One of my favorite parts of Chicago is the main street that runs through it, The Magnificent Mile. It is also known as Michigan Avenue. This is like the main artery of the city and one of the most beautiful parts of it as well. There is so much to see and do that one can spend an entire day just walking back and forth eating and sightseeing. Actually on my last trip out there I did just that. It was a day well spent and I know every time I return I will seek out something to do even if it is just to walk around and take in the beauty.
There are many places to eat here and my favorites were posted in the previous blog, “For a Wonderful Weekend in the Windy City Part II: Food”. I adore Garrett Popcorn, the Ghirardelli Square store and nearby Hershey Chocolate store. This is also the pathway where you will find the stairs that lead to the underground hot spot The Billy Goat Tavern.
My absolute favorite spot on the mile is at the center on the bridge right near the Chicago Tribune building. Before I head off in any direction I must stop there and take in the scenery. There will no doubt be countless photos taken and no matter how many you take they never seem quit able to capture the feeling of standing there. I especially enjoy being there late in the afternoon as the sun is going down for the day and the river is glistening in all its glory.
Since I am talking about the Chicago River I should note that there are many bridges along it that connect one side of Chicago to the other. This is not to be confused with the lake, Lake Michigan, that has a shoreline and that gorgeous clear blue water I mentioned in Part I.
The Chicago River perhaps looks its best on St. Patrick’s Day (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2013/03/for-luck-of-irish.html). It certainly gets a lot of press for it and as the years have gone by other cities are taking notice as they imitate the master.
After taking in the river view I find it best to turn around, cross the street, and head over to the Chicago Tribune building. There is a great big sign on top. There is no way you can miss it. In the square adjacent to this building there is often large works of art being displayed. A good example of this is the enormous Marilyn Monroe statute of which photos appeared in Part I of this series.
The Chicago Tribune is of course where the paper originates. But what I find the most fascinating is what is on the outside of the building rather that when comes out of the inside.
The owner, Robert McCormick started collecting pieces of famous structures that he found along his travels. It currently includes one hundred and thirty eight fragments in all. Among them are chunks/shards from:
· The Great Wall of China;
· Taj Mahal in India;
· The White House
· Arc de Triomphe in Paris;
· The Berlin Wall;
· Roman Coliseum
· London's House of Parliament;
· Great Pyramid of Cheops in Giza, Egypt;
· Original tomb of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois; and
· Steel from World Trade Center.
After you have looked and touched all these amazing spots it’s now time to head inside and visit the Chicago Tribune store. It is located on ground floor of newspaper offices and has many great books for sale. I naturally got that day’s paper. It completed my visit and this experience allowed me to touch parts of the world that I haven’t gotten to just yet.
Next if you walk further down (on the same side of the road) you will come upon the John Hancock Observatory, which has now been renamed 360 Chicago. From far away it is easy to confuse it with the very similar looking Willis (Sears) Tower as I alluded to in Part I of this series. However the best way to tell them apart is to look at the very top. On the Hancock building there are only two antennas and the building in even from top to bottom. The Tower on the other hand has what appears to be five or so leveling off points ascending upward.
The John Hancock Observatory/ 360 Chicago is the third tallest building in Chicago and from the top you can see the view of the three surrounding states. There are many exhibits along the walls that explain the city's history.
From the visitor’s floor, you can take part of the Skywalk, which is an open-air viewing space that allows visitors to feel rush of wind at thousand feet. To get to this floor the elevator only takes 40 seconds. It is such a rush.
There is a brand new experience besides the Skywalk that is now available but it is not for the faint of heart. It is called TILT!. TILT! Is also a platform that extends out a thousand feet above the Magnificent Mile. It can hold up to eight passengers at a time and offers a view looking up and DOWN. That’s right in spins toward the ground so that you appear to be in a glass cube looking down at Lake Michigan and its surroundings. I am not sure I would ever do this it looks terrifying. When I was on the Skywalk feeling the wind at that high up was crazy enough. Even though you know you aren’t going to fall just feeling the air intensity was too much. I went out and in back quickly.
On your way out be sure to stop on the ninety-fifth floor and go to lounge on for drinks and a view. There is also a restaurant there called the Signature Room.
When you exit this building it would be nearly impossible for you to miss the Water Tower and Water Tower Place.
The Water Tower is one of the few buildings to survive the brutal fire of 1871 that devastating almost all of Chicago. The main purpose of this building originally was to pump water from Lake Michigan. Today the tower houses the Chicago Office of Tourism and Art Gallery. For a funny piece of trivia look closely at the pictures of the Water Tower and of fast food chain White Castle. Allegedly the burger makers like the architecture so much that was their inspiration for their brand.
The Water Tower Place was the first big indoor mall to open in downtown Chicago in 1975, with its glass elevators and shiny gold trim this place has a glamorous air. You will find all popular chain stores here and just about anything that you are looking for. Actually that can be said for Michigan Avenue in general. It is like Fifth Avenue in New York City. There are stores that line both sides of the street and vary in price and style from moderate to high end. If you want to spend some money this is certainly a good town to do it in. Please be aware of the sales tax, it is very likely that it will cost more to buy the same thing here than from your local mall. But it depends on what kind of souvenir shopping you have in mind.
If you are hungry after shopping the Water Tower Place has a funky food court that is a great way to refuel.
The last stop on our tour of the Magnificent Mile is quite a ways away from The Water Tower. It is all the way down at the opposite end of Michigan Avenue.
The Art Institute of Chicago is a world-renowned museum. When you approach this large structure with the columns all along the sides you will see the bronze lions that welcome you near the entrance. There is so much to see it is a good idea to look at the website ahead of time and layout your top priorities. My visit lasted a couple of hours and I was able to see just about everything. But it can be exhausting and depending on when you go it can get very crowded. To ensure you see what is most important to you make your way to those works first. I recommend seeing the room of miniatures, the armor collection, and of course anything by Picasso Matisse, Pollack, and Warhol. For me my main goal was to see "American Gothic" by Grant Wood. It is been around for so long you will definitely know it when you see it. It is the portrait that looks like two older farmers, a man and a woman, and the man is holding a pitchfork.
Well there you have it, my marvelous Mecca, The Magnificent Mile!
You can clearly spend more than one day touring such a big space but these are the musts on my hit list. I encourage you all to find which should be on yours.
For a Guide of the Magnificent Mile:
Next up in my Chicago series is:
For a Wonderful Weekend in the Windy City Part IV: Must Do Activities