Over the years, I have visited Chicago probably a dozen times. I was able to learn the “secrets” of the city, in terms of what to do, where to eat, and who to see. Much has changed since those days in the 80s and 90s. Chicago has really shed its image as the “Second City”, particularly after Barack Obama was elected President. And I really am not a big fan of Chicago style, deep dish pizza. I much prefer the thin, crispy crust that we have out here and on the East coast. But I do like Chicago hot dogs, and Chicago beef (sandwiches). My all time favorite item out here is Garrett’s Popcorn, the combination of cheddar and caramel popcorn, called, “The Mix”. It cannot be duplicated!
Did you know that about 50 million people visit Chicago each year? Historic Route 66 begins at Grant Park on Adams Street in front of the Chicago Art Institute. Their convention center, McCormick Place, is the largest convention and exhibition space in the United States (2.2 million square feet). Back in 1900, Chicago engineers were able to reverse the flow of the Chicago River. It empties into the Mississippi River, instead of Lake Michigan, and is dyed green each year on St. Patrick’s Day. The Lincoln Park Zoo is the oldest public zoo in the country. The Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower, is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 110 stories high (1450 feet). I have been up to the John Hancock Tower several times. Not good for people like me (acrophobia) who don’t like heights. It is a wonder that I fly so much.
The focal point for most tourists and other visitors in Michigan Avenue, or the “Magnificent Mile”. It is the center of both heavy traffic and shopping of all scales, up and down. People stroll up and down Michigan Avenue in torn jeans or their designer best. This is the Rodeo Drive of the midwest, or perhaps the Fifth Avenue reincarnated. In the old days, the old Water Tower and Marshall Fields dominated the scene. Now, every big designer name on earth has a shop here. Another impressive building is the Rush Presbyterian Medical Center Building.
On my many previous trips here, some were in the dead of bitter cold winters, some were in the sweltering humidity of summer. April is a great month to visit, though still a little cold for us Californians. The real bummer is the Cubs are out-of-town. Maybe I will see what the Bulls or Blackhawks are doing. I will probably find a good music venue or the theater for some evening entertainment. Or I can look for the body of Jimmy Hoffa, or the “lost” ballots that got JFK elected to the Presidency.
I am in Chicago for just a day or two before catching Amtrak back to California. I doubt I will meander down to the hustle and bustle of Rush Street. But I may take the Chicago River tour, or the Architecture tour. If the weather does not cooperate, I can head to the great museums in this city. The Museum of Science and Industry is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere. The Art Institute of Chicago houses more than 300,000 works of art. And the Field Museum of Natural History includes the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium.
Speaking of Second City, I went back in the 80s when some of the big names were getting started. I have no recollection of who I saw. But it was funny, especially the skit with the toilet humor while the players sat in their toilet stalls. It reminds me of Erika and Elaine and “I can’t spare a square”.
I cast my vote for Chicago dogs over New York or LA’s dogs. Forget Papaya King or Pink’s in LA. I choose Portillo’s or Hot Doug’s any day. The problem for me is that one is not enough and two is gluttony. Add the fries and it is a cholesterol nightmare. Wash it all down with a draft beer and a statin.
I love Millennium Park, located in the Loop. The Park is free and features the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate, the Crown Fountain, and the Lurie Garden, among others. Since it sits on top of the commuter rail Millennium Station, it is considered the world’s largest rooftop garden. The Park is also considered the city’s most important project since the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, at a final cost of $475 million.
Lately, Chicago’s claim to fame is producing our President, Barrack Obama. Chicago also has over 7300 restaurants, 26 miles of lakefront, 36 annual parades, almost 3 million residents, and 552 parks. Chicago is also home to eleven Fortune 500 companies. The first drive in blood bank was started in 1946. The Great Chicago Fire of 1971 was presumably started by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow at 558 W. DeKoven Street, site of the fire academy. And Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, is now the mayor.