Maybe it’s because this was my first visit to this world-renowned American city or maybe it’s because it truly is an incredible place, but after spending a month in Chicago, it is at the top of my list as my favorite city in the U.S. to visit.
In the summer of 2017, I did eight art festivals in Chicagoland. Four in Chicago proper and four in a number of the suburban cities that surround the urban core. This gave me a great opportunity to explore the city during the week while showing and selling my artwork on the weekends at the festivals. During the urban part of my stay, I often rode my bike along the Lake Michigan lakefront path to get downtown from McCormick Place (the convention center), which offers the only overnight parking/urban camping facility in Chicago. It’s a huge parking lot for trucks that is shared with RVers from all over the country. It’s a no-frills concrete parking lot, but oh so convenient. Thankfully having my bike allowed me to avoid driving and parking a 25 ft. motor home in the density of the central core. Although there were times when I did so, for setting up and tearing down my shows that were downtown. It was a challenge, but I somehow managed.
The physical geography of the city is unique. The fact that a wide river flows directly through the core and into Lake Michigan, makes for a beautiful addition to the character that Chicago embodies. And then there is the architecture, both modern and historical. Chicago has so much history, being one of the oldest cities in the U.S. I took a boat tour up and down the river that was hosted by the Chicago Architectural Foundation. Being on the river in the heart of a big city was a great experience and then learn about Chicago’s history and seeing it’s architectural beauty just made the sunny afternoon special. What intrigued me the most were the numerous bridges that we crossed under and the character of their steel construction surrounded by skyscrapers that stretched upwards and formed walls of buildings alongside the river. It almost felt like you were floating through a canyon of man-made structures.
The art and culture in Chicago were enough to keep me excited the entire time I was there. The fact that there are so many art festivals in and around the city is a testament to how much art is loved by the people there.
During my urban part of the stay, I rode my bike along the Lake Michigan lakefront path to get downtown from McCormick Place, which offers the only overnight parking/urban camping facility in Chicago.
As far as museums go, the city has such an array of them that span along and near the lakefront. You could spend a week or more just visiting them all and still not see everything. The bike ride along the lakefront was a very easy and pleasant one from where Gypsy Rose was parked at McCormick Place to the museum area. In addition to that, it was very scenic and the people-watching added a nice element to the experience.
My favorite type of museum is dedicated to natural history, so I chose to go to the Field Museum of Natural History first. It is huge and the displays are extensive and world-class. The second museum I went to was the Art Institute of Chicago which is in the heart of downtown. Nearby in Millennium Park is the famous sculpture Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor, fondly known as “The Bean”. I visited both on the same day since it was so convenient to do so. Chicago features a lot of public art, especially large-scale sculptures, which gives the city additional points in my book. The third museum I visited was the Museum of Science and Industry. The bike ride to this museum was quite a bit longer than the others, but once again, the scenery and the people-watching was a nice distraction from the work-out that was required to get me there. Along the way, once again, there was some amazing public art.
Next up, food! You can’t be in Chicago without the pursuit of a slice or two of the citie’s famous deep dish pizza. The day that I went on the hunt, I had to forgo my first choice (recommended by friends from Chicago) which was Lou Malnati’s due to the hour-long wait. So, instead, I went to Gino’s East, my second choice. The atmosphere was fun and the pizza – delicious! I absolutely loved their cornmeal crust and along with the pizza, fell in love with their Brussel sprouts too. So much so, that I asked for the recipe.
And speaking of food (yes, I’m a foodie), whenever I travel to a big cosmopolitan city I try my best to chase down some dim sum. Although Chicago’s Chinatown is tiny compared to those in other major cities across North America with only a span of a few blocks, it did indeed deliver on the quality of the dim sum that I discovered at Triple Crown, located right next to the Chinatown arch. In my dim sum experience spanning over 40 years, they served up, in my opinion, the best “taro football” as I like to call it, or “woo gok” that I’ve ever tasted anywhere. They were light and fluffy, huge and filled with the perfect amount of filling and best of all, not greasy – almost tasted like they were baked. Of all of the dim sum dishes, the taro football is my favorite, so I’m on a quest for the best one in the world!
Well, I feel like I have barely scratched the surface here and with the places that I was able to visit in Chicago. I know there is so much more to see, do and eat there so I plan on doing some more art festivals there in the near future and discover even more about this great city. •
* All text and images are copyrighted and protected by copyright laws. Use or reproduction of any kind are prohibited. All rights reserved. © 2019 Carolyn Quan / The Happy Little Bird / Dream World Media LLC.