Late on Wednesday afternoon I was bidding a warm welcome to the ‘Windy City’ of Chicago in the American Mid-West. Chicago is at the most southerly point of the third largest of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan, within the state of Illinois.
This trip to Chicago, USA was my first ever layover. My knowledge of this city had been pretty limited up until now and the only fact I knew about it aside from basic geography, was that my teen punk rock heroes, Fall Out Boy, originated from here. But that was about it…!
After doing a little research, I was surprised to find that Chicago in fact has 24 beaches, some of which are no more than a 15 minute walk from the city centre. Being in the American Mid-West, the last thing I thought I would find in Chicago was a beach, let alone 24 of them!
1. John Hancock Tower – incredible views all over the city to a distance of 50 miles radius including views into four different states! This skyscraper is located on Chicagos Magnificent Mile and soars to 1000 feet above the city.
2. Lake Michigan – The third largest of the USA’s Great Lakes (by water surface 22,300 sq. miles) and second largest by volume (1,180 cubic miles). It is also the only Great Lake to be located entirely within the USA. Lake Michigan is not to be overlooked during a visit to Chicago, although, it would be hard to miss it! Stretching for 26 miles along the cityscape, Lake Michigan is an integral part of city life and a must see on your visit. Near to Buckingham Fountain before the lake side walk, there is a smoothie take away hut! They make the most incredible drinks!! I had a mango and spinach smoothie to keep me energised & hydrated during my walk in this part of the city.
3. Beaches – along the lake side there are 24 different beaches all within close proximity to the city centre of Chicago, all with their own unique quirks and characteristics. As a beach lover myself I was excited to see what this new type of ‘beach’ has to offer!
Lake front and surrounded by a city isn’t what usually springs to mind when I think of laying back on a sun lounger with a cocktail in hand so this will be a new experience in itself. Popular beaches include; North Avenue Beach (thought to be Chicago’s premium beach) and Ohio Street Beach.
During my stay in Chicago, I visited Olive Park Beach where there are excellent views of the cityscape and John Hancock tower. This was a short walk from the hotel I was staying at, The Millennium Knickerbocker.
4. Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain – 319 acres of public park land in central Chicago and borders the central business district and Lake Michigan. It hosts several music festivals every year of which unfortunately I will be missing two of the biggest ones by only a couple of days! Unfortunately the Friday I flew back to the UK was the start of Green Music Fest, an eco friendly festival promoting green living!
Saturday (21st) was the Chicago Pride Parade which attracts over 1 million attendees. Sadly I wasn’t able to enjoy either of these festivities but the buzz in the city prior to these events was just as electric!
This was because of the Chicago Black Hawks ice hockey team winning the prestigious Stanley Cup! There was a massive parade in the city on Thursday & I was lucky enough to experience this during my stay as well as seeing the mayor of Chicago as well as the Black Hawks themselves triumphantly clutching the Stanley Cup as they waved at the hundreds of thousands of fans that lined the streets.
4. Millenium Park – home to cutting edge architecture and artwork as well as the Crown Fountain and the Cloud Gate (otherwise known as ‘The Bean’). The Bean was in fact created by British Artist Anish Kapoor and was designed to reflect the curvature of the iconic Chicago skyline. Millenium Park was flooded with people who had came to the city to enjoy the parade.
5. Gino’s East Pizzeria – Chicago is famed for its deep dish Chicago Town pizzas with thick bases and full flavour fillings to tantalise the tastebuds. After our flight the crew were starving so we headed down to Gino’s to refuel!
Stephanie our waitress looked after us keeping us well hydrated & with plenty of food. Not only that, but we were also given a felt tip pen & told to write on the walls and chairs! The whole restaurant is covered in these quirky scribbles from visitors from all over the world. If you are ever sat upstairs, keep an out for BA295 (our flight number, signed with our names).
There were a couple of places I didn’t get a chance to visit, Buckingham Fountain and The Willis Tower Skydeck being two of them but luckily I am flying back to the Windy City at the end of July so I will definitely be checking these sites out over there next time!
For a first ever layover Chicago served me well! Lots of exciting things to do and places to visit, as well as really friendly people & a city in high spirits. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Hayley X x x