Friday, June 29, 2012

Things we love about Chicago

 I have had two great conversations about Chicago in the past week and I can't help but get excited about this awesome city!  With both friends, we talked about our mutual love for all of the great things you can experience when you visit the city.  The people are friendly, the art and entertainment options are amazing, and the food...don't even get me started!

This post is dedicated to some of our favorite things that we enjoy when we go to the city.  And, when we say that we are going to "the city," we mean Chicago - always and forever.

1.  The cityscape and all the surprises.  Near Millenium Park there is a space dedicated to prairie and this beautiful little area has native plants and the gorgeous skyline behind.  I love to walk through the little trails and enjoy the plants.

Chicago is super easy to navigate and thus, we spend a lot of time walking.  There are art installations around every turn and it is fun to have great things to see while we go from place to place.

2.  Art.  There are so many great art museums and some have free admission days or hours of certain days when admission is free.  On my first trip to Chicago, I had to see the American Gothic painting at The Art Institute of Chicago.  It was a life long dream realized.  The gift shops of art museums are always great to browse through.  Some of the museums also have great food or entertainment options.
Last year, we enjoyed the Museum of Contemporary Art.  One of the installations was call Adhocism.  I took this picture and my husband nudged me and told me I was inappropriate.  "What was intriguing about alcoholism?"  I told him to read it again.

I really liked the idea of Adhocism in creating and also in problem solving in life in general.  It was a great installation.

The Museum of Contemporary Art had a free jazz concert on the lawn behind the building last summer.  We loved the chance to get out and enjoy low cost entertainment. 

3. Wrigley Field.  We loved taking in a Cubs game.  Wrigley is a great historic ballpark and the people watching was fantastic.  Last time we went to a game, the economy was just starting to tank and we were amazed at how much people were still spending on beer.  The crowds that filled the rooftops and balconies around the stadium were really amazing.

4.  Farmer's Markets.  If we happen to be around on a Saturday morning, we find all the Farmer's Markets in walking distance and take off for a great time of browsing.  We love, love, love seeing all of the produce.  One of our favorite markets, Green City Market, always has a variety of vendors and visiting chefs that provide demonstrations (and free recipes)!  

The flowers at the Farmer's Markets are amazing!  I would go broke if I lived in the city and had access to awesome flowers every Saturday morning.  A Kansas girl loves her sunflowers.

I actually had this picture printed onto canvas.

5.  The food.  We love the amazing food options.  At the top of our list is Flaco's Tacos.  This is the best value - great food and good portion sizes.  We loved it so much that we went back twice in the same trip - Homemade Mexican food in Chicago.  We love this place!

Quartino has great, simple, and tasty Italian.  I love to eat on the patio here and when we have eaten inside, it has a fun, casual atmosphere.  They have great pizza and affordable wines.  This is a must stop every time we are in the city.  I also love that Quartino is located near a Trader Joe's and we always stock up on snacks and water to get us through our trip.

When we go to Chicago, we have to sample the big three food items - a Chicago-style hot dog, deep dish Chicago-style pizza, and an Italian beef sandwich.  For the Chicago-style dog, Portillo's.  For the deep dish pizza, Giordano's.  However, you have to be prepared for a long wait.  My advice is to go at an off-peak mealtime or to get take out.  For the Italian beef sandwich, Mr. Beef on Orleans.  We walked forever in the heat to get there and it was just how we like our restaurants - local, a little dive-y, full of character, and with delicious food.  We also love a Rick Bayless restaurant called XOCO.  The concept is Mexican street food and we loved the atmosphere and the food was great.  For a quick lunch, Potbelly Sandwich Shop is another favorite.

6.  Theater.  Ok, and I know the picture is from Navy Pier, but we saw one of the best shows we have ever seen at Navy Pier in the Shakespeare Theater.  The show was a hip hop version of Much Ado About Nothing.  My husband found it while exploring one afternoon while I was at a conference and he surprised me with tickets for that night's outing.

You should also know that there is a beautiful view of the city with the lights reflecting off the water from the women's restroom at the theater.  Best view in the city. 

7.  Free stuff.  We love to travel as inexpensively as possible.  We enjoyed some great fireworks - a free show - on our first night in the city last summer.  There is a whole website dedicated to free activities in Chicago.

 8.  Comedy.  We have seen some great improv and Vegas-style shows in Chicago.  We loved The Second City and had great seats.  I could see a comedy show on every trip and I know it is something my husband will enjoy, too.

 9.  Shopping.  The Magnificent Mile has all of the retail options you could ever want.  We love to browse and have found some great deals at some of our favorite stores.  I learned my lesson last summer - save some room in your suitcase for your purchases!  I could spend hours in the Crate and Barrel store alone.

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