Showing posts with the label Chicago

The Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry

For our last day in Chicago, it was still too cold to linger outside, so we had to come up with some indoor plans. It wasn’t the easiest task, because we’ve already seen so much, but we settled for the museums on the southern end of the city.
First we took the L down to Museum Campus, a park near the shore that hosts a natural history museum, a planetarium and an aquarium. We visited the former, the Field Museum. It’s $24 a ticket, but it’s also an enormous place and has a very varied collection. The main hall reminded me a bit of its London counterpart, with classical architecture serving as backdrop for an impressive animal display (in this case, a model of two interlocked elephants and totem poles).
As you would expect, there were displays about animal life through the ages, including a room full of dinosaur skeletons, and also a whole exhibit explaining the concepts of evolution and natural selection. The museum was of course full of kids who seemed to have a great time. The big sta…

The Richard Driehaus Museum, Chinatown (briefly)

Today the temperature was a downright hostile -3°C, so it being Sunday and us having seen pretty much all of Chicago already, we took our sweet time in the morning and emerged only for brunch at the nearby Southport Grocery CafĂ©. Calling it brunch is a bit disingenuous because we’d previously had breakfast and we would later have lunch, but, you know, semantics! We had delicious, fluffy pancakes, to die for. Couldn’t very well leave the US without having had pancakes!
After brunch, I struck out on my own and returned to the River North neighbourhood, where the Magnificent Mile is, to visit the Richard Driehaus Museum, a fantastic mansion museum from the Gilded Age that is inexplicably missing from my Lonely Planet guide but which I was lucky enough to find online.
Somewhat confusingly, the Driehaus Museum showcases the Nickerson house, an incredibly lavish and luxurious mansion built in the late 19th century for an affluent family. It was grandiose back then, when it was built, and the …

Oak Park, Chicago Cultural Center

(Cold update: Less cold, I guess. But still cold!)
Day trip tiiiiime! After a couple of very intense days of urban exploration, today we took off to visit sleepy Oak Park, a small town on the outskirts of Chicago with two illustrious natives: Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway!
Oak Park can be easily accessed from downtown Chicago, as it’s on the very last stop of the Green line, and since the CTA operates a flat fee system, an L ride is always $2.50 regardless of where you go! No need to memorize different zones, or even to calculate prices based on number of stops like in Tokyo! The only downsides are that it does take a while, and that the Green line crosses Austin, which is allegedly a dodgy neighbourhood in Chicago, but on a Saturday morning there were few people around. Just, be prepared to see derelict houses and boarded up doors (remember The Wire?) from the train before the scenery gets suburban again.
Once we got off at Harlem & Lake, in downtown Oak Park, it was about…

The Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier, Old Town

(Cold update: still bloody cold.)
After our walk around the Loop yesterday, today we focused on Near North, the area north of the Chicago river. We took the train down to Chicago station (I notice a naming pattern here) and took a walk down the Magnificent Mile, a commercial stretch of shops, department stores and malls along Michigan Avenue. The majority of shops, if not all of them, belong to multinational companies that you can find in any high street across the world, but really the interest on this walk isn’t so much the shopping as the architecture.

It reminded me a bit of Omotesando, the upscale shopping avenue in Tokyo, which you can read more about on this very blog (twice!), in the sense that every building has its own unique architectural style: some are dignified early 20th century, some are slick 21st century, some are grandiose, some modern and understated... The only common theme is that most are enormous!
The highlight of the walk is at the very Southern end of Michigan A…

The Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, the Rookery

For the purposes of this entry, please imagine that every paragraph is prefaced by: it’s bloody cold in Chicago! The temperature hovered around 4°C, with sharp, chilly winds all day long, and not for nothing it’s been spring for a week now, just sayin’.
Today we decided to start from the top and go to our #1 Chicago destination: the Art Institute of Chicago, the city’s premier art museum. It’s better to do these things at the beginning, when you’re still fresh, before the fatigue starts to carry over.

After a long L ride downtown, we arrived in front of the classical building a few minutes before the doors opened, so instead of freezing to death in the queue we opted to duck into the shop of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, which is just a couple of doors down and opens earlier. It’s a fantastic little shop, part museum store, part design boutique, with lots of really tasteful and original Chicago-themed items. A far cry from tacky souvenir shops, but also priced accordingly, great …

Arrival in Chicago: the Willis Tower

I left sleepy Richmond, Virginia this morning, its airport a blessed 15 minute drive away, and began a long trip to my next destination, Chicago. There is actually a direct Richmond-to-Chicago flight, but it was prohibitively expensive, so I took a combination that had me connecting at New York’s LaGuardia airport. It should have been fine, but my first flight was delayed, which left me with a chilling 30 min layover in a New York airport not exactly famous for its efficiency. By some miracle of scheduling, though, I only had to walk a few gates to board my second flight, so in the end it all worked out!
I landed in Chicago two hours and a half later, and took the train downtown. A kind man who was leaving the city gave me his train pass as I was trying to buy one! Thank you! The train on the blue line took a good 50 min to arrive downtown, giving me post-traumatic flashbacks of Paris, and afterwards I still had to take the L (short for elevated) train on the brown line to drop off my …