Jessica and I ‘met’ on Instagram. When I found out she had been to Chicago I was super keen to share her travel tips. Here they are…
Chicago is without a doubt one of the most understated cities I’ve been to. For most of us New York, Miami, Vegas and several cities in California are the first that come to mind when someone mentions the U.S.A. Having already travelled to the cities mentioned above, I can safely say that Chicago is a destination worth travelling to and had I known just how awesome it would be, it would have been second on my list of places to see in the States, after New York of-course. I’ve heard people refer to Chicago as New York’s prettier sister and it’s so true. It’s a more modern, sexier version of NYC where one can easily see the most popular attractions including local hotspots over four to five days, if not less. The sidewalks are clean and are filled with pretty beds of flowers and other cool features like these light installations that changed colour to the beats of background music.
My husband and I arrived early evening in November and after checking into our hotel we headed out for a city stroll to get a feel for our surroundings.
We then made our way to Eataly for what was planned to be a quick coffee and bite to eat. Perhaps “quick” was the wrong expectation because there’s nothing short about an experience at Eataly. For those who haven’t been before (there are two, one in New York and the other in Chicago), imagine a huge double story open plan Italian emporium filled with every taste sensation you’d expect to indulge in Italy itself.
The ‘restaurant come store’ is sectioned into different parts including a Lavazza coffee bar, a Nutella bar (picture Nutella-everything), a gelato station, confectionaries and a full-on dining food court divided into pizza, pasta, seafood and meat each with their own respective menus. Additional to this is a retail side with every variation of olive oil and pasta imaginable, a mini organic vegetable market and designer homeware including Alessi kitchen ware.
A great thing about Chicago is that it’s a suitable city to visit as a family due to the wide variety of activities that both adults and children can appreciate. An example of this is the Museum of Science and Industry. Being totally spoilt for choice there, exploring this museum could easily take up a full morning and some. Our time was spent viewing life-size aeroplanes that were suspended from the ceiling and a tour of the original U-505 submarine. They had every imaginable activity and tour including Disney.
The city is well-known for its magnificent buildings so an Architecture Tour along the river is a must! Each building is unique in its design and rich in history. No building is alike, each one has a story and the tour guides make for excellent narrators.
By the end of day one another gourmet experience was in order. For me, good food is just as important as great sight-seeing whether it’s off the street or fine dining. If you’re a Reality TV junkie (like me) you’ll have heard of Bill and Giuliana Rancic. This power couple is co-owners of an exceptional restaurant called RPM Italian. The interiors are chic and trendy as is the ambience and the food is out-of-this world. Bookings are essential.
A trip to Chicago is not complete until you’ve stepped onto the ledge of a glass box at 1,353 feet in the air, on the 103rd floor of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, also known as The Sky Deck. This is guaranteed to cure anyone’s fear of heights and is probably the safest way to do so. The Sky Deck has large double volume windows and four glass enclosed ledges. Stepping onto the ledge can be scary at first but makes for a super cool Instagram post. Plus the city views are sensational.
When we were ready to come back down to earth we moved on to the Millennium Park which is home to the famous mirrored bean-sculpture, officially known as the Cloud Gate, and other cool art installations and exhibitions.
On route, we detoured to Garrett’s Popcorn shop for salted caramel popcorn – this is a Chicago tradition and was one amazing dose of deliciousness.
This sums up our first two days and should give you a taste of what the city is all about but here are more top things to do when you’re there.
Children’s Museum at Navy Pier
Carousel & Ferris wheel (awesome views)
Lincoln Park Zoo
Purple Monkey Playroom
Buckingham Fountain (famous – was in the opening scene for Married with Children)
Water Tower Place- food hall on mezzanine – eat at “Mitty Nice”
900 North Michigan Shops
Magnolia bakery (famous cupcakes from Sex & the City) on State Street in same centre as Zara
Osteria Via Stato
Second City – famous comedy club where most Chicago comedians started
Jessica Chait is from Cape Town, South Africa. She is the Marketing Communications Manager for a leading hotel group specializing in content, email and social media marketing. To work out, she swears by functional training, walks on the beach and climbing stairs. She loves to travel with her husband, watch new movies, try the latest restaurants, explore food markets, spend time with her best girl friends and is always up for some ‘me-time’ reading good non-fictional books in coffee shops.