I visited Chicago in August last year (2016). I wasn’t blogging at the time, but now that I am it seems like too good a trip not to share! Especially with summer travel plans being made and spring just around the corner.
On a standby flight it was touch and go if I was even going to make it onto the plane. Thankfully after a stressful start to the morning I was seated and enjoying wonderful service in Lufthansa business class at exactly the same time my husband and brother in law where boarding a Virgin flight at Heathrow. I miss the perks of my old job!
Here are my highlights and top tips for a brilliant weekend in Chicago.
Visit in Summer
A summery weekend in Chicago is blissful. It’s hard to remember that the lake is in fact that, a lake and not the ocean. The water is incredibly blue and clear, stretching out beyond the horizon. A boat trip or stroll along the waterfront make you feel like you’re at the seaside.
Take an Architecture boat tour with Chicago Architecture Foundation
Chicago’s infrastructure is so interesting and the architecture is world class. From the Sears tower to the engineering feat of reversing flow of the Chicago river, the facts you learn and buildings you see on this tour are fascinating. I love a good boat trip.
Eat a deep pan pizza at Lou Malnati’s
Ask a local for their advice on where to go for deep dish pizza and they will all have a firm opinion on which is the best! Some insist it’s Giordano’s, others favor Pequod’s Pizza while Pizza Uno claims to be the original deep dish. For me, a visit to Lou Malnati’s came recommended by two people who live in the area and it ticked all of the boxes. This type of pizza is seriously heavy so be careful when ordering; a medium pizza fed me and two fully grown men!
Go to the observation deck at the John Hancock Tower
For a 360 view of Chicago and over Lake Michigan head up to the 94th floor of the John Hancock Centre. If you are feeling especially brave you can ‘tilt’ out above the city, a terrifying experience that isn’t for the fainthearted!
Listen to some live blues at Blue Chicago
As the deep pan pizza places claim to be the original and best, similarly many of the music bars and clubs make their claims to fame. We visited the Blue Chicago bar and loved it. Sitting at the bar is dangerous; fast service and generous pours mean you’re in a drunken haze before you know it and time can pass in a flash. Although a little touristy, this is a great venue and it delivered on the music front.
In Chicago the Divvy bike scheme offers a cheap and fun way to get around the city. The lakeside path gets less busy the further North you head and beach bars (yes, there is a beach) and cafes line the shore.
Check out ‘the bean’ and play crazy golf in Millennium Park
It’s actual name is the Cloud Gate but Chicago’s famous sculpture is better known as the bean. Afterwards a round on the Chicago themed crazy golf course is a fun way to spend an hour or so.
Go for drinks in Wicker Park
A google search of this neighborhood throws up the word ‘gentrification’ as far back as 1994. The area is home to live music and nightlife, art galleries and smaller restaurants, meaning it’s the perfect place to experience Chicago from a residents perspective rather than a tourist one. Nick’s and the Emporium Arcade bar are both fun places to stop for a drink.
A visit to Chicago just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the tourist trap that is Navy Pier. Bonus points if you visit over the Air and Water Show week. Yes, the beers are eye wateringly expensive, but you’ll be sat out on the pier listening to a live jazz band watching the world go by. Accept the crowds and the Navy Pier is a fantastic spot to enjoy the lake and some people watching.
Chicago has something for everyone; great restaurants (Sepia was my favorite), tasty drinks (try the Goose Island tour if you love craft beer) or for sports fans a visit to Wrigley Field. With temperatures dipping well into the minus during winter time, plan a spring or summer visit to really make the most out of this fun city.