Chicago! Part I

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We got home from Chicago yesterday afternoon and it was certainly an action-packed trip! After visiting Chi-town for the first time, I have to agree with everything that I’ve heard- it’s definitely an awesome city. As much as I love traveling, I also really look forward to be getting home. We were pretty much constantly on the go for the last four days, and I look forward to being able to sit around for a little bit in the comforts of my own home. (But, that won’t happen today because I taught spin class at 5:15 am and will be teaching another spin class at 4:30, followed directly by Bodypump at 5:30!)

Before we left for Chicago, we had a few activities planned out. We already planned on going to two baseball games (one at each stadium) on Sunday and Monday) but those weren’t until 7pm, so we pretty much had the whole day to walk around.  We left the house bright and early (around 6 am) on Saturday and headed to BWI (which is about 45 minutes from our house). Neither of us wanted to eat breakfast that early, so we picked up something at the airport to bring on the plane. I was happy to find plain oatmeal at Jamba Juice, which I jazzed up with a banana and some Barney Butter.

And about 90 minutes later, we landed in Chicago!

We were all checked into our hotel about an hour after that. I quickly changed into sneakers (function over fashion ANY day) since I knew we’d be walking around all day long

and then we immediately turned around and set out to be tourists. We had absolutely nothing planned for Saturday and just walked all around the city. We headed over towards the Navy Pier first, looking awesome in our striped shirts (no, we didn’t plan on matching)

Man, it was HOT outside- and really humid! It felt just like DC. Navy Pier was okay- really touristy and pretty crowded. We quickly discovered that the restaurant selections left something to be desired, but settled on a place to grab some lunch.I got a salad with shrimp (which were gross and therefore weren’t eaten)

But the hummus was REALLY good. The chopped veggies even included jicama!

After lunch, I was able to talk Greg into getting on the Ferris wheel!

He claimed to have absolutely no interest, but I knew that he’d end up liking it (and he did)! It just went around once really slowly- and had great views from the top!

CHEESE

After the Navy Pier, we walked along the waterfront and found a few notable landmarks, including Buckingham fountain

Look familiar? Its the same fountain that is shown in the opening credits for Married With Children. I had the song “Love and Marriage” in my head all day after seeing it.

We also walked over to Millennium Park to find Cloud Gate, aka “the bean”

Here we are “in the bean”

So cool!

We walked by the Art Institute, but didn’t go in (I’m kicking myself now). We hadn’t bought our city pass yet, which included admission to the museum and planned on going later on if we had time (we didn’t). By this point we were super hot, sweaty and gross. We had been walking around in the heat for about 5 hours and it was time for some refreshment- hello Pinkberry!

We headed back to the hotel after that to relax for a bit and then shower before heading out for dinner. Since we were going to be going to baseball games the next two nights, this was really our only chance to go out for dinner while we were in Chicago. Unfortunately, we were were too tired to put much effort and time into picking a great place- we both definitely prefer to choose a locally owned “mom and pop” restaurant over anything else. We did a little research on Yelp (I always put in “Farm to Table”) to find something near our hotel, and settled on Devon Seafood Grill, which was maybe a 1/2 mile walk from the hotel. And yes- I know it’s not a “mom and pop” place, but we’ll live.

It was good- not the best meal either of us have ever had- but certainly not the worst. We started with an order of tuna tartare

I love tuna tartare, but this was not my favorite.

However, my entree was awesome!

I got seared halibut with a side of zucchini, corn, tomato basil ragout and grilled asparagus. Greg’s entree was also really good: grilled red snapper with a grilled artichoke with garlic Parmesan aioli and lobster mac + cheese.

The restaurant had a great bar (and was showing the Cubs/Red Sox game) so we ventured over there for dessert, which was a really delicious strawberry shortcake.

After that, we were completely exhausted and headed back to the hotel. It was a LONG day, and walking around in the heat really takes it out of you!

**

We started out the next morning with a good workout. I always work out when I’m on vacation- which I’ve definitely gotten flack for from a few people. But to me, I feel so much better when I exercise, so why not? It also makes me feel just a little better about all of the extra calories I typically consume when I’m on vacation. And on this particular morning, Greg even joined me!

We headed up to the hotel gym (which was pretty big and impressive!) and it was actually packed! I generally have a hotel gym all to myself- but on this morning, every single machine was occupied! Luckily, neither of us needed a machine for our workout. Greg lifted free weights while I did a kick butt tabata workout that I quickly designed the night before.

Yet another Instagram workout collage…

I was a little sweaty.

We ended the workout with a partner core workout using medicine balls and a Bosu trainer. Greg and I both really love doing that, and always say that we’re going to get the equipment to use at home, but haven’t yet…

After a quick shower, we went to grab breakfast at The Corner Bakery, which was right around the corner from the hotel. We ended up getting breakfast here each morning, because it was so close to our hotel and was relatively inexpensive and tasty!

Check out this oatmeal:

I was able to get it plain with a bunch of fruit and nuts on top. It was pretty darn good!

Our plan for Sunday was to do some activities indoors, since it was still so hot. We were going to the Cubs/Red Sox game that evening, but that left the entire day free. The Shedd Aquarium was our first stop:

We ended up buying the city pass there, which gives discount admission to number of different tourist attractions, but also lets you avoid waiting in the long lines to get into them. (The line for Shedd can be 2 hours long!) We have a pretty impressive aquarium in Baltimore, but I thought that the exhibits in here were awesome!

Amongst many other things, we saw crocodiles

penguins

and a really cool jellyfish exhibit.

Right next door to the Shedd aquarium was the Field Museum, so we went there too.

There was also a lot to see there, and we kind of breezed through it (which wasn’t a bad thing)!

By this point, we were super hungry and (once again) didn’t really feel like putting much thought into where to eat. We had walked by the Weber Grill the day before, and decided to go there.

I had remembered hearing about this place on the Food Network before, and thought it was a cool concept (cooking the food on Weber grills). Despite the less than stellar service, the food was great- especially the pretzel rolls.

We got a side of grilled veggies (with, um… a little butter?)

I ordered a chicken chopped salad

Greg got a beef burger with homemade chips

We then capped off the meal with more fro-yo.

By this point, we need to head back to the hotel to shower up and change in order to head out towards Wrigley field. We had planned on grabbing a drink at a nearby bar beforehand and then head into the ballpark early, so the we had enough time to walk around. My friend Karin and her husband Cliff (who live in Boston) also happened to be in town for the Red Sox game, so we met up with them at the Cubby Bear bar.

They just celebrated their one year anniversary!

I’ve know Karin since… kindergarten maybe? But, I hadn’t seen her in about 4 years! It was so good to catch up, even though it wasn’t nearly for long enough!

We headed over the stadium a little while later and walked around to check out the food vendor options. They weren’t too impressive (you’d be suprised- some ballparks have really awesome “non ballpark” food!) and we decided to go with the Bison meat cart. I got a bison hot dog (with a few toppings) and Greg got a bison Italian sausage (and I hear that was is sacrilegious for him to put mustard on it!)

I don’t typically (or ever) choose a hot dog as a ballpark meal, but this was really good!

The game was really good- but I was kind of distracted by this glorious creature sitting in front of me.

Now that’s a mullet!

Near the seventh inning, I ventured out to find something sweet (because I really needed my second dessert of the day…) and stumbled upon a place the had frozen kefir! I was so amazed to actually see frozen kefir softserve that I had to get it.

I got vanilla with some strawberries and granola on top and dang, it was good! There definitely need to be more frozen kefir shops around.

The Red Sox ended up winning (yay!) and we made our way back to the hotel, and promptly passed out.

Whew! Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow!

Here’s a few questions:

Do you research places to eat when you travel (or things to do)?

What’s your favorite ballpark food?

Are you like me- and have to have fro-yo/ice cream every day vacation?