This summer has been all about exploring places in my own country since I realized that there is so much right here that I have yet to discover and experience. From new places like St. Louis, San Francisco, and Yosemite to old favorites including my beloved Washington D.C. and of course New York City, these past couple of months have been packed to say the very least. Chicago has been a city that I've always had on my U.S. bucket list, though I never had a good opportunity/excuse to visit in the past until a close friend of mine and I decided to take a weekend trip somewhere together this summer.
Funny enough, her name is also Melissa and I also love her like a sister! Melissa and I lived together for a year back in college and we've shared so many great memories. I was more than excited for our girls' getaway to the land of deep-dish pizza! After deciding on Chicago back in June, we kind of left all the planning on the back burner until the last few days leading up to our flight. Honestly, our top places starred to visit consisted 90% of food, and we are most definitely proud of it! I have had the opportunity to work with some awesome people on my projects this past year who are from Chi Town, and all of them agree that Chicago is best to visit in the summer. We were blessed with perfect weather the entire time, which made for a perfect sightseeing visit!
Cloud Gate / The Bean
"The Bean" is one of the most iconic sculptures on American soil, and as someone who loves playing 100% tourist in any new city, I was pretty excited to see this masterpiece for myself. Cloud Gate is a sculpture located in the AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park and it's history is actually quite fascinating. I always make sure to do a little bit of research for things and places I will visit, and I found it pretty cool that the bean's design was actually inspired by liquid mercury and that it was chosen as a result of a contest! Pretty neat if you ask me.
Chicago's Navy Pier is a definite must-do, especially in the summer! It happens to be Chicago's #1 tourist attraction, and rightfully so, given how much there is to do within the 50 acres of shops, attractions, parks, and exhibition facilities. Navy Pier sits on the shoreline of Lake Michigan, and boasts some Insta-worthy views. We definitely recommend visiting right before sunset on a clear day, since we enjoyed one of the most beautiful evenings watching the sun set, riding the ferris wheels, and watching a beautiful fireworks display on a Saturday evening.
Our hotel was actually located right above the Chicago Loop, and our hotel room had some of the most beautiful river views. We loved people watching along the river and definitely made a few comments about how clear and blue the waters are here compared to NYC rivers (haha).
The Signature Lounge at the 95th (atop the John Hancock Center)
Rooftop hopping was definitely on our list of things to do in Chi Town, and we made it to one of the most famous bars in the city for an afternoon cocktail. The Signature Lounge at the John Hancock Center has some of the most incredible 360 degree views of the entire city. Drinks range from ~$15 to $20, but are totally worth it - the cocktails we had were also super yummy and STRONG. This is a definite must-do, especially after strenuous shopping on Magnificent Mile.
Chicago Institute of Art
Chicago's Institute of Art is one of the oldest and largest museums in the United States, and you could easily spend your entire day here exploring the dozens of wings and exhibits this museum boasts. We spent 3-4 hours roaming around and checked out some of the suggested paintings and exhibits on the "must-see" section of the museum map. Admission is not free but you can definitely get your money's worth if you spend the time to see everything. Check out tickets and packaged deals here to save some $$.
Millennium Park is a 24.5 acre section of Grant Park, and is a must-visit in the city. From the Hay Pritzker Pavillion and the famous Cloud Gate, to the Crown Fountain and Wrigley Square, there are so many things to see through this walk in a park. One of our favorite sites was a large yoga class taking place on a Saturday morning in front of the pavilion and I would totally come back just to join the crown.
Lou's is an institute in Chicago, and we would be lying if we said this wasn't the best meal we had on our trip! We actually loved it so much we got another pie to-go on our way to the Lincoln Park Zoo. Chicago deep dish is rooted in rich history, and we had very high expectations given that we are spoiled with New York pizza. Get a classic Chicago style pizza with sausage; promise you won't regret it. 11/10
Melissa and I made it a mission to go on a pizza binge and decided it would be a fabulous idea to take our second pizza (from Giordano's) from Magnificent Mile all the way to Navy Pier. It did get a bit cold, but we both agreed that we liked Lou Malnati's way more. Perhaps we should have gotten the pie at the location at the pier...hahaha oops.
Talk about a damn good burger! I've heard about America's best burger multiple times from friends and co-workers, so when it came to judging it for ourselves, I was overwhelmed with happiness (also because it was our first meal of the day after fighting for free lipstick since it was National Lipstick Day). I'm not the biggest burger fanatic, but this burger was BOMB and the bacon was incredible. We waited about 20 minutes pretty early in the day on Saturday morning so we definitely recommend trying to grab a seat early since they do not take reservations.
This popular brunch spot along Millennium Park was a whopping 2 hour wait on a Sunday afternoon. Fortunately for us, we were early risers and put down our name early to secure a decent meal time by the time our name was called. In the meantime, we walked around the park and grabbed some delicious rose and vanilla lattes from Pickwick Coffee Roasting. I'm a bit spoiled when it comes to infinite brunch options in New York, but this was a pretty solid breakfast and it was also a really cheap meal compared to brunch prices back home. We got a veggie skillet and some wildberry pancakes for our savory and sweet fix.
Our last day was spend brunching at another popular brunch hotspot, Yolk, and roaming around the beautiful Art Institute of Chicago before heading home. We both got the most delicious California omelettes that we stuffed with massive amount of avocado and cheese. I barely could finish my blueberry pancakes with it!
Until next time Chicago...you're a beauty and you've got some great food. I seriously can't wait to come back again!