Friday, September 9, 2011

72 Hours In Chicago

I was in Chicago once - eons ago when dinosaurs walked the earth I think. Come to think of it, the only thing I remember about that visit when I was six years old - other than my aunt's wedding - was the Field Museum, where today you really can see dinosaurs that move.
This time around I had people to meet and things to see that didn't include triceratops and T-Rex. A lot of my three-day trip with my friend Lilli involved exploring Chicago's food scene, and you can read about that here. This post will take you along for the non-food part (yes I do more than just eat), starting with a relaxing boat trip highlighting the architectural wonders of the windy city. It was a great introduction to Chicago's diverse architecture and a good way to get a sense of where things were.   
Later on the trip, we explored on foot some of what we had seen on the water, including the Chicago Tribune building, a neo-Gothic building with lots of beautiful tracery near the front entrance.
Embedded near the base the building are myriad stones, bricks and artifacts that were collected from all over the world. I felt right at home when I saw the piece of stone from Princeton University.
You can't help noticing the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower). It's the highest building in North America, and stands 1,450 feet high.
You get a great view of the city from the top. On a really clear day, you can see across Lake Michigan to Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.
A couple of years ago, these glass balcony boxes were added to the building, allowing visitors to step out and look 1,343 feet below to the street. Yours truly had to go for it, and honestly, it's not as scary as it might seem. 

But if you'd rather stay at ground level, there's plenty to see and do. Take the time to head to the beach - right in the city. Except for the lack of waves, you might think you're at the ocean rather than Lake Michigan.

Walk the magnificent mile along Michigan Ave. and you'll find not just trendy shops, but sidewalks brimming with beautiful plantings, and even small fountains in some cases.

One thing I definitely didn't think I'd see in downtown Chicago was this crenellated building that looks like it belongs in Disneyworld. Turns out it was built as a water tower in 1869 but now serves as one of the city's official visitor's centers.
You'll find public sculpture along the sidewalks too, including these - the top left is by Picasso, the large one at right is by Jean Dubuffet, and the Marilyn sculpture (temporary until Spring) at lower left is by New Jersey's own Seward Johnson.
But the one that really captured my attention was "Cloud Gate" - more affectionally known as "the bean," created by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor. 

It's located in Millennium Park, a really fun place to spend some time. It's where Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion also is located, and you even might be able to hear a concert while you're there, as we did.

One of my favorite things about the city has to be the Crown Fountain, also located in Millennium Park. It's an interactive sculpture that uses light-emitting diodes on its glass-bricked towers to feature the constantly changing faces of local residents. Water spurts out of the mouth periodically, entertaining all the children playing there and the people watching, including me. Click on the video and see if it doesn't make you smile too.
Here's a nighttime view of the fountain, but it's never the same twice.
While we're on the subject of fountains, you've got to visit Buckingham Fountain too - a beautiful pink marble fountain that's one of the largest in the world. 
 When we walked into the Chicago Cultural Center, which has a glass dome designed by Louis Tiffany (the largest in the world) we thought we'd entered a concert hall. A talented pianist named Clara Min was rehearsing for a performance that we were sorry we would have to miss. The interior of the building was stunning, with glittering mosaics everywhere.

My very favorite place in Chicago has got to be the Art Institute. I spent three hours there one afternoon, but was wishing for at least three more. It's got a fantastic collection, and is the major reason I definitely want to come back to Chicago.
Here's only a smattering of the art I saw - clockwise from top left -  Renoir, Seurat, Sorolla, Monet, Pisarro and Degas.
      It was hard to tear myself away from the impressionists, but there was so much more to see - just a few more examples to entice - clockwise from left - Singer Sargeant, Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Magritte and Severini.
Next time I go back, I'll plan a whole day. And it will be during the season for the Chicago Lyric Opera and the Symphonic Orchestra too. Riccardo Muti, save a seat for me.

The winner of the Blue Willow tea set giveaway - chosen with a random number generator - is Barbara of Dish N'That. Congratulations. It'll be on its way to you tomorrow.

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  1. A awesome city which I'd love to visit! Thanks for sharing.

    I'm not too keen on that transparent balcony, though... ;-P



  2. Ahh, Linda. Never been to Chigago yet and this is one dream in my wishing list. Just like you I've spent 72 hours in LOndon last week end and just like you I tryied to see as much as possible in a very short time. Great moments. Un bacio, Pat

  3. Chicago may be called "The Second City" but I love it! You featured it beautifully Linda, love all your photos! You'd never know you were here for only 72 hours.

  4. Beautiful photos! I grew up in the suburbs, and worked downtown for twenty years, right in the Loop (at what used to be the Amoco, now Aon, Bldg.), just on the north side of Grant Park. The lake was a two block walk, free Tuesdays at the Art Institute, it was wonderful. The Cultural Center used to be the Chicago Public Library. Between these and the food, I think you definitely hit all the high spots.

    And NO ONE will every call it anything but Sears Tower. Just sayin'.

    ~ Peggasus

  5. What a nice tour of Chicago, Linda. You should really use your wonderful photos in travel guides or write your own - you're that good!

  6. bellissime foto Linda, non sono mai stata a Chicago, grazie per averle condivise! Buon we....un abbraccio....

  7. I adored the architecture and sculpture. The Tribune building? The Old Water Tower? You captured them with such grace and it looks as if you had some blazing blue skies. Cloudgate makes me smile. Marilyn (over a NYC subway grate - correct?) was a delight. And the skyline and Lake captures city and nature - coexisting beautifully.

  8. We love our Chicago neighbors to the south. I'm not sure I'd be so brave to go out on the balcony just to catch of glimpse of where I live! So much to see and do but my favorite has to be the Art Institute! Great tour and photos.

  9. Chicago is my neighbor and friend Mary's native city and even though she left thirty years ago, she still misses it and wishes she could afford to move there/ Lovely post, interesting.

  10. I've never been to Chicago but it was definitely fun going on a photo tour with you through the city!

  11. Your blog is terrific. Found my way over from Pat's. I hope to be in Chicago in November and want to look at your restaurant recommendations.

  12. I don't know how i missed your Chicago posts, Linda. I'm so glad you had a wonderful time! I know I was so impressed with all to see and do there on my recent first visit and I hope to return many times. Your photographs are wonderful!

  13. Wow, what a great tour of Chicago! Your photos are fantastic, Linda. You covered a lot of territory in your visit. My daughter lives there and I visit several times a year. I'm going for Thanksgiving and we all are planning a visit to their fantastic German Christmas Market downtown. You are a brave soul to go up in that elevator. I would have fainted dead away.

  14. Oops, at first glance I thought the glass box was an elevator but see that its stationary. Either way I would pass out.