Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Wiebe's Take Chicago

All Summer I can't stop thinking/talking about our amazing trip to Chicago for our 5th wedding anniversary. First of all, how have we been married for 5 years? In some ways it feels like 1 year and in other it feels like at least 12. Life has thrown us a number of curveballs in our short five years, so it felt good to go on a weekend getaway together, taking time to appreciate the wonderful marriage we've built.

We went to Chicago for August long, with a day added on either side to make an extra loong weekend. I thought I'd share a bit about our trip because it really did kick butt. I had an awesome time and would recommend basically everything we did to anyone who ventures to the windy city for a weekend.

We left on Thursday straight from work - and just a note - I love to leave for trips straight from work, or early in the morning on a plane, or whatever else means that you're not at home scrambling and killing time and trying to think of things you might have forgotten. Leaving straight from work means packing the night before, having everything you need in your car, and hitting the open road not stressed from having just finished packing and being crazy. It also adds a fun element of being at work knowing your car is packed and you're about to head out on your adventure, rather than being at work thinking about the things you have to do when you get home before you leave.

As we left from work and didn't need to be driving through the night, we just drove to Fargo. Looking back, we probably could have made it a bit further and had a shorter day the next day...but no regrets, we had a nice time in Fargo getting our Target fix and getting some sleep before the next day. We also bought some breakfast groceries at Target to put in our electric cooler which we find saves some money on trips not having to go out for breakfast every day plus it is nice to have some cool snacks in the car/hotel room. Just to continue with this tangent pattern I've started, I could rave about our electric cooler forever. I got it for my birthday after asking to borrow my parents, it's so handy on trips for having cool snacks/drinks in the car and we found it even more helpful when going to my parents trailer to stay the past 2 weekends. I can easily pack our groceries the night before and it plugs into a wall or car for transportation and storage. Definitely made our last two weekends awesome food-wise. I believe ours is from Walmart, but you can find similar options at various stores including Amazon which I've linked for your convenience.

Friday morning we left bright and early and were Chicago bound. We spent the majority of the drive alternating between chatting about basement renovations and listening to our favourite podcasts (I think I'll do a post soon about what podcasts I've been listening to so stay tuned for that). 

Before we had left for our trip we did one thing that I'd highly recommend: Spot Hero
Spot Hero is an online service that allows you to book parking ahead of time at better rates. Especially when driving to the downtown of a large city it's nice not to have the stress of having to find parking especially because it's normally quite expensive and you're already tired from 10 hours of driving during the day. We arrived at our parkade to find it full. Panic. However, we called Spot Hero and they had us set up at a new parking location around the corner in a few minutes, kept our same rate (for those who are interested we paid $75 for the entire time and the regular rate on our new spot was $65/night if you'd just driven up that day and paid), and the new spot was valet parking so that was quite handy after we'd already been to a parkade and had a bit of stress from that situation. 

Once we were all parked we headed to our hotel. I'm sure most of you have heard of Hotwire, we booked all of our hotels for this trip (and most of our trips for the past 5 years) on Hotwire. It's a bit risky because you don't know where you're staying until after you book, but if you select a high star rating you're going to get somewhere nice and we've never had a bad hotel booking from their site. This hotel was amazing. We loved it. It was the Hotel Monaco which is right on Wabash downtown. Great location for walking (which we did a lot of) and the staff was so friendly. Our room was gorgeous, and we even had a stellar view of a naked guy across the street (I will spare you the photo and instead include a happy Philip in a hotel photo).

The first night we just walked around for about an hour as it was already late just to get a feel for the area, and then we ordered food to our room and went to sleep.

The next day we walked from our hotel to the Lincoln Park Zoo! I've included a map of everywhere we walked on our first full day in Chicago because it was epic. We actually clocked over 6 hours of walking that day...our actual walking to and from places would have been 2 hrs 38 min as you can see on the map, but we would walk into stores and keep walking along, also the zoo was all walking so that definitely added to our time. 

The zoo was so nice! It was hot so the animals weren't the most thrilling, but it's a free zoo and a nice way to get out and get some fresh air. Also for a free zoo, it's at least as nice as a lot of paid zoos I've been to so good job Chicago.

We were basically sweaty for the entire time in Chicago because it was so hot and we walked so freaking much.
After the zoo we had tickets to The Second City which was very funny. For those who don't know, The Second City is where SNL alumni like Tina Fey & Amy Poehler got their start - so it's a sketch comedy/improv show. They perform every day in Chicago at multiple times a day with all different shows, and I believe even a trolley tour.

Next we just did some shopping in the area, we had especially hoped to go to CB2 so we really enjoyed window shopping there. We also went to a Jonathan Adler store which was amazing but I was so tense in there because I was afraid we would break something that cost $15,000 and we would have to sacrifice our left arm to pay for it. I sounded like a crazy wife with how many times I reminded Philip to be careful.

Walking back to our hotel after that long day was not a proud moment for me. I was so hangry. We hadn't eaten since the hotel and we'd walked a good 4 hours already with a long walk back and needing to find somewhere to eat. It was fairly epic. We eventually got back to the Loop area and we found a nice patio overlooking the river and had some delicious burgers. Food tastes so good after a long day.

Sunday was another day that started with walking! We had an amazing walk through Millenium Park and then a new park called Maggie Daley Park, they had the most beautiful elevated walkways it was such a fun walk. We were headed to the Field Museum and had decided we'd take the Lakefront Trail for something different. I'd definitely recommend trying to walk rather than take a cab when you stay downtown in a city, we felt like we got to see so much more. The first day we saw a lot of historic homes in Lincoln Park and we saw a lot of downtown walking North to Lincoln Park. Then this day we saw a few parks, the lakefront, etc. For real look at how beautiful this walk was, first a walk through parks surrounded by gorgeous architecture and then walking along the glistening lake. It was boiling and there was a hilarious live Zumba class on the sidewalk with one guy freestyling at the back - that guy has style.

The most impressive thing about the museum was how old the original exhibits were! When you walk in the museum has a really awesome feel to it, but the first exhibit area is a bit dull and underwhelming on first glance. It was all taxidermy animal exhibits so I wasn't super into it, and they looked like they'd seen better days. Then we started reading the plaques. These things were ranging in creation dates from 1902, 1905, 1908, etc. These were super old! That started making it a bit cooler. 
Philip's favourite was the dinosaurs. I'm not 100% sure on what my favourite exhibit was, some of the Egyptian section was quite interesting and also the area about man through the ages.

This was a day full of knowledge, taking place on the peninsula of knowledge (this peninsula into the lake has the museum, aquarium, and planetarium - quite a cool place). After the museum we went to the Shedd Aquarium. We only paid for a basic pass because it was getting close to closing time and we didn't feel the need to pay for the full pass. The basic was only $8/each. However, if you have more time I'd probably recommend getting a better pass. This one didn't give us sharks, dolphins, sea lions, penguins, or the sting ray touch (but who are we kidding no way would we have touched those things). In the area we were in there was a sturgeon touch area so if you're into that kind of thing the $8 would still get you some fish touching.

Our shins and other parts of our legs we didn't know could hurt before this were dying by the end of all of this so we decided to take the opportunity to water taxi to Navy Pier from the aquarium. Definitely a good call. It was super nice on the lake and another new way to see the city from a different vantage point. 

At Navy Pier we did the least touristy thing and just went to a late movie. We saw Star Trek Beyond with about 6 other people and thoroughly enjoyed it. The movie got out around 12:30 am and we had a bit of a walk back to our hotel. We did survive, but I'd say it wasn't the safest because we ended up missing the turn we were supposed to take and it was just us and a few homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks. Didn't feel the greatest, but we were okay. We eventually looked at our phone again for a map and realized we were just under the road we needed to be on to get to our hotel so we went up some stairs and we were back in the crowds again safely. 

The next morning we were headed out, to Minneapolis! We love Minneapolis and go almost every year. It's fun to have a city within driving distance that has lots of fun activities and as we've been fairly regularly every time it seems we try something new and get to know the city a bit better. We were only there for one day so we went to Mall of America upon arriving, saw another movie - Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates. We have a tradition of always going to a movie at Mall of America every year when we go. I don't know why, but it is fantastic.

Before heading home we went to the newest outlet mall in the area, Twin Cities Premium Outlets which was close to Bloomington so if you're in the area for a long weekend it is worth checking out. I'm not a huge fan of Albertville so this was a nice change. 

Then the trip was over! Just a bit more driving and we were home safe and sound. It was a bit of a whirlwind but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and were so happy to celebrate our anniversary in that way. Here's to the next 5!