I spent many Christmas holidays as a kid wandering the halls of the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, which seemed (and still seems) like such a magical place. But our visits there were generally an in and out trip as we were there with about 15 family members of various levels of age and mobility and patience. After our visit and a trip to Ed Debevic's, it was back to Grandma's in Indiana. So I grew up feeling like I'd been to Chicago many times, but this last trip (for a work conference) proved that I really had never seen Chicago at all.
However, having been a fan of the show ER during its early years, you get this eerie false familiarity as you wait for the "El" train, knowing you've never done this before but you've heard and seen it so many times on TV.
I had a great time with many adventures, some of my favorite being a long train ride pilgramage to Oak Park, the home of one of my childhood heroes (once you've been to Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright becomes very heroic no matter how old you are). It was such an amazing sight to see an entire town transformed by the architectural visions of this one artist. Beautiful. I'll try and post some photos of the town later.
I decided one evening to head over to the Art Institute by foot and accidentally discovered something beautiful I'd never heard about: Millennium Park. When you read about it, you think, ho hum, city park. When you go there, you say, Frank Ghery outside auditorium with a free world music concert blasting with people dancing and picnicking in the grass out front? Huge public art everywhere? A huge garden composed of wild plants and wildflowers of the region? Right next to the Art Institute? Wha?? It was gorgeous. (skyline photo above taken from the garden). And the new wing of the AI was incredible. I went on the free Thursday night and it was intoxicating to be surrounded by a museum full of happy summertime art fans wandering through its halls.
I also did Chicago's food traditions justice. I had a steak sandwich submerged in juice (disgusting but so good), a visit to Frontera and their new fast food joint, Frontera Fresco, and had to make sure I got some chicago style pizza from Ginos East, for which I've been craving now for about, oh, 15 years. I even stumbled across a city farmer's market, so I was in farmer's market bliss seeing what it is they have out here on the farm in the midwest (in July: lots of Michigan cherries and peaches).
I was really, really impressed with Chicago. I just had no idea it had so much to offer.