Chicago Girls Trip: Part One

Chicago, Chicago
That toddlin' town
Chicago, Chicago
I'll show you around
I love it
Bet your bottom dollar you'll lose the blues
In Chicago, Chicago

//Frank Sinatra

Soooo, can we all just pretend that we are still back in May and I am not actually blogging about Chicago two months late?! Things have been so busy and fun and I am so in love with summer that blogging has unfortunately taken a back seat for the last few weeks. I had meant to post about my Chicago girls trip at the end of May but LIFE got in the way and here I am at almost the second week of July. Better late than never I guess!

Nick's cousin Jackelyn has lived out in Chicago for about ten years now, and she is so much fun that Nick's sister Kat and I really wanted to plan a girls weekend trip to go visit her. They only really get to see her around the major holidays so it was nice for Kat to be able to spend some quality time with her during the nice summer weather. Kat had been out to visit a few years prior in the winter, but this was only the second time she was going and it was my FIRST ever trip to Chicago! I had heard some good things but really had no idea what to expect. Here we are about to jet set! And on the right is part of one of the neighborhoods close by to Jackie's house. I was loving all of the color and art already!
First subway ride into downtown! NOTE: We did NOT notice we were sitting in a handicapped spot until seeing this photo! Whoops! No wonder everyone was staring at us…
 Our first stop Downtown, the enormously tall Sears Tower! We didn't end up going inside, just admired from the street.

 Here is Jackelyn! She was THE BEST tour guide! She really knew everything about everything and could get around the whole city like it was nothing. It was very impressive! We learned so much stuff from her and got some great tips and recommendations. She has done it all and is happy to show others around.
 She told us we had to walk through this one random building because it was really beautiful inside, and yes indeed it was! Gotta love the indoor palm trees.

 We continued walking around in the downtown area taking in the sights and city vibes. It was so clean and "calm" for a large city! I was thoroughly impressed.
 The Chicago Stock Exchange building.

 We walked past and checked out the famous 'Flamingo' Sculpture by Alexander Calder. I am always down for some art, and it turned out to be a big theme for our visit and for Chicago as a whole.

 We stopped in to check out the Chicago public library. It was a huge ten floors (one of the largest in the country) and amazing!
 The ninth level hosts an indoor winter garden and a complete glass skylight ceiling. It was really pretty and bright and such a cool and quiet spot to study or hang out.

Library selfies!
 Next, we headed more towards Lake Michigan, where you could start to look back and get a glimpse at the full skyline/span of the city.

 Chicago had such a pretty city skyline! The GoPro was able to get some sweet wide angle pictures of many of the skyscrapers and buildings.

 Love these sassy ladies!

 The Famous Congress Hotel that has been open since 1893.
 Chicago's landscaping was some of the most beautiful I have ever seen! It was very close to that of D.C.. Tulips and immaculate gardens everywhere that lined the streets and parks. They were so full and vibrant and our visit was at just the right time to get everything in full bloom.

 We made it to the lake shore and got to see Buckingham fountain.

 I took this Chicago Fire picture for Nick in honor of his new job that he just recently started at NFD!
 The fountain was huge and spouted water at least 50 feet into the air. You could feel the mist from so far away and on a hot day it was really nice. The sky was overcast at this point of the day but it was still pretty warm outside and with all the walking we were doing we were definitely hot.

We walked over to the lakefront and I was so surprised by how much it looked like the ocean! All that was missing was the salt air smell, other than that you couldn't tell the difference.
The water was so blue and it looked so enticing to jump in!
Thank you man in red pants for ruining my photos.

So excited to be in Chicago with this gal! I love her like a sister.

Like I said, beautiful flowers and landscaping were around every corner in Chi-town.

Next we took a stroll through Millennium Park, a state of the art park right in the downtown area. It had tons of cools things for families and kids to do and was so clean and pristine. There was rock climbing, running paths, gardens, and playscapes to name a few.

Such a beautiful city!

Then as we were walking through the park, I noticed what looked like a sculpture and by the style I knew immediately it had to be a Frank Gehry piece. I had been to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain that was also designed by him. His style is so particular I knew that it had to be him. Sure enough, he had designed this Pritzker Bandshell and it was built between 1999 and 2004. It's such a unique and one of a kind structure and they host many concerts throughout the year here. His designs were initially though to be architecturally and structurally impossible to build, but he has disproven many with his eye catching and mysteriously funky buildings that stand the test of time.
I'd love to see a show here someday!
Gardens and gardens galore. Every street corner, terrace, median and walkway was covered!

Next, we just HAD to make a stop at the infamous "Bean" sculpture! The actual name of the sculpture is Cloud Gate, and it was created by artist Anish Kapoor but has since been given the nickname of The Bean. The sculpture is meant to reflect and distort the city skyline and create all different types of new views and angles depending on how close/far you are from it. It has become an iconic Chicago landmark!

The sculpture sits right above the Park Grill at The Plaza... talk about a nice view from you routdoor table!

We walked under it and it was really cool! You could see hundreds of reflections of yourself and it was pretty mind boggling.
More sculptures in Millennium Park. These are giant heads by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa and are titled "Looking into my dreams, Awilda." They were created and installed as a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the park.

After the park we walked over to check out the grounds of The Art Institute. We would be going to an event there later on that evening so we wanted to check it out for a bit during the day.
The grounds and landscaping was designed by landscape architect Dan Kiley.

This ten ton solid steel statue called "Horse and Rider" by Charles Ray is installed outside in the gardens and has a full-time guard next to it!
Here is the entrance to the Art Institute, guarded by the famous lion statues! This one of the most visited museums in the entire world and the second largest in the US. It has amazing galleries and exhibits and there is no wonder why it holds such ranking in the art world.
After the Art Institute, Jackelyn said that we had to peak inside the Cultural Center to see it's beautiful architecture and mosaic work. We are so glad we did, it was amazing! So intricate and colorful.

This large glass dome was so pretty and let in such beautiful light!

Check out all that detail in the mosaic work! It spans the entire walls and ceilings.

We got another nice surprise when the Cultural Center happened to be hosting a retro pop art exhibit! I love this style of art and it was so cool to see all of these pieces blown up in giant form. We definitely had to take a tour and ended up spending almost an hour in there checking everything out.

We loved these faces! They were so cool and were all of famous people. We of course had to put our faces through the holes.

There was another exhibit in the next room over of a Jazz Age Modernist artist by the name of Archibald Motley. Here he is in a self portrait, painting his nude wife. His work was really neat, funky, and colorful. Definitely felt the vibes of the jazz era. I also loved this one because of the trunk-up elephant on the nightstand. That is Nick and I's favorite good luck symbol!
Loved this quote! It was by the artist himself, Archibald Motley.
Jackelyn is an actress and had an audition for a TV commercial that day around 2pm. We helped her rehearse her line all day and then when it came time for her to go, she set Kat and I off to walk the "Magnificent Mile" on Michigan Avenue. It is a famous one-mile straight stretch with countless upscale shops, department stores, restaurants, bars, and office buildings. It is also Home to the John Hancock building which is the 8th largest building in the country and the trump Tower which is the 5th largest.

I loved these inner city rivers and waterways! They were so pretty and snaked all throughout the streets and buildings leading into Lake Michigan.

Here is part the of Trump Tower. It was so huge!

A mobile on-the-go puppet stage! This guy bikes around the city doing puppet shows on the streets from his bike.
The trump is so friggan tall! Can't even fit in the photo.

More gardens everywhere you look. I couldn't get over how clean and beautiful this City was. Nothing like the dirty streets of NYC. Also way less crowded and way more friendly! Chicago was quickly becoming one of my new favorite major cities.
I mean, really? Not a speck of trash anywhere in sight, not even a cigarette butt to be seen.

We saw a trolley go by and an entire film crew was on the top level, we think they were maybe filming a scene from the new hit series Empire!
Towards the end of the Maginifcent Mile is the Old Chicago Water Tower. Kat and I checked it out and toured the inside. We kept wondering how Jackie was doing at her interview and couldn't wait to hear how it went!
Kat had mentioned another cool thing she remembered from her previous trip and wanted to show me. On the side of the Chicago Tribune Building is a collection of different rocks from around the country and world cemented into the side of the building. They were really cool and I was surprised to have seen a lot more than I expected in real life . There are 149 different rocks in total.

Don't mind me... just checking out rocks.

We still had some time to kill so we decided to make a much further than expected walk down to Navy Pier. We finally made it after a long and hot stroll, but it was worth it to see it and be by the lake again to get a cool breeze.

It is a classic pier setting, complete with a carnival, rides, restaurants and shops.
We were tempted to ride the Ferris Wheel, but the line was long and Jackelyn called to say she had finished, so we decided to skip it and go meet back up with her for some celebratory drinks.

Jackelyn took us to the famous John Hancock Tower, where they have a restaurant and bar on the 95th floor called the "Signature Room". It boats the best views in all of Chicago, and from the women's bathroom of all places! The men's room doesn't have any windows and all, and this is what the women get to see, so cool! Girls were just hanging out in the bathroom not to use it but to just check out and take photos of the view. The windows are floor-to-ceiling and make for some great photos and panoramas.

So amazing! One of the best city views I have ever seen for sure. It was pretty scary to get close and look down though.

After the bathroom break we headed into the lounge area and got some nice seats right at the bar.
Drinks were ordered! Champagne for me, a mojito for Kat and a Gin Rickey for Jackelyn.
We had such a great time and it was a much needed drink and rest for our feet. We had already walked at least 10 miles that day and were feeling the burn! I was starting to feel a little woozy from being so high up, and you could feel the building actually swaying back and forth, so I was a little green in the face, but after staring at the horizon and talking for a bit I started to feel a lot better.

Jackelyn was so excited because the chairs we so short and just her size!
More sweeping views from the lounge!

The view of the lounge and bar area on the 95th floor. The elevator ride up was also pretty scary! Super fast and your ears pop the whole way.

There is also a fine dining restaurant on the 95th with a 180 degree view of the lake. It was breathtaking! Literally eating above the clouds. You could definitely impress on a first date by taking someone here, it was amazing.

For dinner, we ate at an award winning and Michelin noted Thai restaurant called Oaprt Thai. Kat and Jackie had eaten there on her last visit and were talking it up all day. It lived up to the expectation and was SO good and fresh, definitely go if you ever get the chance. We rushed back to Jackie's apartment and started to get ready for our big night out. Her friend is the event coordinator/director at the Art Institute and they host sporadic events called "Art After Dark" in the modern wing. Jackelyn was able to score us free tickets(!!) and we were so excited to get dressed up and go. It is an attempt to get the younger crowd to the Art Museum and I'd say it is definitely working.

All dressed and ready to go! My hair did not fair well in the days humidity, so up it went! I curled Kat's hair and it came out great, so looked so pretty!
Chi-town by night.
The theme for this nights event was "Ireland: Crossroads of Art and Design, 1690-1840". It was PACKED, and was such a good crowd of young, hip and trendy folk. Everyone gathered in the modern wing atrium and there were bars galore, hors d'oeuvres, a band and DJ, and even live performance acts. A bagpiper and fife drummer started playing overhead and a circle was formed in the middle of the dance floor.

Irish step-dancers in traditional garb broke out into some serious step-dance routines! It felt like we were in the belly of the Titanic during that one famous scene where Jack takes Rose to the steerage party. Very energetic and really cool and unexpected. Everyone was watching and clapping along.

After hanging out in the atrium and getting some drinks, we decided to head into the exhibit to check it out!

Here we are.... in Ireland!
They had a lot of beautiful pieces in the collection, and it made me appreciate Irish art.
Photo-bombed by Jackelyn's friend Cindy! We kept getting in trouble in the exhibit either for taking photos in the wrong area, for getting to close to things, and even for 'accidentally' leaning on a glass case. Jackelyn said it best when she said "You can't give adults unlimited alcohol and send them into an art exhibit late at night and expect things not to be touched!" True that.

We made or way through the entirety of the exhibit, and then decided to head back out to the atrium party area.
The band ended and a DJ came on, which really got everyone dancing. It was a female DJ and she was killing it!

It was so packed! The did a great job of getting the word out for the event and making it something that young people actually want to attend that has to do with art. Hats off to the Institute!

We headed up to the balcony to check out the view and take a few more photos. We had such a fun time!

They also had a unique photo booth set up inside of one of the freight elevators. We were channeling our inner Desperate Housewives, and I think we nailed it!

The whole gang! We met and hung out with two of Jackie's friend, and they were both really fun.
Thanks to Collaboraction for taking these photos!
After the event ended, they even had an after party at a bar down the street. We got a wrist band which allowed for another free drink, and made the walk to a bar called 'Gage' on S. Michigan Ave. We spent the rest of the night chatting and laughing, and eventually Jackie's friend drove us home. It was such an activity filled and fun first day in Chicago! Not a minute was wasted and we were able to see so much and check so many things off of the list. We were so tired and ready for bed! Stay tuned for Day 2 and 3 in Part Two of my Chicago Girls Trip, soon to come.

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