Up at 5:00 a.m. as usual and I could tell the skies were clear because I could see lights along the shore of Lake Michigan all the way around the southern end of the lake to Michigan City. I watched as the sun came up over the lake and right into our living room. At 7:00 am it was absolutely spectacular while I sat and blogged yesterday’s adventures. The plan for today: first do the Sky Deck at Willis Tower and then take the hop-on hop-off to South End Chicago and visit Hyde Park. So off we went, walked through Printers Row (where the printing industry flourished in the 19th and early 20th centuries) and arrived at Willis Tower at 9:00 as planned to find the Sky Deck doesn’t open until 10:00. No problem… to pass the next hour, we hopped on the bus and toured around The Loop. Even though we had done this tour already, we learned new interesting things from this tour guide such as the Aqua Tower was designed by female architect, Jeanne Gang, is the largest American project ever awarded to a woman and it’s a Leeds certified building.
At 10:00 we arrived back at the Willis Tower and rode the elevator 103 stories to the Sky Deck. Hello! What a view. This is a 360 degree observatory and included 4 glass ledges that you can step out onto for that exhilarating rush of a near death experience. Monica was the only one of the four of us brave enough to do that and I got the photo to prove it.
After the Sky Deck, we rejoined the hop-on hop-off bus and commenced our tour to Hyde Park. The highlights of the tour were the Museum of Science and Industry which was built for the 1873 World Fair and is the only building remaining from the fair. Locals tell us it is THE best museum in Chicago. We didn’t have time to visit it… maybe next time. Next we drove through the University of Chicago (ranked #4 in the country after Princeton, Harvard and MIT). What an beautiful campus. Most interesting fact… here is where the atom was first split. Carrying on, we drove past a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright… it really stands out amongst all the other early century mansions. Then we saw President Obama’s house which is barely visible amid the dense foliage of trees and shrubs that purposefully hide it from public eyes. We saw a film set for the filming of the TV series Chicago Fire. Finally we drove past several beautiful public beaches along the lake front on our way back to city center to finish the tour. These hop-on hop-off tours are so interesting and informative. As I write this, the four of us are reminiscing on the day and recalling all the stories the tour guides told us. Well worth the price of admission.
Hungry now and cold (despite the sunshine) we sought food and spirits to warm our bodies. Mexican ought to do it! Tequila! We had a super meal at Mercadito on Kinsey Street. This was probably my second favorite meal in Chicago after the Fire House Steak House. The blackened swordfish tacos are amazing. Full now and warm, we happily strolled up the Magnificent Mile to the Water Tower Mall to find our free chocolate and popcorn (as if we really needed it) and browse the exclusive shops along the way. We could feel ourselves winding down as this vacation comes to a close. We were all very tired in that good way that you get when you know you gave it everything you’ve got. So, we headed back to the apartment to pack the suitcases for tomorrow’s early flight home. A glass of wine, a pizza delivered and a contented reflection on a fantastic week. Chicago is wonderful beyond imagination. We enjoyed every minute and are so thankful that we were able to experience the Windy City up close and personal.