Monday, February 16, 2009

City Spotlight: Chicago

The windy city...the second city...Chi Town...whatever you want to call it, Chicago is indeed a city full of tasty food, great sports and beautiful architecture. So when my brother asked me to join him on a long weekend in Chicago, I jumped at the opportunity. I have been twice before, but once was for 24 hours with work and the other time was for a wedding. So I never got to experience what this amazing city had to offer until now. Here are some highlights of where to stay, play and eat!

Where to stay?

Well Chicago has hundreds of amazing three and four star hotels. Your best bet is to give priceline a try and bid on a 4 star hotel in following locations:

Millennium Park, Loop & Grant Park Area & North Michigan Ave - River North Area

I bid and received the Hard Rock Hotel for only $90 a night through priceline. It was going for over $200 on its website. So saving cash always makes me happy. The hotel is nice and has a cool "rock star" feel to it. The only critique I have about the place are the dimly lit rooms and equally dim hallways. But as two brothers on a trip to see Chicago, it did not bother us at all. I can see it being a problem for women who may be trying to put make up on in a somewhat dark room. The beds were comfortable and the room was spotless. Our Hard Rock room, number 811, had a good view of the marina city buildings (aka the corn on the cob twin buildings).

Our departing flight was going to be at 5pm, which meant our 12pm check out time was not great, since we would have then about 4 hours to kill between leaving the hotel and arriving at the airport. But luckily though, the hotel let us check out at 2pm, with no extra charge. The Hard Rock Hotel also has free wifi internet, which is a nice touch since so many 4 star hotels charge for 24 use of their internet. I used the concierge to check into my airline and print out my boarding passes. They were quick with getting them for me as I checked out.

Hard Rock Chicago

What to do?

Chicago is full of so many amazing sights. You may not be able to fit them all into a weekend, but here are some highlights for the traveler in a rush:

Sears Tower: Yes it may be a tourist trap at times, but it has one of the best panoramic views of the windy city. Adults are $12.95 and children are $9.50. It is a great way to spend an hour or two while checking out Chicago.

Millennium Park: This beautiful park is right in the center of the city. It has so much to see and enjoy. When I visited this park on a unseasonably hot April afternoon in Chicago, I was in awe of some of its beautiful art & architecture. Some of the many attractions in the park include the Jay Pritzker pavilion, the bp bridge, boeing galleries, crown fountain and cloud gate (aka the bean). A few hours here is definitely going to become the highlight of your Chicago trip.

Millennium Park

Wrigley Field: This historic stadium has been the home of the Chicago Cubs for 93 of its 107 year existence. A Cubbies game with a few Chicago style hot dogs, warm pretzels and the occasional over priced beer, will make you root, root, root for (or against) the home team for sure.

Chicago Cubs official website

What to eat?

This is a foodie's city. The Chicago area is full of tasty treats and is known for its deep dish pizza, "Chicago style" hot dogs, which is usually made of Vienna beef, and covered in green pickle relish, yellow mustard, pickled sport peppers, tomato wedges, dill pickle spear and topped off with celery salt. Don't even dare to ask for ketchup...locals will look down on you as some crazy tourist!

Giordano's: (Try not only the deep dish pizza, but order their delicious steak sandwich w. gravy and fries)

Pizzeria Uno: (go to the original location for the real Chicago experience)

Hot Doug's: As for the hot dog lovers out there, be sure to stop on by Hot Doug's. But be prepared to wait in line for one (or more) of these tasty dogs. Some of the menu items include The Paul Kelly which is bratwurst soaked in beer, The Salma Hayek which is described as being "very, very, very hot" and the local's favorite simply called The Dog, which has basically everything in the kitchen on it. Mmm heartburn.

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