Chicago is my favorite city outside of California to visit! I’ve been on three occasions and have the best time each and every single time! One of my best friends, Krissy moved back home to Chicago last year and has been nudging me to come and visit ever since. A few months back we decided St. Patrick’s Day weekend would be the perfect time for me to adventure out to Chicago again. The timing worked out perfectly because I was already traveling to Austin for SXSW March 8-14th so instead of flying all the way back to San Diego, I flew to Chicago on March 15th and stayed for St. Patrick’s Day weekend. As a bonus I brought the San Diego sunshine to Chicago with me! It was 70s and sunny my entire stay!
I love traveling and exploring new places but I don’t like to have strict agendas or time tables to follow. I enjoy being able to relax and check out new places without feeling like I need to see everything. I generally travel with a few ideas in my head of places I’d like to check out but leave things completely open as I truly believe that things always work out exactly how they’re supposed to. The Explore Chicago website does such a great job at showcasing so many different attractions in their city. They have something for everyone, no matter what type of entertainment you’re in to.
What I found exciting about all the attractions they list is that the City of Chicago has Foursquare badges you can unlock by exploring! I took a look at the lists and there was such a great variety of attractions that I decided to use their Windy City Badge list and On Location Badge list as a guideline for touring the city since many of these spots were places I wanted to visit anyway! Here’s a glimpse of my adventures in Chicago, I’m highlighting locations that helped me unlock these 2 shiny new badges in addition to other fun things I experienced.
My first night in town was Thursday. I was craving Chicago style pizza! I turned to Twitter and Facebook to see what everyone thought was best and I started a little pizza war as people debated different spots. I kept hearing about Gino’s East and Lou Malnatis. Pequods was also mentioned a couple times. When Krissy got home from work, I told her was recommended and asked what she thought. “I’m taking you to Pequods, that’s the best pizza in Chicago”. So it was decided, Pequods for dinner and I’m so happy we went there. Their pizza somehow has a caramelized crust that adds a delicious crunch to the deep dish. It’s to die for! I can easily say their pizza is now my favorite of all time!
On Friday during the day I met up with my cousin Genevieve who attends college at the Art Institute in Chicago. We walked around the gorgeous Garfield Park Conservatory. So many beautiful species of plants and so many unique plants I’ve never even heard of. We then took the train over and toured the University of Illinois at Chicago campus where we also visited the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum located on campus. So much history in this little house! I wouldn’t have known about either of these spots if it wasn’t for Foursquare!
I love attending sporting events so I couldn’t leave Chicago without going to a Bulls game! The Bulls are #1 in the NBA so tickets to the game are hard to come by! I was lucky enough to get hooked up by Sports Illustrated and the Bulls PR with tickets to the game and I’m so grateful for that! We picked up our tickets right outside Will Call which was right next to the famous Michael Jordan Statue! Even though the Bulls are in first place they were missing their best player that night and lost to the Portland Trailblazers! It was still an exciting and close game though!
After the game we met up with friends at a popular tavern/restaurant called The Boundary. I was happy to see that many Chicago businesses are utilizing Foursquare specials to grow their business. I checked in at Boundary and noticed they had a pretty epic Foursquare special. “Show that you’ve checked in at The Boundary on Foursquare with parties of 3+ and receive a free Nachos plate.” The Nachos plate was enormous! Definitely more than enough to feed everyone in our group.
The next day was St. Patrick’s Day! Chicago takes their Irish heritage very seriously! They even dye their entire river GREEN! We attended a roof top party in the beautiful sunshine with a gorgeous view of the city. Then headed to Wrigleyville where walked around Wrigley Field and all the bars in that area that were all jam packed with people dressed in GREEN!
The day after St. Patrick’s day, the city calmed down. We began our day with a hearty brunch at Revolution Brewing Company. Only a couple miles from Krissy’s house and highly recommended on the Windy City List. I loved the casual and fun atmosphere here! Then it was off to more exploring! We drove to the University of Chicago campus which has such a cool historic feel to it. We also visited the Oriental Institute Museum located on campus. Before going back to our cars, we took a brisk walk past President Obama’s House! It’s on watch with the Secret Service!
Our next stop was the John Hancock tower. Their 95th Floor Signature Lounge is a great spot to grab a cocktail and watch the sunset! Before we knew it, it was dinner time! Within walking distance was Spiaggia, one of the finest Italian restaurants I’ve been watching to try. Their head chef is Sarah Gruenberg who was the Top Chef finalist in the most recent season. Their food is hands down some of the best Italian food I’ve enjoyed! Sarah was also so sweet and walked around talking to all her fans. If you’re in to Italian food and fine dining you can’t miss out on the experience of dining here! After dinner we called it a night. We had another long day planned the next day before my flight home at night.
After grabbing breakfast the next day, Krissy and I met up with my cousin Genevieve again at the Art Institute of Chicago Museum. It’s the 3rd largest museum in the world! Visitors can easily spend hours in this museum and still not see every exhibit. I was excited to see the art featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off especially since I recently watched the movie. If you haven’t been to this museum, it’s a MUST SEE in Chicago! After getting our culture vultures side satisfied at the museum, we walked down the road to the famous Cloud Gate Sculpture in Millennium Park that looks like a giant bean! Soon it was almost time for me to head to the airport back to home sweet San Diego, but I wanted to try deep dish pizza one more time before we left. I knew it would be hard to top my Pequods experience. A lot of friends recommended Lou Malnatis so we went there and I was honestly disappointed. The crust wasn’t very thick therefor I didn’t feel like it was a true deep dish pizza. Also the bread was soft and doughy that it almost tasted under cooked. Oh well, at least I got to try and compare 2 popular pizza spots. I’ll be returning to Pequods but not Lou Malnatis.
Before I conclude this post on my adventures in exploring Chicago, I must commend the city for doing such an amazing job at embracing social media to enhance their tourism experience. Adding a gaming element to Foursquare definitely helped me find many hidden gems that I wouldn’t normally have known about. I’m so grateful I had this opportunity to explore Chicago and you can be sure I’ll be returning very soon! Even though I packed a lot of adventure into my trip there is still so much for me to see and experience in Chicago! If you plan to go there, make sure you check out the Explore Chicago website before your visit!