Chicago Weekend and Anecdotal Observations

My clan spent the weekend in Chicago. We had a fabulous time and really packed in a lot of activity into 48 hours or so.

Our first stop was the observation center of Sears Tower. Yes, I understand it is now the Willis tower, but I am old school that way and to me it will forever be the Sears. Sort of like some people still call the Aon Center “Big Stan”. The kids were blown away by the view up there and we had a nice day for it. The kids went out onto the “Ledge”. I was getting a bit of vertigo and couldn’t do it.

Next stop was Macy’s (yes, the old Marshall Fields) to see the windows. My wife used to come down here when she was a child with her grandparents. The windows were entertaining and there were also some street performers down there to try to suck some tourist money.

Inside, Macy’s was decked out wonderfully. They must have needed an army to get it all together. We signed up for dinner at the Walnut Room – one hour wait but the ambience was spectacular. Sorry I cut off the top of the tree here, but there was really no way to get it all in.

Dinner was surprisingly affordable, with most entrees between ten and twenty dollars. The menu was limited – I had the beef short ribs and they were delicious. I think they limited the menu due to the enormous crowds which was a smart move. They had fairies circling the crowd and granting wishes and spreading fairy dust around on the patrons which also added a nice touch.

We later went to the Auditorium Theater to see the Nutcracker. It was great as always and the Auditorium is a wonderful place to see a show. So beautiful.

On Saturday we woke up and hit the Field Museum. My kids have never been there (nor even to Chicago) and my wife and I hadn’t been there in a quarter century. There is literally no way you can get through this place in one day. After about five hours or so we were all on information overload and gave up.

Of special interest to us were the dinosaurs, minerals and wild animal exhibits. Disappointing to me was the fact that many of the cultural exhibits have succumbed to political correctness. I don’t really want to get into that part too much though as there is so much positive to learn at the Field, that I really encourage everyone to see it. The cost for my family of four was $90. This is the new scam they have – it is actually cheaper to purchase a family membership to the museum than to pay for four admissions if you include all of the special exhibits – right now they have whales and chocolate. The whale display is highly recommended – I really didn’t learn much from the chocolate exhibit, but I have read several books in the past about chocolate production so you may be interested in it.

Below is yours truly with the official dino of ChicagoBoyz, the Parasourolophus.

The Field Museum looked great:

And I enjoyed the details of the building from an age long ago:

We then went to the Christkindlmarket on Daley Plaza. It was an absolute mob scene. We shuffled through one aisle of that and got out of there. You literally could not fit one more person in there.

For dinner this night we went to Emilio’s for tapas. It was fantastic. If you enjoy this type of food I highly recommend it.

On Sunday we went to Ed’s for breakfast. The tone there was not as caustic as for the typical lunch or dinner, but the wait staff still was disprespectful as always, referring to my children as “brats” and tossing straws on the table, etc. It was a great time. The food was quite delicious and reasonable.

On the way home we stopped at IKEA in Schaumburg as my wife wanted to get some ideas for the house we are building. This was a punishing two hours for me and the kids as this is like valhalla for a person like my wife. The kids liked looking at some of the things, but we were all completely drained after this and even my wife admitted that she had to call it a day. We left with about $40 worth of flotsam designed by Swedes, made in far eastern countries.

My kids were absolutely amazed at the El. My wife and I, having spent a lot of time here in the past sort of shoulder shrugged it, but whenever a train went over our heads (loudly) the kids just stopped and looked up in total amazement. I told the kids that this is the best transportation system the 1890’s has to offer. They didn’t get the joke, but when I told them how old it was they were once again blown away. They had never seen anything like it and couldn’t understand why the train was above us instead of on the ground. I will be getting my oldest a book on the subject for Christmas.

The kids were also amazed at the noise level of the city. People, trains, cars, trucks, ambulances, buses, bikes, etc. I also realized that the kids had never seen bums before and they wondered what was up with that. The kids also enjoyed the hustle and bustle of getting cabs and such. Eventually they wanted to hail them themselves which was fun.

We stayed at the Wyndham on North St. Clair Street. We got a nice rate for $139 a night, which netted out to around $220 a night after parking ($52 per night) and the outrageous taxes. I don’t recommend it because it is right by Northwestern Hospital and the wife and I were awakened several times a night from the ambulances wailing. Nice place though, if not a bit tired. We didn’t eat or drink there.

In general, Michican Avenue and all the sights looked fantastic. Chicago seems to be doing a booming tourist business, even in this tough economy. We had a lot of fun and I recommend if you can, to spend a night or two there this holiday season and do some stuff or if you already have plans, to do it next year.

The only thing I really regret was not being able to see the Lexington Green library. That is on the bucket list though.

19 thoughts on “Chicago Weekend and Anecdotal Observations”

  1. Thanks for the write up Dan. I felt like I was there.

    The last time I was there had to be 25 years ago – my sister lived in Homewood and her husband, at the time, worked for Arco.

    I went there right after Christmas and remember 2 things – and 1 bit of advice.

    1. The wind and the cold – especially crossing a street that runs perpendicular to the lake. Wind seemed to go right though you.

    2. The cleanliness – like Minneapolis it seemed so clean – and cold ;-)

    3. The advice: “This time of year fashion goes out the window – we dress for warmth! Layer upon layer of clothes…

    4. Oh, the Berghof restaurant – spectacular German food.

    5. Museum of Science and Industry – I would return just to visit that again…

    OK I could compile a list but gotta get to work…

  2. Dan, we will get you and the fam down here in the Spring, I hope. Sounds like a great trip. The El is still a very good form of transportation. Not broken, don’t fix it. Merry Christmas.

  3. @Bill – we were extremely fortunate to have superb weather this last weekend, in the mid thirties with a slight wind. Saturday morning is snowed lightly to make everything absolutely glisten.

  4. “@Bill – we were extremely fortunate to have superb weather this last weekend, in the mid thirties with a slight wind.”

    “Mid thirties….superb weather…”…Oy vey!

  5. @Jason – for this time of year this weather is pretty out of the ordinary. If you are sufficiently bundled up, it is actually pleasant to walk around in the cool weather. To us anyways. It really is the wind that kills you though.

  6. You don’t want to be there when you see ropes stretched along the streets to keep people from being blown into traffic. When I was in elementary school, we used to ride our bikes to the Museum of Science and Industry on Saturdays and during the summer. I have spent hundreds of hours there. My favorite was Main Street. The guards hated us. I try to get back once a year. The last time was for my sister’s 70th BD. Last April.

  7. We wanted to hit Science and Industry but couldn’t fit it in. Next time. They have one of those bodies displays right now – we went through one here and Madison and the little ones got grossed out a bit. I have heard that they have a heck of a Christmas tree display there.

  8. I have grown to hate IKEA. For them, the customers are square pegs that must be pounded into their round holes. I found the experience of shopping there to be dispiriting.

  9. @Jonathan – agreed.

    @Robert Schwartz – the quality at IKEA seemed to me and the wife to have gone down a notch since the last time we were there, and it wasn’t exactly Ethan Allen before. The store is Schaumburg is absolutely immense and I felt like the life was sucked out of me when we left.

    @Bill – the Swedish meatballs are still good!

  10. Dan: IKEA quality. What we found was that the IKEA stuff would do its job in the first place it landed, but that it could not be moved.

    Tatyana: You still scare me.

  11. If I might make a suggestion to any and all who might wish to view Chicago from a lofty vantage:

    The Willis Tower skydeck is a needless expense

    Instead you may opt for the lounge on the 96th floor of the Hancock building which does not charge to enter. I would recommend getting a drink(soft or otherwise), and while the drink will be pricier than most, it will certainly be less than the price of admission to the Willis skydeck.

  12. @Dan – that Willis skydeck reminds me of a similar thing over the Grand Canyon and if I am not mistaken on Indian land. A friend went there and said that the cost was a rip off.

    If you are ever in San Francisco a drink in the restaurant of the Marine’s memorial – on Sutter St – is nice. It is a hotel for Marines or other members of other branches but you don’t have to be a member to have a drink.

    it isn’t lofty but if I remember you get a nice view of the Bay Bridge.

  13. Aw, fabulous pictures. Looks like a nice trip. I am avoiding CBz because my upcoming New Year’s Resolution is to get some other writing done and this place tends to suck me in.

    Yeah, I know. I’ll probably blog a post before the week is out.

    – Madhu

Comments are closed.