A few Saturdays ago, my friend Mike was visiting and, along with Dave, we headed over to the Hiawatha at the MKA station at the brisk hour of 8am. After seeing that parking was only $5 for the day, we happily printed our $40 roundtrip tickets at the self service stand and waited a few short minutes to board. We ended up on the quiet car, which was vigilantly upheld. The quiet car ride allowed for a pleasant nap for Dave and undisturbed scenery gazing for Mike and me.
Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue. Known for it's shopping and dining, we were aiming for a place that had an outside patio. We had luck with The Gage and enjoyed a reasonably priced brunch before we headed out on our sightseeing adventures.
Fueled up from brunch, we meandered across Michigan and Columbus and headed south through Grant Park to see the renown Buckingham Fountain in the center of the park. The 84 year-old fountain, said to be inspired by the Latona Fountain in Versailles, is quite the sight with its large center display and numerous jets. The backdrop of the city isn't too shabby either. The fountain is meant to represent Lake Michigan, with each seahorse representing a bordering state (Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin). You can catch a water show every hour from mid-April through mid-October. If you wait until after dusk, you can see the same show but with the addition of choreographed lights and music. Unfortunately, we did not stick around for the show, but I have it on my to-do list next time for sure.
Harry Caray's outdoor patio.
After our refreshments, we walked the rest of the length of the pier and noted all of the activities. There were numerous boat launches for guided tours of the city from the lake, the Childrens' Museum, carnival games & fun-houses, and tons of restaurants & bars. There is also a fireworks display every Saturday at 9pm (ending Oct 29).
At this point in the afternoon, really interesting low-lying clouds set over the city. I loved the photo ops they created but it was nice that they didn't stay and block out the August sun for too long.
The J.H. Observatory offers the city's only open air SkyWalk and also provides a multimedia tour free of charge to all patrons (narrated by David Schwimmer for any of you Friends fans). It also provides an interesting overview of Chicago's storied history, with particular attention to The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 where the city had to literally build itself back up from the rubble. Then there is of course the amazing views...which is not lost in translation on anyone. Lake Michigan's vibrant shade of blue never looked so beautiful in my opinion and I was entranced by the full 360 views of greater Chicago.
As we reflected on our day during the ride back, we all agreed that, for such a large city, Chicago was extremely well organized and impeccably maintained. We're all excited for trip #2 to discover more of Chi-Town, now my neighbor to the south!