View Full Version : Best things to do in Chicago

07-23-2008, 10:02 PM
So I'm going to Chicago for the first time this weekend. My plans are pretty much set based on when I can see friends, but if you had a full weekend in Chicago, what things would you recommend doing and seeing?

07-23-2008, 11:06 PM
Many regulars at Tripso know I travel to Chicago periodically, and think it one of the great cities of the world, not just the US.

If you have any interest in history, cities, architecture, etc. you don't want to miss the Chicago Architectural Boat Tour. I've gone on it several times. To me, this is a can't miss Chicago sightseeing opportunity.

As far as I'm concerned, the very best of the Chicago Architectural Boat Tours is the one run by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. This one has a CAF-certified expert docent explaining the world-class architecture along the Chicago River. You don't get the same quality on any of the other Chicago Architectural Boat Tours.

For more information go to the CAF Architecture River Cruise web site (http://www.architecture.org/tour_view.aspx?TourID=8).

You can call 312.902.1500.

The tour is normally available from the beginning of May (sometimes the latter portion of April) through mid November. Check with the web site to find out the availability when you're in Chicago.

You pick up the tour at their dock location, at the southeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge & Wacker Drive. There's a blue awning marking the stairway entrance. You need to arrive about 15 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the tour.

Afterward, you can go shopping along Chicago's nearby "Magnificent Mile," which runs along north Michigan Avenue from the Chicago River to Oak Street.

Other excellent places to go are the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, Field Museum (http://www.fieldmuseum.org/) where you can see Sue the T-Rex, The Art Institute of Chicago (http://www.artic.edu/) and the Museum of Science & Industry (http://www.msichicago.org/).
I have a particular restaurant I always try to get to every time I'm in Chicago. It isn't inexpensive, but I've found it's consistently excellent. It's located in the "Loop" district. The only problem with it, is that at night its location isn't exactly bustling with people along the building's streetscape. I suggest when you're about ready to leave, call a cab to go back to your hotel, or next evening's stop.

I strongly suggest Chef Joho's, Everest (http://www.everestrestaurant.com/). It's a French restaurant (my favorite style of food, which I cook at home for company), and both the food and service are excellent. The view from the 40th floor is spectacular. When you make your reservation, make sure you ask for a table with a view.

If you see Filet of Venison, or Sauteed Magret of Mulard Duck on the menu, you can't go wrong choosing either one. His seafood entrees are also excellent. If you want the incredible Chocolate or Grand Marnier Soufflé, you must order these when you make your reservation. You can't get them if you wait to order them when you get to Everest.

Everest Restaurant
One Financial Pl.
440 S. LaSalle St., 40th fl.
(Congress Pkwy.)
Chicago, IL 60605

07-24-2008, 07:55 AM
Other excellent places to go are the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, Field Museum (http://www.fieldmuseum.org/) where you can see Sue the T-Rex, The Art Institute of Chicago (http://www.artic.edu/) and the Museum of Science & Industry (http://www.msichicago.org/).

Chicago is my second favorite city for museum-hopping. I've made multiple trips to the Field museum and love it. If you're interested in ancient Egypt, they've got a very nice collection. I also highly recommend the Shedd Aquarium--don't miss the leafy sea dragons.

If you decide to go, I recommend parking at Soldier Field-- the Aquarium, Field musem, & Planetarium are all within walking distance, and I believe there's a shuttle to the Art institute & S & I museum.

Also, if you're going to do at least two or three of these, look into the Chicago citypass (http://www.citypass.com/city/chicago.html?id=egCNPMtz). It will save you some money, and quite possibly a good bit of time. I went w/ my Mom on a museum trip about 2 years ago, and the admission line for the Art Institute was out the door & almost around the block. But since we had the pass, we just walked right in. ( And if looks could kill, we'd have been toast.:D )

Anyway, it's a great town.Have a great time!!

07-24-2008, 01:27 PM
I've never made it to Chicago (unless you count the airport), but its definitely on my wish to visit list.

07-24-2008, 07:51 PM
I just returned from Chicago this past Sunday. For the summer, every Thurs and Fri from 5p-9p the Art Institute is free to visit. They do charge a $1 to check any bag, as they do not allow any bags inside. I wasn't planning on visiting this museum, but it was one of the highlights of our visit to Chicago. A boat ride on the river was recommended to us and we took one that also went out onto the lake. Chicago has the most incredible buildings and to see them from the river and hearing about them on the ride was very interesting. Navy Pier was fun. Of course going up to the top of Sears Tower will give you a great view of the surrounding area. We also went to the Field Museum, which was also interesting. A visit to Buckingham Fountain will make you think you are in Europe. Loved it!

We walked and took the bus when needed to get somewhere of distance or to get somewhere faster. You can get a one day pass for $5 or a two day pass for $9.00. Without the pass one ride is $2. It is also good on the train. You can get them at certain train stations, Union Station being one and at other locations. Check on line if you are interested in getting one.

Millenium Park on Michigan Ave. was interesting. If you are into shopping, Michiagan Ave and State Street are a must!

We found Chicago to be very clean, lots of open space and great parks.

07-24-2008, 08:37 PM
If you are in Chicago on the 26th, go the Jimmy Buffett concert. You will have a great time tailgating and meet lots of new and interesting people! Oh, the concert will be fun too! :D

07-24-2008, 09:10 PM
I was tempted by the Jimmy Buffett concert but our group has dinner planned together Saturday night.

I also looked at going to see Jersey Boys or Wicked, going to a Cubs game, etc.

07-28-2008, 10:00 AM
So I had a fabulous time in Chicago this weekend. The weather turned out to be sunny and hot.

Our group stayed at the Wyndham Chicago Lisle Executive Meeting Center. The hotel was chosen because it could accommodate our group at reasonable prices, it had parking for those coming in from out of town (especially a few with camping travelers), it was close to one of the train routes to be able to get into Chicago fairly easily, and it still had smoking rooms available. Would I stay here again? No. The hotel itself was nice, had good bedding, we liked the toiletries etc, but among our group the service issues kept piling up. Things like no toilet paper in our bathroom when we arrived, others not getting towels, newspapers and glasses being left in the hallway - the entire time our group was there. Especially on Saturday when there was a large wedding taking place, we felt like all the attention was placed on that wedding and the rest of the guests could go by the wayside.

The biggest issue we had was with the shuttle. Their website advertises they have a local area (Naperville) shuttle by request and when we asked in advance they wouldn't schedule pickups in advance, you had to call. Yet when we would call to use the shuttle, we'd find out it was reserved for someone else's use. Coming back from Chicago on the train (arrive in Naperville at 3:30), many people called to get the shuttle to pick us up at the station. One group was told they couldn't be picked up at all. Another was told they were scheduled to pick up a group in Naperville at 4pm and it would "inconvenience the driver" to have to come pick us up. The earliest they said they could pick us up would be 4:45 after the next train arrived. We ended up taking a taxi back to the hotel, and the shuttle was sitting there. 30 minutes later it was still sitting there. We later found out there was no driver on duty for a couple of hours in the afternoon - so why didn't they tell us that in the first place - like when they dropped us of at the station in the morning.

07-28-2008, 10:20 AM
We stayed in Lisle, so to get into Chicago proper for sightseeing we took the train. On the weekends they offer a $5 all you can go pass, which you can either buy at a kiosk or on the train. Out in Lisle and Naperville (the 2 stops closest to the hotel), the station is only open M-F in the am, so you have to buy your tickets on the train at any other time. I suspect other suburban stations may be the same way. Be aware that if you want anything other than a regular one-way ticket (or the weekend pass), you have to buy it at the station. They will only sell you the regular one-way fare or the weekend pass on the train. One guy got upset because they wouldn't let him pay for a senior fare on the train.

We only had a few hours for sightseeing since the point of this weekend was to see each other - we had about 30 of us in the group. Basically what we did is say if you want to stick with others we will be doing this at this time, otherwise make sure you are back at the hotel for dinner at 6pm. So once we all got to Union Station we headed off for our day.

Many of were headed to Navy Pier for a tour but we had a little bit of time so left it open on how to get there. There are several ways to get from Union Station to Navy Pier. Of course the two cheapest options are walk and the free trolley. Be aware that especially on a nice sunny weekend, everyone else will want to take the free trolley with you so be prepared for a wait (one group waited 45 minutes to get on the free trolley going back to Union Station from Navy Pier). Many of us opted to take the Water Taxi which was beautiful - of course we saw all that stuff later on our architectural tour. The water taxi cost $6 from Union Station to Navy Pier. You can take a taxi, the taxi from Navy Pier to Union Station cost me $15 I believe, but was well worth it as it allowed me to catch the 2:30 train instead of having to wait for the 3:30 train.

We booked an architectural tour on the Seadog leaving from Navy Pier. We had a great time and the narrator was informative and interesting. In contrast to a boat tour I took in Seattle last month, this guy was funny and kept throwing in 80s song references. Our group really enjoyed the tour although it was so hot it got a little warm sitting in the lock.

Due to the beautiful weather, Navy Pier was packed. There is so much to do there, boat rides, amusement rides, shopping, restaurants, shows, etc. You could rent tandem bikes in the areas or do a segway tour. We could've stayed there for hours. When I go back, I will plan extra time just for Navy Pier

Due to Venetian Nights this past weekend a lot of stuff was shutting down early, including the water taxis, also it meant there were extra people in the area.

Now that I've seen a teeny tiny portion of Chicago, I can't wait to plan a trip to actually see Chicago as what I saw was beautiful and friendly. Next time I will stay downtown in the middle of it all so time isn't wasted in transit.