The idea for this vacation (or staycation) came from Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, Happier, that was my go-to way to start Thursday mornings last summer. The “try this at home” tip in episode #15 was something we had never really done after five years of living in Chicago – “Be a tourist in your own city”. Before the episode ended, I had a 50 point list of places or events I wanted to visit or re-visit in Chicago. We did our best to squeeze in some of these during weekends and with every new place we explored we wanted more. So we decided to stay in Chicago for the Labor Day weekend and truly be a tourist in our city. How awesome is this idea? I don’t have to pack, I get to sleep in my own bed, I do not have to go anywhere near an airport or be trapped in the car for hours on end. And yet, I get to experience the excitement of going somewhere new. I don’t know how I got so lucky but Chicago is one of my favorite cities ever. My husband on the other hand, wasn’t the biggest fan of the city (especially living in the city) until our summer adventures made him see the city in new light. This is, of course, a strictly summertime love affair – I don’t predict his new found love to make it past the brutal Chicago winter and the lake effect snow. As I write this, a bitterly cold “arctic blast” is headed our way so I’m enjoying this opportunity to go back and remember the awesome summer we had. There were so many highlights – here are a few of them. Hope you enjoy reading this and remember that summer is never too far away!
Music in the Park
Anyone who knows me well knows my deep appreciation for music. Any music, any genre, any country, any style – To me, all music is sacred and worthy of love and respect. We caught a number of wonderful music acts in free concerts at the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. At the Chicago Jazz Festival, we watched New Orleans pianist and singer Henry Butler, gypsy jazz singer Cyrille Aimée and the Muhal Richard Abrams experimental band. At the end of the Jazz festival we saw signs for the World Music festival – something we’ve never checked out before. I am kicking myself for the years of missing this WONDERFUL event but I am so grateful we made it a point to attend almost all the Millennium Park concerts this time. Watching the crowds going wild over legendary Ethiopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed and being emotionally overwhelmed (music can do that to me a lot) by Indian Violin maestro Dr. L. Subramaniam’s stunning concert will be memories I’ll forever cherish.
Early in the summer we visited the Lincoln Park conservatory, a free conservatory and botanical garden in Lincoln Park. This led us to check out the Garfield Park Conservatory which is incidentally, one of the largest greenhouse conservatories in the United States. I loved the fabulous Palm house, the Chihuly installation I recognized from my travels to Seattle and the Monet Garden (an adaption of Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, France).
One of my favorite things to do is to find new view points from where I can see a different side of the city’s skyline. I love finding new walking routes and as I’ve said many times over on this blog – I am a fan of big, beautiful parks. So when I kept reading about a certain Milton Lee Olive park on Trip Advisor, I was intrigued. I don’t know how I missed this beautiful little spot. It is one of the prettiest views of Chicago’s skyline. I am glad to have found out about it finally!
New Favorite Restaurants
A big part of a vacation is eating out at new restaurants and trying foods that expand your taste buds. While we love eating out on vacations, we have a pretty lousy track record of picking new places to eat in Chicago. We’re guilty of either ordering the most uninspired takeout food or going back to the same restaurant to eat the same thing. We decided to change that up this summer and made an effort to try a new place every time we ate out. My top pick from all the restaurants we checked out last summer is Antique Taco in Wicker Park. Their potato and poblano taco was a flavor explosion. PK’s pick is Girl and the Goat.
My takeaway from this summer experiment is to not let the need for comfort and familiarity take over my routine. Every now and then it pays to try something brand new – it gives you an opportunity to truly get away, even if it just for the duration of a concert, outing or dinner. Hope you will try this at home too!