In our four years on the road, we have visited many of the major cities in the US, the most recent being New York and Boston in 2017. Chicago has always been high on our list and this year, we finally had a chance to visit this great city.
One of the big challenges about visiting a city of this size is where to park our 38 foot home. Usually, we consider somewhere far enough away that it won't break the bank and is also near public transport. But we learned from fellow fulltime travelers Jason and Nikki Wynn that there is a truck marshalling yard just behind the McCormick Place Event Center that allows RVs to boondock for a reasonable fee. It was a little nerve wracking figuring out how to get to this place because there is a lot of conflicting information on the Web, but it wound up being pretty straightforward. To avoid as much traffic as possible, we decided "in on a Sunday, out on a Sunday".
Once Scoopy is situated, our usual mode of transport when we go anywhere is by car. We don't really take taxis and we only rarely rent bikes. In fact, New York City was the one and only time we took to riding around on two wheels. Chicago has a similar setup called Divvy and they make it incredibly simple using a phone app to find a bike and prepay so you can just grab and go. We were both eager to give it a try.
The day we arrived in Chicago was baking hot. Travel days tend to be just that so we don't plan to do anything else except relax when we arrive. On our first full day in Chicago, we got going pretty early and rented a couple of Divvy bikes. All was going well until about five seconds after we hopped on. Dark clouds had moved in and the rain cascaded from the heavens. It was like that on and off for most of the day but we managed to get as far as Navy Pier anyway and enjoyed the sights. We also visited the popular Cloud Gate, otherwise known as The Bean. We thought to ourselves, biking will be a great way to get around the city. But as it turned out, that was the first and last time we rented bikes :) Why? Well, we got lazy, opted for Lyft and never looked back.
From then on, anytime we wanted to go out exploring, we fired up our Lyft app and a car arrived mere feet from Scoopy and whisked us off. We chose to ditch the bike idea because temperatures were mostly in the upper eighties and nineties. No fun arriving where you're going dripping with sweat.
Chicago has a character and personality that is completely its own. To me, it's prettier than New York, mainly because of the Riverwalk. But there's also an abundance of arts and the city houses many museums, galleries and music venues.
We've figured out over time that the smartest approach to visiting a big city is to do a couple of worthwhile tours to get our bearings. Early on, we went on one of the river boat tours and, I have to say, it was absolutely worth the time and money we spent. You can really appreciate the amazing architecture better than driving around and, besides, the streets in Chicago are legendary for creating confusion and many an out-of-towner has gotten completely lost in their midst.
The the next day we did a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. While I enjoyed this tour, I found the guide to be a little flat and, for 2 1/2 hours, that can have an influence on your experience. A bonus with the bus tour was that it included an additional evening excursion absolutely free! Linda passed but I really enjoyed seeing the city at night. This time the tour guide was really terrific.
Of course we couldn't leave Chicago without trying one of their famous deep dish pizzas. We went to Giordano’s after our bus tour. We were starving when we arrived and, to our horror, we were told it would take 45 minutes to be ready. We got a couple of appetizers and a few glasses of wine to keep us entertained in the meantime :) The pizza was really good but I think Linda and I prefer the thinner crust pizzas.
I think the biggest appeal of Chicago for me personally was having access to the art museum. Linda stayed at home while I got a dose of the arts. It's such an amazing museum, I could have spent a week there. Towards the end of the week, we went to Grant Park to see the Grant Park Orchestra play. Holy cow, it was such a joy to see the lights come on in the surrounding buildings while the music of Prokofiev played. It reminded me that, even in the midst of a busy city with the constant sound of distant sirens, the most delicate of musical notes can overpower it all.
The week flew by and I managed a couple of solo days and together we visited one of the local farmers markets and went to see the latest Mission:Impossible (highly recommended, by the way). I could have stayed for at least another week. As much as we love the energy and excitement of cities of this scale, we were still happy to move on be away from it all.
Still, it was a photographer's dream to be in a city with such architectural wonders. As well as shooting an abundance of photographs, I put together a short film with the highlights of our visit. You can view it here:
Up next: Making a beeline west!