I’ve had the chance to spend time and even live in some of the country’s most amazing cities, but there was one metropolis I had been longing to visit for some time now – Chicago.
My good friend, and the blogger behind Organized Chaos, Steph moved to Chicago a few years ago so I decided to finally pay her and the Windy City a visit this past weekend. It was a quick direct flight from LAX for me, and a few hours drive from Peoria for Mark, so we both arrived just in time for weekend festivities Friday evening.
Immediately I was blown away by how beautiful this city is. I’ve never seen a skyline glitter the way it does in Chicago. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the urban landscape (which is, in part, why this blog post is so long – sorry!)
It was so great to see Steph! We’ve known each other for years – after going to the same high school senior year, we went to Roanoke College and rushed the same sorority. Although we’re both from Richmond, the last year or so it seems like we’re always missing each other – one of us is home for Thanksgiving, the other is home for Christmas. However, like any good friend, we were able to pick up right where we left off, chatting about mutual old friends, new jobs and everything in between. I was thrilled to have an entire weekend to catch up.
Once Mark and I arrived and got settled in at Steph’s apartment in Lincoln Park, the three of us headed downtown to meet up with her main squeeze, Matt. Matt’s place has a rooftop deck perfect for enjoying a glass of wine and taking too many photos of the gorgeous scenery.
Steph and Matt spotted rooftop canoodling at 6:00.
The sun set behind the skyscrapers and the four of us headed out (an hour late – time flies when…you’re catching up?) for our sushi reservation.
We had a few tasty cocktails at the bar before being seated at our table and dinner was absolutely delicious. Mark and I shared some basics, spicy tuna and salmon with avocado, while Steph and Matt were a bit more adventurous with the speciality rolls.
After dinner we hailed a taxi to a bar called Benchmark. Although we had to wait in line to get inside, I think the trendy décor, mixed with a casual vibe, made the delay well worthwhile.
Here we met up with some of our friends from college! Our friend Alex was so excited to see Steph, he could resist picking her up, swinging her around the room and nearly knocking an unsuspecting bystander in the face with her red-bottomed Louboutins.
Roanoke College alumni take Chi Town.
Saturday morning while us ladies got ready for a day of sightseeing, the males each set to their own little activity. Matt watched television as he looked out at Steph’s amazing view of the lake.
Mark worked to detangle my necklace.
And Milo did what he always does…sits, and stares and meows for no apparent reason.
For breakfast our tour guides took us to one of the best places I’ve ever been for brunch, Tempo Café.
Steph, Matt and I got the “Poor Man’s Skillet” – a delightfully fattening array of eggs, sausage, peppers, onions, hash browns and cheese.
Mark ordered one of our favorites, Eggs Benedict.
With stomachs stuffed to the max, we headed out into the Chicago sunshine to start checking things of my list of must-sees.
By chance, we visited the same weekend as the Chicago Air and Water Show, so we spent a lot of time along the lakefront, watching the tricks and turns of various aircrafts in the sky and wishing we were on one of the many sailboats in the water.
Next we came across the Centennial Plaza and Fountain, located along the north side of the Chicago River shortly before it connects to Lake Michigan. The fountain shoots a water arc across the Chicago River every hour from 10am to 2pm and from 5pm to midnight every day.
Again, I really could not get over how beautiful the buildings, and the city in general, was! At one point Mark made me put my camera away and he took my phone because I was falling behind the group from taking too many pictures. However, I slipped my camera back out of my purse almost immediately and snuck my phone out of his pocket shortly thereafter… mwah ha ha.
We thought about doing one of the boat sightseeing tours, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day! It’s definitely on my list of activities for the next time I’m in the city.
Next stop on our tour – The Cloud Gate. Nicknamed “The Bean” for its shape, this mirror-like sculpture is at the center of the AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park. It’s Chicago’s second-largest tourist attraction, trailing only to Navy Pier.
Here’s Mark loving the bean while wearing his Charlee Luck shirt.
The four of us capturing our reflections in the bean.
We decided to skip the long line at the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) for the not-quite-as-long line at the Hancock Building, another one of the city’s highest towers. We shared an order of guacamole at the building’s penthouse restaurant, The Signature Room at 95th, while looking out at this view. Not too shabby, Chicago. Click here to watch my Vine from The Signature Room.
On the way back to Steph’s we passed the Millennium Park Amphitheater. Rather than go out to dinner, we decided to take a picnic here later to enjoy the final night of The Grant Park Music Festival, a free summer classical concert series on Chicago’s lakefront.
After resting back at the apartment for a bit, recuperating from a long day in the summer heat and freshening up for the evening, we were back at the park and all set up for our picnic.
We set out some blankets, uncorked a bottle of Syrah…
…kicked off our shoes…
…and unpacked our smorgasbord of picnic-friendly delicacies.
The orchestra played well into the night. We all kind of laughed about how “classy” we were for spending our evening this way, or how this is something our parents would’ve had to drag us to. But honestly, I could not have imagined a better Saturday night. Click here to watch my Vine from the picnic.
The weather was absolutely perfect, I was sipping on red wine and laying on a blanket in the center of a stunning city – all while being surrounded by some of my very favorite people.
As if the night wasn’t perfect enough, we then headed to the lakefront to catch the fireworks display over the sailboats.
Finally we ended the night at a brewery to sample their array of homemade beers.
We also couldn’t resist ordering the poutine, a common Canadian dish made with French fries, topped with gravy and cheese. Mark, our favorite Canadian, said that this was different than the poutine he’s used to – but oh my, was it delicious.
Sunday morning Mark and I woke up bright and early and headed to Wrigley Stadium for the Cubs game!
Although it looks like we’re a bit high up, I really wouldn’t have wanted to sit anywhere else. We were worried about being too hot if we had to be out in the sun all day, but our spot was in cool shade and it offered sweeping views of the antique stadium.
Of course, we had to order the baseball game essentials – beers and hot dogs.
We got our hot dog Chicago style – loaded with toppings like thick grilled onions, tomatoes, relish and spicy peppers.
After the game, we walked through Millennium Park to savor the last bits of sunlight glistening off the buildings.
Visiting the spectacular Buckingham Fountain was the perfect way to spend our final evening in Chicago.
Click here to watch my Vine at the fountain.
Click here to watch Mark’s Vine of the fountain. We had a Vine-off…feel free to leave a comment below and tell us who won.
We sat chatting along the lake until we were hungry again for our last meal in the Windy City…
…Chicago style deep dish pizza. The Chicagoans told us we had to go to Lou Malnati’s for the best deep dish in town. While waiting for our order to be ready, we headed across the street to join families and couples watching an outdoor movie in the little grassy park. And soon enough we were back in Steph’s living room, tearing up to Toy Story 3 and devouring the gooey crust faster than you can say pepperoni.
I know I say this every weekend, but I really could not have asked for a more amazing weekend. This time I mean it. Until next weekend. If you haven’t been to Chicago, stop what you’re doing and book a trip immediately. It has officially been added to my list of places I’ll live one day. A million thank you’s to Steph for having us, hopefully we weren’t too much a nuisance because I can’t wait to visit again!
Until then, ciao Chicago!