Day one in Chicago started bright and early when our Spirit Airline flight from Portland, Oregon landed before 5 in the morning. With the time difference our bodies felt like it was 3 AM, and without any sleep we got our day started.
Navigating public transportation is still daunting for both of us; I grew up in a small town in Washington and Jake in Idaho. There definitely aren’t any subways where we are from! Our time in Vancouver, B.C. this winter was good practice, but Chicago is much larger.
We avoided the subway as much as possible after getting terribly lost on our first trip. We found that the buses were really easy to learn, and when we later used the subway they weren’t as challenging as we first thought. For $25 per person for a 3 day pass they were an excellent alternative to using cabs or navigating the crazy traffic in a car.
We were able to drop our bags off at our hotel, the exquisite Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile. It is definitely a place we couldn’t normally afford, with rooms starting at $330. However, we had 2 free nights at any Hyatt hotel from getting a credit card through them so we definitely put them to good use! Our final bill was $0. If you are looking for a bit of luxury in Chicago though and have the money to spend we would absolutely recommend this lovely hotel!
Magnificent Mile is known primarily as an upscale shopping district. North Michigan Avenue is lined with stores I would never dream of entering, such as: Prada, Gucci, Swarovski, etc. I was nervous that this area would be too upscale for us and we wouldn’t find any place to eat but there were budget friendly options as well.
Some of my favorite places on the Magnificant Mile included: Historic Water Tower, The American Girl Place (brings back my childhood!) and the John Hancock Observatory which I will discuss in further detail later (read about it here!).
One thing that Chicago is famous for is the abundance of parks. You seriously can’t go a block or two without finding at least a small park. In fact, there are 580 parks in the Chicago Park District. Our favorite was Grant Park.
There is a bike sharing system called Divvy all over Chicago. It seemed confusing at first but basically the premise is this: you can take unlimited 30 minute rides for 24 hours for $7. If your ride is longer than 30 minutes you get an extra charge (varies from $2 to over $100 depending on how long you use the bike). There are numerous Divvy stations all over Chicago so it was pretty easy to hop from station to station in less than 30 minutes. It was faster than pubic transportation and it was definitely faster than walking. One of our favorite places to ride was around Grant Park.
Buckingham Fountain is located in the heart of Grant Park and just steps away from Lake Michigan. It was inspired by the Latona fountain in Versailles, France and was dedicated in 1927. This fountain is massive and uses up to 15,000 gallons of water per minute! You can definitely see the European inspiration in the fountain and the surrounding area. Some people may remember this fountain from the opening credits of the television show Married With Children. Alas, I was 6 when it went off the air so I do not recall it. I only know this because of research and I just looked it up on Youtube 😉
As an avid Green Bay Packers fan, Jake really wanted to visit his rivals field; home of the Chicago Bears. Tours of Soldier Field weren’t available that day but we got to roam around outside and he got this picture below so he was happy.
Field Museum of Natural History
We had purchased the Go Chicago Card and finally put it to good use with a visit to the Field Museum of Natural History. A person could spend an entire day at this amazing museum and still not see all there is to see. The museum was first created in 1893 and is probably most well known for housing Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex. There are plenty of fantastic exhibits in the museum and worth spending a few hours at.
Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture River Cruise Tour
At this point in the day we were BEYOND EXHAUSTED. However, it was still too early to check into our hotel. I kind of begrudgingly suggested we do this tour since it was free with our Go Chicago pass (normally $32/per person) and it would take up the next 75 minutes until we could check in to the hotel.
I couldn’t have been more surprised or pleased with this tour! It was informative, entertaining and it gave us the opportunity to rest our sore feet and enjoy a few drinks. This tour took us down multiple branches of the Chicago River and out onto Lake Michigan for a short time. We learned a lot about not only architecture but the history of Chicago and different districts. It make exploring Chicago the next two days more special since we had a deeper appreciation. You can read about our full experience on the Architecture Tour HERE.
I am not ashamed to admit that as soon as we checked into our hotel at 3:30 pm I didn’t leave the hotel room until the next morning. There is something glorious about relaxing in a lush hotel room and doing absolutely nothing. Traveling isn’t always about activity and adventure, it’s important to take time to relax as well.
This is Part I of a two part post, so to see how we spent the rest of our time in Chicago continue reading ‘3 Days in Chicago.’
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