In Part 2 of Toiner and Stronge's American tour, Toiner and Stronge do Chicago!
How much fun can you have with 72 hours in Chicago? I'm about to show you...
Even though the weather was pretty cold and wet (we were travelling a whole month later then when we visited New York), we still had a great time. I think the secret to a successful and fun filled weekend break is to pre book a few activities beforehand, so you know you have stuff going on and you just have to fill in the gaps once you're there. Having some things prepared means you know you've got stuff to look forward to, but there's still room for spontaneity. The pressure of having to be on your game the minute you land turns to anticipation.
So anyhoo, that's how we roll...
It was the week leading up to Thanksgiving, so the minute we arrived at our hotel on the Magnificent Mile, people were lining the street for the Festival of Lights parade. COOL. We didn't have time to waste though, as we had to check in and then immediately grab a taxi to take us to the Blue Man Group at Briar Street Theatre. I'd pre booked our tickets on Ticketmaster before leaving the UK. It was a wacky, bizarre, hilarious show and without giving too much away, my highlights were definitely the GiPad sketch, the singing llamas and the giant spheres dropped on the audience right at the end.
The next day, we took an early morning walk on Navy Pier. It was wet, windy and freezing but that didn't deter us! We ate brekky and warmed up at Billy Goats and then jumped in a taxi to Soldier Field stadium to watch the Chicago Bears play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL. Wendy had also booked this with Ticketmaster before we left the UK. We were right up in the Gods and the sheer size of the place took my breath away. In hindsight, we should have bought ponchos and blankets with us because as the game wore on, the weather worsened. Annoyingly, there had been plenty of stalls selling these on the walk up to the stadium, but stupid us we thought we'd be ok!! By the end, we were soaked right through and chilled to the bone. Not even the bravado, beer and street meat could save us. Walking back along the Magnificent Mile in the pouring rain was no fun either. By the time we got home, we were beyond drenched. We warmed up at the hotel and then braved the rain again to try deep dish pizza at Gino's East. The mozzarella overload was a bit too much for me (wasted calories), but the well known restaurant had a great vibe and the tipex grafitti thing was interesting. They put pots on the tables and you leave your mark / signature / logo / name / autograph on the wall, chair or table.
The final activity we'd pre booked was to take a segway tour of Chicago, but the rain turned into snow on our third day and we postponed. Luckily the weather was going to clear and leave us with a sunny, clear, cold and frosty day on our last one in the city. Perfect-ish for segwayyyyying. We had meant to go South down Michigan Avenue to the segway place, but our taxi had taken us North by mistake. Also lucky that we postponed! Outside Bloomingdales we planned our now free day. It went a little something like this... shopping at Macy's, soaking up the lovely Christmas atmosphere (such a magical time), Maccy Ds for lunch, then a Wendella boat trip on the Chicago river, through the harbour lock and up around Navy Pier on Lake Michigan. It was so cold, but so much fun. Afterwards we stopped by WGN radio and Wend dared me to walk up to the window and wave - and I did! They have big windows facing out onto the street so you can see them broadcasting and hear them talking through the speakers attached to the outside of the building. We popped back to the hotel to drop off our shopping and then it was back out to try and get to Oak Beach, but by now it was dark and the pedestrian tunnels were either closed for the season, flooded, or we were warned off as too dangerous by a very helpful chap. So that was that. Next on the agenda was going up the John Hancock tower to do the 360 Observatory and the chilly Skywalk brrrrrrrr, then we grabbed a taxi across town and did the Willis (Sears) tower and the Sky ledge. Both were amazing seeing the city flooded with lights - oh, and the beach we were after did look pretty remote, so good call not to attempt a visit. The night wearing on, we jumped in a taxi (so easy to hail one in this city compared to New York) back to our hotel and went to dinner in the Michael Jordan's restaurant at our hotel.
The next day (our final day), we took a taxi the right way this time to the segway place. The sun was finally out and the clear, crisp weather was perfect for our city tour, which ended up being a private tour on the segways with our lovely guide Chris. Despite suffering with Vertigo, my balance was excellent and we came off Turtle Mode pretty quickly. The max speed was 10mph. We drove all the way to Soldier Field, did some of the "sightseeing loop", past the aquarium and down to the lake shore where we finally got our beach fix on 12th street. Simply a wonderful experience and well worth waiting an extra day for!
President Obama was landing at O'Hare airport at 3pm, so we were advised to get a taxi pronto. We checked in 4 hours before scheduled take off, but better to be safe than sorry and it enabled us to get help with finding seats close to each other. Although this was a BA holiday, we flew out with BA but were coming back with AA and hadn't been able to choose our seats prior to leaving the UK. It all worked out in the end. We spent the remainder of our time in Chicago looking out for the President and drinking cocktails. I was pleasantly surprised with AA; our bags were already waiting for us when we arrived in London and the staff on the flight had been super organised and efficient. ePassport was also a breeze, which took the edge off being home.
For more info on my trip, check out these blog posts, pics, videos and reviews:
First ever NFL game. Go Bears!
Check out my Segway video
Chicago - City Segway Tours review
Chicago - Blue Man Group review
Chicago - Intercontinental Magnificent Mile hotel review
As always, we have a list of things to do in Chicago on our return - whenever that may be... These include: a mob tour, visit a jazz club, hang out on the beach, visit the aquarium and do TILT at 360 Chicago.
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.