Good morning and Happy Monday! It’s been a little over a week since my last post since I’ve been quite literally all over the place! But I’m back today with my Chicago Travel Guide which I’ve been really excited to share.
I first visited Chicago in 2012 on my J1. It was the best summer of my life so I was very nostalgic going back to visit again. I love life so much right now living in New York, but I can’t help but miss the carefree days when we genuinely had nothing to worry about except enjoying ourselves. To anyone still in college or school, make the most of it! Time is flying faster than I can keep up with these days, which is so scary!
I flew from New York to Chicago on Friday after work, the week before last. I met my family there for the weekend, which was so nice. I hadn’t seen my Mum or sister since October so it was such a treat to actually spend some time with them. I’m lucky that my dad can visit so regularly with work though, so I’m really not to badly off.
Where to Stay
We stayed in the Virgin Hotel on Wabash Avenue. It’s right in the middle of the Loop. The rooms are pretty compact but unless you plan on spending lots of time there, its perfect. The hotel comes equipped with a great gym, a rooftop bar/nightclub, a cocktail lounge, and a “Funny Library”. Sue Sylvester form Glee was staying there at the same time, but I didn’t realize until after, sickened!
I actually can’t speak more highly of this particular hotel though. After we left, I realized that I somehow left my purse behind. It had all of my ID’s, bank cards, and cash inside so I was literally freaking out. I went back to the hotel the next day and every last cent was still inside. I was at the very least expecting the cash to be gone so I was over the moon to see everything was untouched. I will definitely be back!This seems to be the main area where people work, but it’s also right beside Millennium Park, which is perfect. I think staying anywhere in this location is perfect for tourists. It’s a pretty small city in terms of what you would want to see so you cant go too far wrong in this location.
Where to Eat
- Miss Rickys – this was located right next to our hotel. We couldn’t get a table here, so that’s a good enough sign for me! The décor was reallt cool and modern so it looked like a great atmosphere and the food looked yum!
- Wildberry Pancake House – I decided to go all out with this one and ordered Nutella French Toast. It was actually my first properly bold breakfast since I moved to the US so I thoroughly enjoyed every bite. There’s usually a pretty long wait here, so go early or else go on a weekday morning like we did!
- Au Cheval – This place is just fab! I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. The portions are huge but the food isn’t just classic American fast food style. It’s a French restaurant and everything is made in house so it really is worth a visit.
- The Purple Pig – This was one of my best meals ever?! That’s a serious statement but it was just delicious. It’s tapas style but the portions are really generous. There were four of us, and we got two each to share as far as I remember. We were stuffed by the end of it but still managed to make room for the deep fried brioche with chocolate cream filling for dessert. It was divine!
- Friends Sushi – it’s a little dark in here but the food was really good and very affordable. It got great reviews on Yelp so that’s how we found it. When you’re craving sushi, you just need it to be good and it was exactly that!
- Grand Lux Café: Similar vibe and menu style to the Cheesecake Factory. There’s a good 100 options to chose from so there’s really something for everyone.
Before I left, my manager recommended a lot of different restaurants to me; she’s originally from Chicago so definitely knows her stuff. Some of the recommendations included the following:
Mr. Beef, Heaven on Seven, Coalfire Pizza, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, U. B. Dogs, Girl & the Goat, Moto, Q-BBQ, and The Aviary.
What to Do
- Architectural Tour – there is loads of different tours to take but they all do the same route so don’t worry about which one you chose. We got the one from Navy Pier. It was about 75 minutes long and really interesting.
- SkyDeck at Willis Tower – when I did my J1 here, we didn’t do our research and accidently went to the John Hancock building instead, when all we wanted to do was get a photo on the glass skydeck. The Willis Tower was formerly known as the Sears Building so don’t get confused is the locals refer to it as that. For anyone who saw my snapchat story of my Dad trying to jump in on the fun of the couple who got engaged while we were there, scroll to the bottom for the best photo EVER!
- Try the deep dish pizza – this is an absolute MUST!!! The deep dish is a real speciality in Chicagoo so you need to try it. It takes about 45 minutes to cook but it really is worth the wait. We went to Lou Malnatis and got a small pizza to share (with a butter crust – salivating right now!). It was enough between four Irish bellies – I don’t know how the Americans do it! When I was on my way to the airport I was telling my taxi driver about it and where we went for it. She said that if I liked Malnatis, that I would “flip the f*** out” if I tried Giordannos. So I guess that one is worth a shot too haha!
- Walk the River walk – the river that runs through the city is such a beautiful shade of green. It makes the whole skyline so picturesque so I really would recommend just taking an hour or two and walking the trail and taking it all in.
- Shop on the Magnificent Mile – it’s the Fifth Avenue of Chicago but a lot less hectic than New York.
- Fireworks at Navy Pier: Twice a week (Wednesday and Saturday I think) there is a fireworks display on Navy Pier. It’s a nice way to finish off a night.
- Visit the Bean – the classic photo that just about every tries to get when they visit. It’s a really cool monument though so an absolute must.
- Chill out in Millennium Park –it’s really beautifully designed so I definitely would recommend an evening or morning juts sitting here to escape the city streets. When we spent a summer here we got to see James Vincent Mc Morrow perform a free concert here. Definitely check it out before your visit to see if there’s anything worth visiting
- The Art Museum – I’ll be the first to admit that this really wasn’t of any interest to me, but my family loved it and wished they could have spent longer here so if it’s up your street then dedicate an afternoon to wandering the galleries.
Chicago may be overlooked when people are visiting from further afield like Ireland or the UK but honestly it rivals New York in my books. It’s a much more beautiful city with wide clean streets and a lot less people than the Big Apple. That being said, I couldn’t be more excited to be back in the city and back into my routine after a long 10 days of traveling!
Hope everyone has a super week!
PS. Here it is! Haha!