WHAT TO DO IN CHICAGO IF YOU HAVE 3 DAYS AND $150

Yes, a few weeks ago – well, actually a month ago – I finally went to Chicago!

Here’s what I did, in a brief itinerary:

DAY 1:
-dinner at Gino’s East
-dessert at the Hancock Center’s Signature Room
DAY 2:
-coffee and breakfast in Evanston, at Cupitol Coffee & Bakery (I had a chai latte, of course)
-walked through Old Town on my way to. . .
Chicago History Museum – $16 for adults
-Lincoln Park Zoo
-the riverfront/the only Wells Fargo ATM in Chicago
-Union Station
Gold Coast Dogs
-Millennium Park (where the Bean is)
-Harold Washington Library Center
-dePaul University’s bookstore/A Barnes & Noble/Starbucks
-Pho restaurant that I can’t remember the name of
DAY 3:
-coffee (chai latte) and cream cheese bagel from Bagel Art Cafe
-a scenic-route (Lakeshore Drive) bus down to Hyde Park area and. . .
-University of Chicago
The Oriental Institute
-Powell’s Books, Chicago
-City Cultural Center (really was just waiting for a bus but took a pretty picture and heard a pretty orchestra playing, so. . . )
Clarke House
The Spoke & Bird
Glessner House
-Chinatown (I looked at it for two minutes and then got on a train, it looked like rain)
Gyro-Mena
MCL show
DAY 4:
-breakfast & coffee at Patissiere Corila
-back to the airport!

looking from the shore of the lake back up to the city

 

I have a friend who lives and works in Evanston, and her apartment is right by a train station which proved super convenient not only for my own transport but also as an alarm clock. It’s pretty hard to sleep through rush-hour trains coming through ever ten minutes – still, so worth it!

So that’s where my first tip comes in:

STAY WITH A FRIEND

This serves multiple functions. The first and most obvious one is that you will have a cheap or even free place to stay while you’re in town. Also, you have someone to do something with! AND, you have a buddy! This will come in handy if, like me, your phone dies while you’re in a big city by yourself! (A lesson I learned the hard way, but more on that later.)

PURCHASE A 3-DAY CTA PASS

This “3-Day” Pass is actually a 72-hour pass, which was perfect for me since I flew in on Monday afternoon and left Thursday afternoon. These can be purchased at any CTA stop, including the airport itself. From the airport itself, however, I took a bus that only cost $2 and went up above the center of the city over to Evanston, whereas the train would have gone into the heart of the city and then headed north, taking much longer.

SPLURGE ON ONE MEAL A DAY

For my meals, I had breakfast all three days at local Evanston coffee shops, twice with my friend. For lunch, I ate a protein bar I had packed or in one case didn’t eat lunch until almost 4pm, at which point I spent $6.50 on a hot dog – but a Chicago style hot dog that I ate in front of the Bean!! For dinner, I would go all-out: the first night we went to Gino’s East, paying over $22 a piece for food we had to wait almost an hour for. But, yes, it was SO worth it! Tuesday night we meant to have tacos but didn’t trust any restaurants so had pho instead. My last night we didn’t exactly splurge but instead got gyros before heading to an musical improv night – yes, you read that right, it was a recommendation from an L passenger. . .

LISTEN TO YOUR FELLOW PASSENGERS

Now, what I’m about to say may be controversial, but let me tell you: You should NOT listen to music or a podcast while using public transportation, especially the L. If you’re dependent on them, you can leave your earbuds in, but girl, you need to listen to what the people around you are saying! Because I didn’t have earbuds in, I witnessed a law student who was born in Latvia meet two adults (a mother and son) who were visiting from Latvia. I was also able to hear the stories that their so-called tour guide was telling them.

On Tuesday night, my friend and I were riding the train back to Evanston and talking about what we were going to do Wednesday night. I wanted to go to an improv show, but there were so many to choose from that we weren’t sure which one we should pick. I happened to be wearing my BIOLA sweatshirt, and the man sitting across from us noticed this. He asked if we were BIOLA students, and we told him that we were graduates. He said that he knew about BIOLA because he used to work at Memories in Orange County, a swing dancing place. He moved out to Chicago to be in improv, so he knew the scene and recommended the musical improv night that we went to the next day. It was…worth it! For $9 a piece we were treated to three teams of about ten actors improvising scenes and songs. Really annoying when a song gets stuck in your head but you know there’s no other recording of it out there!

EMBRACE YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES

Sometimes, your phone dies, and you have to make your way to the nearest Starbucks, depending on the kindness of strangers to lend you their chargers. Sometimes, your phone dies for the second time in one day, and you dare to ask a passerby where the closest Starbucks is. She directs you to a Barnes & Noble, which was actually quite helpful – and where you are able to both get a free book from a local author and start charging your phone with the help of a young woman who is then kind enough to lend you her phone to call your friend so she knows you’re OK and this is where she can find you now.

Another way to embrace your circumstances is to not constantly be taking pictures (because really girl your phone is about to die for a third time now). Instead, take it all in. Chances are you’ll remember it better if you actually live in the moment than if you’re trying to get that perfect shot to share with the world. You also shouldn’t be looking at your phone while riding the L, at least not in the daytime. This is for two reasons: for one, it’s not really safe to be doing that because you’re less alert and these are dark times, PLUS it’s an elevated train! That means you have things to look at! LOOK AT THE THINGS.

TAKE IN WHAT YOU CAN, SAVE THE REST FOR NEXT TIME

I did what I could in my short 3-day stay, and what I didn’t do will just have to wait until another trip. Don’t try to cram everything there is to do and see, because then you won’t have the energy (or maybe even the money) to actually enjoy it!

I WANDERED DC BY MYSELF AND IT WAS AMAZING

I originally posted this post on Buzzfeed, but I am rebooting my personal blog and wanted to start with this.

FRIDAY MORNING METRO

FRIDAY MORNING METRO

Rachel Rohm

The first leg of my adventure was the Metro. Fortunately a friend of mine had been interning in Arlington all summer and had 4 (yes, FOUR) extra SmarTrip cards with (probably) enough on them to get me through the day. I also was fortunate enough to crash on my friend’s couch in Alexandria and have her drop me at the metro station that was literally across from the building she works in. Score!

FROM METRO TO BREAKFAST

FROM METRO TO BREAKFAST

Rachel Rohm

I got off of the Metro a stop or two before I really needed to, because it started to fill up again and I was scared I would have to fight my way off. The plan had been to get off near the Library of Congress and turn around the corner to go to Starbucks. Instead, I walked about a mile, towards the Starbucks. I walked along the street under the National Mall (which I’ve walked before and suspected would be crowded). It was interested to see the “back” of the Mall, and I was intrigued by this building, complete with a lavish, walled garden. Turns out it was a House of Representatives office building. Them dudes got it made in the shade.

BREAKFAST

BREAKFAST

Rachel Rohm

By the time the Starbucks sign was in sight, I was very hungry and thought I should try out a local option. Burrito Brothers it was! For about $8, I got a delicious plain coffee with cream and a medium egg and cheese burrito. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this restaurant was that she literally pulled the pan out, cracked the eggs, poured the milk, and mixed in the cheese right in front of me after I ordered and paid for my food. So fresh! I headed out with my yummy breakfast and scoped out a spot in the shade of the Library of Congress (Thomas Jefferson building).

Rachel Rohm

the weird bench-and-not-fountain thing I sat at. There was another one on this side of the Library, and there may have been two on the other side as well. I’m not sure what these are supposed to function as, but it sure worked as a quiet, shady, but view-supplying spot to have breakfast.

CAPITOL CONFIDENCE

CAPITOL CONFIDENCE

Rachel Rohm

Maybe it was the caffeine getting to me, but even before I had officially seen any of the sites on my list, I was pretty confident that I could take on this city all by myself.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Rachel Rohm

Literally not sure just how I went more than 20 years without visiting this wonderful building. It’s not only architecturally astounding; it has interesting exhibits that bring light to how books and the written word have impacted our history and lives. I see some sort of research term based in DC in my future – that way I will actually have access to the GORGEOUS gallery of the library.

Rachel Rohm

Oh! And look at this historical artifact I found on my way to the bathroom! This made me laugh perhaps more than it should …

Please laugh at this with me.

Or you could laugh AT me since I spent THREE DOLLARS on a lousy pen from their gift shop. I was livid.

U.S. CAPITOL BUILDING

U.S. CAPITOL BUILDING

Rachel Rohm

I took two tours of the Capitol, because I wanted to see more. I would have done more tours had the second one not been slightly repetitive and had I not been running out of time. What I most wanted to see was Caesar Rodney’s statue (see next picture), and I got to walk by it twice and pose with it!

A highlight of my visit to the Capitol was hearing and seeing international guests marvel at the different displays and parts of the building. One 10-year-old German boy lead his parents to a display of the National Mall in some certain decade, saying something excitedly in German. (look! Over here! I’m not sure, I don’t speak German…yet). Also an Indian lady got on an escalator behind me when she wasn’t part of my tour and either complete ignored or could not understand the security guard that yelled up to her that she was not allowed to go up there with us. I had to hold in the laugh!

Rachel Rohm

I’m sure Abraham Lincoln was honored to have his bust so closely positioned to the statue of Caesar Rodney in the Capitol’s crypt. DID YOU KNOW they wanted to put George Washington’s body down there, buuuuut long story short no one wanted to move him from Mount Vernon.

Rachel Rohm

GOD BLESS this hot dog cart, which provided me with sustenance between my tours at the Capitol.

NATIONAL ARCHIVES BUILDING

NATIONAL ARCHIVES BUILDING

Rachel Rohm

You need to go here, especially if you want to see the signatures on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, because THEY ARE FADING OFF OF THE PARCHMENT! I know, it sounds unreal and like we should have done a better job preserving these, but the fact of the matter is that it’s really really hard to see almost anyone’s signature now. And not just because the signature’s are fading, but ALSO because the room they’re displayed in is very crowded, even though they make you wait in a rope line while a guard lets 10-20 in every 5 minutes or so. This was definitely a place where I was glad to be there alone; if I had been with a large group I probably would have given up trying to see what I wanted to see in hopes of just getting out of there alive. LET THE LITTLE KIDS IN FRONT, PEOPLE! They really can’t see over you; you’re not see-through, either.

WHITE HOUSE

WHITE HOUSE

Rachel Rohm

From the National Archives, I took a rather long but still enjoyable walk up to where I knew I would have a view of the White House from the front lawn. Fun Fact: I didn’t see President Obama at his house, but I did see him earlier in the day in an intro video at the Capitol building. It was a short clip of the senate floor, and who do you think was right there in the bottom right-hand corner but Senator Barack Obama! I actually said (out loud): “Hey, it’s Barack!”

I am a very respectful person. But I did take a selfie with the White House.

MUSEUM OF NATIONAL HISTORY

MUSEUM OF NATIONAL HISTORY

Rachel Rohm

Fun Fact (that one of my Capitol tour guides told me): this statue used to be out in the National Mall – before the Lincoln Memorial and big shallow pond were there. It very obviously suggests Washington as a Roman god. Whatever floats your boat, I guess. Now you can see this statue in the Museum of National History. I had been here before, so I only did a quick walk around while I waited for my friend to meet me after work.

I also went to the Renwick Gallery, but I didn’t take any pictures. Highly recommend!

GO TO DC, EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO GO bY YOURSELF

GO TO DC, EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO GO bY YOURSELF

Rachel Rohm

For my final stop, I went to the Jefferson Memorial with my friend, as the sun was setting. It was great to spend a day in the Nation’s Capitol, doing exactly what I wanted to do and getting to be a fly on the wall instead of part of a large group. Here’s to many more solo adventures (but also I would always welcome friends to come along)!