Did you all have a great memorial day weekend (longgg weekend)?
It was an especially special one to me for a few reasons:
1. It’s the 1st official federal holiday here in NC since January 2017, which means… yup, we had ZERO days off in between January to end of May unless you want to use your PTO and we all know those PTOs are super precious because they are never enough!
2. Desperate in need of a free day off
3. Perhaps the most important one… my first time visiting Chicago!!!
My travel buddy and I decided on the trip way back probably in the beginning or mid of February, so it has been a good while for me to stare at my planner anxiously waiting for the calendar date 5/26 to appear. We wanted to be strategic and make the most out of this special experience to explore Chicago so we decided to book early plane ride – giving us basically 3 full days to see the city and hit the major tourist spots (4 days 3 nights).
It was an absolutely wonderful trip that I loved every part of. We were originally super worried about the weather because even on the day of the trip it showed that it’ll most likely be raining A LOT over the weekend… but everything worked out. We did have some rain but that didn’t ruin anything! To invite you to take a glimpse into what we did during our time in the windy city, I will be writing a few posts… so be ready you will be bombarded by Chi-related goodness for a little while 😉
Hotel: Hard Rock Chicago
I don’t know if we booked our hotel a bit too early to get better deal, but anyways, we booked a really nice hotel that apparently a ton of people decided to stay for their first time in Chicago because of it’s excellent location close to basically everything 🙂 Perhaps because we booked it early, we got an upgrade to stay at one of the higher floors (23rd). The view is not the best but I do like that we still manage to see peeks of the gorgeous river and surrounded by all the interesting and very famous architectures.
The room is nice, the bed is very comfortable. My only complain would be the need to do something about the hotel walls… They are extremely ridiculously thin that you can hear everything from the hallway. I was so tired so I fell asleep just fine but my travel buddy had hard time getting quality sleep because it’s just super noisy all.day.long
The only thing I am a bit concerned (but perhaps just myself because I have sensitive skin). Hard Rock seemed to use very strong detergent (or chemicals I do not know) to wash their sheets, pillow covers, etc. I arrived Chicago nice and fine, but my face began to have allergic reaction that even now I am still in the process recovering from it wit the help of all natural aloe vera gel from my favorite one and only Trade Joe’s.
2. Architecture Boat Tour
We purchased the Chicago explorer’s pass (through my company’s site) in advance to get us pretty good deals to access attractions (and sometimes express line). My travel buddy (the real Captain of this amazing tour) was able to spot a booth for the Shoreline boat tour right after we crossed the famous bridge that takes us to the heart of Michigan Avenue. The staff guided us to the booth closer to the boat and we were so lucky that there was a boat leaving within 10 minutes! Surely saved us time from waiting and because the weather was not the greatest (a bit chilly and foggy) when we arrived in Chicago there weren’t that many people on the boat for us to choose the best spot to sit. Maybe it’s the first ‘attraction’ I did in Chicago, or the fact that our guide Rachel was amazing, I think this is really my favorite of the trip that I enjoyed a ton and learned a ton about the beautiful architectures. (I love historical stuffs and good stories!) After the tour I finally understand why Chicago is so famous for its architectures because they all have their unique stories. One of my favorite is the Hard Rock Chicago building… looking from afar it looks like a champagne bottle… with 24K gold deco at the top. Very symbolic especially during the Prohibition era. I was able to take some gorgeous picture on the boat 🙂
3. Lunch at Naf Naf Grill
The boat ride was a good 75 minutes of fun and facts and gorgeous view. After that the Captain and I are both pretty hungry since we barely had anything – morning plane, hotel checkin, and fun fun fun. Captain did a lot of homework prior to the trip and suggested Naf Naf Grill is super close to us and that we could give it a try. Originally I was a bit suspicious about the food/menu since I never had a shawarma before… but wow, it was the absolutely perfect meal for lunch! The chicken shawarma in pita and side of the lentil soup were excellent. If only we stayed for an extra few days I would love to go back again. The shop is conveniently located within 5min walk from our hotel.
4. Magnificent Mile – Dylan’s Candy Bar / Garrett Popcorn / Water Tower Building, etc.
The Magnificent mile, basically most of the Michigan Ave. is where all the shops and things are at. Living in Queen City where options are limited, I haven’t seen a busy and lively street full of things and shops and brands for a long time. It was awesome. We went into many shops and I’d like to just point out a few that were especially interesting. One being Dylan’s Candy Bar. I am not big on candies but the store deco is hard not to notice! Very bright and colorful that sure brings a smile on your face.
I am sure many of us have heard of Garrett Popcorn… It was huge craze in Tokyo when they opened a shop in Harajuku where the line was enormously long… the same happened when they opened another shop at Taipei 101. Captain got a very pretty Chicago can for the popcorns. Smelled like popcorn 😉
The Water Tower Building was also a very interesting area to check out. It’s a beautiful building hard to recognize as a water tower once… there was a Uniqlo store close by, and a big shopping mall called the Water Tower Place (I think). I didn’t really find the mall fascinating, but we did find some really delicious chocolate bar made in Chicago, as well as the rose gelato I’ve been dying to try from Italy! (Chicago sure has everything…)
At Amorino, you can get as many flavor as you desire and they will turn it into a lovely rose for you. How cute 🙂 It was a nice little break for the Captain and I to sit down a little bit and enjoy some sweets from all the walking we already did.
5. 3 Arts Café
We basically concluded our Magnificent Mile stroll at Amorino. It looked like it was about to rain so we uber to a place I’ve been dying to see with my own eyes… 3 arts café inside restoration hardware. I’ve seen a ton of gorgeous photo of this café and told Captain we gotta stop at here to SEE when in Chicago. I still couldn’t believe I was able to see this beautiful art deco place in front of me when we arrived. Although we didn’t get to dine at the café (the wait was long), all guests have the option to just buy something from their shop and sit wherever your heart desire to enjoy the furniture they sell on display. We arrived at perfect time because it really started to pour pretty bad after we got into the café. Captain and I spent good amount of time there just chilling and enjoying the beverages and take it slow a bit to wait for the rain to go away.
6. Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Pizza
Although it was still raining, the Captain and I felt we’ve spent a bit too much time at the café so we decided perhaps it was good time to just venture out to our dinner location since we have a stand up comedy to go to for the night! (yay artsy events in Chi!) Luckily the walk was not far and it was nice to just walk around this side of the town a bit to see the buildings, the flowers, and the shops in between. There are so many cool stores in Chicago that I’ve seen in Tokyo and Taipei but not available in Charlotte… or even the part of SoCal I am from. It was so great to feel being back in the big city again for me.
I was very excited for dinner because it’s my first time trying the very famous Chicago deep dish pizza 😉 I went for the Malnati special. Captain and I decided to be safe and only ordered a ‘small’ to share. Turned out to be super filling with all the greasy cheese covering the pie!! It was a delicious dinner with really nice staffs and as I always say… the only time you’ll see me drinking my diet cokes -> 1) migraine 2) pizza time 😀
7. Second City – Fantastic Super Great Nation Numero Uno
I am the type of person who is not interested to try new things, and a lot of times I am pretty stubborn. Captain suggested we need to see a stand up comedy in Chicago and I have to confess originally I was kind of like meh, sure, let’s do it. (Because I don’t want to be rude to do Broadway and not let my travel buddy choose anything when we should enjoy this fabulous trip together!)
We had a ton of time left after pizza and since we didn’t really want to go into anymore stores, Captain and I decided we might as well just walk to Second City for the show. It was quite a walk but because it was a bit chilly I didn’t really mind a bit. I thought it was quite pleasant and had fun chatting with my travel bud on our way there. (getting a ton of fitbit steps lol)
Little did I know that Second City is such a famous place where famous celebrities such as the SNL people (Tina Fey, etc.) were once an alumni! I really liked the tshirt the staffs were wearing but too bad that was not a souvenir for sell… Anyways, the show was AMAZING! I had so much fun watching it. It was like watching SNL in person but better. All the skits were funny, the performers were excellent, and it was really the best event I could ever ask for to kick off the Chicago evening, the very first evening we spent in the windy city 🙂
I feel like I could probably go on and on and on about all the amazingness of this Chicago trip but I should probably stop here because there’s more to tune in… on our day 2 and day 3 adventures!
Knowing the location and having an excellent travel buddy is extremely important. I am so happy we were able to see so much even on the very first day in Chi. Everything we did, we saw, we ate were terrific. I also learned that perhaps I need to be a bit open minded and less critical about things I don’t know (I know this is very difficult). The evening show turned out to be so much better than I had expected. We bought the cheaper restricted view tickets but because we arrived early in my opinion we got one of the best seats in the room because we had high chairs that won’t block any view 🙂
Sitting here on a Friday typing this day 1 journal just makes me miss this time last week… I really hope I could be back and re-do the whole thing again!