Saturday, November 03, 2012

Four day Chicago travel

I visited Chicago for a four days (26Oct2012 - 30Oct2012) and it was really nice. Chicago is city in Illinois state of United States of America. It has great buildings. It has lot of interesting building made in direct architecture style like art deco and other styles. You will also hear name of Daniel Burnham - the Chicago city planner.

American Airlines:
RDU - ORD - FRI 26OCT - 0755 - 0900 - 90$ (including taxes)
ORD - RDU - TUE 29OCT - 0640 - 0920 - 90 $ (including taxes)

Since we were travelling on weekdays, we got a pretty good deal. Each ticket costed 180 $ (to and fro). For both of us, we paid 363.20 $. I still need to earn miles for the miles I spend on American Airlines Advantage program.

Ramada O'Hare (Elk Grove Village)
FRI OCT26 3:00 PM - TUE OCT29 12:00 PM - 169.15 (including taxes).
Hotel was family friendly and safe. Free airport shuttle helped to save on the commute money. Although it was far from Chicago downtown. 20 minutes to Airport and then another 45 mins in CTA to downtown. But it was worth the money. If I had all the money, I would have lived at one of the hotels in Chicago downtown :).

General Tips:
* Walking is fun especially when you are near to Chicago River and know little bit about the building around.
* Do spend on attractions which needs a little extra. You will not be visiting Chicago again and some of those attractions are worth the money. If you have time and nothing else to do paying for the attractions make sense if they are within 10 $.
* If you are using "Go Chicago Card", the free entry is upto 5:00 PM so make sure that the attractions which takes less time are covered before the attractions which takes more time.

26Oct2012 (Original Plan)
0755: RDU airport departure
0900: Chicago O' Hare arrival
1000: Ramada O'Hare using airport shuttle
1130: Chicago O' Hare CTA station
1215: LaSalle CTA station
1200: Epic Burger 517 South State Stree, Chicago, IL, 60605
1230: Buckingham Fountain 500 South Columbus Drive, Chicago, IL 60605
1300: Millenium Park Welcome Center, Chicago, IL
1400: Chicago Greeter, 77 East Randolph Street Chicago, IL 60602
1900: Billy Goat Tavern, 430 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611
2000: CTA station.
2045: ORD CTA station
2100: Back to Ramada O' Hare using hotel shuttle

Changes in the Plan:
Chicago Greeter Walking Tour replaced by our own public art and architecture walk:
As said by Eisenhower plans are worthless but planning is everything so my original plan did not worked. Chicago Greeter is a free service which takes visitor for a free walk, this did not worked for us.    In place of "Chicago Greeter" from Chicago Cultural Center, we went on our own and did a public art and architecture walk as given in the Fodor's Chicago 2011 (borrowed from public library). The book walk was starting from "Chicago Art Institute" but since we had planning Art Institute for another day and we have already seen Millennium park (Cloud Gate, Jay Pritzker Plaza and Crown Plaza). So we started from the "Chicago Cultural Center"
* Saw "We Will", "Monument with Standing Beast" and "Freefrom" on Randolph Street.
* Then took a left turn on Lasalle Street
* Then took another left on Washington Blvd.
* On Washington Blvd. we saw "Unnamed Picasso Sculpture" and "Chicago".
* Then we took a right turn on Dearborn Street where we saw Chase tower, Four Seasons, Flamingo and the Town-Ho's Story. We also saw Monadnock.
* Took a left turn on Jackson Blvd and then one more left to State Street and then finally to Marshall Field or Macy.
* On State Street, we saw Reliance Building/ Hotel Burnham and Sullivan Center.

Billy Goat Tavern replaced by Pizzeria Uno:
We are Indians and I can eat chicken when it comes to non-veg and Billy Goat Tavern did not have any chicken. Although it was looking really like a tavern with customer indulging themselves in drinks and  cheeseburger. Forgot to tell I do not take hard drinks, so definitely not a dinner place for us. In place of Billy Goat Tavern we decided to walk to Pizzeria Uno on E. Ohio Street at walking distance. While walking to Billy Goat Tavern and then to Pizzeria Uno we enjoyed seeing the Chicago River, Wrigley Building and other buildings. and the Magnificent Mile. Yeah Michigan Avenue is called Magnificent Mile starting from Wrigley building and I thinking ending at John Hancock Observatory. Chicago River cross roads is a nice place for taking pictures. And you got to see all the skyscrapers.

Tips of the day:
* Order salads at Pizzeria Uno as the pizza takes time. Also be ready for 30 - 40 mins wait. Also remember this was not a weekday due to which less wait, else you may have to wait more. In case you are pressed for time, try Big Bowl or Pizzeria Due on the same street.
* But CTA 3 - day fun pass at the CTA station. 1 - day fun pass is not sold at the CTA stations. So make sure to buy it as soon as you see a Walgreens. Also remember 3 - day pass is good for 3 * 24 hours. So my 3 - day CTA pass ended on my fourth day morning. So in place of buying fourth day pass, I could have bough a CTA one way ticket which is cheaper than one day pass. But remember you need exact change for buying tickets from kiosk. Check CTA ticket for fare and carry exact change.
* Epic burger was a wonderful experience.
* Some suggested to look at the Hard Rock Hotel lobby and look at the marble used. We did saw the Hard Rock Hotel when we were walking on the Wacker drive.

0800: Start from Ramada OHare
0820: ORD CTA
0900: Chicago CTA station
0915: Navy Pier via CTA bus
0930: Stroll around and take pictures
1030: Architecture boat tours.
1200: Brunch at Billy Goat Tavern. Egg omelete which was bad.
1230: Start walking to John Hancock tower.
0130: Lunch at Signature Room at John Hancock.
0230: John Hancock Observatory
0400: Bus to Lincoln Park Zoo
0500: Bus back to Magnificent Mile
0530: Hershey's and Ghiradelli
0630: Dinner at Little Pompei on East Ohio Street.
0730: Grand Blue CTA station
0830: ORD CTA
0900: Back to hotel and sleep

Pompei on East Ohio is closed. Eat at other nice place. Explore upfront. We ate Do Kha which was Thai and not so nice (or may be we did not ordered right). You can explore Big Bowl which is again at East Ohio Street (where we eat on 29 as suggested by a friend). Walking is fun as you are walking near to Magnificent Mile. It is also safe as there are too many people on these streets.

* Make reservations for John Hancock otherwise forget it. You can also try the buffet as the ala-carte is expensive enough and adds up to the buffet price. Buffet was 20 $ per head when we visited and we ended up paying 38 include tip for the two for ala-carte.
* Lincoln Park Zoo has nice view of cit skyline near to "Farm on Zoo". Lincoln Park Zoo also has a Lincoln Park Conservatory nearby which we covered later on 29th and was fun.

0900: Started from Hotel OHare (Not possible to start early everyday)
0920: ORD CTA
1000: Jackson Blue CTA
1020: Field Museum by Bus
1030: Inside Field Museum. (saw underground adventure which was free with GO pass)
1230: Adler Planetarium Galileo Cafe (Food not good but view was awesume)
0130: Adler movie (Welcome to the Universe) at Grainer Sky Theater
0230: Atwood experience at Adler and learned about Constellations.
0300: Shedd Aquarium
0330: Shedd Aquarium Ocenarium Dolhin show.
0430: 4 - D movie (Ice Age) (We have to pay 4 $ per head for this one)
0530: Bus from Museum Campus to CTA Red station
0630:  Cermak Chinatown CTA station
0700: Lao Sze Chuan Chinese restaurant at Archer Avenue.
0800: Cermak CTA station
0900: ORD CTA station (Cermak is RED line so you need to change to Blue line)
0930: Sleep at the hotel.

* Enjoy the view at the Galileo Cafe. I have heard that Shedd's cafe also has a nice view. So one of them is a must
* Give tip at Chines Restaurant. They were picky on not giving tips. It is generally nice to give tip when you are travelling. You never know when you need to ask for help like "I forget my bag, have you seen it?". A small tip does not hurt.
* Enjoy the China town.
* Field Museum has specific place to eat called Siragusa Cente at the lower level. Field Museum is big so you cannot cover everything. Just choose few and enjoy them. Take pictures next to the Sue.
* Learn about the Constellations to make your atwood experience memorable. Learn about the dipper, the king and the sirius.
* Do see the small frogs which are extinct species in the Shedd Aquarium. They are so tiny that you can barely see them.
* Adler Planetarium takes less time than Shedd and Field. So Plan to cover it before you have time to enter one of the big attractions. This is related to my general travel tip.

0900: Starting from hotel
0920: ORD CTA
1000: Jackson Blue CTA station
1020: Reach Willis tower walking
1030: Reach the skydeck, take pictures, enjoy the ledge.
1130: Start walking to Marshall Fields
1200: Have lunch at Walnut Room
1330: Start walking to Palmer House,17 E Monroe Street, Chicago, IL.
1400: Take Gayline North Side tour.
1600: Go to Art Institute of Chicago
1730: Start walking to Magnificent Mile
1830: Marshall Field
1900: Dinner at Big Bowl
2000: Back to CTA Blue line Station
2100: ORD CTA
2130: Back to Hotel and Sleep

We were not able to go to Walnut Room for lunch and ate our lunch at Freshii at Palmer House which is were the Grayline tour starts. We though we will have our dinner at Walnut Room but Walnut Room was closed :(.

* Sample Frango mints at Macys. Remember to see the Macy's fountain.
* Do collect your 10% off coupon from visitor center at seventh floor at Macy's
* Reserve upfront for Walnut Room.
* Grayline North Side tour was OK but it cover Lincoln Park Conservatory which was nice.
* Art Institute of Chicago is big and you can easily spend 2 hours. Take picture of Swami Vivekanand. Chicago is the place where Swami Vivekanand introduced Hinduism to the Parliament of World Religion in 1893. Art institute also gives a flyer which tells what to cover in an hour but you should take 2 hours to do it as the institute and you will find so many things which you would like to see. Art institute have expensive painting of Picaso Pabalo and Von Gaugh.

0500: Start from Hotel
0640: Flight Starts from ORD
0920: RDU
1000: Back to normal life.

Money Spent on the trip for two person
* Flight: 363
* Hotel: 169.15
* Go-Chicago Card:215.98
* Commute: 40
* Ariport Taxi: 15
* Food, Food and Food: 250

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