11 Jul

17 Things to do in Chicago, and How to Satisfy a Hot Dog Craving

Becky Fickenworth, APR

Project Manager and Counselor

Chicago is one of my family’s favorite places to trek for a long weekend. Only a five-hour drive from Cincinnati, there’s enough variety to please our three teenage boys— the foodie, the sports lover and a tough-to-satisfy 15-year-old.

On a recent visit, we made our second visit to the Willis Tower  so that one of my 13-year-old twins could cross something off of his “bucket list”: standing on one of their glass ledges 103 stories above the ground. (He couldn’t bring himself to do it on our last visit. I’m happy to say he achieved his goal this time around.)

I wasn’t looking forward to standing in line for the average 75-90 minute wait but I was pleasantly surprised. From a Lego replica of the Tower to entertaining infographics (“Did you know approximately 43,000 miles of telephone cable runs through the building – enough to stretch across the continental United States 15 times!”) to a well-done, succinct 10-minute film about the history of the tower, they make the long wait fly by.

From the Willis Tower, we hiked to Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) in Millennium Park where we came across a few street performers doing some pretty astounding soccer tricks. (My 15-year-old was in heaven – thank you soccer performers for finding his sweet spot!) After securing “Million Dollar Quartet” tickets at Hot Tix (the best place to get discounted theater tickets but plan carefully – they’re closed on Mondays), we had an unplanned excursion back to the Willis Tower where some wonderful soul had turned in my son’s phone that, unbeknownst to him, had slipped out of the pocket of his gym shorts.  I instituted a new dress code for the remainder of the trip – khaki shorts with Velcro pockets. (It was either that or they would have to start carrying man-purses.)

Over the weekend, we also visited the marvelous Shedd Aquarium where two of my boys found taking pictures of the fish and texting them to all of us more entertaining than the fish themselves.

Caption: I’m a superstar.

Then my Chicago-born husband insisted we trek around the entire outside of nearby Soldier Field to pay homage to the Bears . Our whole family has been known to recite Dah Bears Fight Song in our living room before a Sunday afternoon game, and the retirement of Brian Urlacher  was cause for a moment of silence. The stadium is quite an interesting building (think Roman colonnade supporting a UFO) but hard to appreciate when you’re against a 20 mph headwind no matter what direction you’re walking. It’s not called the Windy City for nothing.

Other sites we’ve visited on this and previous trips:

  • The “AMAZING, INCREDIBLE, ASTOUNDING” (teenage boy descriptions) Nike flagship store
  • The Apollo Theater to watch “The Million Dollar Quartet” – a hit with every member of the family and then spent a frightening, but memorable, cab drive back to our hotel. Cab driver – 1. Cyclist – almost earned a trip to the hospital.
  • We’ve been awed by the U-505 submarine at the Museum of Science and Industry,
  • Said “Hey!” to Sue the T.Rex at The Field Museum,
  • Been thankful we didn’t have to clean up after The Blue Man Group and
  • Spent a lazy spring afternoon taking in a White Sox game. (We missed attending Philip Humber’s  perfect game by one night but watched it from the next best place – a Chicago sports bar.)

The only disappointment of our latest trip was that we didn’t get to satisfy our craving for Chicago hot dogs at Portillo’s, so we headed to our old standby, Ed Debevick’s  where the waiters are rude but the food is good.

Speaking of food, I highly recommend Gino’s East  – the mozzarella sticks, family size salad and deep dish half cheese/half sausage was worth the 90-minute wait. Of course, by the time we got our food, it was 9:45 p.m. our time, so the meal proved to be a bedtime snack. (Note to self – get in line earlier next time.)

There just wasn’t enough time this go-around to do everything we’d like. So we’ll be heading back to take in a Chicago Fire soccer game, Navy Pier, the Planetarium and, hopefully, satisfy that Chicago hot dog craving.

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