Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sightseeing in the Windy City

Now that we have had a day in Chicago we are a little more familiar with our surroundings. Riding the trolley yesterday really helped to orient us to the city and we were able to plan things a little better. So this morning after breakfast we took a taxi to Museum Campus. The campus includes the following . . . Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum of Natural History. We decided to spend the morning at the aquarium. Once we were in the aquarium we started looking at the exhibits on our right. We then followed them around in a counterclockwise direction. There are exhibits all around the perimeter of the building and another one in the center. There was also an exhibit on the lower floor that we walked through. The highlights for us were the Amazon Rising exhibit and the Wild Reef exhibit. More specifically we liked the poison dart frogs, jellyfish, moray eel, piranhas and shark eggs. By the time we finished walking the entire place it was time for lunch. We didn't want to eat at the museums so we walked to Roosevelt St. and found a nice little sandwich place. Potbelly Sandwich Works was just a block down Roosevelt St. from the museums. Thomas and I each ordered a sandwich and drinks and then sat down to eat. The manager of the place was sitting at the next table orienting a new employee. She asked us how we were enjoying our sandwiches and gave us a little history of the place. We had a nice little conversation with her and when we left she gave us chocolate chip cookies on the house and told us to enjoy our trip to Chicago. So far people have been really friendly here and this woman really went out of her way to make sure we had an enjoyable lunch.

On our way back we stopped to take pictures and walk through a public art piece. It is called Agora and is by Magdalena Abakanowicz. We then returned to the museum campus and decided to find a letterbox. We needed to start at Soldier Field and so we walked to the stadium to find the starting point of the box. I wrote about this journey in Not Happy With Da Bears! if you would like to know more about our letterboxing adventure.

After completing our letterboxing we returned to museum campus and this time ventured into the Field Museum. Today was a free day at the museum sponsored by Target. You could get into all the regualar exhibits free but still had to pay to go to a few special ones. Thomas and I have the Go Card Chicago which we used for those exhibits. Once past the admission desk we were wowed by the enormity of the place. We just walked around the main hall for a bit, visited Sue and then found a place to sit and view the map and list of exhibits to plan our visit. First we went down to the ground level and walked through the Underground Adventure. After walking through this exhibit Thomas and I will think twice about digging in the dirt. Our next stop was a temporary exhibit - Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship. We really enjoyed this exhibit. It had an interesting story and they had lots of displays of things they found in the wreckage. It was my most favorite thing we did today. Once we completed the exhibit we still had time so we visited the following exhibits . . . Plants of the World, Grainger Hall of Gems, Hall of Jades and Traveling the Pacific.

By the time we finished walking through all these exhibits we were tired (did I mention that this place is huge) and we were hungry. Earlier we had talked about walking back to the hotel but the prospect of walking 2.5 miles didn't sit well once we had been through the museum. So we grab a taxi back to the hotel. I guess we have been pretty busy since we arrived here and we were feeling pretty worn out so instead of going out somewhere for dinner we decided to eat in the restaurant in the hotel - Rosebud Trattoria. It was a nice relaxing meal and after eating we returned to the room and and made it an early night since the next day was going to be another busy one.

This morning we were up having breakfast by 7:30am. After eating we gathered our things, grabbed a cab and headed out to Lincoln Park (the actual park not just the neighborhood). We started at the southern most part of the park at the Chicago Historical Society. We weren't able to go in because they weren't open yet so we decided to just walk through the park and head for the zoo. We stopped at the statue of Lincoln that is behind the Historical Society and took a few pictures and then headed north into the park. We came to a pond but it was all block off - it looked like they were dredging it or something. So we veered off a bit and walked up some stairs to a statue of Grant. From there we made our way to the zoo. It was a beautiful day to be outside and we enjoyed the zoo. There were quite a few people there and lots of kids - I guess they were taking end of year field trips or something. We took our time walking around and lingered by the big cats, watched the polar bear swim around (amazingly graceful in the water) and laughed at the warthogs running around. We stopped for a bit and got a snack, we took the snacks to an area sans kids and with beautiful flowers and enjoyed a few quiet minutes just relaxing. We continued walking around the zoo for another 30 minutes and decided we had seen everything. We exited the zoo at the area where the conservatory is. So we decided to take a walk through the building. We were there for about a half hour and I especially enjoyed the orchid house.

After the conservatory we decided we were ready to leave the park but we didn't really have any plans. So we decided to just walk around the Lincoln Park area. We enjoyed all the older houses especially the brownstones. I also liked the ornamentation on a lot of the buildings. During our walk we got a call from Thomas' cousins and they wanted to meet us for dinner and then go up in the Sears Tower (soon to be the Willis Tower). We decided to meet at the Tower at abut 4:00pm. Since we had walked around for the entire morning we thought walking back to downtown would be to much. So we found the nearest train and took that back in the Loop. We walked all around the area of the Sears Tower. I took pictures of public art, we stopped in a candy store and got some treats, we walked through city hall, we sat in Daley Plaza and took pictures of The Picasso and watched a little boy slide down it, and we talked about the interesting architecture in the area. A little before 4:00pm we headed to the Sears Tower and not long after Marie showed up. We waited just a little bit and then Marie's husband (Brian) and Ruth showed up. We had dinner at Lloyd's and sat around visiting. Around 6:00pm we took a walk along the river and then headed to the Skydeck at Sears Tower. It was a quick trip to the 99th floor (usually you go to the 106th floor but they are doing maintenance and adding glass enclosures that will move out from the building about four feet so you have an unobstructed view below). We had a great time viewing the city from up there. I took a bunch of pictures and had fun finding all the places that we had been. We stayed up there long enough to see the sun set and the made our way back down to the lobby. We said our goodbyes and Thomas and I started our walk back to the hotel. We had a leisurely walk and talked about what a great day we had.

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