Just moments after we arrived my wife Lisa and I made the short walk through a beautiful city park, through a tunnel under Lake Shore Drive and on to Oak Street Beach where bright blue waves were crashing on to the sand and the steady cool breeze coming off Lake Michigan reminded us we weren’t in Mississippi any more.
The beautiful skyline of Chicago cast a long shadow over the path as we circled back around the scenic stroll to The Drake Hotel – our home for the week on the north end of Michigan Avenue, also known as the Magnificent Mile.
The Drake opened in 1920 and offers old world style. A history of the property noted that “Throughout the roaring twenties The Drake became high-society’s first choice in opulence. The popularity of the illustrious urban resort continued to rise well into the 1930s seemingly unaffected by the crash of 1929. Icons such as Bing Crosby, Walt Disney, George Gershwin, and Charles Lindbergh could be seen sipping a cocktail and listening to Herbie Kay in The Gold Coast Room.”
Lisa and I didn’t bump into any such icons, but The Drake did prove a great starting point to do anything you want in Chicago, which is not short on attractions as the third largest city in the U.S. behind only New York and Los Angeles. We only had three days to explore, so we skipped the highly acclaimed Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier (although we did get a good look at it by boat and skyscraper) and Wrigley Field (been there, done that).
Instead, we ventured to the Art Institute of Chicago – named one of the best art museums in the world – for far too brief a time. It takes several visits to take it all in. We got a taste of Chicago’s annual Jazz Fest taking place in neighboring Millennium Park. Similar to the New Orleans festival, although much smaller, several stages were constructed throughout with vendors of all kinds scattered in between.
With more than two million people in the city and millions more living in the immediate surrounding area, crowds were thick around the always popular metallic sculpture nicknamed “The Bean” and the many stunning fountains and immaculate landscape of Millennium Park on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, but not so much as to prevent you from enjoying all the sights and sounds.
People were extremely nice and welcoming everywhere we went, especially along the architectural tours both by double decker bus through the downtown streets and by boat along the scenic Chicago River.
The boat tour was among my favorites, giving you unmatched views of the incredible skyscrapers and the art incorporated into each building’s design.
We saw all of Chicago from the 94th floor atop the John Hancock Tower just a block from our hotel on the North Side. You could also try the Willis Tower (former Sears Tower – second tallest building in U.S.), for their view from the 103rd floor on the opposite end of Michigan Avenue, but the lines were incredibly longer.
Mostly we were on foot throughout our visit. It’s fun visiting major cities where you can walk (or bike) to everything. We hit all our favorite shops and a few new ones while saving plenty of time for eating from Chicago’s finest.
NoMi was a hit with incredible dishes such as a sweet corn risotto with cherry jam and black truffle. No description could ever do it justice.
The view at Everest was unforgettable, as was the fullness after scarfing a “Chicago Classic” deep dish pizza at Giordano’s off the famous Rush Street.
We ran out of time before getting to a world famous Chicago hot dog. I’m not certain Lisa, not a hot dog fan, didn’t plan on that. She did say, however, it would be had on our next visit. We sang along at a wonderful piano bar, cruised Lake Michigan on a 70 degree afternoon, and stood on the spot where Abraham Lincoln was nominated for his first presidential run.
We did so much, and yet have so much more to do the next time we’re in Chicago.