cloudgate in Millennium Park, Chicago #packme2ORD A photo posted by Adelina (@packmeto) on
After getting my fill of photos, I wandered through the rest of Millennium Park spotting the open air theatre, a garden and the Crown Fountain.
I wanted to make my way to Lake Michigan to at least take a closer look, but it was just too hot and there was barely any shade along the way. Instead, I diverted and headed to the Buckingham Fountain.
This whole area reminded me of Europe the moment I stepped into the park. Wide paths leading into the centre where the fountain stood tall and proud. In an instant, I was back in the gardens of European palaces like Schonbrunn or Versailles. It doesn’t come as a surprise to learn that the fountain was in fact inspired by the Latona Fountain at the Palace of Versailles. Much like its elaborate counterparts in Europe, surrounding the fountain are a series of ornate seahorses, water shooting from their open mouths.
It was a windy day and the light mist of water from the fountain that sprayed me was welcomed relief from the heat of the day. The fountain runs from 8 to 11 at night from mid-April to mid-October and in the evenings, water shows are choreographed with lights and music. Due to time, I missed out on the night water show. Perhaps something to do on a return trip.
Food Tour with Chicago Food Planet
Knowing that I only had one day in Chicago, in order to get a taste of as much of it as I could, I opted to go on a food tour. My only requirement? Get some deep dish pizza in my belly! In the end, I went with the Gold Coast and Old Town tour with Chicago Food Planet Food Tours. A full review is coming soon so stay tuned. Spoiler alert: I got my deep dish pizza wish!
Knowing that I couldn’t last the whole day without some rest, I retreated to my hotel to check in and take a nap. I could not have asked for a better place to stay. I had the best nap of my life in that bed and loved all the little touches in the room.
Free walking tour
After waking up from one of the best naps of my life, I was eager to hit the street again. One of the things I like doing the most in a new city is going on a free walking tour. I generally try to do it at the beginning of a visit to a city as I find it to be a great way of orienting myself and to learn about the city in general. They generally help to guide the rest of my visit and often offer tips and activity ideas that I otherwise wouldn’t know about.
Chicago has a number of free walking tour options and I decided to go with the Twilight Riverwalk and History Tour with Free Tours By Foot because it was the best one that would fit into my schedule. There are a number of tours on a variety of themes and at different times of the day. I learned a great deal about Chicago’s history and the Riverwalk area – almost too much. Our tour guide was extremely thorough and talked in great detail about various architectural elements of buildings which I kind of glazed over. Interesting facts here and there is great, but this was too much.
However, I was really impressed with the organization of this tour. They suggest that you reserve a spot before going and I received emails from the tour guide before the tour with his contact information. The day was threatening rain and he made sure to confirm that the tour was going on. After the tour, he followed up on unanswered questions and even provided restaurant and activity recommendations. I was thoroughly impressed with his willingness to help.
At the end of the tour, I considered going to watch the free fireworks show off the Navy Pier as suggested by our tour guide, but I was completely knackered from the day.
And so, my perfect day in Chicago came to an end and sleep was calling. Sinking into bed, I couldn’t help but think of the breakfast I had planned for myself: a torta from Rick Bayless’ restaurant Xoco.
Leaving the city, I was sad to go. I didn’t expect to like the city as much as I did. In many ways, it reminded me of New York City. Big, tall buildings towering over people as they scurried from place to place. However, in many ways, it didn’t. I found the city to be overwhelmingly clean, the people extremely friendly and stunning views all around.
While it was hot (especially for a Vancouverite where anything over 25C is deemed a heat wave), there was a good breeze coming off the waters of Lake Michigan. These 24 hours were a great taster to the city and has definitely convinced me to head back to the region one day.
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Disclosure: I was a guest of Chicago Food Planet Food Tours and received a media rate on my room at the ACME hotel. As always, all opinions are my own.