Chicago, Illinois Guide

Chicago Selfie

Coming to Chicago for the first time was quite overwhelming at first because it’s a city and it has a lot to see. However, until I researched a few days before my trip and received several suggestions from friends who’ve lived there, I felt I had a grip on things I wanted to see and do prior to visiting. Therefore, I wanted to share with you the information I had both suggestions from friends and what I found online that helped me on my trip.

Things to See or Do:

  • Millennium Park: Cloud Gate| 201 E. Randolph St.
  • Magnificent Mile
  • Chicago Riverwalk
  • The Art Institute of Chicago | 111 S Michigan Ave
  • Architecture Tour: Wendella Tours | 400 N Michigan Ave Suite C100
  • Skydeck – Willis Tower 233 S Wacker Dr.
  • Lincoln Park Zoo | 2001 North Clark Street
  • Navy Pier: Lake Michigan, Crystal Gardens | 600 E Grand Ave
Read my posts on Chicago's Tourist Sites here and on popular attractions.

Restaurants, Coffee Shops & Rooftop Bars

  • Nutella | 189 Michigan Ave
  • Wildberry Cafe | 130 E Randolph St
  • Bienmesabe (Venezuelan) | 1637 W Montrose Ave
  • Devil Dawgs (hotdog) | 767 S. State St. 60605
  • Palmer House Hilton | 17 E. Monroe St.
  • RL Bar and Grill | 111 E. Chicago Ave., 60611
  • The Dearborn (American) | 145 N Dearborn St., 60602
  • SideDoor Chicago (Gastropub) | 100 E Ontario St. 60611
  • PetitMargeaux (coffee shop) | 11 E. Walton St. 60611
  • Floriole Cafe and Bakery | 1220 W Webster Ave.
  • Cafe des architectes | 20 E Chestnut. St. Chicago
  • Ella Elli (make reservations) | 1349 W Cornelia Ave.
  • Hayden Hall (new food hall) | 333 S Wabash Ave. (2nd floor)
  • Gather Chicago | 4539 N Lincoln Ave.
  • Maison Marcel Chicago | 3114 N Broadway
  • Girl & The Goat | 809 Randolph St. 60607-2310
  • The Publican (for meatlovers – make reservation) | 837 W Fulton Market 60606-1318
  • Loumalnatis (deep dish pizza) | 805 S State St.
  • Ginos East (deep dish pizza) | 500 N LaSalle St. 60654
  • Do-Rite Donuts & Chicken West Loop | 50 W. Randolph St.
  • Donut Vault | 111 N Canal St.
  • The J. Parker (rooftop) | 1816 N Clark St.
  • Raised Bar Chicago (rooftop) | 1 W Upper Wacker Dr. In Renaissance Hotel (3rd floor)
  • Z Bar (rooftop) | 108 E Superior St.
  • Skydeck Chicago (rooftop) | 233 S Wacker Dr. 60606
  • London House Chicago (rooftop) | 85 E Wacker Dr. 60601
Image

The Art Institute of Chicago.

Art Institute of Chiago

On my last day in Chicago I spent all morning at the Art Institute of Chicago, the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. Several people have told me it is a must see when you come to Chicago and they were right. The museum has over 300,000 permanent collections of art works from modern art, classical art to chinese, japanese expositions. I spent most of my time in the Impressionism area, observing paintings from Van Gogh to Seurat.

Before I visited the museum I had researched which paintings or artworks I wanted to see because I knew that the museum would be too big to cover in 1 day. I’m glad I picked the areas I wanted to see first as I became restless after 2 hours of walking from one room to the next. I could’ve rested at their onsite cafe and buy food and drinks but, I didn’t want to waste my day and spend it all at the museum. Therefore, I kept going until I saw everything that I wanted to see on my list.

Ticket Costs: $25 – General Admission
Address: Michigan Avenue Entrance, 111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60603

What helped guide me through the museum and learning about each artwork was this app called Art Institute. It maps out each floor of the museum plus indicating which artwork has an audio. I managed to learn a lot more of the artworks through this app and was a great resource for techniques and its history behind the work.

The coolest painting that I thought was A Sunday at La Grande Jatte by George Seurat. I liked the technique of the painting with the tiny dots as you get closer to it. I thought it was pretty interesting.

Lastly, the Nighthawks by Edward Hopper is another favorite painting of mine because of its moody and eerie feeling. Oddly, I saw a recent article from New York Times that used this same painting to depict the mood of our current state relating to COVID-19; a somber and unstable situation we are in.

What I learned after visiting Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago Skyline

1. Friendly locals: One of the first things that stood out to me when I visited Chicago was how friendly and helpful the locals were. They were more than willing to help out lost souls (like me) while wandering around their city.

2. Food Halls: I’ve never seen so many access to food halls as much as I did while I was in Chicago. In Orange County, I only know of 1 which is the Packing District in Anaheim. Chicago had endless options from Eataly to Revival Food hall.

3. Cleanliness: Chicago keep their streets very clean. I was fairly surprised how they managed to keep it clean considering there are over 2 million people living there.

4. Rooftop Bars: I thought L.A. had plenty of rooftop bars, Chicago seemed to have more and with better views. Londhouse Rooftop Bar was one of the nicest views I’ve seen that overlooked the Chicago river and various points of downtown.

5. Architectecture: Chicago is famous for their architecture tours. Having been able to experience it, I’d say it is one of the best I’ve seen. Never miss this when visiting Chicago.

Day 2 in Chicago. (Video)

Chicago Rooftop

Another sunny day in Chicago started making me feel spoiled. The weather during my trip regarding the brutal cold weather has proven it to be quite the opposite.

I already started my day with a delicious breakfast at the well known Wildberry Cafe. Set in the heart of the Millennium Park, I met a few friends there and caught up over pancakes and toasts. The food was good explaining why the line is always long right out the door. I didn’t end up finishing half of my food before I started feeling full so, definitely make sure to order what you can finish.

Note: Add yourself to the waitlist at least an hour prior to coming here as the wait to get a table usually takes about 45-60 minutes long. The earlier you come the better.

After breakfast, I made my way to the zoo via Lyft. The Lincoln Park Zoo was a 10 minute drive from the loop. It is one of the oldest zoo in the continent and home to various types of animals from giraffes, crocodiles, a polar bear, monkeys and much more. My favorite part of the zoo was the African Exploration exhibit (don’t quote me on the name). They created a forest theme like experience including an open room with birds free to fly around. It was both cool yet, scary (because I’m afraid of birds) at the same time. I spent about an hour and a half before deciding to move on with my journey.

After the zoo, the weather stayed sunny for the rest of the day. I decided to head over to the Navy Pier to check out the “largest rooftop bar” in Chicago.

I thought navigating to the Offshore Navy Pier felt long. It was located all the way at the end of the pier, through the hallway and 2-4 floors up. Once you’re there, the view is quite good. I was able to see the skyline of Chicago from the rooftop including the Michigan River.

The ambiance of the bar is casual with seating all around. People are able to go indoors and outdoors, enjoy playing pool or relax next to fire-pits situated along the sides of the deck. It reminded me a bit of Hive and Honey rooftop bar in Irvine but, way bigger.

A few steps from the Navy Pier is the Crystal Gardens, a small indoor greenhouse that is connected to a small shopping center. It was a great spot to pause and relax with trees and fountains around. I stayed here for a few minutes before heading out to eat.

To be continued…

Chicago’s Tourist Sites. (Video)

Tourist Sights

Saturday’s schedule was jam packed with outdoor activities that I wanted to see or do. I originally intended to spread out the activities in a span of 4 days while I was in Chicago but, since the weather was fantastic, I decided to see as much of outdoor related activities as possible. Most of them, of course, were the typical tourist sites.

In daylight, I realized the vibe of Chicago is quite different compare to the walk I had at night. The buildings stood tall above me and lined up next to each-other which reminded me a little bit of downtown L.A. except with narrower streets, more buildings, less crowded and much cleaner. The weather, on the other hand, was still cold but, not freezing at all. I was very lucky.

Millenium Park

I made it to the Cloud Gate (a.k.a “The Bean”) around 8:30 am and was happy to find out that I didn’t have to fight my way through other tourists. I took several photos and videos here, taking advantage of the fantastic lighting I had. The Bean itself is a stainless steel sculpture, a famous symbol of Chicago and is one of the most photographed attractions.

Nutella Cafè

Down the street was a perfect breakfast spot called the Nutella Cafè. Yes, you heard that right. THE Nutella spread has a cafè location in Chicago. I ordered a toast with a nutella spread and boysenberries on top, strawberry crepe with nutella, and a cup of chia seed pudding with fruits and nutella topping. Yes, I was hungry and yes, it was good.

Chicago River: Windella Tour

By the time I was done eating, I made my way to the Chicago river where I would be taking the Wendella architecture tour. I had no idea what to expect on this tour, however, it turned out to be one of the best tours I’ve done. The tour is about 2 hours long where you ride a 2 decker boat along the Chicago river with the guide sharing facts about several of the building’s architecture history. You’re allowed to sit either at the top deck or below. Most people started off at the top deck since the view from here is top notch and made their way down to the heated indoor seating to warm up or grab food and drinks. I stayed most of my time at the top deck enjoying my view from my seat.

London House Hotel

After the tour, I walked over to the London House hotel right across the street from where our boat docked. I’ve heard about their rooftop view overlooking the river and the city so, I made sure to stop by and see it for myself.

The view here was pretty good. I was able to see the Chicago river bridges in the distance and the Trump Tower. At the time of my visit, there weren’t that much people around and I found myself, at times, alone. I took advantage of my view and stayed for 35 minutes taking photos and admiring the scene. Times like this, where I had this rooftop deck all to myself with a view of Chicago right in front of me, reminded me why I travel. That moment in time is an opportunity I’ll never get again.

To be continued…

Image

First night in the windy city.

Chicago at Night

Chicago was definitely a city that’s been on my list of places to see. However, due to their harsh cold weather (by California standards anything under 75 degrees F is cold), it was a major factor in influencing my decision of not coming to visit sooner. With decent flight winter deals, I could not turn away from this opportunity and bought my tickets (rain or shine, there was no going back).

I arrived late at night via Midway International airport and took the metro which dropped me off right in downtown Chicago. The weather, well, as expected it was cold (about 30 degrees F). My puffer coat I wore along with a beanie and boots certainly was doing its job in keeping me warm. It took me a couple of blocks to finally arrive at the Central Loop Hotel where I would be staying for the next couple of days.

The front desk clerk guided me through their online check in process and immediately provided me with my keys. My hotel room was small, nothing fancy at all but, it was central to everything I needed and that was more than enough for me. I settled in for a few minutes before deciding to brave the cold and get food.

I ended up at Giordanos, a restaurant known for Chicago’s deep dish pizza. The pizza was quite huge for my taste with layers of cheese and crust combined. I thought it was the most I’ve eaten pizza in my life but, it was quite good.

Note: Giordanos & Louminatis are Chicago's 2 popular deep dish pizza restaurants.

'The primary difference between deep-dish pizza and most other forms of pizza is that, as the name suggests, the crust is very deep, creating a very thick pizza that resembles a pie more than a flatbread. Although the entire pizza is very thick, in traditional Chicago-style deep-dish pizzas, the crust itself is thin to medium in thickness.'  
~ Wikipedia

After stuffing myself with the pizza, I walked around a few blocks to observe my new surroundings and tried to burned off all the cheese I had consumed. It was freezing and I found myself walking alone.

At first, I thought it was odd how quiet it was and not see too many cars around until I saw the Chicago river. The sight of it was breathtaking under the cool air. I took a couple of shots before heading back to my room and eventually realised that Chicago was 3 hours ahead from Cali. It all made sense now how I’ve been wandering around outside in the cold at 1am without people around. Silly me, I must’ve been tired from the flight.

To be continued…