Monday, September 18, 2017

Discovering the Charms of Chicago

"I adore Chicago. It is the pulse of America." ~ Sarah Bernhardt

Before our firstborn headed off to college, we wanted to savor our last moments as a party of six with a trip to an exciting destination. Over the years we have spent many special moments at the beach, but Carson prefers the bright lights of a big city to the peaceful lull of the seashore. Considering our need for a quick weekend getaway and his love of theatre -- especially the Broadway hit Hamilton -- we decided that a visit to Chicago would give us the best of all worlds.

Joe has traveled to The Windy City several times, and he was eager to introduce us to some of his favorite places. (The image above drew me to this storefront, and it turned out to be a great little shop. Look for more details in my next post!)

We flew to Chicago on a Wednesday and headed home that Saturday. With two full days and a few hours on each travel day, we made the most of our time to explore. 

One of the first sites Joe wanted us to see was the Palmer House. He had hoped we could stay at this historic Hilton hotel, but it was booked during the time of our visit. Still, we enjoyed taking in the gorgeous views of the lobby and a nearby ballroom.

Can't you imagine the gorgeous events this venue has played host to?

The Palmer House is celebrating its 145th year. Extensive renovations and luxurious amenities ensure that this hotel will continue its gracious legacy.

Next on our list was visiting Millennium Park to see Cloud Gate, a stainless-steel sculpture better known as The Bean. Joe joked beforehand that we would never be able to tear Emma away from its mirrored surface!

Yes, he called it!

We walked up to 20,000 steps a day exploring the downtown. I loved taking in the city's gorgeous architecture.

One of my cousins lives in Chicago, so we enjoyed visiting her home and seeing her sweet girls.

Mary Ashley and Emma loved reconnecting with these two cuties!

They introduced us to the Chicago Riverfront, a pedestrian-friendly walkway along the south bank of the Chicago River.

On the Thursday of our visit, Joe, Carson and Christian took in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, where Lester jerseys were a definite temptation. 

While the boys watched baseball, the girls and I spent a special afternoon on Michigan Avenue. I will share details of our teatime at The Palm Court -- and the evening's celebratory dinner -- in  upcoming posts. We gave the girls $50 each and let them choose their own keepsakes during the trip. This worked really well and encouraged them to make the most of their budget. The first stop for our mini spending spree was Chicago's famed American Girl Place. Emma was so enthralled with all of the displays here that this turned out to be our longest stop along the Magnificent Mile. Ultimately, she chose the Fun & Games Sleepover Set, which included the cutest deck of miniature Uno cards. Back at the hotel that night, I couldn't resist asking if anyone was up for a little Uno. Those unhurried moments playing together turned out to be a highlight of the trip.

Clockwise from above left: The girls found furry friends to take home from The Disney Store, and it was difficult not to feel like a kid in a candy store with all the offerings at Dylan's Candy Bar. Although I discouraged them from giving so much of their budget to a 5-pound gummy bear, Mary Ashley and Emma were completely smitten with this guy. They pooled their resources to buy it, and Mary Ashley happily carried the hunka-hunka beary love for the remainder of our trek.

As for me, I enjoyed window shopping luxury brands such as Burberry. My treasured finds were a lovely Crystal Pearl bracelet accented with pink pavĂ© spheres from Swarovski and the most perfect blush pink blouse at Nordstrom -- a romantic ensemble that will always remind me of Chicago.

As beautiful as the city is during daylight, Chicago absolutely sparkles at night. We thoroughly enjoyed strolling along the riverfront amid the glow of the city lights.

With the bustling crowds and thriving night life, there is an energy about this city that is contagious.

This is one of Joe's favorite vistas. On this cloudy night, we enjoyed pausing here to take in the beauty of our family weekend. This was a special spot for reflecting on the enchanted evening I spent with Carson and Christian at ...

This was the biggest splurge of our once-in-a-lifetime visit -- and our graduation gift to Carson. When Joe and I started planning this trip back in the spring, we considered keeping our tickets a surprise but decided that part of the excitement would be anticipating the big event throughout the summer. It really was a dream come true! 

The historic Private Bank Theatre is a beautiful venue for watching this show. We took great care in reserving our tickets, and I must admit, I have never had such amazing seats for any performance -- even watching the children in school productions.

Joe got the best deal ordering our tickets in two separate transactions, and as a result, we thought that one of us would have to sit alone during the show. I thought about this all summer -- not wanting anyone to feel left out of the experience -- so imagine my delight when we realized that we were front and center, just a few rows back, and sitting together. This made the evening absolutely perfect and one that we will never forget!

Thank you for indulging me in this lengthy travel journal! It has taken awhile to compile these memories, but honestly, I think they mean even more looking back -- especially now that Carson has been away at college for more than a month. Moments with family are precious, and I am treasuring each one that we spent together in The Windy City.

"Going to Chicago was like going out of the world." ~ McKinley Morganfield

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