Blown In From the Windy City

Monday, May 9, 2011
I just blew in from the Windy City of Chicago last night and thought I'd attempt to catch you up on the whirlwind that was the last eight days. Be forewarned, this post is going to be a long one. Prepare yourself for an excessive amount of pictures and text.

But before we go any farther, can we get a shout out for K. Syrah, Meri, Megan, and Betsy who provided fabulous guest posts during my absence? Thanks so much guys!!

My week "away" kicked off with a friend's bachelorette party two Saturday nights back. Because I live at (what sometimes seems like) the ends of Earth, I don't get to see these friends nearly as often as I'd like. It's always fun when we figure out a way to spend time together despite the miles and schedules.

After a "layover" in the Twin Cities, on Tuesday, my friend Sarah and I headed down to the Amtrak station to catch the early morning train to Chicago only to find flooding on a western segment of the track had delayed the train by six hours. Rather than expecting customers to wait that long for the train to arrive, Amtrak provided inconvenienced travelers with complimentary bus travel to Chicago. While I was happy to avoid the delay, traveling on a packed coach bus wasn't exactly what I'd been imagining when I'd booked the tickets.

Nevertheless, we made it to beautiful Chi-town, where it was actually SPRING!!! I cannot express in words my excitement to find beautiful blossoms bursting out of every planter and garden in the city.

Sarah jokes that vacation with me should really be called "boot camp." In my mind, unless our feet throb at the end of the day, we haven't really traveled. Although I've been to Chicago many, many times before, this was the first time ever I'd spent days (four to be exact) on end in the downtown Chicago and I wanted to make sure we took every advantage of our hotel's convenient location right on the Chicago River, just a couple blocks up from Millennium Park. We spent a fair amount of time down on the Museum Campus on the city's south peninsula.

Hobnobbing with Sue, the T-Rex at the Field Museum

Watching the Jellies at the Shedd Aquarium

Hanging out with the lions over at the Art Institute
 I've often heard it said that Chicago is an East Coast city stuck in the Midwest and I rather agree with the sentiment. It's easy for me to forget just what an incredible amount of culture Chicago really has, especially since Minnesotans tend to (over) glorify the Twin Cities. While the Twin Cities are fine, Chicago, with its tremendous museums and transportation system, really makes every other Midwest metropolis look kind of . . . cute. 

In between our "cultural" experiences, we got in some shopping at Macy's, including dinner in the Walnut Room, (I'm really sad the store is a Macy's now instead of Marshell Field) and up on the Magnificent Mile, where I was very happy to find an H&M. While I love/prefer/can only afford fashion that stores like Target and Kohl's offer, sometimes as a Minnesota girl living in a sea of Target stores, it's really nice to get some clothes that aren't Target brands!

We had excuses to get gussied up for a couple evening shows: Spring Awakening (ugh) at the Oriental Theater in downtown and the Blue Man Group (amazing and indescribable) up in Belmont. 

Pretending to wash the Hancock Building windows.
We didn't visit the top of the Sears/Willis Tower, but we did check out the Observatory at the top of the John Hancock Building. I have to say, the Hancock offers much better views of the City and you really get to soak in Lake Michigan's "Great Lakey-ness".
While we were in the Hancock building neighborhood, we spotted the Water Tower, which is one of the few structures in the City which predates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

We visited both of Chicago's ball fields. We caught the Minnesota Twins playing the White Sox (go Twins!) and the Cubs playing the Cincinnati Reds (go Cubs!)The Cubs lost, the Twins won. For some reason, I'm not surprised by this outcome.

We DID get to take the train back to Minneapolis. I really do think the train is an awfully romantic way to travel, even if it is laughably inefficient. (While it takes about 7-8 hours to drive to Chicago from Minneapolis, it took us nearly 9 hours on the train, even without any delays.) I would recommend the train for its roomy seats and the unique experience. Just be prepared for lackluster customer service (at least, before you actually board) and remember, the Amtrak's timetable is more of suggestion than it is a promise. 

Bye-Bye Chicago
Sunset on the train, near Winona, MN
Of course, we can't consider it a successful trip to the big city without a celebrity sighting. Who did we spot this time?

Vern from TLC's "Trading Spaces." (I know, I know . . . who?) He was on board our river architecture tour!

Hope you've all had a wonderful start to May! Andy's got vacation days at the end of week, so where we'll end up is anyone's best guess, but there'll be plenty of guest posts to tide you over until I really truly return.


  1. While I've never enjoyed my time in Chicago at all, (much prefer heading to NYC or Atlanta) I love your recap and images. :)

  2. what a cool trip! why the ugh on "spring awakening"? did you dislike the show, or just the performance?

  3. This makes me miss my city (I grew up in Chicago) SOOOOO MUCH! And why the "ugh" for Spring Awakening????? I ADORE that show!

  4. Hi Ada,
    Your trip to the Windy City looks like it was a lot of fun.

    Thank you so much for sending me a photo of your camping outfit. I wrote about it and included your photos here:


  5. Cherry Blossoms make me happy. It looks like you had a fantastic trip and you what's better than a Vern Yip sighting? ...awkard silence.

  6. Fun post Ada! Cracking up at Kelli re: V-Yip!

  7. Looks like an awesome time! And when I travel I trek ALL over the city and love to see things on foot. Boot camp for me too I guess! Welcome home!

  8. So glad to hear the trip was such a success!!!! Did you see? We were both featured on The Style Confessions!!!

  9. thanks for all the photos--sounds like a fun trip!

  10. WELCOME BACK!!! You were definitely missed : ) Glad to see how much fun you had, you definitely kept yourself busy busy. Love that you saw Vern Yip, that's awesome!

  11. What a fun trip and a great post/recap! Makes me want to visit the Windy City myself!

  12. The beautiful blossoms! And you're welcome for the Guest Post, thank you for posting it!

  13. If it makes you feel any better, I know who Vern from TLC & HGTV is. It looks like you had a blast!

  14. First of all...I know darn well who Vern Yip is. Exciting! And the picture of Lake Michigan is breathtaking.

    So excited for you that you got to have a trip like that. You're my kind of traveler! Except wait...were you drinking the whole time? Because that is one of my requirements ;)

  15. Sounds like you had a great trip! You are so right about Amtrak's timetables. My son took the train to camp one year and they were a full 12 hours late getting there.

  16. Vern!!! I love Vern! He was always one of my favorite designers on Trading Spaces. This looks like the perfect trip...and it makes me want to go back to Chicago so bad. So I take it Spring Awakening wasn't very good?

    Great pictures, by the way!


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