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09 May 2007

Chicago Travelogue What an incredible city![More:]

So I had a workshop to attend for my job, and used it as an excuse to take an extra couple days and tour the city. I was quite efficient! In just a few days I walked miles around Oak Park looking at houses, went to the History Museum, the Stained Glass Museum, the Field Museum, and the Art Institute; hung out in Milennium Park; walked along the beach and the lake shore biking path; checked out the Navy Pier; took a self-guided tour of the Marshall Fields' store; checked out the historic Palmer hotel; went to a Unitarian service at Frank Lloyd Wright's UNity Temple and visited his Oak Park home & studio; tried a Chicago hot dog (excellent!) and a deep dish pie (meh), checked out the Tribune building and the Magnificent Mile, and splashed around in the Crown Fountain.

It was a startlingly beautiful city. All I know of Chicago had come from American Studies stuff -- Sandburg, the Jungle, the '68 convention - I always pictured it as gritty, industrial, full of strife. Instead I found a really vibrant, sophisticated, diverse city full of graces: the architecture has to be America's finest in one city center. The public parks and gardens and plantings are like gems everywhere, and people really use them.

Culturally, I found that people were almost a combination of Midwestern (nice, polite, helpful) and Southern (I haven't been 'Ma'am'-ed so much in years, and people were laid back and had a relaxed pace). Perhaps some of the Southern feel can be accounted for by the Great Migration, but who knows.

I'd go back at the flimsiest excuse, this time exploring more of the outlying neighborhoods. Those of you who live there are fortunate folk!
DUH please hope me! More inside please!
posted by Miko 09 May | 09:41
Glad you had such a great time, Miko! I had the same reaction when I visited. I expected it to be grey and industrial and full of men with big moustaches eating sausage and proclaiming their love for Ditka. But I just fell in love with the place. I love how the lake makes it feel like a seaside town even though it is completely landlocked.

The conference I attended there actually rented out Marshall Fields for the night and hosted a party there. It was super cool. (Second only to the year they rented out the place in New Orleans where they store the Mardi Gras floats. That was hardcore awesome.)
posted by jrossi4r 09 May | 09:50
Your pics look awesome- I can't wait to go through 'em thoroughly!
posted by BoringPostcards 09 May | 10:20
Naw, that "Ma'am" stuff and that pace have been here as long as there have been Teamsters (my great-great-grandfather was a Teamster here).

I am *so* glad you had a good time (and *so* embarrassed that Monk's was closed)! I love it here and am always glad to hear that a visitor did, too. Your pictures make me want to visit and I live here!
posted by crush-onastick 09 May | 10:50
So glad you had such an awesome time, Miko. I've always said that Chicago is the hands-down friendliest big city I've ever been in... I'm happy it didn't let you down! (Especially on the hot dog front: they are among the greatest culinary delights on the planet, no?) You know, I really do love L.A., but holy cow do I seriously miss Chicago in some ways.
posted by scody 09 May | 11:07
(and don't mind me, I'm off being a know-it-all in your Flickr).
posted by crush-onastick 09 May | 11:20
Chicago is truly a great city. I have many friends there and visit often. On a return trip I recommend you take the Chicago Architecture Foundation river cruise.
posted by ericb 09 May | 12:27
Please be a know-it-all, crush! Can't wait to look. I hope I get to meet bunnies next time I go.

Thanks for the recommendation, ericb. I wanted to take that cruise but there was only so much time, so I'll save that for the next visit, too.

I think I'd like to attend one of the music festivals sometime. Which ones are good?
posted by Miko 09 May | 12:46
Glad you had a good time! I wish I'd been able to meet you when you were here!
posted by sisterhavana 09 May | 14:28
Well, the good indie/alt music ones are Lollapalooza and Pitchfork. There are numerous smaller ones like Ozfest and they have a concert venue on Northerly Island (former Meigs Field airport) now, right on the lake, but that's not necessarily come-into-town for.

The traditional ones are Chicago Jazz Festival, Chicago Blues Festival, Chicago Gospel Festival, and Taste of Chicago (more about the food, obviously). And there's Ravinia with the Chicago Symphony and a variety of jazz-pop-classical acts all summer, up in Highland Park.

Damn, I hate being stuck up here with my fellow cheeseheads.
posted by stilicho 09 May | 17:49
I'm going to Chicago next week. Thanks for the ideas of things to do, Miko and others!

The only things I know I'm going to do for sure is take the architecture river tour and visit the Robie House.
posted by mullacc 09 May | 18:09
I'm heading to Chicago next week too, but I'm afraid all I'm going to see is the inside of McCormick Place all week.
posted by nonane 09 May | 21:46
Duh, that's why we live here. :)
posted by youngergirl44 10 May | 01:08
Must be something in the air! || Reasons your life rocks