If you are anything like my husband and I, we love to travel. Jacob and I have a lot of places we would like to travel to, and a lot of things we would like to see. We love discovering the world filled with God’s creations, and remembering just how small we really are. Chicago has been on our bucket list for a while now. When Jacob found out he was working only about an hour away from The Windy City…we knew we had to make the trip! We decided we were only going to spend one day touring the city. He had to work all week except for Friday, and Saturday we had a Fourth of July party to go to back home. Luckily, I had previously studied up on the city and we figured out exactly where exactly we wanted to go. Honestly, it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly. If you are touring Chicago in a crunch, we are sure this will help you!
Jacob and I are from a super small town, and we are used to parking wherever we want. We are also used to not having to pay for our parking. Most parking in Chicago – if you’re not careful – will cost you about $30 or more a day. However if you check the app ‘Park Whiz’, you can easily find the cheapest parking for the duration of your stay. We ended up parking at the Millennium Parking Garage (also called Grant North Parking Garage). They had the best rates for our stay, and was right near ‘The Bean’ that was also on our list of things to do. Our parking only ended up costing us only about $16! That’s a big price drop compared to $30! Wherever you go and need to pay for public parking, ‘Park Whiz’ is the way to go!
From our parking garage, we exited upstairs at Millennium Park. This was the first stop on our list. Millennium Park is a public park located in the Loop community area of Chicago and was originally intended to celebrate the second millennium. Millennium Park is known as the “front lawn” of downtown Chicago, and has four major artistic highlights: the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate, Crown Fountain, and the Lurie Garden. Most popular being, Cloud Gate. The 110-ton elliptical sculpture is made entirely of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflects Chicago’s famous skyline and the clouds above. A 12-foot-high arch provides a “gate” to walk under beneath the sculpture. It’s mirror-like surface is super satisfying to touch and to see your image reflected back from a variety of perspectives. Inspired by liquid mercury, the sculpture is among the largest of its kind in the world, measuring 66-feet long by 33-feet high. Cloud Gate is the most popular photo-op of the entire city of Chicago. People from all around the world visit the city, mainly to get snap a picture with the famous bean. A little tip that we should have taken while visiting Cloud Gate is to arrive at Millennium Park super early in the morning to beat the tourist crowd. We showed up around 11am which was already too late. I’ve seen pictures with a single couple in front of the bean, no one else in sight. I would suggest to arrive around 6 am to get some alone time with Mr. Bean.
After touring Millennium Park, we then headed over to Maggie Daley Park. There are a few different ways to get from Millennium to Maggie, but the most popular is to take a stroll on the BP Bridge. The bridge is covered in brushed stainless steel panels which complements the Jay Pritzker Pavilion’s design. The steel panels also creates an acoustic barrier from the traffic noise of Columbus Drive. This 925-foot-long winding bridge provides insanely beautiful views of Millennium Park, the Chicago skyline, and Grant Park. Columbus drive acts as a barrier between the two parks, and the bridge makes it significantly easier to travel from park to park. While walking you will have to stop and take a picture of the famous Chicago skyline!
Maggie Daley Park is super family friendly. While Millennium Park is more touristy and ritzy, Maddie Daley is really laid back and chill. You can mini golf, rock climb, exercise, and people watch. There were also a quite a few kids playing kickball, and football. People also like to take a break from the business of life and relax at Maggie Daley with a nice picnic! We also heard that there is an ice skating rink in the chilly winter months! Just something to keep in mind if you love to go ice skating (or have never been). No matter who you are, or what you want to do…there’s something for you. Jacob and I planned on playing mini golf, but we decided to keep moving since we were short on time. You know, or he just didn’t want me to beat him at mini golf again (totally kidding he could kick my butt any day).
From Maggie Daley, we headed south towards the massive fountain in Chicago known as Buckingham Fountain. Massive is an understatement because Buckingham is actually one of the biggest fountains in the world! The fountain actually cost about $750,000 to build! That’s almost a mil people…crazy. Buckingham fountain is considered Chicago’s front door since it resides in the center of Grant Park. Something many people don’t know about Buckingham is that it is meant to allegorically represent Lake Michigan. The four sets of sea horses symbolize the four states that border the lake: Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana. Unity is a beautiful thing.
The Chicago Lakefront Trail is an 18-mile-long trail along Lake Michigan used for walking, biking, jogging, and whatever else your little heart desires to do. The view along the trail is phenomenal. Not only can you see the beautiful waters of Lake Michigan, you can also enjoy the view of the city while walking. We walked from Buckingham Fountain to Navy Pier on Lakefront. It didn’t take us too long, and you save money by not paying for transportation. We walked to each of our destinations, but if walking isn’t your style you can always use public transportation. Jacob and I thought about buying an all-day pass for the bus which would only be $10 a person, but we enjoyed walking together and of course saving $20 bucks! If you decide to take the route we did, be smarter than me and wear a pair of tennis shoes! Your feet will thank you later.
After walking a few miles on Lakefront Trail, we arrived at Navy Pier. Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot-long pier on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan. Jacob and I first walked inside to use the restrooms. I had to go about a mile before we got there, but there were only porter pottys. If you’re anything like me I think they are the most disgusting things on the planet and I refuse to use one at all costs. So, hold it a little while longer and you can use a real bathroom (with ac, a sink, and lights)…you’re welcome. We realized we were starving, but we decided to walk the pier first and then eat at Giordano’s on our way out since it was right by the entrance. We walked out to the end of the pier inside of the building where all of the shops, and restaurants are. There is also a children’s museum, and a ton of other cool things for the kiddos to do. When we reached the end, we walked outside and enjoyed the view of Lake Michigan. You could see a little lighthouse out in the water and I thought that was really cool. You could also turn around and enjoy the famous Chicago skyline. We then headed back to Giordano’s. Walking outside this time around we passed a ton more restaurants and things to do. While approaching the start of the pier, we walked upstairs to see the ginormous ferris wheel. There was an entire park on top of the building; the screaming kids were in heaven. From there, we entered back into the building, and there was a greenhouse we got to enjoy for a while. Then, we were off to EAT.
If you know anything about Chicago, you know that they are known for their famous deep dish pizzas. Giordano’s is among the top restaurants in Chicago, and we had already planned to eat their before we ever arrived. Honestly, the wait wasn’t too bad at all. The service was fantastic; they were refilling our drinks before we ever asked. There was a line on our cups about 3 inches from the bottom, and we think that once our drink hit that line…they were on the move. When ordering, we knew we could do a whole pizza because we weren’t about to tour the rest of Chicago carrying a box of leftover pizza. We decided to go with the 6 inch personal pizzas with a side salad. I was kinda bummed thinking that wasn’t going to fill me up. Well, I ended up only eating HALF of that little guy. If you know me, you know I like to eat. That shows you how filling their pizzas are! I can’t even describe to you how good they are, you just have to go try one yourself.
From Giordano’s, we left Navy Pier and headed north to Ohio Street Beach. We checked out the beach, and saw quite a few people laying out and swimming. There were even a few little restaurants on the beach which would be fun to visit. However, we were obviously still in our food coma from Giordano’s, so that didn’t happen. Jacob and I are also collecting sand wherever we travel, and we are pouring the sand in a jar back home. We then label where we went on that trip. We collected some sand for our traveling jar, and headed north again making our way to Michigan Avenue.
We then made our way to Michigan Avenue where we could explore the Magnificent Mile. The Mag Mile is home to many retail stores, restaurants, museums and hotels. You could honestly spend all day here, but we were on a time crunch and planned where we wanted to go beforehand. The first stop was the John Hancock Center. We wanted to view the city from the Signature Room at the 95th. The 95th floor is free alternative (and argumentatively a better view of the city) compared to the Willis Tower or the Hancock 360 Observatory. You also skip the massive lines of people at Willis and 360. The only expense to get on the 95th is that you have to buy food, or a drink. Jacob and I thought that we were being smart and saving money, and as we hopped in line for the 95th, THEY CARDED ME. Well, that was a bust. We don’t even drink, but you have to be 21 to enter. Bummer. We didn’t feel like standing in long lines or paying $50 to go to Willis or 360, so we accepted defeat and moved on. From Hancock, we headed to Garett’s Popcorn. The locals told us we HAD to go. We did, and it didn’t disappoint. After Garett’s we went to Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Factory and enjoyed some coffee, and chocolate. We then went to the Trump Tower and even went inside! We headed to the 16th floor where there was a terrace (also supposed to be a great view of Chicago) but again…you had to be 21. Oops. Hey, at least we can say we’ve been in a trump tower!
The Chicago Theatre was the last stop on our list. Honestly, I just wanted to see the famous sign. I mean have you really been to Chicago if you didn’t go see the theatre? It’s one of Chicago’s famous landmarks, and of course a photo-op. It would have been really cool to go inside and see a show, but we were pooped and ready to head home. From the theatre, we were almost back where we started at Millennium Park. We headed back to our car just a couple blocks south, and we were on the road!
Chicago is definitely a must see. I honestly think that one day is enough to see all that you want to see, but more time there would also be well spent. We may end up visiting sometime if we are ever in the area again, but we did get to cross it off the bucket list! One thing that you forget about if you are from a small town is that there are people begging for money everywhere. Be prepared to see a ton of homeless people, and try to bring some extra cash. I know some people are totally against giving money to the homeless for various reasons, but choose to see the good in people. Choose to help them out. Obviously we can’t give every single one of them something, but choose to be a blessing to at least one soul. Not only in Chicago, but everyday. God bless!