Girls Trip to Chicago

We had a whirlwind weekend of fun, food, and adventure.  It started with a veeeery early 6am flight to Midway.  Our Left driver from the airport to our hotel was so helpful and informative and got us super excited when he kept recommending food choices that were already on our list!  We were staying at the Hyatt Regency in River North and it was such a fun location.  We met up with Amy just a few minutes after we arrived.  It was so good to see her.  We miss her way too much!  The hotel was kind enough to provide us with a very early check in (like 10:30am) and we went and got settled in our room and purchased our Go Passes through Groupon.  That turned out to be quite the disaster and we spent about an hour on the phone getting things sorted out and ready to go.  We hoped this wasn’t going to set the tune for the whole trip.  Turns out, from this moment on, everything went PERFECTLY.  We couldn’t have asked for better.

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We were getting pretty hungry and decided to walk to Au Cheval to try their famous burger and fries.  When we arrived we were greeted with a 2 1/2 hour wait.  Normally, there is no way I’d ever get Rusty to wait that long, and of course, it would be out of the question if the kids were around.  But that’s the best part about traveling with girlfriends!  2 1/2 hour wait?  No problem!  We’ll just gab the time away.  We decided to go eat our dessert first.  And that was a magnificent choice.  Bombobar Bombollinis blew us out of the water.  They were sooooo good.  We got 6 to share.  Our favorite flavors were the Salted Caramel, Mixed Berry, and Vanilla Bean.  These were so good that we also made this our last stop on the way to the airport to get some to take home for our families.
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FINALLY, we were seated at Au Cheval.  And let me tell you, it was worth the wait.  The 4 of us ordered 2 burgers and 2 fries and diet cokes all around.  This is, hands down, the best burger any of us had ever had. And the garlic aioli that came with the fries was everything you could ever hope for. Everything about it was just perfection.  Definitely get your burger with a fried egg on top.
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After lunch, our first adventure on our Go Pass was an Architectural River Cruise.  This totally exceeded our expectations!  It was so much fun to go down the river and learn about all the beautiful buildings we were passing.  My favorite buildings were the ones that reflected the water and reflected the other surrounding buildings.  Chicago is a really lovely city.  I definitely loved the fall weather vs the winter weather Josh and I had.  It was also fun to see the fountain spray water clear across the river.  And we sure were glad we were out of range of the spray!
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It was wedding weekend in Chicago!  We must have passed by 10 wedding parties.  We saw one wedding party taking a pretty great shot, so we decided to try it ourselves.  The groomsmen couldn’t help jumping in with us 🙂
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We warmed up with Hot Chocolate from Ghiradelli (goss, and really more like lukewarm chocolate) before heading to Navy Pier to ride the Centennial Ferris Wheel.  I was so confused by this Ferris Wheel because it seemed NOTHING like the one Josh and I rode when we were here.  I kept wracking my brain and just could not put the two together.  There was no other Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, so I thought I just had a faulty memory.  A few days later when we took our bus tour, they told us the old one had been ripped out last year and replaced with this new one.  I’m not crazy after all!
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Now it was time for Deep Dish at Grimaldi’s.  Another 1.5 hour wait!  But, they let us put our pizza order in so it would be ready as soon as we were seated.  We wandered around Navy Pier and debated the ethics of McDonald’s frappacinos.  After some furious internet research, we came to the conclusion that yes, Mormons can drink them.  So we did.

We got our table at Grimaldi’s and posed our cameras for the perfect shot of gooey cheese stringing from the first pizza slice.  To our surprise, the cheese wasn’t gooey at all.  It was actually pretty set and had no pull.  We proceeded to eat it anyway, but we kept watching orders nearby and being envious of their delicious melty cheese. Our pizza was still good, just not what we expected.  So, we called a manager over and asked him about our pizza.  He confirmed that it had definitely sat too long back in the kitchen before making its way to our table.  The pizzas take about 45 min to make and cook, so we didn’t want to wait for another.  He comped us the pizza, so our whole dinner for 4 cost about $15—just the cost of the yummy salad we had along side.  Not a bad deal!
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We walked back to our hotel and on the way stopped at Molly’s Cupcakes.   We got a Boston Creme cupcake that was heavenly!  And how cute are these swings at the counter?  Turns out, Boston Creme might be the best flavor at Molly’s.  We stopped by again a different night and tried 2-3 other flavors.  All of which were pretty lackluster.
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We were ready to hit our beds.  We snuggled up and gabbed the night away.

In the morning we were greeted with the horrific news of the Las Vegas shooting at the Route 91 festival.  50 people dead, making it the worst mass shooting in modern American history.  It was not a fun way to start the day and our hearts were heavy thinking of the victims and their families.

We slept in a bit and had a pre-breakfast of rainbow cake from Goddess and the Baker (it was just ok) and some bites of Bombollini before heading the Santa Monica Summer House for brunch.  And what a heavenly brunch it was.  Everything was sooooo good.  We shared some hash browns, chicken tostadas, and sweet potato toast with poached eggs.  Everything was perfection.  I’d come back here in a heartbeat.
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As we were chatting after brunch I felt something damp on my pants.  I lifted up my purse to find that my water bottle had leaked in just the perfect spot, making me look like I had peed my pants.  We laughed and laughed.  I was a little embarrassed walking through the restaurant to the bathroom so Kari walked ahead to be my blocker 🙂
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Every Sunday should include brunch and a massage.  So, that’s exactly where we went next.  The Foot Smile Spa. For $25 we got an hour reflexology massage.  It was WONDERFUL.  These massages are performed with your clothes on and everyone is in the same room together.  Which at first might sound a little weird, but it really isn’t.  These guys knew their stuff!  We all came out massage drunk.  Except for Kari.  They went a little too hard on her tiny self and she came out with a crick in her neck.
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Now on to the Bean!  As we were driving to the Bean in a Lyft, I pointed to the cool amphitheater and asked, “What is that cool thing?” He must have thought I was talking about the office building we were passing because he said, “That’s a place where people come from 9-5 for work.  They dress up and go to meetings.”  As soon as we got out of the Lyft, we just burst out laughing.  My stomach hurt from laughing so hard.
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We took many, many pics at the Bean.  A lady offered to take a picture of the 4 of us together.  We immediately agreed, and then almost as immediately wished we hadn’t.  She didn’t give off the best vibe and we were all worried when she started taking pictures and turning the camera upside down, sideways, and in a complete circle.  I think we were all poised to tackle her if she should run off with the phone.  And of course, after she took the very weird pictures, she then asked us for money to feed her children.  We happily obliged, mostly because we were glad to get our hands back on our phone.
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While we were at the Bean we ran into an interesting event called Crowdout.  I read more about it on the internet later.  It is a performance piece written by David Lang, who apparently is a Pulitzer-Prize winner.  The piece is a combination of speaking, singing, and shouting, and is meant to explore what it means to be part of a crowd. How it can be both isolating and unifying.  It was performed by about 1,000 people who were positioned all around the plaza.  We hung around for a few minutes to listen.  It was definitely like nothing we’d ever heard before!
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Now we rented city bikes to ride along the Lakeshore trail.  We had a blast doing this.  And those city bikes are so cheap!  My favorite part was the Buckingham Fountain.  I just love fountains!  So pretty!
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For dinner we were going to try out the Reviel Food Hall.  Turns out it’s closed on the weekends!  So, plan B ran us into an Italian joint around the corner.  It was a fun, themed restaurant.  The food was pretty good too!  It has been a looooong time since I ate pasta.  That probably made it extra good for me.  I took many digestive enzymes to offset the effects 🙂
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Now on to use our 2nd Go City adventure.  The Big Bus Night tour.  Burrrrrr!  Amy and Kari ran into the McDonalds to get us a hot chocolate to keep us warm on top of that big, windy bus.  We had fun watching the city turn from dusk to twilight, but the tour guide used a lot of the same jokes as our river cruise guide 🙂  We rode out to the Planetarium, and the views of the city skyline were so beautiful.  I wish I was better at night time photography.
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We were officially BEAT.  Nightly night for us!

Monday morning we decided we couldn’t leave Chicago without riding the L at least once.  So, we rode it to Willis Tower to use our Go Pass at the Skydeck.

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We came at the perfect time of year.  The crowds were so minimal.  It was awesome.  We waited in practically no lines at all.  We had a lot of fun at the Skydeck.  There are 4 clear observations boxes called the Ledge, that extend 4 feet outside the 103rd floor.  We made our way through all 4 boxes, taking lots and lots of pics along the way.  When we decided to do our headstand picture we had quite the crowd gathered to watch.  It was so fun!
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Then we decided to “try on” some fun Chicago t-shirts and snap some quick pictures while no one was watching.

For lunch it was back to Revival Food Hall.  We all know how much a like a good food hall.  And this one didn’t disappoint.  I think my favorite things were the Hot Chocolate and Cookies from Mindy’s Hot Chocolate and the poke bowl from Aloha Poke Co.  We also had a very crass sandwich and fries.  The Big Mother Clucker from Fat Shallot and F*$@ It fries from from Graze Kitchenette.  I got a good chuckle from both.  Those fries were delicious!

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Now it was time for Amy to leave us.  She had to get back to her family so David could leave on a business trip. This was hard! We had so much fun and when she is with us, we just feel complete.  It was definitely a teary goodbye.  We already can’t wait for the next time we all get to be together.
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We spent the afternoon at the Art Institute.  This place is IMPRESSIVE.  So many beautiful paintings.  Vangough’s Bedroom, Wood’s American Gothic, Serrat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Chagall’s beautiful stained glass windows, Picasso’s Old Guitarist, and some early Jackson Pollock.  LOVED it all.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I’m definitely making my kids take an art history class.  City culture and museums are just too much fun to miss out on.
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We are admiring the mass amount of detail in this painting.  How do artists do it?  LOL!
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On our way out we saw them changing their signs from “THE best Museum,” to “A best Museum.”  LOL!

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We them crossed the street back to Millennium Park to cool off in the Crown Fountain  and then a quick peak inside the old library.  They sure don’t make them like this anymore.
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We decided this would be a perfect time for a mid afternoon snack and a nap.  So, we went to Firecakes and tried a donut ice cream sandwich with banana ice cream.  It was good, but didn’t knock our socks off.  The pink frosting donut was good too, but I’d choose a Lamars Maple Bar over it any day.
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Chicago was FULL of beautiful flowers.  It added so much color to the city.  Everywhere we turned were more plants and more flowers.
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After our much needed nap we headed to the top of the Hancock Building to the 360 Chicago Observatory.   to watch the sun set.  Cities just turn to magic at night.  The sunset was spectacular.  And, we tried out the Tilt.  You stand at the glass windows, which then Tilt out over the city.  It was pretty cool!

And the day just keeps going!  Dinner was at Girl and the Goat, which is supposed to be one of the hottest restaurants in town.  It was a tiny bit of a let down.  Everything was a solid GOOD, but nothing was GREAT.  Except the green beans.  They were actually GREAT.  We also tried Goat Empanadas, just so we could say we did.  We ended the evening with a piece of chocolate cake out on the patio at Formentos.  The evening air was perfectly crisp and we enjoyed the quiet ambiance.
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We woke up to rain on our last day.  We seriously experienced allll the weather in our weekend.  Cold, hot, windy, rainy. We never knew what to wear! We decided to try out the restaurant right across from our hotel called Xoco for breakfast.  And we are sure glad we did!  Perfectly fresh guacamole, churros with chocolate dipping sauce and bean-to- cup Mexican hot chocolate.  LOOOOVED it all.
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We all went back to change into warmer clothes before hitting the streets of Michigan Ave for a serious shopping adventure.  Zara, Uniqlo, and of course AMERICAN GIRL.  I sent Rusty this picture of me with all our shopping bags and he texted back, “Some of those BETTER belong to Kari and Amber.”  Followed shortly by, “But I love you no matter what.”
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We found Erie St, and enjoyed all the cute Chicago Dogs.
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Our last food stop was to Portillos.  I didn’t particularly think this place was particularly awesome when Josh and I came, but I was willing to give it another try.  And I’m glad I did!  We shared an Italian Beef sandwich, fries and THE BEST SLICE OF CHOCOLATE CAKE.  The strawberry shortcake was pretty great too.  We shared meals left and right this trip.  I’m convinced that’s the way to go.  We got to try TONS of things, but didn’t need to stuff ourselves sick.  Well, that’s not true.  Even sharing, we definitely stuffed ourselves sick.

Bye, Bye Chicago!  I don’t think we could have packed in one more adventure or one more bite of food.  In my book, that means we had an absolutely perfect trip.
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