Summertime truly is the greatest time of the year! Besides Christmas, of course. But I’ve enjoyed this summer more than any other in my adult life thus far. Much of that has to do with the fine man I’m married to. The rest has to do with a little perspective change and the flexible days I have in my new summer jobs. Even though many of our summer plans to travel and camp have fallen through (due to lack of finances and time), we’ve made some lovely memories regardless.
Toward the beginning of June I began following some bloggers actions and instagram users by taking a new look at my hometown. I decided I wasn’t doing something I should be! I needed to look at our beautiful city of Chicago as if I were a tourist. Maybe not the camera wearing, khakis-and-Hawaiian-shirt sporting tourist, but the tourists who arrive in a location for a few days and want to try all the BEST activities, resturants, coffee shops, and visit the best locations. This may sound strange when you’ve lived somewhere your whole life, but I realized when I began to do this, I enjoyed going everywhere far more than I was used to. A simple walk to the bank or grocery store didn’t feel like I’d “been there, done that”. I noticed every tree, every person I passed, every building and the remarkable architecture. This is now a perspective I aim to keep!
Tourists in our own city:
Because we have been stuck in Chicago all summer, I’ve used some great resources that I always new existed, but I would never think to use!
Restaurants. We found new ones and enjoyed old ones.
One of our favorite places to eat in the city is The Bad Apple on Lincoln. It has a fun, hip atmosphere with gourmet salads (Try the beet salad!), burgers (The Hangover is not on the menu anymore, but sometimes your server will get the kitchen staff to make it. It’s got an egg over-easy on it! And bacon! Also, I always get the Strange Famous veggie burger and still daydream about it sometimes), and fries (try the truffle seasoning).
Then, Rich’s sister took me out to eat at El Ranchito on Clark for the first time. I loved my chicken and al pastor tacos (I’m talking real tacos, y’all, not those ‘merican things, but the ones with meat seasoned to perfection and just onions and cilantro) so much, we went again a few days later, but tried their new location in Wicker Park (on Milwaukee)! I got a more American pick that time, a quesadilla with avocados, but wasn’t disappointed. I think the tortillas are made in-house and the rice and beans were perfection (we Troches love and know our authentic Mexican food)!
Attractions. Aa a help to us in the following adventures, we’ve had lots of friends and family come visit us over the summer, so we’ve taken them out around the city to things residents only do when they have visitors in town. It made me wonder why I don’t go all the time!
We took friends on the el train (I rode the redline every day for four years to and from school, but after a month of not using it, I realized how much fun it can be!) downtown. We wandered around State Street and Michigan Avenue through stores and past street performers.
We enjoyed a day in Millenium Park, at the famous Skygate (The Bean) statue. We caught a talent show in the free outdoor venue in the park. It was spectacular! Then, a few days ago a friend and I road our bikes down for a free live NPR podcast recording of Wait! Wait! … Don’t tell me! It was hilarious. And 17,000 nerds like me crowded that venue to enjoy it.
I took a new Chicago resident we’re good friends with and my little brother to the Science and Industry Museum, thanks to the public library having free passes available for residents. This building was one of the few left after the World’s Fair in 1833, the Colombian Exhibition in which the first Ferris wheel ever was built. It’s a gorgeous building, and of course, includes some new additions and maintanence, but you can see the old stonework and be in awe of the sheermagnitude such World’s Fairs would have been like in the past. Now, Science is great and all, but I began my schooling for Anthropology, so I’m hope to get the Field Museum pass next. I do remember that one being my favorite museum we visited in Elementary school.
Lastly, Rich and I tried a completely new attraction. On a spur-of-the-moment decision, we purchased a year Divvy bike membership (one-time use would have been wise for testing the concept out, but we’re always in for saving money, so the year membership looked good to us). I’ve been out on a bike almost every day since then and it’s SO MUCH FUN! It’s nice not to have to own a bike that you have to store, maintain, and lock up everywhere you take it (in hopes it won’t get stolen, even then). All you do is check in your bike at a station do as you please for as long as you want! When you have a bike out, though, I recommend setting a timer for the next check-in time or you will be charged extra. It’s the only hard part about Divvying (but fun part if you’re a competitive personality) because you really do have to get to the next station before thirty minutes run out. It’s not as hard as it sounds. We dowloaded the Bike Chicago App from itunes and mapped our route before checking each bike out. There has only been one close call thus far, but our accounts still haven’t been charged any extra money, so we’re doing it right! And we’ve seen so much more of the city than if we’d been driving or taking public transit. The last time we went out we road through Lincoln Park, and I must recommend it as a gorgeous spot for a picnic, day out, walk, run, bike ride, or trip to the (always free) Lincoln Park Zoo.
So, there you have it. Our summer thus far has been busy, but we’ve still made ourselves enjoy a few of the plethora of free and low-cost attraction Chicago has to offer. Hope that helps any folks coming to visit or just moving here.