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We’d never been to Chicago so we decided we’d go. In case you have never been there, and might visit, we’ve made this website to share what we chose to experience. Our visit was short, Monday PM to Saturday PM, but we had a great time. There’s so much more to do there.

We also learned a lot about skyscrapers because Chicago has been in the forefront of skyscraper buildings since the first one was built. We include a just a few details here (to help us remember!)

The people of Chicago are far friendlier than those in San Diego. If we took out a map and looked at it, whether we were biking or walking, within half a minute someone would stop and ask if they could help us!

 

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Monday:

We arrived in Chicago in late afternoon and checked into the 36th floor of our hotel.  Our room looked west, down the Chicago River, showing some of the city’s bridges.

We had this most amazing sunset, a great welcome!

We took a cab south in the city to China Town for dinner. Our cab driver was a Pakistani from Karachi. He was very easy to talk with; we discussed our experiences in northern Pakistan with him.

 

Dinner was fine and the two waitresses had cute personalities.

 

To return to the hotel we used an Uber taxi for the first time. It worked well and costs far less. Our driver was an interesting Indian from near Delhi. Our discussion with him involved arranged marriages. It was another nice experience.

 

The ubiquitous “no guns” sign never ceased to surprise us! This sign greets you on the entry doors of every hotel, restaurant, store, or public building.  We were so shocked by it we wondered what people from other countries would think.

This year a new concealed-carry gun law was passed so the city recommends business owners to use this sign if they don’t want guns in their establishments.

Nearly every establishment now has this sign.

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 Tuesday:

We biked all day.

Chicago has a Lake Shore Trail that is 18 miles long and goes through one manicured park after another.

We rented our bikes just east of the Magnificent Mile, about the middle of the trail. From there we biked south to the end, then back north the entire length, then back to the start. With a couple of short diversions, one toward the Planetarium for the view of the city and the other biking into the University of Chicago campus for lunch, we biked almost 40 miles.

There were many places in the parks we saw Canadian Geese. One large section of Burnham Park is being replanted in prairie grass to look like it did before the city was built. They’re hoping the migrating birds will like it.

Below is the GPS track of our biking on the Lake Shore Trail. On the left is the entire track, on the right an enlarged portion between the Navy pier and the planetarium. ZH on the left track shows the location of an eatery in the university area which was recommended by the bike company.

 

 

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This photo was taken on the promontory at the Planetarium with a view to some of the 105 skyscrapers that rise higher than 500 feet.

The tallest building in the city is the 110-floor Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) the black tower at left. It is 1451 feet tall and was the tallest building in the WORLD from 1974 to 1998.

Four of the ten tallest buildings in the US are located in Chicago.

 Based on the average height of the ten tallest buildings in a city, Chicago has the tallest skyline in the US and the third-tallest in the world.

 

This photo shows five of the twelve bronze animal heads that are on a “world tour” and are now Chicago’s turn to host. They are in front of the Planetarium.

The sculptures are by Ai Weiwei, the famous Chinese artist and political activist. Below is the description which goes with these sculptures.

 

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Wednesday:

There are eighteen bridges that cross the river in the middle of the city that “open up.”

It was a surprise when we were about to cross the bridge to walk to lunch that the bridge went up and let some sailboats and construction barges go through.

The two circular towers in this photo at the right behind the base of the bridge, is the Marina City, completed in 1964, which had lots of firsts.

They were the first buildings built with “tower cranes” which are rebuilt, again and again, as the building rises.

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When built, the Marina City towers were the tallest reinforced concrete buildings in the world.

The 65-story mixed use residential building contains apartments on floors 21-60, 896 parking spaces on the bottom levels, a marina at river level, a theater, gym, pool, bowling alley, stores and restaurants. It really caught our eye with floors of visible parked cars, each backed up to the edge of the building.

 

 

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We had lunch in the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center. This building is on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

On the 94th floor is 360 Chicago (which was the John Hancock Observatory) for views alone. We didn’t go there.

The photo shows the view along Lake Michigan to the north. We rode our bikes to the farthest point and back – this portion of our ride was just 14 miles.

 

Below is the view looking south from the Signature Room.

The three tallest buildings are, left to right, the Aon Center (3rd tallest), the Trump Tower (2nd tallest, 58 floors) and the Willis Tower (tallest, 110 floors). Our hotel was located right across the river from the Trump Tower, a view we enjoyed very much as it is built in the same architectural style as the Burj Khalifa (world’s tallest) where we had high tea on the 122nd floor during our stay in Dubai last January!

We could have gone up in the Willis Tower and stood in a glass box outside the building - the highest viewpoint in Chicago. We chose to go up the Hancock Tower because we could have lunch and spend some time there admiring the view – not just to stand a few minutes and look at the view. The location is near the Lake so we could better see the Lake Shore Trail where we biked.

 

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We went to the Wednesday matinee of the Chicago Lyric Theater to see the production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni opera. We had high expectations because of the reputation of the opera house and because Don Giovanni is one of our favorite operas. The performers were great in both singing and acting.

The staging however turned us off.

The sexual and violent content of Don Giovanni was shown exaggerated with nothing left to the imagination. We found the staging to be totally unnecessary, distracting, vulgar and outright embarrassing at times. We wouldn’t return to the Lyric Theater.

Interestingly, a critic reviewed the performance in one of the Chicago papers and commented that this choice of staging reflects today’s tastes as being desensitized by TV and movies.

Perhaps we should watch more TV and movies. We have watched neither for many years.

 

 

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This is the view from the John Hancock Center to the south east. The Navy Pier is the most visited attraction in Illinois.

 

There are lots of restaurants, bars, a large children’s museum, a Shakespeare theater, an amusement center and more.

 

 

 

The last morning in Chicago we rode the Ferris Wheel, named after a young engineer who won the design contest for an iconic image for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

The challenge was to design something to compete with the Eiffel Tower that was built in Paris for the previous World’s Fair. The wheel we rode on Navy Pier is less than half as tall as that first one.

That one was 264’ high with 36 cars, each with 40 revolving chairs and able to accommodate 60 people – giving a total capacity of 2,160 people!

It carried 38,000 passengers a day and took 20 minutes to complete two revolutions; the first involving only six stops to allow passengers to exit and enter and a second 9-minute rotation.

It worked perfectly and no one was ever injured, even in Chicago’s heavy winds.

 

 

This is another view of the Chicago River and Upper Wacker Street from our 36th floor hotel room. Lower Wacker Street is underneath!

 

There’s construction going on between the bottom two bridges in the photo. The lower level is being changed to accommodate a river walk with little parks and restaurants the entire length.

 

We consider our room’s view of Chicago to be a major reason we liked the city so much.

 

The bridge closest to us is State Street. The very next bridge to the East is Michigan Street, with the famous Magnificent Mile starting right there.

 

We were within a mile of almost everything we did.

 

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The tallest building in the city is the 110-floor Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower).

It is 1451 feet tall and was the tallest building in the WORLD from 1974 to 1998. The Willis Tower is the black building in the photo.

 

 

Not only was our view down to the river wonderful but we were across the street of several iconic buildings: The Tribune Building, the Wrigley Building, the Trump Tower, and the Marina City.

 

Most of those buildings were visible by looking to the right of the view in the photo; this has a good shot of Marina City.

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The Chicago Tribune building above, finished in 1925, has a top in the style of a French Gothic cathedral – even with (non-load-carrying) floating buttresses!

The 1929 Carbide and Carbon Building reflects the Art Deco style that was popular during the 1920s-40s.

 

A legend is that the Burnhams designed the building to look like a dark green champagne bottle with gold foil on top.

 

 

Thursday:

 

We visited the Shedd Aquarium, which is amazing. Their special exhibits are very educational and we enjoyed our time there very much.

 

In the afternoon, we met friends who had come from Milwaukee to see us. We had dinner with them in the University Club. The interesting building was completed in 1909 and has an amazing dining room which is surrounded by large beautiful stained glass windows. Below are two pictures of the dining room from the outside, the one on the left is a direct view the one on the right is a reflection in the Cloud Gate (more about the cloud below).

 

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Friday:

We first visited the Field Museum (Natural History) one of Chicago’s many amazing museums.

This is a photo from a life-size display of the two of us being measured by a thermal imaging system. The light areas are where we’re hotter; the dark area shows where we’re colder. Looks like Juergen’s circulation is better than Yvonne’s! She definitely has a cold nose and cold cheeks.

 

 

Yvonne had a childhood dream fulfilled to see the dinosaur skeletons in the Field (Natural History) Museum; we had no idea the museum had so many! 

The large herbivore the museum was famous for is now upstairs and “Sue,” this one, has center stage.

Sue was discovered in South Dakota in 1990 and is the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.

In May 2000, the unveiling of her 67-million-year-old skeleton here at The Field Museum made global headlines.

 

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The Art Institute is one of the greatest museums anywhere. They seem to have the best of everything and we spent a lot of time there.

 

We were surprised to find a superb collection of Gandharan sculptures. Gandhara refers to a region of today’s NW Pakistan and southern Afghanistan on the trading routes linking China and the Mediterranean. Gandhara was part of the Kushan empire in the first centuries of the common era. Buddhist iconography before that did not display Buddha himself (we found some superb examples of Buddha’s

 

disciples gathered around an empty chair in the Museum in Kolkata – go down 2/3 on the web page). Buddha imagery changed with the advent of Mahayana Buddhism around the beginning of the common era. The first images of Buddha in the Gandhara region show a stunning influence of the classic Greek style still practiced by descendants of sculptors left behind by Alexander the Great a few centuries earlier. Ever since we became aware of these Gandharan Buddhas (which we think look like Greek gods) we make an effort to find them wherever we can (Guimet Museum in Paris and the British Museum have excellent collections).

 

On the right is a Bodhisattva from the 2nd/3rd century CE and above and below Buddha or Bodhisattva heads.

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Apollo or Siddhartha Gautama??

 

On the right top is a relief of Buddha Gautama meditating in the Indrashala cave and on the bottom half Buddha Dipankara

(an incarnation prior to becoming Siddhartha Gautama) dating from the 3rd c. CE.

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We like the art of Marc Chagall. Needless to say that we loved his America stained glass windows (1975-77). This is one of three. He combined symbols of American history, the Chicago skyline and the arts.

 

There is a lot of interesting public art in Chicago.

This “fountain” is a tall tiled rectangle that has water pouring down all sides. There is a movie-like image on one side showing part of the face of a young girl. At the other end of the pool is a similar tower with a different girl. These girls seem to gently look at each other while occasionally blinking their eyes and moving their lips. At the end of a long sequence they pucker their lips and a stream of water comes out of their mouths.

Then the sequence begins again after a little time.

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This “Cloud Gate” sculpture is locally called the “Bean.”

It’s highly polished surface reflects the city and the folks looking at it.

 

Walking “through” the gate, underneath it, is like walking through a human-decorated Kaleidoscope with everything taking different shapes as you move. Fun!

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People in Chicago are a lot friendlier than what we’re used to. If we stopped anywhere looking at a map or looking lost, someone came up and offered his or her help. We’re not going out of our way to be in the pictures we take. The picture on the left was taken by someone who insisted that we need one with us in front of the cloud.

 

It is interesting when people lie on the ground near it as they seem to be suspended in their reflection.

 

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Saturday:

 

This is a view of the city from Navy Pier – we’re at the top of the Ferris wheel. We HAD to ride it because the very first Ferris wheel was designed and built here.

 

We also took a Shore tour from here up and down the coast a bit.

 

The black John Hancock Center, the 34th tallest building in the world, is where we had lunch on the 94th floor on our second day in Chicago.

This was the first skyscraper built with the trussed tube design and was completed in 1969 (it looks like giant Xs down the sides). That design makes a sturdy building where there is less need for internal supports so the skyscraper’s interior is more easily arranged into rooms for different clients.

 

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From our River Cruise, we took this photo of Trump Tower.

 

it was directly across the river from our hotel, and is the 15th tallest building in the world.

 It was planned to be the tallest building in the world but after 9/11 Trump scaled it down. The architect for the Burj Khalifa and the Trump Tower is the same, and the architecture is similar (but half as high). The Burj Khalifa is currently the world’s tallest.

 

 

The Aqua building, a mixed-use residential skyscraper is in the center of the photo. It was designed by Jeanne Gang, and is the first skyscraper project by her company, Studio Gang Architects.

It was awarded the Emporis Skyscraper Award 2009 skyscraper of the year. The 80-story building is topped with an 80,000+ sq ft terrace with gardens, gazebos, pools, hot tubs, a walking/running track and a fire pit.

To capture views for the tenants she stretched some balconies out 12’. The limestone outcroppings that are a common topographic feature of the Great Lakes were the inspiration for this undulating quality.

 

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View to the city from our boat “Shore tour.”

We flew home Saturday afternoon after a great week!

 

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