There’s nothing that can wake you up more than a bird flying right into your head. Going on a girl’s trip runs a high risk of staying up late talking, reading fashion mags and watching bad rom com movies. So when we sleepily walked along Chicago’s Lakefront trail and stopped to have our pic taken by a passerby, I could only laugh and be thankful for the bird who apparently thought it would be funny to hit my head full-force as we were posing. I like to think my head isn’t huge but it’s usually big enough for birds to swerve around!
Chicago has several small beaches, one of which is 12th Street Beach, south of the John G. Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium at the end of Grant Park. The John G. Shedd Aquarium is one of Chicago’s most famous tourist attractions, as evidenced by the long line of visitors who spend a considerable amount of their time waiting in line to get in.
In case you get lost walking around Grant Park, they have these handy signs to direct you.
We couldn’t leave Chicago without a taste of a Chicago-style hot dog. Instead of ketchup, there are tomatoes, pickles, peppers and onions. The bun is always a poppy-seed bun. I filled up on this at the Lincoln Park Zoo, a good way to fill up a few hours if you’re looking to do something cheap (it’s free!) and enjoy the weather. Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the country’s oldest zoos and, unfortunately, it shows a bit. It’s hard to go back to a zoo where the animals are kept behind cages after visiting places like the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, where at least you can kid yourself that the animals are somewhat happy. The glass did give me a close up view of a gorilla picking his nose and butt though and kudos for Chicago having a fun and educational institution that kids from all economic backgrounds can go to.
Bordering, and officially part of, Lincoln Park Zoo is the Nature Boardwalk. Nature Boardwalk is an example of successful urban and environmental conservation. It’s both a functional walkway and habitat for birds, turtles, frogs, etc.
Lincoln Park, directly connected to the rest of Chicago through the Red Line, is a leafy neighborhood filled with young professionals, college students and families.
Many of those young people (and not so young) end up at Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder. Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder is best known for two things: the birthplace of pizza pot pie and for being located across the site where Al Capone had his hit men kill rivals execution-style in broad daylight. Get there right when the doors open or else you’ll be facing an hour-long wait. It’s a tiny no-frills place filled with regulars and people who have worked there for years. Don’t ask the manager/host where the waiting list is so you can write your name; just let him know that you’re there. He remembers everyone’s waiting order in his head. The food is massive and will satisfy those who have a craving for gooey cheese, mushrooms and tomato sauce.
Apparently, Segway tours are hugely popular in Chicago. We walked around Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Agora, trying not to bump into a Segway as they zig-zagged around the giant legs.
Over at Navy Pier, there’s a free fireworks show on certain nights. We happened to get lucky and were able to time our ride in the Ferris wheel right when the fireworks were shooting off. Besides the view of the city from the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock (which has stunning views even from the women’s restroom), the views of Chicago’s skyline over Lake Michigan that you get while sitting in one of the Ferris wheel’s compartments at night is one of the most stunning.