Did you know that the Chicago River is the only river in the world that flows backwards? It is also less than an 8 hour drive from Toronto which is why I ended up in Chicago for a few days in between Christmas and New Years. It is also one of my favorite cities in the US to visit (this is my third time)!
We stayed at The Gwen in the Magnificent Mile and I would highly recommend staying there if you’re planning on visiting Chicago anytime soon. It is attached to The Shops at North Bridge (hello, Nordstrom!) and is close to hundreds of stores and restaurants. Tip: The rooms don’t come with a coffee maker; you have to request one from the front desk but they are more than happy to bring up a Keurig for you.
We were really lucky and the weather was gorgeous the entire duration of our stay. It was definitely windy but I expected that. One of my favorite aspects about Chicago is how walk-able everything is. Hitting my 10,000 step goal was easily attainable which made me feel less guilty about the deep-dish pizza dinners we had almost every night. My FitBit was definitely happy with me during this trip. Tip: Visit Cloud Gate in Millennium Park in the evening. The lights from the buildings reflect off of “the bean” and it’s stunning. Also, there’s far less tourists in the evening and you will be able to take more Instagram worthy photos.
In 1885, Chicago became home to the first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building. I would encourage you to make the trek towards the Planetarium along the Lakefront Trail. From there, you have an amazing view of the Chicago Skyline which is where I was able to snap the above photo. I take a photo from here every time I visit and it never gets old.
While you’re there, you can visit the Adler Planetarium (I’ve been before and to be honest, it’s not something I would say is a “must-do”) but I would spend my time and money on the Shedd Aquarium. Be prepared to wait 1-2 hours in line but i’m happy to report that it is so worth it. The Shedd Aquarium is the largest indoor aquarium in the world. Be sure to wear your running shoes as I spent hours in there and don’t really think I was able to see everything. My favorites include the Beluga Whales, Sea Otters, Dolphins, Penguins, and the Anaconda! In case you were wondering, yes, it is better than the Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto.
In terms of food, the highlights for me were:
- Shake Shack – any opportunity I have to eat at Shake Shack, I will take. I believe there are 2 locations in Chicago.
- Deep Dish Pizza – my absolute favorite was Lou Malnati’s (no surprise) but second was Gino’s East.
- Strawberry Shakes at Potbelly’s – you have to try them! There are a few locations in Toronto as well!
Chicago is unquestionably a city you have to visit more than once and i’m sure i’ll be back sooner rather than later!