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Published: September 23rd 2012
For some work team building can be a bit annoying, luckily for me when I’m called to take part in team building it currently requires a trip across the ocean to the Land of the Free. And as one not to miss an opportunity to see somewhere new, I got a chance to spend a day in Chicago en route.
So the question was how to spend my day off in Chicago? Being a bit of a film fan I thought the best approach was to take inspiration from one of the best 80s teen film ‘Ferris Bueller’s day off’, sadly I didn’t have a Ferrari but I could at least try and scout out a few of the other locations used in the film and of course keep a look out for ‘Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago’.
So up early on my day off and armed with a map I thought I’d start with a trip up the Sears or Willis Tower as it is now known, I’ve seen quite a few of the tallest buildings in the world and so I was quite pleased to be able to add the tallest in the USA to
Marina City, I loved these buildings, they had car parks on the bottom half
my list. I headed south down North State street and crossed over the river by the rather cool twin buildings of Marina city, I loved the fact that the bottom third were spiral car parks, most ingenious. As I carried on south I entered the Loop area of the city, this is the main downtown section of the city and has many of the historical buildings of which Chicago is so proud of.
It also has the ‘L’ train system, the elevated railway which circles round in a loop in the Loop. The stations and system are suitably industrial and Gothic looking which fits in with the overall ambiance of the city and of course being a bit of a geek I loved it. The line has featured in many a movie, as has most of the city, so it was like being on the set of Batman, most exciting.
As North State St morphed in to South State St I took a left and found my first Ferris location, Dearborn Street, where the young Bueller sang on a float. I then came across the headquarters of Wayne Enterprises just up the road, better known as the Chicago
Board of Trade for those living in the real world. Still, I don’t normally live in the real world so I liked to think Batman was watching down from the top of the building. Finally I made it up to the top of the Willis tower and took in the breathtaking views over the city and the lake. Thankfully it was a beautifully sunny day and the views were amazing, that’s one big lake they’ve got there.
So another tall building ticked off the list, wish they would stop building them for a while, I can’t keep up. I headed back down and headed off in towards the lake front, still admiring the architecture and the ‘L’ train along the way. In fact I was admiring the ‘L’ train so much I decided that I needed to have a ride on one, so I found a station and after five minutes of being the hopeless tourist and trying to work out the machines, I got my ticket to ride and got on the loop. It was a lot of fun and gave a good view of the city but since I didn’t need to go too far I got
The big one in the big country
The Willis tower, tallest in the US, all 1451ft of it.
off a few stations down the line at Randolph and Warbash and headed towards Millennium Park.
As it was such a nice day I decided to hire a bike for a couple of hours to ride along the lake shore, starting south by the Adler Planetarium which gives a great view of the Chicago skyline, good tip for any photographers out there. I headed north along the lakefront cycle trail between Millennium Park and some posh looking marinas. Even though I was on a cheap hire bike I seemed to be cycling like a member of Team GB making swift work of the distance. Since I was making good time I decided to stop and have some fried food (well it is America) on the Navy Pier, the playground of Chicago by the looks of things, it had a few beer gardens on it..
Once refuelled with my athlete’s rations I got back on my trusty steed and carried on north, again feeling like a victor in the velodrome, I sped past Lincoln park and all the beaches which line the trail. I decided I better turn around when I reached the Signal of Peace monument. Again, this
Twist and shout
Dearborn street where young Ferris sang during the annual German parade (it is actually a real parade).
was a great way to get views of the city skyline and highly recommended.
Time to go back and I suddenly realised why I was so speedy going north, on heading back down south I suddenly discovered there was a rather strong head wind and the city was living up to it’s ‘Windy’ reputation. At this point I was glad I hadn’t gone too far as it was taking a bit longer to get back and I am sure my jet lag was making me a little slow...
Dropping off the bike I then strolled in to the park to take a look at the Cloud Gate sculpture by Anish Kapoor. Being placed on the edge of the park by Michigan Avenue, it spectacularly reflects all the buildings which move as you walk around the sculpture, it is rather impressive. The Jay Pritzker pavilion next door to it is also rather stunning; it must be a great place to see a concert. The mixture of the 1920/30s (a favourite period of mine) and modern architecture in Chicago is amazing, it reminded me of one of my other favourite cities, Shanghai, which also has a similar mix.
Is that Batman?
Sadly not, but a very Gotham like figure looking down from the Chicago Board of Trade building
decided that since I was in Chicago and still had some time, I might as well go up the other tall building there, the John Hancock tower, in for a penny etc. This was located further north up Michigan Avenue and the walk up was great as yet again there were more examples of the great architecture of the 1920/30s on display in the Michigan-Whacker Historic district. The Tribune building was fantastic and really gave the city a cool gothic feel. I made it to the Hancock tower and enjoyed more views over the city and lake and then realised I was a bit tired from all my exertions so headed back to the hotel for a little rest before the evening’s entertainment.
So to complete my hat-trick of popular North American sports, I needed to take in a baseball game (just like Ferris did on his day off too) and luckily the White Sox were playing that evening. Meeting up with some colleagues who were actually doing some work that day, we all headed out to the stadium. I had asked one colleague what you need to do at a ball game and the reply was ‘drink beer
Wayne Enterprises Headquarters
For all you Batman buffs out there, for the normal folk among you, it is really The Chicago Board of Trade
and complain’ so I thought it wouldn’t be too hard. Of course I was insisting on referring to it as ‘Rounders’ to annoy the colonies and loudly compared it to cricket for a while. Still, once I got in to the swing of it (get it?) it was quite good fun, I’m not sure why they traditionally eat peanuts but the shells were everywhere and of course I had a nice and healthy hot dog. Game over, the Sox had won and I’d even seen quite a few home runs, so in all, not a bad end to the day.
So for one day off I think I managed to fit in quite a lot, I love Chicago and would love to go back to spend more time, think I’ll stay clear of it in the winter though, it might be a little chilly..
Still, the fun didn’t quite end there, the next morning it was time to head out to Minnesota for some actual work, well, we did have an afternoon on a pedal pub in St Paul, so there was some more fun to be had.
Finally I have to say a big thank you to
Under the Loop
I just loved the Loop train, I hope they never get rid of it.
my friend Gwen who put me up on Friday night before I came home. Having quit work last year and retrained as a chef, she designed me a special dish using the tasty Mary Kitchen Corned Beef Hash I’m so fond of. The MK Special was delicious and kept me going all the way home, thanks Gwen!
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