Labor Day weekend in Chicago

Chicago Travel Blog

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scuplture in grant park, facing downtown
September 1. - September 4

I was in Chicago more than 10 years ago, on a layover to Europe. Even then, it was incredibly easy to get from the airport to downtown, near the lake. This time around, a childhood friend and I were looking for a perfect destination for the two of us to meet, and explore together.

Any big city has a multitude of things to offer, for any discerning taste. The highlights of this trip were the Art Institute, and a trip to the meat packing district for an unsual culinary experience, "4 taste." (read the review)

Landed in Midway Airport, early Friday afternoon. Getting from the airport to the hotel was relatively easy, with a CTA pass on the subway.
A day ticket can be purchased for $5.00, and single fare, one way, is $1.75-$2.00. Our hotel was the Congress Plaza on South Michigan Ave. (read review), located across from Grant Park.

Both a bit weary from our flights, we went exploring on State Street, lined with shops for bargain hunters. On the search for shoes, we popped in and out of the wackiest shoe stores, finding everything from gold lame knee high boots with brown faux fur, to hot pink spandex numbers. Overall, though the shoes are quite inexpensive, they are not meant for extended wear. We opted for Lady Foot Locker instead, and got Pumas for our wanderings through the city.

We stopped in at 17 West, located inside the "Berghoff" building, for a late lunch. Though it has new owners, the Berghoff has been open since the late 1800s, and is a historic highlight for the tourist.
our hotel, anno 1893

Back at the hotel we made ready for new adventures to come. We opted for a long walk down the "magnificent mile," which is Michigan Ave. Street performers and artists were everywhere near the Art Institute, and many were out tonight to enjoy the warm summer night, and the many inviting sights. Near the new Millenium park, there is much to see, made more beautiful at night.

We spent a couple hours touring the galleries of the art institute, enjoying free admission and a dazzling collection of ancient to modern art. (see review)

More than a mile later, walking through the busy center of retail life, the chicago tribune, and cozy restaurants in side streets, we arrived at Navy Pier.

More a mecca for tourists desirous of shopping, keepsakes, and souvenirs, we were disinterested in most of what it had to offer, though our bellies grumbled.
We decided on eating at "bubba gump shrimp," named after the movie "Forrest Gump." The inside of the place is half Bubba's Place, half Forrest's home. If it's your first time there, the server quizzes you on Forrest trivia. We had the Cajun Shrimp appetizer, delicious clam chowder, chef salad, and a generous portion of bread pudding for dessert.

A long walk back to the hotel had us extremely exhausted and ready to pass into fitful sleep. We had walked more than 4 miles today, and slept until 1pm next day!

With hard determination we rolled out of our beds on Saturday afternoon, showered, and made ready for another long trek. In nearly two miles, we were at Jackson and Halstead, which is where one would find most of the Greek restaurants of Greek town. We ate at 9 muses, one of the many traditional greek destinations for large helpings, and flavorful foods.
(see review)

The trek back led us past Sears tower, Union station, and many other hallmark buildings in the city. Our next destination was the Buckingham Fountain, a gorgeous meeting place for tourists and townies alike. We passed here to arrive at the Field Museum of Natural History.

Initially built on the site of a landfill, it is an impressive Greco-Roman structure on the lake, housing treasures from Ancient Egypt, the Inuits, Plains Indians, tibetan monestaries, as well as boasting a vast taxidermal wonderland of everything from Giraffe to spider monkey. Within its main hall, one can also see "sue", the T-rex. her 600lb. skull sits in a second floor gallery, as it was too heavy to mount on the actual skeleton. wow!

we wanted to visit the "king tut" exibit, but were too late in the day to gain entry.
Kapoor Sculpture at SBC Plaza-Cloud Gate. a 66-foot long 33-foot high elliptical sculpture inspired by liquid mercury.
Instead, we walked past the "Shedd Aquarium" to the lake, where we rented a water taxi. this boat, seating 40 people, drifted among chicago's shoreline, affording a beautiful view of the skyline, and its varied water craft.

drop off was at navy pier, where we stood in line for 15 minutes to get a heavenly concoction of coffee from "Starbucks." with our coffees we did some exploring on the "magnificent mile", sucked into the black holes of retail. couple hours later, after playing with make-up at "sephora" (silly, really. we can go to sephora virtually anywhere else) we walked back to the hotel to get ready for a really long night.

friend chris picked us up at the hotel around 8pm, and we drove into the meat packing district of chicago. according to him, it is fast becoming the hip scene.
many of the old warehouses have been turned into clubs or restaurants.

our first destination was of course, 4 Taste, of which i wrote an extensive review. thus far, my favorite restaurant! we were there for hours, the only customers, sipping wines and sampling the delectable fare. following that, we were off to another club,whose name i can barely remember. it was in the same area, think it had the name of a hotel. inside, everything was white. there were the usual assortment of scantily clad dancers, hipsters, and martini swilling studs. every major city has places like this. the djs talents are wasted on people who are there to see and be seen, drinks cost a day's wages. been there, done that! courtney and i were the only people dancing, having a great time, but it was time to move on to bigger and better.
..dive bars!

we hit about three of them, sampling local lagers, downing blue ribbon, dancing to anything that the DJ threw on the decks. cabbing from one place to the next, all locations remaining nameless places of drunken revelry, we arrived at our final destination. down a dark alley, arriving at an oversized, tattooed, bald bouncer, we stepped into "neo." a goth, industrial, new wave kind of club, all black, all dark, dirty, and filled with the smoke of cigarettes and fog machines...this is where we would dance for hours until we could barely stand, until the place itself shut down in the wee hours of the morning, at 4 am.

a relaxing cab ride had us back in the hotel and in our beds by 5am. drunk-induced sleep had us tossing and turning, and up at 11am!

Hungry, heads feeling like anvils, we stumbled down to Millenium Park for some lunch at the "park grill.
" (see review) following our delicious lunch, we walked into Millenium park to see the "cloud gate" statue, which reflects the skyline and people of chicago. By the amphitheater we spied a roving gang of musicians, and then were spent for the day.

We were back in the hotel shortly thereafter, to languor in bed and do absolutely nothing. our heads and feet hurt, and we had no further plans than to visit the other location of "4 Taste" that night...

Though that particular spot was larger and more hip, near the famous Michigan Ave., we did not enjoy the ambiance, or the food, as much as we did the one on "milwaukee." We were in bed by 10pm that night, Courtney was off early in the morning, back to Canada.

i was up at 7am, and made ready to visit "King Tut" at the the Field Museum.
traveling musicians parading through millenium park
Arriving there at 8am, with the rain coming down hard, there were few people in the museum. Purchasing the $25 ticket was without difficulty, and shortly I was ushered into the waiting line for his treasures. On the walls were posted photographs of Howard Carter, upon discovery of the tomb, and already my eyes were welling with tears. After the short introductory video to the life and times of Tutankhamun, I was quietly bawling. I am very emotional when it comes to things I am passionate about.

Let me spare you the details about every little thing in the galleries. I will start by saying that neither his sarcophagus, nor the enclosing shrines, or his mummy were part of the exibit. The Egyptian government apparently chooses not to let him leave the country any longer.

What was in the exibit were many 3,000 year old artifacts from daily life at court. Statuary, jewelry boxes, make-up cases, golden hand held mirrors, portable shrines, beds, chairs, walking staffs, etc. Highlights were Tut's pectoral, which was buried with the mummy, as well as the gold dagger, beautifully engraved, which guided him into the next life.

The finale in the last room, were images of the various x-rays and scans performed on his mummy over the years. a great mystery yet remains as to his cause of death. It has been found that it was not a blow to the head that caused his the cause is still uncertain.

amazing was to see a recreation of what Tut may have looked like, based on the structure of the skull.

I toured the rest of the museum, with more attention given to the Egyptian galleries in the basement.
Millenium Monument at Wrigley Square
..those I coud photograph. I highly recommend coming here, as they have arranged this particular exibit like an egyptian market day. there you can learn everything from the games they played, to how they irrigated the fields.

This concluded my trip to Chicago...I was so exhausted from walking as much as I had done in those last few days...anxious to get back home and relax!

Aditu says:
That sounds like a blast! I love your descriptions of things. As I was reading my stomach was growling lol, and you're so right there is nothing in the world like a good old dive!
Posted on: Oct 03, 2006
hannajax says:
i truly appreciate your comments. back in 97, i attended University to be a writer, but somehow felt I could never bring that dream to fruition. so, i went into healthcare. ten years later, i love writing as a hobby, but would love to make a career out of it.
Posted on: Sep 13, 2006
travelman727 says:
You really do have gifts of observation and writing! You'd make a great reporter!
Posted on: Sep 11, 2006
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scuplture in grant park, facing do…
scuplture in grant park, facing d…
our hotel, anno 1893
our hotel, anno 1893
Kapoor Sculpture at SBC Plaza-Clou…
Kapoor Sculpture at SBC Plaza-Clo…
traveling musicians parading throu…
traveling musicians parading thro…
Millenium Monument at Wrigley Squa…
Millenium Monument at Wrigley Squ…
side view of art institute
side view of art institute
Lion at the doors to the Art Insti…
Lion at the doors to the Art Inst…
reflection of city skyline in kapo…
reflection of city skyline in kap…
Buckingham Fountain
Buckingham Fountain
Chicago Field Museum of natural hi…
Chicago Field Museum of natural h…
Shedds Aquarium
Shedd's Aquarium
Navy pier
Navy pier
Sears Tower
Sears Tower
Flowers in Grant park
Flowers in Grant park
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photo by: mahoney