Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Favourite City: Chicago

I've been home from Chicago for over two weeks and I've been wanting to post a recap of my trip but instead of journaling day by day I've decided to do something different. Here are the top reasons why Chicago is my favourite city, hands down. Because of time constraints, I've limited it to the top five, but believe me there are more!

The People
There is something different about people in Chicago. The friendliness of the people make Chicago feel more like a small town than a big city. They just love their city and they want you to have a great time visiting and experiencing everything Chicago has to offer. I've had strangers offer me directions before I've even asked (they overheard us debating which way to go). We were talking to a lady at a restaurant in the park and when we mentioned we wanted to go skating in the park the next day, she told us to come back to the restaurant first and she'd leave her job, walk us to the skate rental place and make sure we got set up right so we'd be good to go. Those are just a few examples of how people in Chicago go out of their way to make you feel welcome.

The Layout
After the Great Fire burned up much of the City of Chicago, the people made a very wise decision when it came time to rebuild. They decided to leave the waterfront industry free and instead of packing it with business, they left it wide open with parks and beaches from one end of the waterfront to the other and they made sure that residents of the city would always have free access to the highlights of the city. Museums and attractions often have free days to residents, the city even offers a free trolley to bring people down to the waterfront so they can enjoy what it has to offer. Brilliant.

Also while in most big cities one skyscraper looks just like the next, that's not the case in Chicago. Each one is more magnificent than the one next to it and most have great stories behind them. We went in one hotel where they recreated the Sistine chapel and another building that had a ceiling worth $32 million dollars. Art and beauty are a big thing in this city.

The Shopping
I never used to be a big shopper, but that has changed over the last couple of years and Chicago has the best shopping I've been able to find. In fact one of the main streets, Michigan Avenue, has one mile of nothing but stores on both sides of the street, complimented by a couple of malls. Then on the other side of the River are even more stores on State Street, like the biggest Old Navy I've ever seen- four floors high.

The Out of this World Experiences
In Chicago you'll get to experience things that you'd never get to do anywhere else. At the Sears Tower, North America's tallest building, you can step off the building and stand above the city with nothing around and beneath you but glass. At the John Hancock Center, another really tall building, I went up to the 94th floor and there got to skate on a rink with the city spread out below me.

At the Museum of Science and Industry I got to tour an actual U505 Submarine that the Americans captured during World War 2. They towed this sub all the way through the great lakes, then built a special track to bring it from Lake Michigan to the museum just to have this kind of experience available. And it wasn't just like you walked through the sub. No they had audio and visual effects so that while you were in the sub you experienced what the German soldiers would have when they were under attack.

Even at the Bulls game, it was more than just watching a basketball game, it was an experience. Nothing like any other sporting event I've been too. The crowd was wild and the energy was fueled by guys doing basketball stunts on trampolines, a guy doing tricks with his dog, parachutes dropping from the ceiling with free stuff in them, t-shirts being fired off into the crowd, fireworks, even a senior cheer-leading squad that was hilarious.

The Food
Deep dish pizza, Chicago style cheesecake, Vienna Beef hotdogs, the list goes on. Chicago has tons of signature food items that you won't find anywhere else.

Let's just say we ate very well for the week we were there and it's a good thing we did a lot of walking to burn of the calories. My favourite thing I tasted was their Red Velvet French toast. It was probably one of the best things I've ever eaten.

So if you haven't been to Chicago, I highly recommend going. I've been twice now and can easily see myself going back again (and then again).