My story starts at the beginning of my second year of graduate school, and I was starting to unravel. BAM! In comes the Bestie who decided she was tired of my sleepless nights and stress and sent me to Chicago (of course, she came too, just to make sure I would be okay). We spent two days in the Windy City and not one minute of daylight went to waste. Our first day consisted of Millennium Park, our favorite East Coast fast food, and a game at the United Center.
With only an hour of sleep under my belt, I stumbled onto my flight and fell asleep before the flight attendants started their “Here’s how to buckle your seatbelt and escape this plane” shpiel. This became an advantage for me because we landed in Chicago in the late afternoon and I was wide awake to start exploring.
Our first stop after the hotel was Millennium Park. We had seen pictures of the big ol’ bean all over Instagram and various social media outlets, and the Bestie never likes to miss a photo op. This thing is actually pretty cool. My favorite part was actually ducking underneath the bean. Everything reflects and bends on the underside, and it’s hard to tell if you’re looking at the center of the bean or not. BTW, people are all over this bean and touching it with their grubby fingers. Whoever the poor soul is who has to clean this should be highly paid.
Millennium Park itself is more than just a shiny bean (in case you’re not a native) — there’s also some sort of amphitheater thing where there are various events, a public garden, and someone told me that they even arrange for an ice rink in the winter. Nice place to spend an afternoon. We found a Shake Shack across the street from Millennium Park and immediately ran in for what I call a “linner.” The Bestie and I fell in love with Shake Shack one night in New York City, but I’ll save that for another post. We spent the remainder of daylight walking through the streets of Chicago, exploring the stores and marveling at the architecture. We don’t have many tall fancy buildings where I live. Our Uber driver recommended a few sights to see and things to do, including the Willis Tower Skydeck. He recommended going at night because of the view, so we decided to save that for our already full schedule the next day.
The Bestie and I are avid NHL fans, so that night we followed a bunch of people in Blackhawks jerseys onto the L (the Chicago version of the subway) and then off the L and into the United Center. It is a walk from the closest station to the United Center, so I’m glad we were able to stalk some fans and find our way. Someone found out we were tourists at one point and mentioned a statue of Michael Jordan outside the main entrance to the United Center. We found it, as well as pictures of a couple of former Hawks players (one for sure was Bobby Hull, the other was Mikita, I think). Side Note: if anyone knows the best way to take pictures at night with an iPhone, I’d greatly appreciate tips. I couldn’t figure out how to make the statue stand out at night against the bright lights of the United Center.
Anyways, the United Center is HUGE. And holds THOUSANDS of people. Our home hockey team has a much smaller venue. Even if you’re not a big sports fan, I would suggest taking in a game at the United Center if possible. I’m not sure what a Bulls game is like, but a Blackhawks game is definitely entertaining. Not only are the numerous championship banners impressive (and highlighted at the start of the game), but the fans are loud and rambunctious (in a very good way) and never was the arena silent. I’ve also never been to a game where fans cheer throughout the singing of the National Anthem. I thought it always had to be quiet. Every goal was followed by high-fives around and a snippet of “Chelsea Dagger” (which has since become my new favorite goal song). I found out later that there’s a bar or restaurant-thing on the third level that actually has a large window where you get a great view of the game (standing room only), so check that out if you go (or correct me if I’m wrong). Ended up being a great game and a great way to start our short tour of Chicago. More to come later in the week!
Oh, and Chicago won, 3-2.