So as I noted at the end of my last Chicago post, my DSLR gave up the ghost in the middle of our short Chicago vacation, but I somehow had managed to bring along my little, ancient point-and-shoot as a backup. This is the same P&S with a battery that is dead-set against holding a charge for more than a few hours, which was a problem because I also managed to not bring the charger for this particular photography marvel. But we were about to go on an architecture river tour, and there was no way I was about to commit all those buildings to memory, so point-and-shoot (with a healthy number of iPhone snaps mixed in) it was.

Fortunately, the famous skyscrapers that line the Chicago River are so majestic that practically any recording device would be able to capture the beauty.

Trump International Tower and Hotel
Our tour was led by Alli with Wendella Boat Tours. She was phenomenal. I basically went into the tour knowing almost nothing about architecture, and by the end, felt that I had a pretty good appreciation for the various designs lining the Chicago River.

One of my favorite buildings was Marina City, with this bubbly-looking parking garage. The unique design has been featured in lots of movies, but my favorite fun fact is that car owners must pull into the spaces backwards to avoid accidentally driving off the edge into the river when they put the car in gear.

The Sears Tower is now called the Willis Tower, which I reject as a valid name for one of the world's tallest and most famous buildings. It's like when they decided Pluto wasn't a planet. Ridiculous. I don't know who made it their job to pick on poor Pluto, but please find a better way to spend your time than de-planetizing the universe.

Sears Tower, aka Sears Tower

United Building. I love the Athens look.

The tour we selected not only gave a pretty full run-down of the river and its sky-scraping attendants, but also took us through the lock leading out onto Lake Michigan.

The views from the lake were stunning, which probably was at least partly due to the tremendous weather we experienced. Clear, sunny, low humidity. I think a summertime Chicago trip needs to be a regular thing for me.

A walk to Millennium Park after lunch brought us to the famous sculpture that the artist, Anish Kapoor, calls Cloud Gate, but the rest of us call The Bean.

The endless reflections make this fixture a photographer's dream, and even with the P&S and iPhone, I got some interesting shots.

Nearby, we got a view of the outdoor theater and lawn area in Millennium Park, with a sign informing us of a free concert later that evening. Nothing motivates further action like the word "free".

We kept walking further into the park, passing the fountain that overlooks the lake, towards the Art Institute of Chicago, noting day camp kids cooling their feet in a shallow stream.

We ultimately decided not to pay the $18/pp charge to get into the art museum, and instead wandered around their shop for a while. I find museum gift shops to be almost as interesting as the works of art anyway.

What we did decide to do was seek out one of our favorite places for ice cream. Back when we lived in New Jersey, we may have been guilty of indulging in an ice cream run more often than I'd like to admit, and since the options in Cayman are limited, NS needed his fix. Good thing I was wearing very comfortable sandals, because our destination wasn't exactly right around the corner.

Checking out the Chicago sites on the other side of the tracks.
After the better part of three miles, we found our long lost love... Cold Stone Creamery!

You can bet your bottom dollar that his bowl involves
chocolate and peanut butter.
(I know, I know, this photo seems very inconsistent with all the Clean posts I've been writing, but you do realize that this happened several weeks ago. And we were on vacation, after all.)

Unbelievably, the ice cream did not provide the energy necessary to walk the 2.5 miles from Little Italy back to the hotel Michigan Ave.  So I convinced him to hail a taxi. We were on vacation, after all.

Later in the evening, we returned to Millennium Park for the Grant Park Music Festival, a free summertime concert series. We brought along a picnic dinner from Noodles, a great place to get a quick, custom dish, whether it be Asian, American, or Mediterranean. Yum.

The orchestra assembles.
We had a 6:00 a.m. flight to Pennsylvania the next day, so it was an early night for us. Our first trip to Chicago was so enjoyable that we certainly plan on returning. The Windy City is now on my short list of places I love!

For all of my favorite Chicago photos, including more of those neck-bending skyscrapers, see my Google+ photo album.

Next stop: Central PA, including a farewell party, a new camera, and a proposal!


  1. I'm jealous! Every time I've gone to Chicago, it's been in the fall or very early spring when the architectural boat tours don't run.

    I totally went to the art museum on Thursday or Thursday evening or something, when it's free (and another time, I think someone had free passes).


  2. So glad you loved Chicago as much as I do!!

  3. can't wait for the central pa post - what a cliff hanger!

  4. One question: WHAT is the name of the ice cream dish Nate got? I NEED TO EAT THAT!!!! :)

    1. Oh my, I forget, but I'm sure it involved chocolate and peanut butter in a chocolate-dipped waffle bowl. haha

  5. Loved this post - now I need to plan a trip to Chicago! It is beautiful. Thanks for sharing with us!
    "Chicago IT"