Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Last day in Chicago

Our flight didn't leave until 8pm so we had a full day of fun ahead of us. Our first stop was the Willis (formerly Sears) building. We had attempted to go the day before, but there was a power surge in the building and the elevators stopped working. We were waiting in line for the elevators when it happened :) kinda glad we weren't on those elevators when they stopped working. I think the people were only stuck for about 20 minutes. So we woke up early to miss the lines, and were able to walk through and go up the elevator to the 103rd floor to see the views, and the famous "ledge". The view was a little hazy but still very beautiful.

Here we are ... the ledge... where the little girls and grown women are separated.... who will have the balls to stand out in the glass box that is suspended 1353 feet in the air :) I didn't have any issues walking out to see, but once I was out there and started to look around, my stomach did a little flip. However, the Jersey girl inside of me took control and reminded me that 1.3 million people stand in these glass boxes each year and they are perfectly fine.

There were plenty of people waiting to get inside of the box, so we were a little limited on the time we had in the box. It was a fantastic experience.

After the Willis Building we walked towards Lake Michigan, where we came across the Buckingham Fountain. It is located in Grant Park and is one of the largest fountains in the world. Remember the TV show, Married with Children? This is the fountain in the opening of the show.

We found a little Italian place for lunch called Volare. I found this gem through yelp.com, it was located a block off of Michigan Ave (where all of the shopping is) and is slightly tucked away. I saw the glowing reviews for the gnocchi so that is what I ordered. I ordered it with their vodka sauce and it was perfection in a bowl. The gnocchi was so tender and the sauce was flavorful without being overpowering. Jim ordered the special which was chicken breast with spinach, ricotta in a white wine sauce. His was good, but lacked the wow factor that my dish had :)

Saturday crowds walking along Michigan Ave. I was really glad that our vacation started in the middle of the week, since there was WAY less crowds than the weekend.

After lunch and doing a little window shopping, we headed over to Navy Pier. I didn't have high hopes since I have heard it is a big tourist trap but we still wanted to check it out. The pier had plenty of restaurants and ice cream and Italian ice stands along with rides. We chose to ride the Ferris wheel and the other ride that I have no clue what the name is. Did you know that the Ferris wheel was invented in Chicago? George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. designed and constructed for the 1893 World's Colombian Exposition.

We saved the best for last, one of my favorite rides. I never knew the rides name until I just looked it up,,,, Wave Swinger-an Old Fashioned Swing. I used to LOVE this ride as a kid (I can only remember going on it during the fair in Arizona) and I was so damn happy to see this ride on the pier. Jim hasn't been on this ride before so it was a first time for him.

I even got a self picture while on the ride :)

I took this picture from the hotel bar right before we hopped on the train to the airport. I love the Indian busts on the corners of the buildings.

Chicago, you rock. We can't wait to come back and see more of the city. What an excellent vacation!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 3

If you haven't realized by the other two posts... we love Chicago and we are having a blast on our vacation. Our 3rd day goal is to hit at least 3 touristy spots and then go to a Pasta and Wine festival at night. Our first stop of the day is Millennium park, which has lots of things to do and see. Our first stop is the Crown Fountain which are two fountains that consist of two 50 foot glass block towers which shows a video of 1000 different Chicago residents. There were a TON of kids playing around in the water at the display.

This kid cracked us up... he would stand right at the edge of the water and move slightly to get wet, turn around run out and do a little dance.

Here you can see the face on the tower (on the left of the photo) along with all of the kids playing

This is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. According to explorechicago.org, the Pavilion stands 120 feet high which can hold 4000 in the fixed seats and 7000 in the lawn. There was an orchstra practicing while we were there, and they sounded really good. I would have loved to return at night when they were playing. Perhaps on our next trip.

View from the other side of the lawn

At the Lurie Garden

This garden is paying homage to Chicago's motto which (once again)according to explorechicago.org is "Urbs in Horto" (City in Garden) which refers to Chicagos transformation from its flat and marshy orgins to a bold and powerful city. The flowers were blooming and it was a beautiful sight in the middle of the city.

This was my favorite section of the park. This is the Cloud Gate. It is a 110 tone elliptical sculpture which many have dubbed the Bean due to the shape. There is a 12 foot arch under the structure that you can walk under, which will give you a different perspective than when you just walk next to it. The sculpture is 66 feet long and 33 feet high and UBER fun to plan around with if you enjoy photography.

Jim and I laying down

LOVE this shot

After walking around the park, we headed to the edge of the park to the Art Institute of Chicago. This museum was massive and I don't think we even saw 2/3 of it. I tried to track how much we walked in there, and my counter had us at right around 2 miles.

hmmmm...which one is Jim?


We stopped in at the Billy Goat Tavern for a burger. This tavern has been around since 1934 and it is named after the original owner (it was originally called the Lincoln Tavern). He got the nick name Billy Goat because a goat fell off of a passing truck and wandered inside. The tavern moved to its current location in 1964.

Here is the more history from www.billygoattavern.com/history:

Ordering at the Billy Goat may go something like this: "Cheezborger! Cheezborger! You want doublecheez?!? Who's next!?! WHO'S NEXT!?!" If you take more than one second to answer: "Don't look at the menu, look at ME! I order for you - DOUBLECHEEZ!" If you only feel like a single: "No. DOUBLECHEEZ!!!" If it's the end of the week: "It's Friday, doublecheez for everybody! It's payday! Triplecheez for the big guy!" Want French fries with that? "No fries - CHEEPS!" Thirsty? "No Pepsi - COKE!" To drink: "Coke or Diet?!" Such rantings by the Billy Goat staff have gone on for almost 40 years and originated when Billy Goat Sianis and another Greek immigrant by the name of Bill Charuchas would entertain patrons by yelling out: "Try the double cheese! It's the best! No fries, cheeps!" In the 1978, Sam Sianis and Charuchas were immortalized by Saturday Night Live's John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Loraine Newman. The sketch was originally written by Don Novello (of Father Guido Sarducci fame) when he was an advertising copywriter in Chicago. John Belushi and Bill Murray knew the Billy Goat from their Second City days, and the rest is history. As a result, the Billy Goat Tavern achieved national infamy. When in Chicago, Don Novello and Bill Murray still come by and visit Sam and the Billy Goat staff and have their "Doublecheezborger"!
I have to say, their cheese burgers won't be winning any awards for their burgers, but the experience was worth it.

Streets of Chicago

We ended up going to a street festival just outside of downtown Chicago. There were a bunch of restaurants that were selling their food so the street smelled absolutely heavenly. As we walked up to the block the garlic smell led the way to the festival. To get here, we took a train then a bus and then walked 2 blocks....have I mentioned how much I LOVE public transportation!?!

Unfortunately we weren't as hungry at this festival since we had just had the Billy Goat Tavern burger a few hours before. We tried the Penne with Vodka sauce, and it was heavenly. I really wanted to try their polena fries, but my stomach said no :(

Waiting on the train

View of downtown from the train platform, the largest building is the John Hancock Building

We only hung around the Italian festival for about an hour before heading back to downtown. Once we were there, we decided to have a drink at Harry Carray's restaurant. It would have been nice to have something to eat but they were busy and we were still stuffed from before.

Here we are with Harry Carray's bust

After Harry Carray's we walked around to a few other bars... one wine bar, one bar at the top of the John Hancock Building (but thanks to a 2 hr wait we decided to leave), and then at the bar in the Hotel Sofitel. We found some very comfy chairs so we had a couple of drinks there while resting our feet. Our 3 day was another long day of walking and having fun. We enjoyed a cheese plate before we decided it was time to head out.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Day Two

After a fun first day of trip, our second day was the driving force behind our trip... the Cubs game! We bought the tickets for the Cubs game way before we planned the trip :) I got lucky finding our fan-freakin-tastic seats on Cubs website on the first day of single ticket sales.

Of we took the train to the Wrigley, super easy and one train change. We decided to eat breakfast around the field so once we got off of the train, I pulled up Yelp.com and found a place to eat within 5 blocks from the field. There was probably closer places, but I went with a breakfast place versus a fast food place.

We ate at a place called Nookies Tree. They had a lot of options for breakfast and they all looked fantastic. I decided on poached eggs over corned beef hash with hash browns, Jim got a breakfast skillet. Everything from the toast, to the coffee, to the patio, to the main dish was damn good. Sure, I was starving at that point, but I think I still would have loved the food .if I wasn't starving.

We walked back to Wrigleyville through a couple of neighborhoods, enjoying the cool weather and looking at the row houses. We weren't really sure where the field was, but we followed the masses. And then when we weren't expecting it, we were face to face with Wrigley field. I got a little emotional when I saw Wrigley... I have been a Cubs fan for as long as I can remember and have many games on TV showing Wrigley and now it was right in front of me.

The famous ivy, score board, and the bleachers. We got to the field early enough to walk around the stadium . We wanted to see all the possible angles that we could. We couldn't get into the bleachers because they had a separate entrance and you needed tickets to get in there :(

View from the upper deck in the right field

I am pointing to where our seats are...

Since we were so close to the field, I was able to get some great photos of the players!

The Cubs won the game against the Brewers, and it was a slug fest! I believe there were 5 home runs in the game and the Cubs won 12-5. So much fun to watch and then cheer the team on in the stands with all of the fans.

Jim is showing us the "w" for WIN

After the game we walked down to Lake Michigan to see the area. The breeze was delightful and we enjoyed walking around.

We decided that dinner would be deep dish pizza, but we were far enough away from the pizza place that we needed a snack and a beer after walking quite a few blocks (unable to find a cab). I can't remember the name of this place, but it was tiny with lots of open space and Goose Island on tap so we were happy. We also ordered fried mac and cheese,,, which was pretty darn good and VERY bad for us but we were on vacation so we had a pass for fried foods.

We finally found a cab and headed over to get this deep dish pizza. It was oh so cheesy an thick with goodness. We both were only able to finish about a slice and a half (we also ordered a salad to share before the pizza). We took the left overs hoping to give it to a homeless person, but son of a bitch, we didn't see one before the John Hancock building. Seriously... we saw homeless people the entire time during the trip except for the time I had some damn fine pizza to share with them.

We got to the John Hancock building observatory right at sunset, so we were able to experience the end of the sunset and night time.

Another jammed packed day in Chicago!!! We ended up heading home after doing some window shopping along Michigan Avenue.