Take Me Back To Chicago

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"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop to look around every once in a while, you could miss it."

We're all familiar with this line from the classic movie, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, which took place in Chicago—the famous city I got to experience for the first time on a recent press trip. I was so fortunate to be travelling with some wonderful Canadian journalists, led by the most professional (and fun) PR firm, Fathom Co. (hi, Mark and Laura!) and hosted by Choose Chicago.

Chicago—I definitely choose you!

Some cities leave me yearning for more; I feel this way about New York City, and I feel this way about Chicago now. My first time visiting the Windy City left quite an impression on me, even though I was only there for a few days. I explored as much as I could, making good use of my time from morning to night. I walked around Millennium Park, took my picture by the famous "bean", watched Hamilton for the first time, (more on that later, because, oh-my-God, Hamilton!) dined at incredible restaurants, explored some art galleries, and ate deep-dish pizza. (Worth. Every. Bite).

I even walked on The Ledge of Skydeck, 103 floors up, where I saw the most incredible views of the city, high above the clouds, on a crystal-clear sunny morning. Fun fact: you can actually see four states from the top. The view was breathtaking–and I wasn't scared at all!

Chicago, one of the largest cities in the United States, on Lake Michigan—well-known for its incredible architecture, delicious dining options, theatre, and museums—is a perfect place to visit for everyone, including families, couples, and friends. 2019 is definitely the year to visit Chicago, for a number of reasons: It's the "Year of Chicago Theatre",  Hamilton: The Exhibition is officially open, and Chicago is home to the James Beard Awards until 2027–dubbed 'the Oscars of the food world.'

Here are my suggestions for where to stay and what to do during your trip to Chicago:

The Blackstone Hotel: I had the pleasure of staying at The Blackstone Hotel during my recent trip. This historic hotel first opened in 1910, and has hosted many former Presidents, including JFK. (He happened to be eating Boston Clam Chowder in the 10th floor suite that we had the chance to explore, when he heard the news of the Cuban Missile Crisis). The suite even has an escape route so guests could come and go without being seen.

The term 'smoke-filled' room originated at The Blackstone Hotel, too, in the infamous 'smoke-filled' suite, after a group of US Senators gathered to arrange the nomination of Warren G. Harding as the Republican candidate for President in 1920. I loved the stunning lobby in The Blackstone Hotel, a lobby with history; President Truman used to hang out in the lobby, playing piano and drink bourbon late into the evenings.

The lobby of this historic hotel is filled with art and historical pieces, and the guest rooms are modern, clean, and very spacious. My view of Lake Michigan was breathtaking, as was the morning sunshine that filled my room. I loved the Crystal Ballroom, the 5th floor Art Hall, and the location of the hotel–just a short walk from Grant Park, Millennium Park, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

What to do

Chicago's First Lady Architecture River Cruise:  Everyone kept telling me Chicago is "like New York City, but so much cleaner" and they were 100% correct. I was in awe of how clean this beautiful city was, and even more fascinated by the beauty of the water close to the city's edge; the water looked as blue as the ocean, so really, Chicago has everything I love in one location: a big-city vibe that's alive at night, with so much to explore, plus the tranquility of blue water surrounding me. A great way to see the city is through a river cruise, where you'll learn about the architectural landscape surrounding you, and the history of the skyscrapers. This is considered the top tour in Chicago and one of the top ten tours in the United States, so it's not to be missed, especially if it's your first time in the city.

Millennium Park and Cloud Gate: Cloud Gate is the official name of the famous "bean" sculpture that everyone visits to snap a selfie with. Inspired by liquid mercury and meant to reflect the city's skyline, it's one of the largest pieces of art of its kind in the world, and a definite attraction for both tourists and locals alike. I walked among crowds of people happily snapping their picture with the "bean", and enjoyed the park and all the pretty open green space. It's what sets Chicago from other cities, I think.

The Ledge at Skydeck: We had the opportunity to enjoy an early morning private breakfast at The Ledge at Skydeck, which was an amazing experience atop the Willis Tower. It was so much fun standing on the 'ledge', the glass balcony extending four feet outside the 103rd floor. It's a must-do when in Chicago, and a great place to take those memorable pictures, while taking in the breathtaking views from high above.

Shopping: When in Chicago, make some time for shopping along The Magnificent Mile, where you'll find all the stores you love, from department stores to designer boutiques. The shopping is incredible in this city, but make sure to wear comfortable shoes because you'll be walking for, well... miles. (Don't forget to stop by Garrett Popcorn Shop, for their delicious cheddar-caramel mix).

Dining: Chicago is the place to be if you're a foodie; there are so many great dining options, and if you plan your visit in July, you'll be there for Taste of Chicago–not to be missed! If you're looking for a place to dine that's unique with an eclectic menu, inspired by simple farmhouse fare in a super cool space, check out The Publican.  It's a popular place to gather with friends for drinks (they've got an amazing selection of craft beer on tap) and food, from seafood to pork and oysters.

Another great place to dine (close to many theatre's, so it's a perfect place to go to before your show!) is Acanto Restaurant and Bar. The wine, service, and Italian food was simply delicious.

Theatre: Like NYC, Chicago has incredible theatre options for tourists. You can celebrate the Year of Chicago Theatre by attending some of the many great productions, including improv, opera, and musicals.

Of course, the hottest ticket in town is Hamilton: The Musical. It was like a dream come true, having the opportunity to see Hamilton–and our 4th floor seats were pretty sweet, too! I was so emotional walking into the theatre, to see this popular musical created by the genius that is Lin-Manuel Miranda. Hamilton was absolutely incredible and definitely worth the hype. I'm completely obsessed now.  I highly recommend you get tickets before your trip to Chicago–you'll be ever so thankful you did! Another must-do in Chicago is going to Hamilton: The Exhibition. It was created by Lin-Manuel Miranda and the 360-degree immersive exhibit takes visitors into the life and times of Alexander Hamilton.

Museums and Art Galleries: There are many great museums and art galleries in Chicago, so try to visit a few. The Chicago Architecture Center is a must–it offers interactive exhibits and tours of architectural treasures, and it's the perfect place to learn more about the history of Chicago. Stop by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) for lunch at Marisol, a beautiful restaurant and bar featuring food from Chicago chef Jason Hammel. The food is delicious, and being surrounded by art made it an even more memorable experience. The MCA is one of the largest museums dedicated to art since 1945. The museum exhibits new and experimental work from artists in all media, paired with educational programs.

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the city's most well-known cultural institutions, which houses over 300,000 pieces of art, and is home to the delicious Italian restaurant, Terzo Piano–another great stop during a day of sight-seeing in the city.

If you have time...

A weekend in Chicago may not be enough time to see it all; but you can always plan another visit, right? To maximize your time in Chicago, pick up a Chicago City Pass. The City Pass provides great deals on shopping, and VIP admission to some great attractions to places like Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago, Field Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago.

Chicago, my new favourite city, is worth a visit, because once you discovery it, you'll fall in love like I did. It's historic, clean, and beautiful, and has so much to do, no matter what you love. From sports to theatre, to shopping and dining, it's got it all.  I cannot wait to go back and explore it all over again.

Thank you, Choose Chicago, for the most memorable trip! 
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