It’s the city of Barack Obama and Al Capone. Of pizzas and hot dogs. Of the Bean and of the
Sears Willis Tower. Of Oprah and Kanye West. A city I never would have visited if it wasn’t also the town of a Major Marathon: the Bank of America Chicago marathon. A town with so many faces that I hope I may come back next year, because I don’t doubt there is so much more to see. But lucky you! Because I had the opportunity to run 42 kilometers through the Windy City and because I walked it a week after that, I can now give you some tips to make the visit even more memorable.
- The Chicago Theatre
I do believe we all know this famous marquee adorned with that iconic name. The Chicago theatre is built in a French baroque style. The hallway is built to look like the royal chapel of Versailles, the front is a replica of the Arc de Triomphe and the stairs are a replica of the Paris opera. It has been told the grand stairway of the Titanic was a spitting image. And here, in this iconic building you can go behind the scenes and if you’re lucky, even set foot on the stage. Every day at noon a guide will let you in to all its secrets. It was kind of magical to be standing where the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Prince performed. I mean, the Rat Pack, you all! In the cellar the theater managed to safe some of the doors, full with famous signatures. I even got to admire the dressing room of the stars. This was the best 10 bucks I spent in Chicago.
Address: 175 N State St, Chicago
When: every day at noon
- Rush tickets for a Broadway musical
You’ve got Broadway and then you’ve got Broadway in Chicago. Many shows will try out in Chicago before they arrive in Broadway New York. As impossible it seems (or impossibly expensive) to get a ticket for some of them (Hamilton, anyone?), Chicago makes it more accessible, although even there some of the shows will be sold out months in advance. But, there will be theatres that will offer return tickets for a fraction of the regular price. You can of course turn to Hot tix or you can make your choice and just go up to the register of the theater. In West End (London) you call them day seats, in Chicago the return tickets are called Rush tickets. And so it happened, that I walked into the Oriental theater and obtained a first row ticket for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory $200 seat. Noah Weisberg brought me to tears as Willy Wonka and Henry Boshart? Can I adopt him, please? The pipes on that kid!
Address: Theater district Chicago
Cost: $49, depends on the show and the theater.
When: show days after 11h30 am.
- The Walnut Room
Sometimes you need a local to point you in the right direction. I visited Macy’s already. Not only for the sale, also for the Christmas department which was just overwhelming, even this early in the season (October). Little did I know the 7th floor had a hidden gem. It was the guide at the Chicago Theatre that informed me Frank Sinatra always visited the Walnut Room every time he was in Chicago. If it’s good enough for Old Blue eyes, it just has to be good enough for me! And after tasting the famous Mrs. Hering Chicken Pot Pie I can only conclude that I was sorry I found this restaurant on my last day in Chicago. The temptation was too much and I ordered my first and only dessert of the week: White Chocolate Bread pudding. A menu for the stars! Don’t forget to take a peak at the marvel in the middle of the restaurant, an enormous marble fountain. During the holiday season the room is completed with a big Christmas tree.
Address: 111 North State Street, 7e verdieping in warenhuis Macy’s
When: Daily 11:00 – 20:00
- Wicker Park and Bucktown
You’ll find that most hotels in Chicago are clustered around Michigan Avenue. Everything you’ll need is right there: famous pizzerias, art galleries, the latest Burberry collection, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s. But if you think this gives you reason to stick to down town, you’d miss a lot. For 3 days I was in vintage paradise, wandering around Wicker Park and Bucktown. Milwaukee avenue (especially between Ashland-West Division and Logan Square), is filled with thrift shops, second hand clothing and second hand bookstores. And lets not forget the coffee shops. The ones that sell coffee and tea and where you can sit down with your laptop, not the sort we have in Amsterdam. Volumes Bookstore was my absolute favorite. It’s a bookshop with comfortable chairs and long counters where you can do some work on your laptop or just read the book you just bought. While sipping your tea latte, preferably the Molly Weasley.
Address: 1474 N. Milwaukee Ave
Cost: Whatever you feel comfortable spending.
Wanneer: Daily after 11am
- Visit the cinema!
I really mean it! I know what you’re thinking: I can do that at home, right? Well, you would be right if you’re home is somewhere in the USA, but if you’re from the Netherlands, visiting a cinema in Chicago is a whole new experience. Visit a AMC dine-in cinema. You won’t be visiting a cinema ever again without longing for those chairs. After a long day on your feet, exploring the city, there is nothing better than dropping down, push the button and let your feet come up and your seat recline. One advise though: make sure you’ve eaten before you go. Even though the ticket price isn’t that expensive, the food is ridiculously so. A small bag of popcorn was $9. that’s before tax. It’s lovely to have your diner served at your seat, but the price is steap.
Cost: $18 voor een 3D film
When: Daily 11:00 – 20:00
This town! How many faces does this town have? I’ve met so many nice people in Chicago. One very fit pensioner showed me all the way to the Lincoln Park (because he felt the town came up short with signage and it wouldn’t do for me to miss your turn to the underpass , young lady). One very nice bus driver refused to let me off the bus, because it was pouring rain at that moment and he wouldn’t let go until my address was in sight. (Because it wouldn’t do to let me schlep all the way through the rain, young lady!). I really hope I’ll have the opportunity to run the Chicago Marathon again. I will try to extend my stay. What a town!