Saturday, August 4, 2012

Summer trip to Chicago

Everyone looks forward to vacation. I especially look forward to mine each summer, when Mom and I make it a point to do our yearly girls-only trip. It started about four years ago with a trip to Colorado, and we enjoyed ourselves so much that we've made it an annual event.

We've also made a couple trips to Chicago for some intensive shopping, but we've somehow always chosen to go in November—and weather in the Windy City in November is temperamental, to say the least.

This year, we debated about going to some new destinations for our summer trip, like Niagara Falls or Gettysburg, but in the end, we decided that we just really wanted to explore Chicago without the bulk of winter coats, scarves, hats, boots, gloves...

For our third trip to Chicago, we stuck with tradition and took the train. Boarding in Crawfordsville, the scheduled route takes about four hours, just a little longer than it would take to drive the same route. We've had great luck in the past, so I guess it was about time we had a delay. The train was 90 minutes late arriving (the engineer overslept... oops), then because it was off its schedule, we had to stop several times and yield to CSX freight trains along the way. So while we were scheduled to arrive in Chicago around 11:00 a.m., we actually arrived closer to 2:30 p.m. We were both ready to get off the train by then!

Even though the high temperature that day was close to 100 degrees, we enjoyed seeing the city without the weight of winter clothing. After escaping the heat of mid-afternoon at the Art Institute—where we both loved seeing Monet's work in person but in many other cases felt that a nice frame and well-crafted write-up can make "art" out of anything—we walked back toward our hotel through Millennium Park. On our previous visit to the park, it was pretty deserted for winter. But this time, all the fountains were flowing and dozens of people, young and old alike, enjoyed splashing in the cool water.

Every visit to Millennium Park has to include a stop at the Cloud Gate, with your camera in hand. It's such a simple design, but it's captivatingly fun and engaging. You're reflected much like what you'd see in a carnival funhouse... without the creepiness.
You can't help but want to get close to it, and stand—or lie—in different spots to see the world from this unique perspective.

We spent the next three days shopping 'til we dropped. For years, Mom has talked about wanting to go north of the city to the Vogue Fabrics (a.k.a. sewer's mothership) flagship store in Evanston. We researched different modes of transportation and decided to go with the 'L,' our first time to do so. My cousin and her husband, who now live in Chicago, gave us pointers, and we were thrilled with the convenience and price.

Our transportation cost for our four-day vacation was:
$46 each for round-trip tickets to Chicago and back on Amtrak
$10 cab ride from Union Station to the hotel, then again on our last day
$5.75 each for a one-day pass on the L
Total: $123.50 for two people on a four-day vacation!

When you consider that gas is about $3.95/gallon right now, it's a 175-mile drive, and parking at our hotel alone was $42/day, we really got a great deal—not to mention great convenience, since we didn't have to fight traffic.

We both felt like this was one of our most relaxing vacations, even though we walked more than 20 miles in four days. With an existing familiarity with the city and our favorite places, plus the beautiful weather, it allowed us to take our time and focus on the things we both really enjoy.

Now I'm looking forward to planning my next vacation!

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