Saturday, September 12, 2009

We woke up ready for another day in the city. It was a little bit hazy this morning, but it mostly burned off and we had another gorgeous, sunny day here in Chicago.

We set off from our hotel around 9:00 a.m. and headed down to the Willis Tower (or, if you refuse to conform, like me, you can continue calling it the Sears Tower).

One thing I forgot to mention about yesterday was that we picked up two $14 3-day CTA passes which give us unlimited rides on the trains (the "L"), as well as buses. It's really come in handy so far and we know that we'll get our money's worth. It's a great deal, so I highly recommend the multi-day passes if you visit. You can't get them at the train stations, though. (This was confusing to me, as I always buy multi-day subway passes on my trips to NYC, and I've always purchased them right in the subway stations.) We had to go to a CVS to buy them, but that was fine as it wasn't too far out of the way.

Anyway, so we left our hotel and hopped on the Red Line for a few stops, then walked several blocks over to the Sears Tower. Once we got there, the woman in the lobby told us that visibility was pretty poor up there this morning (only 0-5 miles), but that it was expected to get better later in the day. We quickly decided to postpone our trip up to the top and come back later.

Instead, we did some more walking, and hopped back on the train up toward Michigan Avenue. Our other plans for the day included an architecture boat tour, so we figured we'd check that out while we were waiting for the fog to clear from the top of Sears Tower. There are several companies that do these architecture boat tours, but we went with Wendella. Tickets were $22.

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We got there about 1/2 hour before our tour was to start, so we purchased the tickets, then waited for a few minutes. Soon enough, they were boarding us onto the boat, so it wasn't much of a wait after all.
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This was the view from the Wendella "station" while we waited. Not a bad place to spend a few minutes.
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This beautiful building was towering over us as we waited for the ride to begin. I wasn't at all surprised when I found out that this is the new Trump International Tower. Say what you want about him--the guy certainly knows how to build stuff.

Once we started moving, our tour guide immediately launched into her explanation of all of the amazing buildings located along the Chicago River, and even some of the ones set further back. I was immediately impressed with her memorization skills, as her delivery of this information was flawless. All of the architects, the timelines for construction, the square feet or the heights of the buildings... whoa.

Anyway, the sights were rather impressive, too.
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The tour was 60 minutes and it was a really great way to see the city. Plus, it was such a perfect day to be cruising along the river. The tour was really informative, mixing history and some interesting trivia.
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Before we got off the boat, we had someone take a photo of us.

At this point, it was noon, and we wanted to head back down to the Sears Tower. But not before making a crucial pit stop (more on that in a second).
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On our way back over the river, I stopped to take this photo on one of the bridges. LOVE THIS CITY.

Once over the river, we quickly made our way to our non-negotiable pit stop. Where's that, you ask?

It was a little place called Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique.
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One of my lovely blog readers went to Chicago a couple of weeks ago and happened to mention to me that she and her husband found this little bakery. And um, hello, I am ME, after all, and I wasn't going to let that piece of information go unnoticed.
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Inside, we were greeted with... well, CUPCAKES. The most adorable, delicious-looking cupcakes. In several flavors. We had trouble deciding, really.
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Ultimately, we chose Strawberry Dream (fresh strawberry cake with strawberry cream cheese icing) and a traditional Black & White (dark chocolate cake, vanilla buttercream icing).

Just look at them! They're GLORIOUS!

As cute as the bakery was, they didn't offer much in the way of seating, so we decided to get our cupcakes to go. Which ended up being awesome, since they put them in that sweet little box for us. We walked them over to Millenium Park and sat in the shade to enjoy every single morsel.
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See? Here I am, enjoying it before I've even tasted it. YUM.

After the cupcakes (the Black & White was my favorite, by the way), we headed back down to the Sears Tower.
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Thankfully, there weren't any lines outside, so we were able to get right into the building and to the floor where they do ticketing/security. There was a bit of a line there, so we were delayed for probably half an hour to 45 minutes or so? It wasn't bad.

Before we knew it, our ears were popping as we rode the elevator all the way to the top--to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor. We immediately walked around to the other side of the building to the Skydeck Ledge, since we knew they were a big attraction. After waiting for a few minutes in the crowd, we made our way out onto the Ledge.
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First Michael...
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Then my turn...
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Then a fellow tourist took a few photos of the both of us. The Ledges are really cool. I was sort of freaked out by it at first but I didn't have any problems walking out onto it. It's a strange feeling to stand out there and look straight down.

We moved out of the box to give other people a chance, and wandered around the Skydeck, just checking out the view.
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Then Michael had an idea. He wanted me to go onto one Ledge, while he went in the other, then take pictures that way. They came out pretty cool...
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Unfortunately, there was a lot of sun glare on Michael's side!
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We spent some more time looking around and taking photos...
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...and eventually made our way to the elevators and back down to ground level.

From there, we went back to the hotel for a little bit to relax and figure out where to head to dinner. After looking at various restaurants, we decided to go to a little Irish pub called Timothy O'Toole's.
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This place was great. I was hungry and it totally hit the spot. I had an awesome turkey club sandwich (with honey mustard instead of mayo!). The turkey was amazing (had a honey roasted taste). Also, they have a ton of flat-panel TVs in the place, making it a perfect place to watch sports. We enjoyed some college football while eating our meal.

After dinner, we cut back over to Michigan Avenue, which was only a few blocks away. On the way over there, we unfortunately saw this: Man Dies in Plunge from Building. We didn't actually witness the incident (THANK GOD), but we came upon police cars and a taped off area of the street. And then we saw the white sheet. It was pretty shocking, and greatly disturbing. We paused for a few seconds, but ultimately kept moving. I am so grateful we only came upon the scene after it had already happened.

Switching gears back to "happy" and "fun"...

We wandered Michigan Avenue for a little bit, waiting for it to get dark. We browsed Crate and Barrel, and went to "visit" our dream computer at the Apple Store. From there, we walked down to the Hancock Building and once again, found ourselves in an elevator all the way up to the top.
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Many people had recommended we enjoy cocktails at The Signature Lounge, which is located on the 96th floor of the Hancock Center. Disappointingly, it was a little foggy up there, so visibility wasn't all that great. Plus, all of the tables by the windows were understandably occupied. Still, we had fun and enjoyed our drinks.

It felt nice to be on ground level again. We seemingly spent a lot of time in elevators today! And we were all about the skyscrapers--looking up at them, traveling to the top of them, etc. It certainly gave us an appreciation for the architecture in Chicago.

Since we were blessed with another gorgeous late summer evening, we took our time walking back to our hotel.
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On Michigan Avenue...
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A view of the river and skyline on the way back.

And so the book closes on another wonderful day in Chicago. We get to enjoy the city for a few more hours in the morning before we have to head to the airport to go home! We'll be sad to leave but it is always nice to get home.


Michelle September 15, 2009 at 12:06 PM  

Great pictures! Those cupcakes looked devine!

Justine September 15, 2009 at 12:09 PM  

I just moved from Chicago (suburbs) to Florida about a month ago, and I miss the City!! You're pictures are amazing, and these posts gave me a little bit of home! :)

Anonymous,  September 15, 2009 at 12:09 PM  

I love Chicago! A nitpick from a native, though--the "L" is actually spelled "El." It's short for "Elevated Train."

Heather September 15, 2009 at 1:04 PM  

Anonymous--That's funny, because I always spelled it "El." But then I was on the CTA website just prior to our trip and it says "L."

Becky September 15, 2009 at 1:34 PM  

I always thought it was the "L"...

My cousin walked by the area where that person died too!!! That must have been really creepy.

I loved the architecture tour too! My company took us on it on my first day of work 4 years ago! Glad you enjoyed it.

Elise Bass September 15, 2009 at 3:03 PM  

Heather, you're pictures are gorgeous! The one of Marina Towers (the twin round buildings) is truly beautiful. My dad used to live there and I would spend the night. They have such charm and old world magic to them.

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