Chicago

Weekend Wanderings- Chicago {Part 3}

Sunday

Even after a whirlwind of a Saturday, there wasn’t any time for us to sleep in Sunday morning because we still had a few things we wanted to see before I had to leave to go home.

Cloud Gate

Like I mentioned before, Cloud Gate, or the “Bean” as it’s most commonly known as, was extremely crowded with tons of tourists when we visited on Saturday. I had read on a couple of blogs that the best way to avoid tourists at the Bean was to get there first thing in the morning, so we decided that we would try first thing in the morning on Sunday.

All of the blogs were completely right! Seeing the Bean first thing in the morning was definitely the way to go (along with going to Willis Tower and the SkyDeck)! There were maybe 10 other people there while we were there, so we got some pretty cool pictures.

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago
It was starting to get crowded whenever we left!

Navy Pier

Once we were done taking pictures, we decided to make our way over to Navy Pier because that was one of the places that I heard that you had to visit when you go to Chicago. We decided to walk to Navy Pier because on the map it didn’t seem that far. That little distance on the map turned into a longer walk than we were anticipating because of the heat and humidity. So definitely keep that in mind if you’re trying hard to get your steps on your FitBit!

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

I have to admit, once we got to Navy Pier, we were kind of disappointed. It seemed like there wasn’t a ton of stuff to do, unless you wanted to pay for it. Plus, I think that we got there too early on a Sunday for most of the activities to be opened. I will say though, the views of Chicago from Navy Pier were amazing! Even with the overcast skies, the skyline was stunning!

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago
It was a pretty windy day, as you can see by the hot mess also known as my hair.

Chicago Style Pizza

After all of our walking around, we were very hungry and ready for some lunch. And when in Chicago, you have to do what the Chicagoians do, and eat some deep dish pizza! We got some recommendations from several different people, and they all said that we needed to try  Lou Malnati’s if we wanted some authentic Chicago-style deep dish pizza. So, we walked from Navy Pier over to Lou Malnati’s, like we were going to do anything else.

We arrived right around 11:00, so we beat the lunch rush (apparently it’s pretty common to have a long wait). When we sat down our waiter told us that the pizzas would take about 45 minutes to cook since they’re deep dish (that explains the usual wait, and it’s another reason to arrive early). We decided on our order pretty quick since we were both starving, so we opted for a small Malnati Chicago Classic and an order of mozzarella sticks to hold us over until our pizza was ready.

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

We both really enjoyed the pizza, and we left completely stuffed, like every other meal that we’d eaten in Chicago. The pizza was extremely cheesy, and all of the ingredients tasted really fresh. Although we enjoyed the deep dish pizza, I think that I’ll stick to the “New York” style of pizza because the deep dish almost tasted “cake-y” to me (if that makes sense). Plus it was really filling, more filling than pizza normally is.

After we were done with lunch, we headed back to the hotel to pack up our bags and head out. Chris headed to another hotel since he was staying in Chicago for work, and I headed to the airport. Chicago was an absolute blast, and I can’t wait to go back for another visit. I feel like there’s still a ton of things that I need to see!

Weekend Wanderings- Chicago {Part 2}

Saturday

Magnificent Mile

After an amazing lunch at Portillo’s, we definitely needed to walk some of it off since we were planning on eating an early dinner. The Magnificent Mile is an area of Chicago that is known for having a ton of shops and it was only a few blocks away from Portillo’s so we headed in that direction. Plus, I’m never going to miss an opportunity to do a little shopping.

We mainly window shopped while we were there (too bad Loft wasn’t having a sale!), but we both managed to get a few ideas for things that we wanted. I also happened to find the perfect floppy hats at Nordstrom for our Hawaii trip, so I had to get them, even though they were a pain to transport back home.

Cloud Gate

After perusing the shops at the Magnificent Mile, we still had a few hours to kill before dinner, so we headed over to Millennium Park to see Cloud Gate, or the “Bean” as it’s commonly referred to, since it was only a couple of blocks away from our hotel.

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

As the day had progressed, we could tell that there were more and more tourists out, and definitely way more than there had been at 9:00 that morning. Millennium Park was no different, the park was packed when we arrived, and the Bean was the place that everybody was congregating. We were able to get a few pictures, but we decided to try and come back early the next morning to get some pictures without so many people in the background.

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago
Can you find me?

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

Girl And The Goat

After pictures, we freshened up at the hotel before heading to Girl and the Goat for dinner. The restaurant is ran by Chef Stephanie Izard, who won Top Chef a few years ago. And you know me, any chance to eat at a Bravolebrity restaurant, I’m all in!

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

Girl and the Goat is one of the best restaurants in Chicago, which is why it’s one of the hardest restaurants to get a reservation at. If you want to eat at Girl and the Goat, you pretty much have to make reservations about three months in advance. Since we didn’t know when we were going to be able to make a trip to Chicago (we wanted to tag team it with one of Chris’ work trip), we couldn’t get a reservation. Chris called the restaurant and we were told that the best way to get a table as early as possible was to arrive around 5:00 or 5:30, so that’s what we did.

When we arrived, we were told that there was an hour wait, so we grabbed a cocktail at the bar and tried not to stare drool too obviously over people’s food. We both really loved the whole atmosphere of the restaurant, there was really good music playing, and the decor was amazing! There was exposed pipes and beams that gave the restaurant an urban loft vibe, and it was pretty awesome to have the kitchen completely open to the dining room so you could watch the chefs work.

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago
You can kind of see the kitchen in this picture.

After an hour wait, we were seated at a table and so ready to start eating! The main menu was divided into three sections, vegetables, fish, and meats, and there was a separate menu with breads, oysters, and goat dishes. Everything on the menu is small plate style, which meant that it’s supposed to be shared. Our waitress was awesome and gave us a good recommendations on the best way to order, which was choose 4-5 plates, and try to choose one of each type.

We started off our meal with the Yo Quiero Taco Bread, and it tasted exactly like a taco! I’m being completely serious! Mexican food is pretty much my favorite food groups, so I was all over this bread.

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

Our next dish was our fish dish, and we tried the squash blossom “crab rangoon”, which was a recommendation from our waitress. We both really enjoyed this dish, and it was definitely something that I had never tried before.

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

We followed up our fish dish with our vegetable dish which was the pan fried shishito peppers. The first place we tried shishito peppers was actually at a restaurant in Houston called the Pass & Provisions, and we fell in love! I was really interested to try this different take on the peppers, and I was not disappointed! I actually liked them better than the Provisions version, probably because there was a ton of Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, but Chris still liked Provisions better.

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago
Yummy Parmesan Cheese and Shishito Peppers!

After the peppers, it was time for our goat dish, because you can’t go to a restaurant named Girl and the Goat and not try a goat dish. We decided on the Goat Empanadas because we had seen a couple of them go by while we were waiting for our table and they looked fantastic. Our waitress also told us that they were one of the more popular dishes on the menu. We were not disappointed, and this was my absolute favorite dish of the night!

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago
Seriously best dish ever!

The empanadas was served over guacamole which was delicious with blueberries on top. At first I was super nervous about the fact that they had blueberries because blueberries definitely don’t sound like they would have a latin flare. I was totally and completely wrong! The blueberries weren’t very sweet and gave the empanadas that perfect little bit of acidity to push it over to extreme amazingness! This is probably the second best thing I’ve ever had in my life.

We ended the night with crisp braised pork shank. The pork shank comes with two different sauces, a ranch and a buffalo sauce, and you definitely need to eat it with both. It pretty much tasted like you were eating a pork buffalo wing. A little words of wisdom though, don’t try to leave the spoon in the sauce dish because it’ll probably end up flipping over onto the floor, not that I know from experience or anything.

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

We were so incredibly full after dinner, that we almost rolled out of the restaurant. Out of all of the Bravolebrity restaurants we’ve eaten at, this is definitely my favorite. Everything from the ambiance to the wine to definitely the food was perfect, and I already want to go back! 

After dinner it was raining, so we decided to end the night with drinks at our hotel while we watched the Hawks win. Check back next time for my final Chicago recap!

Weekend Wanderings- Chicago {Part 1}

Friday

Friday night, we didn’t really have much time to do anything but head straight to our hotel once we landed in Chicago. The advantages of having a husband that travels often to Chicago means that he not only knows how to navigate the airport, but he also knows the best hotels to stay in.

The hotel that he often stays at when he’s visiting Chicago is the Palmer House right in the middle of downtown Chicago. Not only is it only a few blocks away from Millennium Park and the Bean (or Cloud Gate as it’s formally known as) and absolutely beautiful on the inside, but it’s also a very historic hotel where many famous people have performed (like Sonny and Cher) and that gangsters used to frequent (like Al Capone). We also stayed for free this trip, thanks Hilton points!

Once we walked into the lobby and I saw the gorgeousness (is that a word?) of the lobby, I pretty much woke up, so Chris and I went downstairs to have a quick cocktail before going to sleep. We were planning on having a very early start to our Saturday!

Saturday

Willis Tower

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The first thing on the agenda for Saturday morning was a trip to the SkyDeck at the top of Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower). While I was doing research for our trip, the number one thing that I read was to get to Willis Tower as soon as the SkyDeck opens because that’s when there will be less of a line, and they were totally right! By the time we left, it looked like there was at least a 30 minute to an hour wait.

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago
Learning how to use the selfie stick!

We got to Willis Tower as close to 9:00 in the morning as possible, and the only thing we had to wait in line for was to actually go out onto the SkyDeck, which was absolutely terrifying. I’m not scared of heights, but the thought of standing 103 stories up in the air on a piece of glass that could break was insane! And, of course, Chris was joking like he was going to jump on the glass and stuff, like a total crazy person! But we did it, and it was definitely worth the experience, if only for the awesome pictures!

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

Chicago Architecture Tour

After we walked around the 103rd story a little bit more, we had to head out for our next stop of the day, the Architecture Tour with the Chicago Architecture Foundation. One of the things that Chicago is known for is the amazing architecture of the buildings downtown and along the Chicago River. So after we finally found our way to the boat (we were looking by the wrong bridge) we were able to board the boat for our tour.

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

Overall, I think that this was the favorite activity from the trip. We traveled up and down the Chicago River, and ended almost at Navy Pier. Our guide was fantastic, and it was so much fun to hear about the different buildings and their history. Plus, we got some pretty fantastic pictures!

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago
The whole city was rooting for the Hawks!

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

Just a few quick tips about the Architecture tour:

  1. Sit on the left side of the boat- I felt like a lot of the buildings ended up being on that side of the boat when our guide was talking about them.
  2. Wear sunscreen!- Especially if you’re pasty like me, just the 45 minutes on the river is enough to fry you. I’m still slightly sunburned, and now I have a short sleeve tan line.
  3. Buy your tickets in advance- Definitely the best thing we did. The day of, it looked like a lot of the tours were sold out, and we were able to pretty much just walk on board.

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

Portillo’s

By the time the architecture tour was over, we were pretty much starving because we had a light breakfast before starting the day. So, we headed over to Portillo’s for some lunch.

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago
Scored free popsicles after the Tour!

Portillo’s is an authentic Chicago street food restaurant that is known for their hot dogs and their beef sandwiches. Chris and one of my coworkers had been before and they absolutely loved it, so I knew that this had to be on my list of restaurants to visit in Chicago.

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

Both Chris and my coworker had recommended the beef sandwich to me, so that’s what I tried, and I added the hot peppers (think the peppers from Potbelly’s). Since Chris had already tried the beef sandwich, he opted for the hot dog this time around. Both of us were not disappointed! The beef sandwich was fantastic, and I ate every bite of it! Chris wasn’t disappointed by his hot dog either, and I think that he especially liked it because it was an authentic Chicago style hot dog with pickles, peppers, onions, and tomatoes.

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago

The Wandering Weekenders- Weekend Wanderings Chicago
The cutest thing about Portillo’s was their weenie dog logo!

That’s all I have time for today, so I’ll continue the rest of our trip in the next post! Until then!

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