Fun fact: Do you know why they call Chicago the Windy City? It’s not because of the winds that blow off of Lake Michigan, rather, it’s a jab at the local politicians. According to local Chicagoans, the politicians of the city have a history of blowing a lot of smoke – hence the term, the Windy City.
Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to attend the National Advocacy Training Program in Chicago, which is run by the American Inns of Court, all thanks to my local Inn (the Vincent S. Haneman Inn of Court). I never would have been able to afford this program, but my local Inn sponsored me attend to this 3-day intensive training course, for which I will be forever grateful. I learned so much from our trainers (international tribunal judges and barristers from the UK), improved my advocacy skills, and made a handful of new friends.
On top of such a great learning experience, I also had the chance to tour Chicago, a city I had actually never visited before. My training course ran from Wednesday to Friday, so I stayed an extra day on Saturday to tour the city.
While I only had a single day to sight see, I was able to fit a lot in. I woke up early, hopped on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour at 9am, and visited as many spots as I could before returning to my hotel for dinner and a night of packing around 8pm.
If you are looking for a great hop-on-hop-off tour, I loved CitySightseeing Tours. The guides were great, the bus actually ran on schedule (every 20 minutes) and the route was ideal for someone trying to see the major tourist attractions. This company has tour buses in major cities all over the world, so check them out!
My first stop was the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower Skydeck. This was a must do on my list – I love thrills, and the thought of standing on a glass deck 103 stories above the street was almost too much excitement for me to handle.
The line for the Skydeck took about 2 hours total (and I spent about 30 minutes snapping these pictures of the 360 degree views of the city/Lake Michigan)…
…so I grabbed a Chicago street dog from Kim & Carlo’s Stand for lunch. It was A-MAZ-ING!
Something I learned while in the Windy City: A true Chicago hot dog is a Vienna beef hot dog (sourced locally) served in a steamed – NOT toasted – sesame seed bun and topped with a neon green relish (you get used to it), chopped white onion, sport peppers, one slice of tomato that is halved, yellow mustard, and a dill pickle spear. YOU NEVER ASK FOR KETCHUP.
If you know me at all, you know I love a good dog from a street cart, and this was one delicious street dog.
After “lunch” I headed to the lakefront path, which runs along the area where the Adler Planetarium, The Field Museum, and Shed Aquarium – all of which are housed in historically restored buildings – are located, and then along Lakeshore Drive. Check out these serious views of the city skyline and Lake Michigan!
Of course, the true nerd inside me could not resist visiting the planetarium and museum (and I would’ve done the aquarium, too, if I hadn’t run out of time). While the Planetarium was great, the Field Museum was hands down the BEST natural history museum I have ever been to. The exhibits were massive and intricate, and there were at least 6 different exhibit halls – all free with my admission ticket. My two favorite halls were Ancient Egypt , which had more mummies than I have ever seen in one place, and Mammals, which I think must have contained every known mammal species to ever roam the Earth. I also loved Sue, the largest and most complete T-Rex fossil found to date, which looms over the entrance to the museum.
After the museum, I hopped back on the bus and rode it through through Navy Pier, past the John Hancock Tower and the historic Old Water Tower (the only building that did not burn during the Great Chicago Fire), and down the Magnificent Mile (which is actually only about 6/8 mile) before hopping off at the entrance to the Riverwalk.
The Riverwalk is beautiful, with some of the best architectural buildings lining the river. I didn’t have time to do the infamous architectural boat tour, but when I return to Chicago I will for sure be doing that first.
I spent my last hour or so of daylight roaming around Millennium Park, which houses the iconic Cloud Gate and Jay Pritzker Pavilion. (I’ll be honest – before visiting, I thought Cloud Gate was a bean! Who knew it is supposed to be a drop of mercury?) I somehow got lucky, because the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was playing a free concert in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion! I love classical music, so this was a real treat for me.
Even though Cloud Gate and the JP Pavilion were beautiful, my favorite sculpture in the park was easily Crown Fountain. Crown Fountain is made up of two huge rectangular pillars that spout water out the top, so that the water flows down over the pillars (similar to a water fall), creating a reflecting pool between them. The pillars face each other, and on the front of each pillar is a LED video, which continuously streams the faces of 1,000 Chicago citizens who were recorded by the artist. Every few minutes, the faces seem to make a face at one another.
Well, that was my trip to Chicago in a nutshell. After visiting for just several days, I feel confident in saying Chicago is now one of my absolute favorite cities, and I cannot wait to go back!