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For a Wonderful Weekend in the Windy City Part IV: Must Do Activities

In order to have a wonderful weekend in the windy city you must do all things that are wonderful. To me that means doing these next few activities once you are all done having fun on the Magnificent Mile.
I had chosen to go to these places because for me they were essentially Chicago and something special the city has to offer. In each city you must find the places that speak to you. For instance all cities have zoos, aquariums, and natural history museums. But do you need to go to all of those places every time you go someplace new? I say no. Do your research first ( and figure out which cities have the best and most unique attractions of any kind and then seek them out. You need to know why you are spending precious time from your vacation doing something and be excited to be doing it in the first place.

When visiting Chicago nothing is more iconic than the Wills (former Sears) Tower. It is the Chicago version of N.Y.C.’s Empire State Building, L.A.’s Capital Records Building, or Seattle’s Space Needle. You get the idea. Its place in the skyline is an automatic giveaway that you are in Chicago. At one point it was the tallest building in the world. You can go up to the SkyDeck that is one hundred and three floors above ground. On a clear day you can see about fifty miles out. Unlike the John Hancock building you cannot go outside these views will solely be seen from indoors. As this is a very popular attraction it is also a very crowded one, it is best to visit late in the afternoon or early in the evening to avoid the extremely long lines that are common place.

The John G. Shedd Aquarium is another great place to visit. As you can see from this photo it was very crowded here too. I went here during my very first visit to Chicago and it was Easter weekend. Apparently I wasn’t the only tourist in town. This aquarium is the world’s largest indoor aquarium and has thousands of river and lake creatures. One of the best things to see here is the enormous tank in the front full of coral reef and if you stay for a feeding you can see the divers go in to feed the sharks. It is a sight. While they are underwater they will teach you about all of the different fish and sea life that are swimming past them. I would be here first thing in the morning in order to avoid the long lines. Also be ware it is right on Lake Michigan so the wind coming off of it can make that wait feel even longer. I was there in April and it was snowing. I have never felt cold that like in my life. So I did what I had to do and cleverly cut in line. Not that I am saying you should, but when you’re cold you do what you have to do.

On my third and most recent trip to Chicago I was really eager to visit Millennium Park. First I made my way to Buckingham Fountain. Buckingham Foundation was patterned after and twice the size of the Latona Fountain at Versailles. If you are visiting from April to October the fountain spurts up to one hundred and fifty feet in the air with dramatic lights and water displays (stopping at 11pm). This year it turns eighty-six ( I have yet to see the fountain when it is turned on but that is something I look forward to in the future. You might also recognize this from the opening scenes of the hit television show “Married With Children.”

From Buckingham Fountain you cross the street towards Michigan Avenue and you will enter Grant Park/ Millennium Park. While there is much to see through the park, hey the park is reason enough to go. But I had different intentions. I was there for one reason only: The Bean. Formerly it is called Cloud Gate but to many others, and me it looks like a giant silver bean. It is a genius piece of art that inspires countless viewpoints and photos. It was even better in person than I thought it would be.

At Millennium Park you will find the grandest city public works art projects and unusual art latent water fountains. You should also look here for Picasso's "Untitled' in Daley Plaza for great photo opportunities.

In terms of nightlife you cannot go wrong. But I have one stop you HAVE to make and that’s a trip to Second City. This is the famous improv factory and comedy club, where countless members of Saturday Night Live have been discovered. It is even here where S.N.L. cast members came up with the Billy Goat Tavern skit. I have been here twice and it was a different but enjoyable experience each time. You get to see some fresh talent, have a few laughs and a few drinks (snacks are available too), and pretend to be a casting agent determining who you should look out for in the future.

I have saved the best for last. What I love most to do is visit the
Navy Pier. Built during World War I, the three thousand foot long pier was a Navy training center for pilots during World War II. There is much to do here no matter what time of year. Among the best: Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, Crystal Gardens: seventy full size palm trees, dancing fountains in a glass enclosed atrium, a carousel and kiddy rides, and outside a fifteen story Ferris wheel a replica of the original that made its debut at Chicago World Fair in 1893. This is also the launch place for many lake and river cruises of which you cannot go wrong. There are also many restaurants and an excellent food court so that you can try a bit of everything that tastes like Chicago before you are ready to go out and have some more fun.

The Ferris wheel is by far the most frightening but the most special part about the Navy Pier for me. It is actual more scary than the London Eye because there at least the pods are closed. Here you feel the rocking and the open air. Did I mention the wind? Oh yeah that’s for real. At the top you feel like you just might break away and take off on your own. But the views of the entire city more than make up for it, and I have gone more than once. I have also coached many people into doing it because after its over they are always happy they did it. It is always good to try something you are afraid of, it makes you stronger. Here you are left stronger and in need of a comb.

For These Activities:
Next up in my Chicago series is:
For a Wonderful Weekend in the Windy City Part V: Frank Lloyd Wright


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