July 12, 2013 3 min read
Last weekend, I visited Chicago, Illinois for the first time. (And of course with cardi in tow!)
The trip came about quite randomly (and last minute). One of my credit card benefits is a free plane ticket for a friend, and it was going to expire so I asked my fav travel buddy if she'd like to go, and she was game. Being the travelista that I am, I also had a ton of hotel points, so we booked at the Westin River North. The hotel was perfectly located - right by the river in the restaurant/bar-filled area of River North (or Near North).
We got into Chicago fairly late on a Friday, and planned a late dinner at Untitled, a speakeasy
style restaurant with live Jazz. What a perfect choice!
On open table, I'd mentioned we were in from Toronto for the first time and they sat us at the front, and the Manager came by (who was originally from Toronto!) and gave us free champagne. The service and food was incredible. There was also a mini burlesque show and jazz singer/guitarist. I highly recommend this place - amazing atmosphere and good intro to Chicago. The night ended with a mini pub crawl in the area.
Saturday started with a luncheon for me at Sushi Samba (the food is phenomenal!) with a couple of fellow entrepreneurs while my friend shopped on the Mag Mile.
I walked the 'mile' after lunch to meet my friend. It reminded me of Las Ramblas in Barcleona - street performers, crowds, action and flagship retail stores including the Allsaints store (check out the vintage sewing machines in the window!). We reconvened at Bloomingdales and made the short walk to Oak Street Beach.
In Toronto, our waterfront has been mismanaged. In Chicago, it's the opposite. One moment, you're on a majorly urban street and next, you're on a lush sand beach. Bikes, kayaks, flip flops, music, and faux palm trees. We lunched a fun beachfront bar-resto.
Afterwards, a little downtime, then headed out to the area of Lincoln Park for dinner at Balena. Another meal that did not disappoint. Chicago will be remembered for the food and the service. Service was impeccable at every restaurant we went to
- a glass did not sit empty for more than a minute, we were never rushed out of a table and the servers were helpful but not overbearing. Yes, folks that's fresh truffles on pasta (right). Reasonably priced too.
On Sunday, we booked the highly recommended Architectural boat tour. It was phenomenal! The guide was extremely knowledgeable and brought to life buildings with stories of the past.
Highlights from the tour include the Wrigley building (left), the Trump Tower, Marina Towers, Mies Van Der Rohe tower and of course, the Sears tower).
Another testament to Chicago's ability to balance development with nature along the riverwalk.
After, we visited the "Bean" in Millennium park (which is a bit overrated?). Not sure what the hype was about! It was cool but maybe it was the heat. I was not into it.
We stopped for lunch at a local gastropub where we indulged again in Chicago's finest fried cheese curds. Delish.
This brought an end to our trip as we needed to head to the Airport to catch out late afternoon flight.
Unfortunately, upon arrival at the airport we learned of a monster storm hitting Toronto, so our flight was delayed 5 hours. Thankfully (this is why you collect points folks!), I had free access to the United Club and we were able to relax in air-conditioned style with free food, drinks, tea and clean space to work with Wi-Fi.
Eventually we were able to take-off (through a thunderstorm (which was CRAZY!)), and landed in Toronto to more delays (2 hours to the gate upon landing). Though we had some travel snafus, it did not damper the fun we had in Chicago.
Thanks again to all of the great people of Chicago for welcoming us to your beautiful city!
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