Friday, July 22, 2011

A Weekend in Chicago: Part One

Last weekend I was able to spend three days in Chicago before heading to the Craft and Hobby tradeshow outside of the city.

We had such a fantastic time, I thought it would be fun to share the things we did in Chicago in case you are planning a trip there sometime soon.

I'll break it up into two posts so that it doesn't get too long.

A few general tips
* Do not plan on having a car in Chicago. The parking is expensive (up to $55 per day) and it is very congested.
* Plan on using public transportation and doing a lot of walking.
* Wear comfortable shoes (I didn't one day and I was sorry!)
*Bring a phone or GPS for easy navigation around the city. We usually planned our next activity as we were finishing one up, so we needed instant access to directions.
* Book your hotel at a discount site like or We got a great 4 star hotel right on Michigan Ave. for a great price. We ended up at the Intercontinental Chicago. Check out the view from our room:

Day 1

We arrived late ar night just had time for dinner before going to bed.

Dinner at Lou Malnati's
Several locations in the downtown area. We did takeout and ate at the hotel. The wait at the restaurant was 2 hours. (We had a group of 16.) Amazing deep dish pizza. We had "The Lou" pizza and the Malnati Salad. Both were amazing.

Day 2

Cubs Game
If you are in Chicago while the Cubs are playing, I'd recommend going to Wrigley Field to watch a game. Even if you don't like baseball, it's a fun experience.

Visit the Zoo
Half of our group didn't want to go to the game and they decided to take a bus to Lincoln Park and visit the free zoo. They had a great time and said the zoo had a nice variety of animals.

Hancock Building
The Sears Tower (renamed the Willis Tower) is the tallest building in the city, but the Hancock building is the 2nd tallest and it's right on Michigan Avenue, so it's easier to visit.

You can visit the top of the building for a fee ($15 adults, $10 kids) where you have a headset that tells about the different buildings around the city. Since we had 16 people in our group, we decided we didn't want to pay that much for a view.

The other option is to go to the lounge level (almost at the top) for free. You can grab a table and order a drink or snack or just have a look around. Tip: There is a great view from the floor to ceiling windows in the woman's bathroom.

Visit the American Girl Store
It's right next to the Hancock building and what little (or big) girl wouldn't want to look around here?

Hannah brought her doll and used her allowance that she'd been saving up to get a new doll outfit.

Dinner at Rick Bayless' Restaurants
We LOVE Rick Bayless at our house. We have his cookbooks and eat at his restaurants whenever we get to go to Chicago. He specializes in Mexican food and it seems strange that someone from AZ would love Mexican food in Chicago, but it's true.

We ate at THREE of his restaurants last weekend. Heaven.

Topolobampo: This is a little more upscale and the flavors are fantastic. I had the mole chicken enchiladas with black beans. The mole sauce has chocolate in it, so what's not to love? Closed on Sunday and Monday. I highly recomend making reservations.

XOCO: We ate snacks from here while we waited for our table at Topolobapo. We had fresh made churros and chocolate and my sister had what she said was the best vanilla ice cream ever. Another sister had the most rich and decadent almond milk hot chocolate. Yes, I believe in dessert before dinner! Closed on Sunday and Monday.

Frontera Fresco: We ate lunch here on Monday. They are only open from 11 - 4 Monday - Saturday. Great prices (everything under $10) and just as good as the other restaurants. Everything was so fresh and cooked on a grill right in front of us while we waited in line. Perfect for families because it's in the food court of a Macy's despartment store.

Architecture Boat Tour
We took the night + fireworks tour that runs during select nights in the summer. We have also taken a daytime tour on a previous visit. Both tours were excellent.

You ride a boat on the Chicago River through the city where you have spectacular views and interesting narration from the guide.

Late Night Treats
In case you haven't noticed, we love to find new places to eat while on vacation. Someone had recommended the Grand Lux Cafe for late night dessert and as luck would have it, it was just a 5 minute walk from our hotel. We shared carrot cake and benigets. They were fine, but it was late and should have just skipped on the sugar. It was a fun late night place to hang out.

Tip: Share one dessert with several people. That way you will be ready to eat again when you come upon another fabulous looking treat!

More Chicago fun coming your way tomorrow...


  1. what a fun tour including photos! Sounds like a blast!

  2. What a great trip! And love all of the pictures. :)

  3. Looks like an AMAZING trip! I loveeeeeee the photos! :):):):):):):):):):):):):)

  4. Thanks for sharing! It sounds like it was a fabulous trip :).

  5. Wow looks like a fab trip. I have always wanted to check the iwndy city out. Jealous of all the delish food! Hmm...

  6. i'd say next to dad's homemade vanilla ice cream, it was the best I've ever eaten. Get it with caramel & the yummy crunchy topping of pecan/maple/bacon. trust me. it was yummy. it was too good to save some for lisa. :)



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