Chicago Travel Blog | Exploring downtown and Navy Pier
I had never been interested in going to Chicago. It was only that our Intrepid tour started there that I even wound up there myself.
We flew into Chicago from Vegas, which wasn't a bad plane ride. It only took us three hours. The down side of this plane ride was that I was already sick with a head cold and whilst flying, it's necessary for your Eustachian tube to be clear (mine was already blocked with mucus. Beautiful image, I know) for your ears to equalise.
Because mine didn't equalise, it came to my knowledge pretty early on into my Chicago adventure that I COULDN'T HEAR A THING! This made it difficult for me to communicate information and often resulted in me unintentionally whispering things to people.
Our travel agent booked us in for a night at the Sheraton Grand, which I can certainly recommend. It has a beautiful, big lobby, gym and pool and is right on the Chicago Riverwalk. Our room even overlooked the water which made for pretty awesome views. I'm not sure how pricy it was, but it would certainly be worth staying there, even if you only spent one night then moved on to a different hotel. The plus side of this place, was that we didn't need to pay resort taxes. The downside was that once again, you needed to pay for WiFi. The only free WiFi was in the lobby or gym. Safe to say, we spent a lot of time in both.
Our first full day in Chicago, we decided that we were going to redeem our explorer passes. We booked and paid for these online with our travel agent. One of the listed redemption centres was Chicago 360. So we headed out in the -2 C weather and walked twenty minutes to the building only to find out that they no longer redeem the passes, you have to download the app and redeem online.
We were devo...until we realised that we couldn't download the app, then it turned to utter grief. Picture a small, cold, tired, sick girl who can't breathe or hear and who just walked twenty minutes in icy weather, and you have me in that moment. We rang the company. No help. I certainly wouldn't recommend booking the Explorer Pass with your agent, instead, get it when you get there. The people at the Chicago 360 desk must have taken pity on us, because they ended up giving us free tickets to the top. It was a great view, but now was the challenge of what to do with the rest of our day.
We walked twenty minutes back to our hotel to come up with a game plan and decided we were going to Uber down to the Field Museum. It was way too cold and too long of a walk after our other mishaps. Thankfully they were still providing tickets for Explorer Passes (this may not be the case anymore) and we were able to restart our day.
From there, we took the short walk down to the Planetarium which was one of the stops for the Hop on Hop off tour and we, hopped on! We were initially also hoping to go to the Aquarium (which is also located in the museum complex) but later found out it had been removed as an option for the Explorer Pass. The Hop on Hop off tour was definitely worth using the pass for. It took us all around Chicago and the guides were super informative.
On our second day in Chicago we hopped up early because we wanted to book in to go on an architectural river cruise (another option on the Explorer Pass) but lo and behold, we were disappointed to find out that they don't run in winter.
Time for another change of plans. We decided to go to the Art Institute of Chicago. On our short walk down there, we stopped in at Millennium Park for some pictures with The Bean (the famous Chicago art installation) and found out that if you go early, there is not as many tourists taking selfies. The Art Institute was awesome and also worth using our pass on. We ended up staying there for two hours and got to see artists such as Picasso, Pollock, Kandinsky and Warhol.
After this we still had one attraction on our Explorer Pass left (we originally only bought three attractions but got Chicago 360 for free hehe) so we decided to head down to Navy Pier and ride the Ferris wheel. It was pretty cool to see the city from that vantage point, but I almost wish we had of done something else that could have given us a better taste of Chicago.
That night, we moved to a different hotel which was the starting point for our Intrepid tour. Last minute the hotels got changed and I was pretty peeved to learn that the place we were meant to stay at originally was more expensive than the one we ended up staying in. Unfortunately, the quality of the place they booked for us was pretty poor, faded walls, outdated furniture and peeling carpet.
If you want to see my full Chicago experience as well as hear my rating of the city. Make sure to check out my YouTube video!