Chicago Makes a Great Getaway
Chicago was the most recent stop on our family tour of great American cities. Looking out from our room at the Hotel Chicago Downtown, a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel, it was hard not to be impressed. Our view between the famed Corn Cob buildings revealed the Chicago River and the skyscrapers beyond it. Here, in the heart of the city, everything was in reach for our getaway weekend.
It was amazingly easy to get here. Centrally located and with two major airports – Midway and O’Hare – Chicago is just a couple of hours from just about anywhere. We hopped aboard a Southwest flight out of Newark and checked into our hotel before lunch.
Speaking of lunch, the scent of roasting cocoa beans from the Blommer Chocolate Factory wafts over the city, keeping the next meal front of mind at all times. Chicago has become a city known for its cuisine and we enjoyed every bite from German pretzels and spaetzle at 117-year old Berghoff Restaurant, to upscale fast casual at Lyfe Kitchen, to the best chimichurri sauce I have ever eaten at Beatrix in River North.
My years as an incentive travel planner also taught me that the options for extraordinary gala events also abound here – from the top of the Willis Tower to the Art Institute’s many special spaces. One of the most beautiful events I ever planned was a final night dinner for a pharmaceutical company beneath the gilded dome of the Chicago Cultural Center. The table décor reflected the colors of the venue and tuxedoed waiters glided between tables, delivering hearty Chicago-style cuisine.
On the recommendation of a friend, we decided to try City Pass Chicago, which included entrance to five sites already on our list. I’m usually skeptical of these things, but the City Pass turned out to be particularly easy to use and allowed us to bypass long lines and go straight to express entrances.
By far, my daughter’s favorite visit was to the Museum of Science and Industry, with its breathtaking indoor lightning created by a Tesla coil and the unforgettable tour of a German submarine. But we also enjoyed the thrill of the Skydeck at the Willis Tower, where we stepped out on the ledge for a vertigo-inducing selfie with the city spread out behind us.
The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers cruises on the Chicago River. Our knowledgeable guide taught us a great deal about the history of the city and the development of the skyscrapers which line the river. Art Deco buildings sit next to Modernist buildings, just 30 years apart in their construction, but worlds apart in their style. The cruise turned out to be a real highlight of the trip, but if you decide to do it, dress warmly! We could have used hats and gloves, as the prairie winds over the river are bone-chilling.
Chicago is a city well worth considering, for business or for fun. After three packed days, we came away with a list of things we’d still like to do there and we look forward to the chance to go back. I hear the Air & Water Show in August is pretty amazing…