Day 12: Chicago

Well, I’m actually writing this from memory on December 30th, 2019 as I’ve let this slide for quite a while. Now I have daily reminders to do one post a day to catch up on this trip and a later trip to Phoenix. Hopefully, the photos will trigger the memory on what we did and where we went.

Our first full day in Chicago will be to go downtown and explore the city. I’ve had enough of driving for a bit so we take advantage of the hotel shuttle to take us to the train station to catch the META right into the heart of Chicago. By the time the day is done we’ve walked over 22,000 steps, taken 231 photos, got lost once or twice and managed to catch the right train to get back to the hotel shuttle pickup station. For 60 of the better photos head over to the Flickr Album for this day of the trip.

We arrive at the train station and we’re tourist right? Which side of the tracks should we be on to catch the train into Chicago? I even ask a couple of people, and we’re all tourists and nobody is sure. We hang around first on the “wrong” side and then place our bets on the other side. Eventually some locals show up and confirm, this is it.

We’re farther out in the burbs than I though when I booked the hotel and its an hour ride into the heart of the city, but it’s a fun train adventure, complete with tickets purchased on an app that you show the conductor.

Once we’re downtown the adventure begins. Where to go first? We start by heading towards the lakeshore.

Soon, our first destination has been discovered! It’s the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, for a time the tallest building in the world until 1998, and we’re going to the top! Well, as high as they let tourists go, the 103rd floor. See the tiny looking glass protrusions on the building on the right? These little glass boxes are for the tourists like us. They can be retracted in bad weather or pushed out on a rail system for some pretty crazy views. You get 30 seconds at a crack to get your photos and selfies. Speaking of “crack” the glass floor did “crack” later in the year after our visit!

Before we head up, we go down into the lower levels of the building and weave through a long series of displays letting you know some of the key moments in the windy cities history. Thankfully the crowds are light and we motor through the exhibits to the elevators.

And we’re up on the Skydeck! The weather is great and it’s a super clear day this morning and we can see all over town and out into Lake Michigan. This is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,353 feet.

Now for the fun part. We wait a short time in line to get our 30 seconds on the Ledge. The Ledge’s glass boxes extend out 4.3 feet out from the Skydeck. Shirley is all relaxed until she steps out onto the glass floor and looks down. Suddenly, not so relaxed. 🙂

Hanging out over Chicago
Just don’t look down.
The Ledge of the Skydeck selfie

Back down on the street we wander around generally towards the lakeshore and Millennium Park. Along the way we go under the Chicago “L” several times. I’m pretty sure some car honked at me as I stopped in the middle of the street to line up this shot. We gawk at all the different shops and cool building architecture and eventually make our way over to the park.

The big attraction at the Millennium Park? The Bean, aka Cloud Gate of course!

After a bunch of Cloud Gate photos, we continue our exploration along the Chicago Riverwalk.

Tour Boat
Vietnam War Memorial
A local bird
Trump Tower on the left
One of the many lifting road bridges
Train Bridge

At this point we’ve walked quite the distance and we’re at the farthest point from the train station. So, we head back and zig zag through the streets to find our train. Inspire of using Google Maps, I get us lost and we actually walk past the station by several blocks before Shirley asks a guy for directions.

Getting closer to the train station

Again, we locate the departing train track without too much trouble, buy tickets with the app and we’re on our way back to the hotel. A new train “wrinkle” for us though. Apparently, we’re in a “quiet” car where there are no announcements about the stations coming up. This is for the seasoned train riders who want a peaceful ride home after a hard day in the big city. For rookies like us this is not good. Eventually, we clue in and move up several cars where they are calling out all the stops.

The hotel shuttle picks us up and we enjoy the complimentary snacks and drinks in the hotel lounge that are sufficient for dinner, and that’s the end of Day 1 in Chi Town.

More photos of the day.

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