Next on the list of completing my 50 states goal is Chicago, Illinois! If you didn’t know, I recently made a personal goal to visit all 50 states. I read an article that an average American visits only 12 states in their life. That stat inspired me to go out and explore our country.
As you may know, I love New York City. Whenever I tell someone about NYC, Chicago always comes up in the conversation one way or another. People have described Chicago to me as a smaller and much cleaner version of NYC.
Nickname: The Windy City
Chicago is known as the Windy City. However, it’s actually not the windiest city in America. Chicago does get a slight breeze from Lake Michigan, but not enough to be listed as one of the top 5 windiest cities.
There isn’t a concrete answer on where the nickname came from, but I believe the nickname came from the word: windbag. Windbag: a person who talks at length but says little value.
It is said that Chicago was an up-and-coming city, but the people of Chicago were very prideful and spoke highly of themselves. Therefore, they were known as windbags, and thus came the born of the nickname: Windy City.
Please take my assumptions and beliefs with a grain of salt. This is what I’ve decided after learning about the city.
Engineering of the River
One of the most fascinating things I learned was about the Chicago River. Did you know that the flow of the Chicago River is actually reversed through civil engineering? Raw sewage was being dumped in the river and flowed into Chicago’s main source of drinking water. Gross!
The project is named one of the seven wonders of engineering by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1955. Then in 1999, the society called the Chicago River system a “Civil Engineering Monument of the Millennium.”
It’s so crazy to think about what mankind and technology can do!
Great Chicago Fire
Another fascinating thing I learned was the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. While it’s not certain, but the fire was claimed to have started in a nearby barn. Legend has it that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow tipped over a lantern that started the fire.
Regardless of how the fire started, the fire killed ~300 people and left a third of the residents (~100,000 people) homeless. The destruction of the fire results in $222 million in damage, which is about $4.7 billion now.
It took nearly 2 years for the city to be rebuilt after the fire.
What We Did in Chicago
We left for Chicago right after work to catch a 6:30 pm flight. We landed in Chicago around midnight and stayed at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. The hotel was extremely close to the subway station, so we were able to get into the city easily.
Our First Day: The Bean, Millennium Park, Water Tower (American Doll Store), Navy Pier
Saturday morning, as we were walking towards one of Chicago’s most tourists’ attractions: the Bean, we saw a coffee truck giving out free coffee. Turns out, the coffee truck was Native Deodorant. Native was launching their new scents and since the scents were coffee and tea-related, that’s why they decided to bring in a coffee truck.
Because I’m obsessed with branding and marketing, I fell in love with how they planned this event. I thought that it was such a clever way to promote their new scents!
The Bean in Chicago
We reached the Bean, and it was crazy busy packed with people. We probably spent about 5 minutes before we started walking about Millennium Park.
Afterward, we stopped by Cafecito for coffee (the Café con Leche was so good) and went to the Chicago Water Tower. The Water Tower was built in 1869 and survived the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Pretty impressive!
The Chicago Water Tower
When we walked around the Water Tower, we stumbled upon the American Girl store. I’ve been to the American Girl store in Arizona (Scottsdale Quarter), but the one in Chicago is probably triple the size! The American Girl store had a hospital, spa salon, coffee shop, etc.
It was crazy to see that inside the Water Tower, American Girl had its own mall version. Going through the store made me wish I had my own American Girl doll, ha. Highly recommend everyone walking through the American Girl store if you’re ever in Chicago. It is so mind-blowing.
After the Water Tower, we grabbed dinner from Elephant & Castle before walking to Navy Pier. The Navy Pier is along the shoreline of Lake Michigan and had several restaurants, shops, gardens, and rides.
We grabbed some gelato from Frio Gelato in the food court of Navy Pier. Afterward, we briefly explored the Crystal Gardens. We were there in the evening, so it was beautiful to see all the lights glistening and we ended by watching the fireworks from the Crystal Gardens.
Our Second Day: River Boat Architectural Tour, Field Museum
Bright and early, we started our second day in Chicago with a tour of some sort. On our way to the River Boat Architectural Tour, we stopped by a hotel that had a coffee shop adjacent to it. We grabbed coffee and headed straight to Ogden Slip.
River Boat Architectural Tour
I was so excited about the River Boat Architectural tour – not because I was into architecture, but because I’ve heard so many good things about this tour. I had three people recommend this tour to me.
We learned so much about Chicago’s history and all the famous buildings around the river. Some of the most memorable buildings I learned was the Willis Tower, Marina City, Civic Opera House, and Trump Tower. Another fascinating building was 150 North Riverside Plaza – one of our friends wrote his research paper on the structural system of the building!
During the tour, I think the caffeine from the coffee hit me. Ha, I went from being so excited about learning about Chicago’s well-known buildings to completely exhausted and falling asleep.
After the boat tour, we stopped by a pizza restaurant – l’Aventino Forno Romano. We tried the Meat Lovers Pinsas – it was so good! I’m drooling as I’m typing this, ha. The area was so charming, and it was such a lovely place to grab lunch on our last day.
To burn off all the calories we ate, we walked to our last destination of this trip: Field Museum. We heard that the Night at the Museum was filmed at the Field Museum. To prep for this, we watched the movie a week before our Chicago trip.
Once we were at the museum, we were a bit confused about why nothing looked like the movie. Turns out, the Night at the Museum was based on the American Museum of Natural History in New York City; however, it was mostly filmed on a set in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Ha, nonetheless, we still had a blast visiting the museum and learning a lot about SUE the T. rex! What makes SUE so special is that it is the largest and most completed Tyrannosaurus rex set – 90% completed! SUE has 250 of the ~380 known bones in the skeleton.
Some cool information that I learned about T. rex – we actually don’t know what noise they made and whether or not they had feathers. I also learned that Jurassic Park isn’t a very factual movie about dinosaurs, ha. But then again, I haven’t seen that movie since I was a little girl.
We also explored some of the other exhibits at the Field Museum but didn’t have time to look at everything before flying back home.
What’s Next on the List?
Next on the list is Nashville, Tennessee! Several of my friends who have visited Nashville said it was one of their favorite cities to travel to and I can see why! We spent my 25th birthday exploring the Music City. My Nashville blog post will be up next.
After Nashville, we also visited Las Vegas, Nevada with my family. I’ll also be working on this blog post!