Yes, a few weeks ago – well, actually a month ago – I finally went to Chicago!
Here’s what I did, in a brief itinerary:
-dinner at Gino’s East
-dessert at the Hancock Center’s Signature Room
-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
–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
-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. . . )
–The Spoke & Bird
-Chinatown (I looked at it for two minutes and then got on a train, it looked like rain)
-breakfast & coffee at Patissiere Corila
-back to the airport!
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!