Navy Pier in the distance as we walk along Lake Michigan.
After everyone was awake and showered, we decided to see what the breakfast was like here at the hotel. Surprisingly, I didn't take any pictures of the food or the cafe, so I think the food was pretty good, but I just can't seem to remember now.
It was time to venture out into the big city and explore. Before we even left our home in Maryland, I had purchased 4 three day Go Chicago Cards which were mailed to us a week before our trip began. They were even offering a special price the week I bought them, so the price was even lower than I saw on the web site! These cards give you free admission and discounts to many of the top tourist sites in the city.
Thinking we would arrive in Chicago earlier on Wednesday than we did, I bought cards that were good for three days. But since you can't use them after 5:30 pm, we never used the cards on Wednesday, which means they will now be good Thursday, Friday & Saturday. As you will read later, we wouldn't use the cards on Saturday, but as long as we get free admission to at least three or four places in the next two days, the cards will have paid for themselves.
Lena & Courtnie standing in Lake Michigan.
For more information on the Go Chicago Cards, check out this link. http://www.smartdestinations.com/chicago-attractions-and-tours/_d_Chi-p1.html?pass=Chi_Prod_Go
The first thing we did was walk to the lake front and head towards The Navy Pier. We saw a few people in the water swimming just off the small beach area, so Lena and Courtnie took off their shoes and got their feet wet.
Now they can say they have been in two of the five Great Lakes. Me, I had already been in Lake Michigan before as a child growing up in Wisconsin, so I didn't need to get my feet wet.
Entering The Navy Pier.
The pier is big and has many restaurants, shops and attractions. At night there may be performers or a band playing on one of the outdoor stages. You can also catch a ride on one of the many ships docked here that offer lunch and dinner cruises. It is possible to spend a whole day here seeing everything. We did spend a few hours just walking around and getting a feel of that was here. One of the things on our list to do was take the Architectural River Cruise. This is a one hour trip down the main branch of the Chicago River, up the north branch to the East Bank Club, and then south past the Sears Tower to the old Post Office Building.
The whole trip is narrated by a professional guide telling the story of Chicago from the Great Fire to present day. They also sell drinks for those passengers 21 and older, and water, lemonade and other drinks for everyone else. It was a bit warm out today, so we did get a few bottles of water and a lemonade for Mike. Since I forgot to bring the extra charged battery for Lena's camera, I had to share Courtnie's camera. So, many of the pictures taken during the cruise were taken by her, but not all of them :) The cruise was great and we saw many buildings from a prospective you can only see from the river. This would have cost us $24.00 a person, but it was free with our Go Chicago Card. I highly recommend this fun and informative little boat ride!
Lena and me on the river tour.
After our one hour cruise was over, I was ready to get out of the sun for a bit and get some lunch.
My daughter Courtnie wanted to see the new Harry Potter movie at the IMAX theater, so we grabbed some hotdogs near the theater from a placed called America's Dog, and went to watch the movie. The hotdogs were ok, and the movie was...well, Harry Potter. We did get a discount on the IMAX tickets with our Go Chicago Card, so that helped. After the movie, we wanted to go to the top of the Sears Tower, now called the Willis Tower, and see the city from one of the tallest buildings in the world. Since it was now 4:00pm, and our free entry is until 5:30pm, we needed to get there soon. We decided the easiest way, and probably the most fun way, would be to take one of the water taxis. The water taxi cost about the same as a cab would have, but it took a bit longer I'm sure, and it drops you off a block from the building, but it was still a fun ride. Once we got to the Sears Tower, we got in line to go through security.
Lunch at America's Dog
Yep, just like at the airport, put all your stuff on the belt for x-ray, and walk through the detector. Once we made it through security, we were able to skip the line for buying the $12.95 per person tickets using our Go Chicago Card and go right in the elevator waiting area. First you see a short movie about the history of the tower and what it took to build it, then you wait in line for the elevator to take you up 103 floors to the skydeck. You would think as many people that are in line and all the people waiting to go up in the elevators the skydeck would be crowded, but it wasn't. There were many places you could go right to the glass for a great view of the city. A new attraction on the skydeck is something they call "The Ledge". This is a small glass box, walls, floor and ceiling, which hangs out from the side of the building! If you have a fear of heights, this is not for you! It's like you are stepping off the side of the building 103 floors up out into air! I did it, but didn't look down, and Courtnie did it too, but Lena and Mike said no way!! After getting a hazy, but very nice view of the city and lots of pictures, it was time to get back to street level.
Waiting for the elevator to go up 103 floors in the Sears Tower.
There was a short wait to get on the elevator going back down, but the elevators operate at approximately 1,600 feet (4889 meters) per minute, so the trip down is as fast as the trip up!
Chicago Deep Dish pizza!
We were now getting hungry again, and pizza was on the menu, Chicago Deep Dish pizza! Lena and I are both huge fans of New York thin crust pizza from Lombardi's, but she and the kids have never had Chicago Deep Dish before, so off to Geno's East we went. There was an hour wait to get a table, but I knew it would be worth it. Once we were seated, we placed an order for an appetizer, our drinks and one large deep dish pizza. The pizza takes about an hour to bake, so if you're hungry, be patient and order an appetizer and a few beers while you wait.
Once the pizza arrived, we all dug in to this large delicious pie which was cut into eight slices. Mike and I both had two pieces, but Courtnie and Lena could only eat one each. The last two pieces went back to the hotel with us and would be Mike's dinner Friday night while Courtnie, Lena and I are at the TB Meet-up. This place it different, but good, and the pizza was great, but I still like the thin Lombardi's pizza better...sorry Chicago!
The four of us inside Geno's East with our Deep Dish pizza!
After we had stuffed ourselves, we took a cab back to the hotel and called it a night. Tomorrow, more touring the city and the Great Chicago Meet-up!