Chicago, Food & Framily
So this band of vagabonds just left Chicago with tremendous happiness in our hearts.
Part of choosing our journey out West this summer was for our six year old, Gray. If you know me, you know I don’t place value on “stuff” all that much, especially materialistic goods for my children. Instead, the gift of experiences is what Joe and I strive to provide. With Gray rapidly becoming one of the worlds leading six year old experts on dinosaurs that will eventually rival Dr. Grant (the paleontologist from Jurassic Park for those of you scratching your head) we wanted to align his passion with our travels and show our family the great American West.
Starting our trip in Joe’s hometown of Detroit and then heading West put us in a direct line with Chicago. There were two benefits to visiting this amazing, diverse, cosmopolitan, city. First being one of my best college friends and sorority sister, Katie, and her husband Mark, who live in the city. Any opportunity to spend time with these guys and their awesome kiddos Keller and Connor is always a “Yes” in making plans. Our two families took a vacation a few years ago to the middle of nowhere in Kentucky and had a blast, so you could imagine much fun we would have in Chicago! Second was giving Gray a chance to see “Sue” at the Field Museum in Chicago. Sue was found in South Dakota in the 1990’s and is the most complete (but Gray notes, not the largest) and best preserved T Rex skeleton ever discovered. Although they don’t know if Sue was a female or male, the name “Sue” is derived from the paleontologist that discovered the T Rex while on an excavation, Sue Hendrickson.
We pulled into Chicago late after taking a ridiculous number of toll roads through Indiana and Illinois (insert complaint voice here – we’re tourists and didn’t know any better!) but I will note, the roads were in great shape! We came into the city and I was immediately captivated by the skyline and lights. Katie and Mark live in Albany Park, a community within the city, with beautiful homes and an assortment of restaurants, neighborhood bars and businesses. We made our way to their AMAZING home (seriously, simply elegant and spacious – a total surprise for my expectations of a city house) unloaded and let the kids stretch their legs in the basement playroom. Joe and Mark grabbed beers and decided to walk down to the corner bar (so city) and Katie and I caught up since we hadn’t seen eachother in two years.
The next morning we hit the ground running — although Joe was a bit more like walking since he and Mark stayed up till 3am 🙂 — and off to The Field we went. We visited with Sue and Sue’s skull. The skull weighs over 600 lbs so its housed upstairs in a glass case. We took in all the different exhibits, mostly on dinosaurs, an extensive exhibit on the Permian Period and animals of the West. Their exhibit on birds alone was spectacular. I had to work a bit so instead of sitting in the cafe, I went out to the front steps of the Field while Joe took the kids to various exhibits.
The following day was just us adults! Katie had arranged a babysitter and Mark left work early and the four of us headed to Wrigley for an afternoon Cubs game. I had never been to Wrigley and if you have not gone, DO! Such a cool experience and Cubs fans are fierce, loyal and contagious!!! We had sausages “Chicago style” with the obnoxious fluorescent green relish, the Cubs won, we sang “Hey” and they “flew the W”…so fun. After the game we sat on the new Wrigley green space and people watched before bar hopping around Wrigley-ville. We wound up at an amazing corner bar that hosts the best board games you ever played growing up. After a round of Cards Against Humanity with the four of us, Katie and I entered into a fierce competition of Sorry (remember that game?) that outlasted our husbands interests 🙂
The following day brought us back to Downtown Chicago where we stumbled upon Maggie Daly park. Katie describes this as “a park on steroids” and she’s right. This park was outstanding and shows that the city of Chicago values children in a way that should be replicated by communities wanting to attract families. And it wasn’t just in this space at Maggie Daly – the entire city of Chicago has parks and fenced in playgrounds on almost every other block and also hosts the miles and miles of waterfront that has bike lanes, running lanes, stroller lanes, playgrounds, beaches and more. All open to the public and easily accessible.
After spending the afternoon in the park, we headed downtown (on a Friday afternoon) with the double BOB stoller and all the kiddos. We walked down Michigan Avenue at a slightly lesser pace than the bankers reeling and weaving in and out of our path to get out of the city for the weekend. We encountered a group of men playing drums on pickle buckets, watched the double decker buses and in general enjoyed the energy of a bustling city. On our way back to the car, we got caught in a downpour, reminding us how quickly the weather changes on the water.
Our last day was our train day!!! Our entire crew rolled down to Wells Park off the Brown Line (see how city I sound) and enjoyed the community park. Check out the kids scootin’ below. Unfortunately, Gray acted up so he and I had to Uber home while the rest of the team headed for ice cream and took the train home. It happens.
And we ate. And ate. And ate. Chicago is a foodie city through and through (no clue!) and Katie and Mark are total foodies. Literally about ½ of our conversations were spent on food, what and where to eat and what to order, ¼ work/politics and ¼ catching up. Food dominated. And one would think that it would be all about Chicago Style Pizza, but nope. Burrito’s (Mark – ya still owe me!), Thai, Manapua (we found some!), Tamales, Fondue Fries, Burgers, Middle Eastern (YUM Falafel) Baklava, Tortas, Steak, and Chicago Style Dogs, just to name a few. No pizza 😦
What a joy to experience Chicago in the best of both worlds, acting as tourists with the benefit of city friends to guide us. The lifelong friendship I have with Katie is incredibly special, she’s one of the biggest “thinkers” I know. She knows the best of me and worst of me, knows my best strengths, knows the mistakes I’m going to make before I make them, and loves me all the same. She’s a solid rock. Having our families connect is dear to my heart and I’m so glad we said “Yes” to Chicago on our journey out West. Thanks Katie, Mark, Keller and Conner for the best Chicago experience we could have imagined.
Up next, North Dakota!
PS – shameless plug for our friend Mark. If you’re experiencing tax issues with the IRS, contact him right away. He’s REALLY good at what he does and works with clients all over the world!
Watch our video of Chicago for a special appearance from Reed at the end!