Matt’s very last Spring Break ever was this past week, so we knew we wanted to go somewhere for the weekend to celebrate! As I priced flights and hotels online, I couldn’t believe how cheap Chicago was! After I purchased tickets, I realized everything was so cheap because no one in their right mind goes to Chicago in February. I can’t remember the last time I was that cold! We did have a few snow showers, but luckily the weather held off so that we could still enjoy the city… even though we were bundled up from head to toe!
As our trip got closer, I started to worry a little bit. I mean, Chicago’s not exactly known for being safe. I can now personally tell you that Chicago was surprisingly clean and we never felt like we were in danger. Chicago is still a big city though so travel smart. Stay in well-known areas and do most of your wandering during daylight hours. Be aware of your surroundings, and you will be fine!
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront on the river in the neighborhood known as The Loop. The most important thing I consider when booking a hotel is location. Chicago is really spread out and we were going to be sightseeing all over town. So I concentrated on finding a hotel in a safe, centrally located area that was also within walking distance of an “L” station (Chicago’s subway station). This location ended up being perfect for us! It was only three blocks or so from the “L”, and our view from the room was awesome!
The hotel was clean, and our room was larger than I thought it would be. The staff was friendly, and oh, the shampoo in the room smelled amazing!
Things To Do
Chicago is home to the White Sox and the Cubs. One of our goals is to visit every Major League Ballpark so this was the perfect opportunity to cross two off our list.
Wrigley Field is a short ride on the “L” and maybe a two block walk once you exit the station. Since we visited during the off-season, Wrigley was busy doing lots of construction, but we were able to walk around the outside of the field and take a few pictures. We also managed to find the gift shop!
The White Sox field was renamed Guaranteed Rate Field this past August. I had heard that this field was in a terrible part of town, but from what we could tell everything looked new and safe. Granted, we didn’t wander far from the field. We rode the L to the Sox station, and we were able to see the field from the train. It was a short walk from the station to the ballpark, and we were able to take photos outside.
Matt is blessed with the gift of talking to strangers, and he found a security guard to talk to while I took photos. The security guard, a retired Chicago police officer, invited us inside to see the 2005 World Series Trophy and the World Series championship ring. While we were taking pictures of those, someone walked by and let us try their World Series ring on! Matt was in baseball heaven. This must have been our lucky day, because the security guard then arranged for us to have a tour of the field! We got to go down on the warning track and sit in the dugout. The White Sox pride themselves on being a team with a small town feel. They offer private tours year round and all you have to do is contact the Guest Information Representative at firstname.lastname@example.org. She loves giving tours and encourages any fans to reach out to her when they’re in town!
Skydeck and Hancock 360
These two places offer the best views of the city, and they really deserve their own post. I’ve compared and contrasted the two HERE!
You can’t visit Chicago without going to see “the Bean!” Its proper name is actually Cloud Gate, and it’s the main sculpture in Millennium Park. Millennium Park is home to many sculptures and a huge outdoor amphitheater called Jay Pritzker Pavillion. In the summer, they host some amazing outdoor concerts here. Millennium Park is worth the trip for the great photos you can take at the Bean. Since we were there in early March, they still had their outdoor ice skating rink open. No matter what time of year it is, there’s always something going on in Millennium Park!
I had no idea how gigantic this museum is! We spent half a day there and couldn’t even see all of the exhibits. We move through museums pretty fast, and we don’t stop to read all of the signs so I was pretty surprised that we didn’t get to see all of it. Our favorite exhibit here was by far Sue the T. Rex! Sue is the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil in the world. It’s easy to tell that the Field Museum is extremely proud of this exhibit, and they do a great job of educating visitors about her. Once again, Matt struck up a conversation with a stranger who happened to be a volunteer for the museum. She told us Sue’s history and informed us about the Netflix documentary, Dinosaur 13, that tells the story of the paleontologists who first found the fossil. Besides The Field Museum’s extensive fossil collection, we were able to see their animal exhibits, the Native American exhibit, the Egyptian exhibit, and the gemstone exhibit. If you’re interested in science or animals then this is the museum for you!
The Magnificent Mile
We very briefly walked down Michigan Avenue, nicknamed the Magnificent Mile. It’s one of Chicago’s busiest streets, and it’s filled with high-end designer stores. Almost every brand name you can think of has a storefront on Michigan Avenue. Give yourself a budget!
Unfortunately since it was so cold outside, we didn’t get to really enjoy Navy Pier. We did go here, but the place looked almost abandoned. We were able to see a great view of the Chicago skyline, and we watched the Ferris Wheel, known as Centennial Wheel (which was surprisingly in operation). In the summer, Navy Pier would be a must-see, but if you’re here during the winter months it would be safe to skip. Chicago’s Children’s Museum is located on Navy Pier, and I’ve heard great things about it!
The Second City
I had to prepare Matt a little before we went to our show at The Second City. Improvisational comedy shows are performed here nightly, and I had read that the shows are heavy on political satire and skits about controversial topics. I wanted Matt to enjoy the show and not be offended, but there was no need to really warn him. The articles I had read were correct about the source of humor, but the skits were performed perfectly. The comedians performed in a way where they were laughing with the audience instead of at us. The Second City is known as one of the most influential comedy theaters, and it’s where some really great comedians got their start (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Bill Murray just to name a few). If you have a good sense of humor and an open mind, then you would really enjoy a show at The Second City. You could possibly be witnessing the early career of the next Steve Carell! I wasn’t allowed to take photos during the performance, but I did get some of the stage before the show began. Show up early… seating is done by first come, first serve!
We spent one morning at the Adler Planetarium touring the space exhibits. Our favorite thing we did was watch a movie about the search for new planets in their dome theater. I’m glad we went, but the planetarium isn’t something I consider a “must-do” in Chicago. Here’s a little known fact… if you’re interested in telescopes, then head to the cafe area throughout the day. The planetarium’s employees set up different telescopes and allow you to look through them. We saw the sun through a telescope with a solar filter attached!
One of Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions is the Shedd Aquarium. We didn’t have the best experience here, but we went during their busiest time (Saturday afternoon). There were so many people that we struggled to see every exhibit. Even when we did get close enough to see, people were pushing and crowding us. The shark exhibit can be accessed by a set of two elevators, but one of the elevators was broken. We stood in line for one elevator for about 20 minutes. The exhibit did have stairwell access, but the stairs are for employee use only. If both elevators had been working and we had gone on a weekday morning, then that would have completely changed our experience at the aquarium. The exhibits really are fantastic so don’t let our experience sway your opinion. Just be aware that the aquarium is extremely busy, and try to plan your visit accordingly.
For this Chicago trip, I purchased the City Pass. It was worth every bit of money! The City Pass is a booklet of tickets to Chicago’s five most popular tourist attractions. You can buy the City Pass online ahead of time for a flat fee upfront. I compared the price of the City Pass to the price of purchasing a ticket at every attraction, and the City Pass is cheaper. One of the best features of the City Pass is that it grants you front of the line access. You’re able to bypass everyone waiting in line since you already have your ticket. When we arrived at the Shedd Aquarium, the line was around the block! However, we were able to walk right in with our City Pass. Having it probably saved us over an hour of waiting in line at the aquarium alone. The City Pass saved us time and money on our trip to Chicago. If you know you’ll be visiting a lot of tourist attractions, then it’s definitely a good deal to consider.
If you’re planning a trip to Chicago soon, hopefully now you have a better idea of what you want to see! Read our Chicago restaurant recommendations HERE!