Ten AM local time, and we’re taking our first steps into Midway Airport on patriotic July Fourth. My family has no map, no plans, and no problems. At face value, our reason for coming here is to tour the University of Chicago. But our actual reason for being in the city is that we haven’t had a vacation yet this summer, and we all wanted to take this 5 day break to spread our wings, caged in metro-Atlanta for so long.
We are staying in an apartment in Lincoln Park district, and we immediately notice the gladiatorial combat taking place for free parking.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Tip: Check out the different parking zones around where you are staying. It seems that almost every street has different rules, so read the signs, or you will find your souvenir fund going towards the police barbeque.
When we find a spot, the first thing we do is walk to the Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory. Tip: Almost all that you want to see is a hop, skip, and a bus ride away from where you’re staying, so it’s useful to employ local transportation and a good pair of tennis shoes.
The Conservatory is an immaculately kept greenhouse, filled with tropical sights and smells. It feels more like Brazil than Illinois. The Zoo is also highly impressive, considering the fact that both the Zoo and Conservatory charge zero admission. Tip: Take advantage of all the free things to see in Chicago. Most of the parks have unique art features, such as a giant metal bean in Millennium Park, and there are many city owned spaces and attractions to see. Just bring water, because the drink carts take advantage of a captive audience.
The next day starts our museum crawl through the city, seeing the Field Museum and Museum of Science and Industry one day, and the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. Being from Atlanta, we are surprised to see so many high-quality museums in one place, but we don’t take into account how long it would to see the museums. Tip: If you plan on visiting a high-end museum, plan on spending the entire day there to be able to see everything. Two museums a day, like what we saw, is one too many to thoroughly enjoy.
We find that Chicago really must like smart people, because the museums are definitely well funded. The Field Museum is the poster natural history museum with separate exhibit halls that span all of history. The Museum of Science and Industry is a mismatch of children’s exhibits and scientific wonder, spanning all the industrial age, complete with a replica toy factory and 1933 Chicago street front. The Shedd Aquarium is a pretty standard aquarium; it holds nothing to the Georgia or Tennessee Aquariums, but it’s a neat place. Lastly, the Adler Planetarium probably would be cool, but we fly through it. Tip: Museum tickets are sold on a scale at all those places, with the basic ticket normally under ten dollars, and well worth the price. Museums are another cheap, but enjoyable attraction of the city.
Overall though, the best attraction is the city itself. Chicago is a comfortable place, and even inviting place to walk. The people are in general friendly to newcomers and nomads entering the city, and browsing the many restaurant options is neat. The food is as varied as the people, ranging from a make-your-own-Greek-wrap-place, Tzatziki Grill, to fancy deep dish pizza, Lou Malnati’s. You’ll find that after a ten-mile-walking day, your stomach deserves a splurge with the money saved on activities.
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