After eating our hotel breakfast, we got guidance from the wonderful hotel staff and headed to Walgreens to get our transit passes. Transit passes are on Mastercard credit card like things and cost $5 for the card. You then load money to your card to use the transit system within the city. For $10, you get all day access for 24 hours on the buses and trains. This is what we did on Saturday.
If you remember to register your card online the first day, you get your $5 back in the form of a credit on your card. Easy enough to do from my phone. Plus, the card is good for 5 years and between Matt and I and my parents, I am sure someone will use the cards over the next 5 years.
We learned a very important thing on our first bus ride... We thought you just stood up and got near the door to be let off. This is not the case. After missing two bus stops, my mom asked the driver if we could get off the bus. We were then informed you have to pull the cord above the windows to notify the driver you wanted off. This would have been embarrassing if there had been people on the bus, but luckily, we were the only ones on it and he seemed pretty nice about the whole thing. Lesson learned.
In case you are wondering, the buses were heated, clean and seemed safe. I would definitely ride on them again.
Our first bus ride took us to the Shedd Aquarium.Took some good shots of downtown Chicago and then headed into the building. Which, by the way was stunning with all the attention to detail in the ceiling tiles to the molding around the doors to the light fixtures.
We had purchased a Groupon ($48) for our admission into the aquarium so we stood in a different line then the people waiting to pay. Took such a long time to actually get into the place. Locker rental costs $0.75. Well worth it since it allowed us to not have to carry anything.
Admission included a free show with dolphins and beluga whales and a 4-D showing of Ice Age. I believe this was my first time seeing beluga whales and I gotta say, they are beautiful animals. I think they are even prettier then dolphins.
He looks like he is smiling.
Navy Pier from the aquarium...
After three hours of wondering around the aquarium and seeing all there was to see, we took another bus to Navy Pier. It was freezing being out on the water! Thankfully, most of the pier has an indoor area which will take you down most of the pier, but once we were exposed to the wind outside, it took everything in me to enjoy the views and take a few pictures. Good thing I enjoy a good adventure!
The above picture is out of place. I just left it though.
I can see how this place would be fun during the warmer months though. I would want to ride the Ferris wheel here in the summer. And I imagine there are a bunch of vendors with carts selling all sorts of foods.
Once done at Navy Pier, we took another bus to Portillo's for lunch. This was my choice to eat and it was exactly like I remember it. So damn good! The food and the environment were exactly what I was wanting to experience.Back to the hotel for a quick stop before walking back to the bus stop to take a bus to see Lincoln Park's Zoo Lights. They had the entire park decorated for Christmas. No cameras can do this place justice. It was beautiful! And free!
Check out this view from the zoo - wish I lived here!
They had a few indoor areas where you could see some of the animals.
Aren't they cute?
This is where/when we messed up with the bus routes.... we went to the same bus stop as where we had been dropped off... Not thinking about the direction it was headed, we got on that bus. After about an hour of it not turning around, we finally got off of it after I asked a guy next to us if it was ever going to turn around. He said it would get to the ending point and then they usually make everyone get off and go on another bus. We should have caught a bus on the opposite side of the road. In hindsight, DUH!
So we got off the bus, crossed the street and noticed we had just missed the bus. Dang it! And on top of that, the bus stop sign said one only comes every 30 minutes opposed to the less than 10 minutes we had gotten used to within the city. Not only was it cold, but it also seemed like we were in a bit of a sketchy area with nothing too close to us. I would have preferred a store nearby with nearby people. Thank GOD a bus came after about 15 minutes! 2.5 or 3 hours later, we were back downtown. Yay! Lesson number 2 learned.
Next stop was to the John Hancock Building to experience 360 Chicago. Only when we got there, we were told they had just closed early for a private party. Well dangit - had we not of taken the wrong bus, we would have made it! No worries - thanks to my in-depth prior research and the girl at the counter, we knew to go upstairs to the Signature Room for drinks to take in the views. Chicago at night was absolutely stunning to see from way up on the 96th floor. Beautiful! We only stayed for about 5 minutes though since my mom couldn't tolerate the thought of being so high up (she's afraid of heights). I managed to snap a few pictures.
Off to the Magnificent Mile to walk the road at night and see the lights! We shopped around Eataly where we had authentic cannolis. YUMMY! I could have ate like five more if they would have allowed me to have them for free and I wasn't worried about gaining 10 pounds. Ha ha ha! If only!
After desert, we went back to Portillo's to bring dinner back (ribs for me) to the room and then went to sleep. I was pooped - didn’t stay up very long to read.
Sunday morning we slept in a bit, ate another hotel breakfast and headed out for our last few hours before heading to the airport. We knew we wanted to see the Hershey store and Water Tower Mall which is 8 stories of shopping.
While at the mall, we saw Garrett's Popcorn and I knew we had to try it. (I had read about it online.) It didn’t disappoint. I had cheddar and bought Matt and a bag of the caramel pecan. He enjoyed his as well.
Ate one last time (third time) at Portillo's for lunch. I had the hotdog, cheese fries and strawberry milkshake again. It was all delicious! I already miss it!
Well, that's our weekend trip.
Had lots of fun. Like all my vacations, it went by too quickly.
I really don’t have anything negative to say about the entire experience. I hope to come here again within the next few years during the warmer months and have a whole other experience. Maybe I can convince Matt to come here and we can explore the streets together. Probably not though - odds are, the next time I come here will be with my mom again. Matt hates 'the big city'.