Visiting Chicago for the first time was a fun experience for me. I found the city to be enjoyable on many levels. Transit was easy using the CTA system. There were many maps within the CTA system, on the streets and available at most tourist locations. Further information was easy to find by asking local people. Everyone seemed to be very friendly and helpful making being a tourist a great experience.
There is so much to see and do in Chicago that making choices was extremely difficult. On the day I was visiting my daughter and I decided to first attend an art festival at Grant Park. It was pleasant walking from the train station to the park but then when we got to the park the sun was so bright and strong; the many vendors’ tents which formed rows and rows seemed to hold the heat in and make it even hotter. There was no shade where the artist’s tents were. It was just too uncomfortable for me.
We walked back towards Millennium Park and decided to take advantage of a Signature Tour on a Chicago Trolley. This was a wise decision for me. The tour offered several routes, was easy to get on an off at many stops, was narrated, had knowledgeable and friendly tour guide/drivers and was economical. We enjoyed the sightseeing and all fifteen of the stops along the route.
The route we chose began and ended for us at Millennium Park. This park is home to “The Bean” as it is affectionately referred to by locals, otherwise correctly titled Cloud Gate, a sculpture by Anish Kapoor, a British artist. The sculpture is very interesting and quite a unique attraction for the city. Many people were taking pictures, feeling the sculpture, viewing the sculpture from different angles and enjoying the experience.
We passed the Palmer House, the Art Institute of Chicago, the beautiful Buckingham Fountain, Hilton Chicago, the Field Museum and Soldier Field, and Sheraton Hotel on the way to the Navy Pier.
The Navy Pier was much larger than I would have expected. Surrounded by Lake Michigan the pier area looks like you are entering a large carnival. The Ferris wheel attracts your attention immediately as your enter the gate. Of course there is ample entertainment, rides and attractions, boats and cruises available, lots of shops and restaurants to enjoy and so much to experience.
The trolley passed through the Magnificent Mile and passed the Wrigley building as well as the new Trump building both magnificent views. The trolley stopped at Water Tower Place and the Water Tower Pumping Station exhibit was right across the street. Here you could walk to the Hershey store, shop at the American Girl Place or other well known stores.
Somewhere along the way we passed the place that Oprah calls home. We passed a McDonald’s restaurant that was located right by a beautiful and shady city park. We passed a Good Humor truck and one of the riders had the need to get off of the trolley to buy an ice cream treat.
We passed the John Hancock Observatory, Presbyterian Church and Chicago Sinai Temple before heading for the Hard Rock and River North area. Here you can find many, many familiar restaurants.
Next we drove to the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sear’s Tower, and learned that this is where you can experience the Skydeck on the 103rd floor for a breathtaking view of the city. Next we drove to the Chicago Theatre, past Macy’s historic 2nd largest department store dating to 1893 and then past City Hall.
Finally we ended our tour back at Millennium Park. I felt like I knew a lot more about Chicago. The tour was a great way to see so many interesting sites and to hear about places that I would not have known about otherwise. Now I need to go back to explore many of the sites.
We did walk a bit taking the time to enjoy a Picasso sculpture, some street art and a few shops before we headed back to the train station to return to our hotel. Walking along the streets was again a pleasant experience. This first visit to Chicago was informative, eye opening, offered so many reasons to return for another visit or visits, and was very enjoyable.