By guest blogger: Kelly Will (Freelance writer for the NY Daily News and NY Times, and our newest addition as official travel writer for GofG!)
This weekend I traveled to the land of Buckingham Fountain, Soldier Field and of course, Oprah. I was home for Mother's Day in the Windy City and I thought I'd document the highlights for your reading and travel pleasure.
If you have never been to Chicago, then you must know that a) it is absolutely pristine in cleanliness and b) it really is always windy, so bring a jacket and enjoy the breeze as you walk along Michigan Avenue.
There are lots of great neighborhoods in the city, but your first visit, should take you directly to Go on The Magnificent Mile. The walk is short, a little over a mile for upscale (Chanel) and budget (H&M) shopping alike, but your view will be breathtaking. Chicago architecture is modern, sleek and shiny with adorable townhouses occasionally tucked in between skyscrapers. As traffic zooms by, you'll notice the gorgeous flowers of the season (currently tulips) blooming down the avenue.
Michigan Avenue is a lot like our swanky Fifth Avenue, but has a little treat waiting for you right in the middle. The Chicago River flows through and where once you could enjoy taking photos of the old Chicago Sun-Times offices, you now have a glamorous (well...if you're a real estate developer)/monstrous view of the new Trump building. Perhaps you'll remember that was Bill Rancic's baby when he won the first Apprentice. The building is now near completion and Ivanka is ready to sell you a new condo with a view of the river or even better, a view all the way out to Lake Michigan.
Once you've trekked down The Magnificent Mile, switch course and walk the few short blocks to Lake Michigan. There is a well-traveled path that is biked, walked and jogged by the millions of city residents daily. It's lusciously green and winds along the water from Navy Pier to Shedd Aquarium and finally, Soldier Field (the newly renovated home of the Chicago Bears). At Navy Pier you can hop the ferris wheel, take a sunset sail on the lake or shop in the adorable market and munch on local snacks. Summer is a great time to visit Chicago and every Wednesday and Saturday you can watch the fireworks display from a cozy spot right along the Lake.
In addition to the beautiful outdoor sights, the restaurants are vast and I have many favorites which are all oddly close to one another on Wells Street. Non-veggies will love the classic Chicago Italian Beef sandwiches at Al's and ribs at Carson's. For a classic 1950's diner/fountain shop, you must eat at Ed Debevic's. And now, I save the best for last...
If you can budget it into your trip, stay at the elegant and historic Drake Hotel. (In photo above) It is at the very start of the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Ave and the hotel's exquisite service, private shopping and four restaurants are an experience all their own. It may remind you of The Plaza in glamour and decor but the Drake offers guest's an even wider range of services. The Cape Cod room has been in the hotel for 75 years and offers a perfectly delicious variety of seafood in a classic environment that is a throwback to 1950's Chicago. Don an elegant dress, suit or jacket and start your evening with a perfectly mixed sidecar, their world famous crab cakes and their lobster and sweet potato bisque. As you exit the gilded gold doors hours later you will understand why this restaurant ranks as one of my favorites.
Chicago is a truly American city, so go for the kind people, go for the made with love food or go for the spectacular views all around.
"It's a 106 miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes; it's dark and we're wearing sun glasses. Hit it!" - - - The Blues Brothers