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Some photos & thoughts from a family trip to Chicago this past June.

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DAY ONE

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We were greeted by a lot of rain during our stay in Chicago and we got the bulk of it during our first day in the city. After checking-in, we headed onto the train for a looooong ride to downtown Chicago; we were staying at a hotel near O’Hare so it was an hour-long trip to the city.I loved taking the L, Chicago’s subway system – short for “Elevated,” because it was such an unusual experience and I’m smitten. I’d read about Chicago’s Loop, but didn’t expect it to be so closely entwined with the buildings – I think I could have reached out and touched a skyscraper. There are new stations that are all concrete and digital time tables (Chinatown stop), but so many of the stations in the heart of the city still have wooden platforms and heated lamps. It’s really cool!

Sometime around noon, we arrived in downtown Chicago and the sky cleared up enough for us to take a trip to observation deck of the the Sears / Willis Tower. The mediocre weather meant that crowds were small and the clouds gave us a crazy (non) view as they untangled themselves from buildings and floated out towards the horizon. I managed to convince my parents (and myself) to brave it and squeeze in some photos at The Ledge – the glass boxes that extend out of the building at a dizzying height of 1,353 feet. It was AWESOME and much less scary after the first few minutes.

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Afterwards, we headed hopped back on the L and headed to River North to get lunch at Lou Malnati’s, home to Chicago’s deep-dish pizza fame. We ordered a medium of The Malnati’s Chicago Classic featuring lean sausage, extra cheese, vine-ripened tomatoes and their dreamy buttercrust. It was delicious! My dad and brother were both over the moon with it, but while my mom and I thought it was good, I think both of us have our hearts set on thin-crust NY-style pizza forever. Our next stop was Cloud Gate in Millenium Park, but instead of taking the train, we decided to head to the park on foot since we really needed to walk off the heavy meal. We passed the enormous and daunting Merchandise Mart and crossed some cute bridges at Chicago River.

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By the time we made it to Millenium Park, the sun was out and it made for some great pictures with The Bean. There was a concert in the park that night and we grabbed some seats to wait for the show to start, but suddenly the sun was gone and it started drizzling on and off. Much of the audience were troopers and just opened umbrellas to wait it out. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop and with 20 minutes left till the start of the show, the rain became torrential. All of us huddled in a hallway near the front of the stage hoping that it would pass, but after another 20 minutes, it seemed the show was cancelled and everyone tried their best to exit the park without drowning in the rain. We couldn’t figure out what to do about dinner, but since we were still stuffed from lunch, we decided to grab some snacks at a convenience store and call it an early night.

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DAY TWO

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We decided to walk around the city on day two, focusing mostly on the Magnificent Mile and aiming to end the day at Navy Pier. We didn’t do much shopping to be honest because we don’t have sales tax in New York (hell yeahhh), but we spent a lot of time admiring the great architecture in the area. I stopped to take peak inside the Chicago Water Tower, one of just a handful of buildings that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

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Along the way we stopped for a lunch break at Portillo’s Hot Dog. The inside of Portillo’s is incredible. I don’t know what I was expecting the inside to be, but it certainly was not an incredible theme setup with mezzanine floors. *^* We got a few regular classic Chicago style hot dog and I ordered a Maxwell Style Polish which was so juicy and salty – amazing.

On our way to Navy Pier, we made a pit stop at Garrett’s Popcorn to get caramel & cheese popcorn because the smell was too good to pass up. It was a long wait (the line wound out the store and down the block), but it was so worth it omg *^*

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We unfortunately didn’t get to spend much time at Navy Pier, but it was a great atmosphere and I got dragged onto the Wave Swinger :T My brother duped me into it and refused to ride the Ferris Wheel with me afterwards – brothers!! After taking some pics & a breather inside Crystal Gardens, my parents decided to call it a day and we headed down to Chinatown squeeze in some last minute exploration and to hunt down a cozy dinner spot.

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Maybe it was the time of day or the weather or maybe I was just in the WRONG AREA, but even in the center of what I presumed to be Chinatown, there still weren’t many people on the street… I liked the shopping center a few blocks away with the trees and plaza, but even that area had more people than the streets under the huge WELCOME TO CHINATOWN pavilion. Dinner was at a small restaurant called Golden Bull mainly because it was absolutely packed with people. We had garlic-tossed water spinach, stir-fry pork intestine with pickled cabbage, sweet & sour pork chops, black bean clams & the MOST AMAZING salt & pepper fried fish. Omg I still dream about it. We headed back to the hotel after dinner because it was pretty dark out and we had a big agenda for the following day~

Day 3 & 4 (end) coming soon!