One of the largest and most diverse cities in the United States is only an hour and 40 minutes from South Bend via car and two and a half hours away via the South Shore Line Train. You can’t say there’s nothing to do in the area, when one of the greatest cities in the world is less than two hours from home. So, get in the car or train, and go to Chicago! Chicago is close enough that you can take a day trip, yet far enough you can turn it into a weekend getaway. I’m sure we’ll write many posts about Chicago during the life of this blog, but we’ll start with a simple day trip to downtown.
The easiest way to get to Chicago from South Bend is the South Shore Line train, which costs $26 round trip from the South Bend Airport to Millennium Park Station; You’ll exit the station at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street, right in the heart of downtown. While the train takes about 45 minutes longer than driving, you won’t have to worry about navigating Chicago traffic or finding parking. If you are comfortable driving (it’s really not that bad!), jump on on I-90 W to I-55 N/Lake Shore Drive (north). There’s a great parking lot under Millennium Park – the Millennium Park Garage, which costs $29 for 12 hours. If you’re traveling with multiple people, it’s cheaper to drive. You also won’t have to plan your day based on the train schedule.
Walk from Millennium Park over to the Chicago Architecture Foundation (224 S. Michigan Ave) and sign up for one of their many tours (your can also check the schedule and book online). I’m a big fan of the two hour HIstoric Treasures of Culture and Commerce walking tour ($20 per person), which provides information about some of the most beautiful exteriors and interiors in the Loop as well as the architects who designed them. This tour departs from the CAF Office. If you’d prefer a tour by boat, check out their famous Chicago River cruise (departs from the dock at the southeast corner of the Michigan Avenue bridge – $39.74 per person).
Once your tour is over, walk to Giordano’s Pizza (130 E Randolph Street) and order a Chicago-style deep dish pizza. My personal favorites are the spinach or sausage and onion. Mmmm!
Take a stroll through Millennium Park on your way to the Art Institute. Be sure to stop at the Cloud Gate (aka “the Bean”), consider having a cocktail at the Park Cafe (or go ice skating in the winter), and jump in the splash pad.
Exploring the world’s masterpieces at the Art Institute of Chicago (111 South Michigan Avenue) is a fabulous way to spend the afternoon. Some of the most famous paintings on permanent display are Picasso’s Old Guitarist, Hopper’s Nighthawks, Wood’s American Gothic, Van Gogh’s The Bedroom, and Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. For those of you who aren’t art enthusiasts, you may recognize these works, as well as the museum, from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Other Things to Do
If you’re not into architecture or art, consider shopping along north Michigan Avenue, walking over to the Field Museum of Natural History, exploring Grant Park, seeing a theatre production (reduced price tickets are often available the day of a show at Hot Tix) or going to Navy Pier.