For my final stop, the “Windy City” was pleasantly warm. The heart of downtown was stirring with a nice spring breeze off of Lake Michigan that even a fifteen-hour, showerless train ride could not ruin. It has been an incredible experience but in all honesty I have become a bit jaded by city attractions, “must-sees” and museums of any kind. However, meeting up with my friends Eliza, Jim, and their friend Patrick was a perfect ending to a long journey. We caught up over an early dinner at a nearby pub on the North Side before catching the bus downtown to walk through the city. The unseasonably nice weather coaxed jackets off even the most skeptical Chicagoans, my tour guides included. They brought me through an interesting model of the city before we walked into the famed millennium park to see what was surely an acid induced creation, but nonetheless incredible sculpture known as “The Bean”. Continuing up Michigan Ave. Jim and Patrick, who are working in engineering and landscape architecture respectively, gave me a brief history of every interesting building we passed. It was a unique way to walk a city and was nice to get it for free. We then took advantage of a secret only known by the most savvy deal-hunters –the lounge at the top of the Hancock Tower. Instead of paying the $20 fee to get off at the Observatory, we rode the elevator one floor up and only paid $8.25 for a drink in the lounge, which gives equally expansive views of the sprawling city and is not overrun with tourists. It was especially beautiful at night, the lights and streets traced the neighborhoods like veins through an arm.
After a drink at the Hancock Lounge we jumped back on the bus uptown to enjoy another of Chicago’s secrets. Known for their famous Char-Dog and Chocolate Shake, the Weiner’s circle was an exceptional way to end the night. The Char dog includes mustard, tomatoes, a full pickle, and some type of neon green relish that, separate may sound unappetizing, but together form the perfect hot-dog. On top of that, the chocolate shake was unlike any other I have tasted. Truly out-of-this-world –good. The blend of light and dark chocolate, and ice cream that seemingly bounces with flavor made for an experience I will never forget. If you do nothing else in Chicago, you need to go to The Weiner’s Circle and order a Chocolate Shake. They tend to be on the expensive side, but believe me, its worth every sip.
Chicago was an unexpected highlight of my trip and although I was a beaten down traveler I genuinely enjoyed my time there. I was glad to pull out of Union Station headed East, and even the twenty-four hour train ride ahead of me did not dilute my excitement for getting home.