Chicago…My Kind of Town (Part 3)

We’re in the home stretch! Welcome to Part 3 of Melisa’s Excellent Adventure. If you didn’t read Part 1 and Part 2 yet, go ahead. I’ll wait.

After lunch, I put on more sunscreen before heading out. By the way, I forgot to mention the weather beyond the forecast of scattered thunderstorms. It did not rain AT ALL, all day, from the time I walked to the train station until the walk home. I was amazed, and happy. I was also very hot: it was 90 degrees (no exaggeration, though I know you were wondering if I was!). I was sweating like crazy about ten minutes after I stepped out of Union Station. But I was happier dealing with the heat than pouring rain.

Anyway, after the Billy Goat Tavern, I had to go back south on Michigan Avenue, so I crossed the bridge over the river again. I love this photo:


The corner of Wacker and Michigan is the exact spot where Fort Dearborn was located. Fort Dearborn was there before Chicago was, as the westernmost military garrison of its time. You can click here to read up on the history, but to make a long story short, Fort Dearborn met its demise during the War of 1812 in the creatively named Fort Dearborn Massacre. All that’s left to mark the spot are plates that are embedded in the sidewalks all around this intersection, and a plaque on the building at 360 North Michigan Avenue.


Heading further south on Michigan, I passed a building whose design I love: the Carbide and Carbon Building, known to Chicagoans now as the Hard Rock Hotel. I adore the Art Deco style, and there is no shortage of it in this town. The Hard Rock is a great example:


Still further south, I reached Millennium Park. I downloaded the Millennium Park Audio Tour to my iPod (it’s available on the MP website, where you can also read everything there is to know about the park and what goes on there) and got to learn all about the different features of the park. I have been there several times over the past few years since the city turned that waste of a piece of land into this beautiful oasis, but I didn’t know the stories behind each feature. Some of the more outstanding features are the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a wonderful outdoor performing arts “theater”, which is absolutely gorgeous:



…the BP Bridge, a winding, snake-like wooden bridge whose outsides look like metal scales. The BP Bridge connects Millennium Park to Daley Bicentennial Plaza:



…the Lurie Garden, which is protected on two sides by evergreens (symbolizing one of Chicago’s nicknames: The City of Big Shoulders) and is just lovely to walk through, right in the middle of downtown:


…probably the best-known feature of Millennium Park is the sculpture called Cloud Gate, or as we locals refer to it, The Bean.


As I was walking around it, trying to find a nice angle from which I could take some pictures, I was annoyed by all of the people who were UNDER the Bean. I was mumbling to myself, “Get out from under there, people! What are you doing??” Then, the narrator on my audio tour said that I should make sure to go under the sculpture and take a look. I’m glad I did! Look what I saw:


Last stop in Millennium Park? The kids’ favorite, and mine too on this 90-degree day: The Crown Fountain. The Crown Fountain is, to use the website’s description because I’m feeling lazy, “consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images from a broad social spectrum of Chicago citizens, a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out. Plensa (the artist) adapted this practice by having faces of Chicago citizens projected on LED screens and having water flow through a water outlet in the screen to give the illusion of water spouting from their mouths. The collection of faces, Plensa’s tribute to Chicagoans, was taken from a cross-section of 1,000 residents.”




Every five minutes, the faces purse their lips; that’s how the kids can tell that water is getting ready to spray out of their “mouths”.


My video (the first one) isn’t so great in quality, but it is what it is. The second one is video that I (again) found on Youtube, which gives you an excellent view of the fountain at night.

After swishing my arms around in the fountain’s spray to cool off for a few minutes, it was time to go to the Art Institute. Yay! I was very excited.


I saw Picasso there:


I saw Seurat there:


I saw Hopper there:


…and I absolutely was thrilled to see all of those, but what I really wanted to see was “American Gothic” by Grant Wood. And by golly, there it was. I swooned at the sight of it.


What is truly art? That is a question for all time. Of course, everyone’s idea of it is different. In the Modern Art galleries, I saw a few pieces of “art” that I wasn’t sure about. What do you think? Click on the photos of the descriptions that go with each one (they’ll be easier to read!) and think about it for a minute.

First, there was the screen of gold beads hanging in the entrance to the Modern galleries. At first I just thought it was a screen of gold beads, but when I pushed through them and looked at the wall next to them on the other side, I found out that they ARE art:



I also came across a stack of paper with a spotlight on it. That is art, too! And I was supposed to take a piece with me! But I didn’t, because I felt ridiculous.


Then, I saw a big pile of candy in the corner. I giggled to myself and was all cynical as I walked up to the description on the wall. Then I stopped giggling. Hmmm. This IS art. (to me) I was touched by the artist’s intention. That’s what art is supposed to do, right? So I indulged the artist and took a piece of candy wrapped in bright pink. I unwrapped it, put the candy in my mouth and had a moment of silence for his late partner.


I was at the Art Institute for almost two hours, and figured it’d be prudent to get on my way, but not before I had a look at the Thorne Miniature Rooms.


They reminded me of my favorite feature at the Museum of Science & Industry, Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, but they weren’t as fun to look at.

As I said goodbye to the lions outside, I made my way to a Free Trolley Stop. Although it’s a pain to wait for a free trolley because for the most part they don’t arrive every 20 minutes like the sign says and they are usually packed to the gills, it’s free, people. I’m willing to put up with it.

While I was waiting for the trolley in front of 225 S. Michigan, I felt someone watching me, so I looked up:


How random, right? I have no idea why Homer and his crew were up there.

I took the trolley all the way up to the other end of the Magnificent Mile (how many times did I cross the Michigan Avenue bridge, anyway??? Sheesh!) to hit the Chicago Water Works Information Center to get a bagload of brochures on Chicago attractions, for some research I’m doing. The Info Center is located in the old Water Tower Pumping Station, and is also the location of Hot Tix, where you can get half-price tickets to Chicago shows on the same day.

After I filled up my bag with reading material, I headed back outside and took some more photos. Here is Water Tower Place, which is an upscale shopping center (it’s on the edge of the Gold Coast, after all!), and there’s the John Hancock building right behind it:


Here is the original Chicago Water Tower. The Water Tower and the Pumping Station were the only buildings that survived the Great Chicago Fire in 1871:


Goodbye, Sweet Sweet Free Trolley! Thanks for the lift!


Speaking of Sweet Sweet, I had to partake in another Chicago tradition on the way home. I had to get caramel corn. There are two main caramel corn establishments in Chicago: Garrett’s and Nuts On Clark. In an unscientific study that took place only in my head, I will tell you that most Chicagoans prefer Garrett’s. However, I enjoy both brands immensely and since Nuts On Clark is located in Union Station, I choose that one almost every time. I was a good girl and only had a few bites on the train; after dinner I snarfed most of it, though:


So, I ended my day with a slow walk home from the train. I jumped in the car to go pick Roxie up from her day at Petsmart, and then went home to shower and eat dinner. I knew I would have a great day, but it was so much better than I could have hoped that I can’t even express it…

…which puts me in the mood for a contest! The prize? Two Art Institute magnets and a small assortment of candy that is made in Chicagoland: Tootsie Rolls, Lemonheads, and Dots. Here are the magnets:

And here is the candy (and yes, the Lemonheads and Dots are Movie Theater-sized, people!)

What do you have to do to win? Well, I had a wonderful, fun, and educational day in my hometown. I have always been able to recommend Chicago-area activities to visitors, but now I have increased my repertoire. What about your hometown? What activities would you recommend to a visitor? Leave a comment telling me your hometown (and you obviously don’t have to still be living there, AND if you are a Chicagoan you can still enter!) as well as two or three places that are “can’t-miss” in your book. One or two lines about each place would be great. Don’t forget to leave your e-mail address; if you don’t want to leave it in a comment you can click “E-mail me” over there on the left and send me a copy of your comment. If I can’t get in touch with the winner by July 10, I’ll have to choose another person. I will choose the winner by random number generator (if you have more than one hometown, enter again!), and you’ve got until midnight on Wednesday–that’s July 2–to enter. Good luck!

And Good Night!!


  • Piper of Love

    Awesome post there Melisa! I’ve been to Chicago, and I LOVED it! I hope to go back someday.

    OKC is my hometown, if you’ve never been here then you might be surprised by how neat it actually is. There’s wonderful museums, including the Cowboy Hall of Fame, which hosts the world reknowned Pri de West each year. Also, you should visit the bombing memorial. It’s very touching. Oklahoma also has amazing state parks, full of waterfalls and creeks, lakes and fun! Plus, I’ll buy you some drinks in Bricktown while we float on the canal. Oh, it will be so fun!

    My heart belongs in Jackson Hole, however. I’m an Okie born and raised, but I made my home in Jackson as an adult. The things to see there are endless… where shall I begin?

    Great fun Melisa, great post!

  • Half-Past Kissin' Time

    I love Chicago! Millenium Park is my favorite; especially The Bean. Looks like you are having a GREAT time!

  • nukedad

    “The Bean” is the most beautiful representation of a stainless steel & chrome inverted bedpan that I have ever seen! How much did that cost you taxpayers? 😉

  • Michelle

    Alright, first you didn’t get Garretts (see, she really meant it when she said Chicagoans mostly prefer it) AND you didn’t get cheese? I’m appalled.

    Sadly, I didn’t know that the Bean had another name. I learned something new today, thanks!

    My hometown things to do:

    Chicago — you took my favorite architectural tour, BUT … there’s still Second City which is a ton of fun (and makes for a great first date). There are so many festivals and street fairs every weekend during the summer, that it’s hard to pick a favorite. I do really like the Lincoln Square one (and it’s coming up). If you go, you HAVE to stop at Cafe Sel Marie! And of course, there’s the Taste that started today.

  • Michelle

    Oh, and in Fox River Grove, they have a really cool ski jump competition twice a year — June and winter (January? February?) where the have smaller jumps on Saturday and real people (like Olympic qualifier type people) on Sunday. It’s way cool, and a totally inexpensive event.

  • Anissa Mayhew

    The last time I was in Chicago I was about 7…I wanted ice cream, that was all I remember about it. I wish I’d appreciated the history, art, the glorious city sprawl the way you have. But I did enjoy the ice cream, i remember that. I will definitely have to put Chicago on my to-do list the next time I’m home in the midwest and close enough to make a stop. I could print off your posts as a fabulous tour guide book!

    Thanks for sharing and I adored the pictures of the pieces of history in the wall of the Freedom Museum, that is COOL!


  • Sue

    OK, 1st, I can’t believe that you did that all in one day! 2nd, that face fountain thing is so cool! and 3rd, when I was in Chicago for a wedding, the Taste was going on and it was awesome!
    The town where I have lived for the past 18 years is Chatham, MA.
    *You can walk downtown and enjoy all the cute shops.
    *Hit the Squire for a beverage (and something to eat, I suppose).
    *Chatham Bars Inn is the most regal fancy hotel in town. They have 1 room there that is over $1000 a night.
    *The Chatham Fish Pier is the place to go to watch the fishermen unload their catch for the day.
    *The Chatham A’s baseball team is part of the Cape league of hot, young college players.

    Maybe I will have to do something like your tour of Chicago for some of my favorite Cape towns, hmmm that would be quite a few blog entries!

  • angie goff

    I’m going to Chi-town next month and now MUST hit Millenium Park! That pile of candy looks like a crock of know… when it comes to saying it’s art.

    On the candy note… thank goodness for TWITTER- I got your alert about the contest and look forward to sending in my submission!

    Anything for DOTS!

  • Melisa

    Piper: Thanks! I was excited to read about OK; I’ve never been there before. Drinks in Bricktown sounds awesome! 🙂

    Half Past: You have no idea!! 🙂

    Nukedad: I just did a minute of research at the source for all accurate knowledge (Wiki of course) and found this for you:

    The piece (Cloud Gate) was privately funded and the total cost was $23 million, which was considerably more than the original estimate of $6 million.

    So although it was a crapload of money, the taxpayers didn’t pay for it AND it helped to make Millennium Park one of the top tourist attractions in Chicago…

    Michelle: Thanks for validating my unofficial survey! 🙂 And to be honest, I really don’t like cheese corn BUT Garrett’s is phenomenal. I would only get it in the mix of caramel corn and cheese corn, though! 🙂 Second City is on my to-do list!

    Anissa: I didn’t appreciate ANYTHING when I was 7, even my city! 🙂 Thanks for the nice words. Print away! 🙂

    Sue: It was a jam-packed day, but you’d be amazed at how much you can get done when you don’t have to go back and forth with anyone else about what to do next. I totally think you should do a multi-parter on the Cape; I’d LOVE to read it!

    Angie: I forgot you’re coming here! Well, this will get you started. E-mail me if you want any recommendations for anything like restaurants or any other fun things to do.

  • nukedad

    Jeesh! I was just kidding on the bedpan thing; you didn’t have to go all “Wiki” on me! 😉

  • Melisa

    Nukedad: No, no, no! It was my pleasure: I was curious about it after I read your question. 🙂

    I SHOULD have “gone all Wiki” on your Buzz avatar before I threw that comment out to you though! ha ha That’s what I get for thinking. 😉

  • Dea

    LOVE the pics – are you SUPPOSEd to take pics in the gallery?? 😆 You had a wonderful adventure – I’m impressed at how many places you saw!!! WOOT! You make me want to hit the town!

    As for the entry – I was born in Buffalo – so I’ll recommend places there! First, you MUST hit the Anchor Bar – this is the birth place of the CHICKEN WING!!! Known in other towns as “Buffalo Wings” though, they are simply “chicken wings” in Buffalo! They’re tremendous!

    Another place to hit is the lakefront – they re-did the whole harbor/lakefront of the city, and it’s GORGEOUS!!!

    The Albright Knox gallery was a favorite of my childhood – it has this WONDERFUL clock with music and the apostles come out, and all turn to face Jesus, except Judas, who turns away. Now, I’m not exactly religious – but I adore clockwork mechanisms, and love the humor of the piece.

    When in Buffalo, it’s a fairly short drive to Niagara Falls – ALWAYS worth the trip. On the way there, however, there is this fabulous store we ALWAYS visit. It’s one of those General Store type places, with the penny candy counter, and all of that – I adore this place, one of my fondest memories – Kelly’s Country Store ( My uncle ALWAYs got the horehound, I always got juju coins….:D

    And the top thing in Buffalo is in the burbs of Buffalo – Antoinette’s Sweets and Ice Cream. My mom worked there. They make Sponge Candy and Chocolate Covered Potato Chips. They also make my dad’s favorite – cinnamon ice cream with cinnamon sauce – except it’s not the BROWN cinnamon – it’s the Red Hots-style cinnamon!

    Small sampling – but Buffalo is a great place to visit! 😀

    BTW – I’m not entering the contest, seeing as I already have those magnets 😉

  • Melisa

    Deanna: VERY COOL! I’m going to hit Buffalo right after I go to visit Piper in Oklahoma. 🙂 And by the way, don’t ever say “horehound” again. I hated that. LOL

    Regarding my Art Institute photo taking: out of those paintings that I posted, the Seurat was the first one I saw and it was in a HUGE gallery crawling with people (and a couple of guards). I had not seen the No Flash Photo signs yet and just snapped away without anyone saying anything to me. By the time I got to the others I had seen the sign: the others (the Picasso, the Wood, and the Homer) were taken with no flash; that’s why the quality is only so-so.

    The other “art” (the candy, the paper stack, and the beads), I just took with flash. “Oddly enough” there was no guard in that gallery. Ha ha!

    But I must admit; in the modern furniture gallery there were some Frank Lloyd Wright pieces that I just couldn’t get a good photo of without the flash, so I used the flash. When the guard swooped down on me and said, “No flash photography!” I pulled and “Oops, I know…I forgot to turn it off for that one. Sorry!” (hee hee, I’m so sneaky)

  • KathyLikesPink

    Seeing as how I have lived in this small central Massachusetts town for 15 years I will give you the highlights. (population 2600)

    We have two churches. The catholic church was built in about 1950? And First Parish was first gathered in 1789. This version of the Meeting House was built in 1829; it was remodeled in 1860. The sanctuary was raised to the 2nd floor, so that the ladies society could make bandages for the soldiers during the civil war.

    We have three cemeteries. The most interesting is the Old Burial Ground. People buried there were born in the 1600’s and 1700’s; “residents” include the first minister of the town.

    The highlight of our town 100 years ago was the Balance Rock. It is a very large boulder, balanced on it’s tip on another boulder. Apparently people would come from far and wide to see this. It’s still there, in a cow pasture.

    Every Memorial Day we have a parade, and every veteran either walks or rides in a convertible. Since the number of veterans is dwindling, also marching in the parade are the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and all the kids sports teams.

    We have no retail other than the general store and the hardware store/lumber yard.

    The best thing about living here, is that you know almost everyone. We do not have a newspaper so this is good – you know who is sick, who needs help. And we take care of our own.

  • Mags

    I really need to go to Chicago one day. It looks like such a neat city. The bean is super cool! And the Portrait of Ross is touching and very creative…I’m glad you took a piece.

  • Joeprah

    Holy crap that 100foot tall lady spitting water is awesome. I love Chicago and I have never been there. Seriously, I am Cubs fan for no reason and it would be my sports fantasy to hang out at Wrigley field for one game…now, my hometown.


    Baltimore is a strange sort of town. It may be the most violent and deadly city to live in–in the US, but it certainly has its strong points. There is a huge attraction in the “Inner Harbor” that I would consider a can’t miss section of the town. The Inner Harbor has two pavilions that are filled with unique shops and Baltimore eateries. You can get your jumbo lump crab cakes at Phillips and go right around the corner and see a fudgery where the shop owners serenade you with R&B hits as they make their fudge. The Inner Harbor has many attractions but one that has been long considered a can’t miss attraction is the “National Aquarium.” The Baltimore Aquarium is truly stunning. It has plenty of marine wild life and amazing exhibits that way, but it even has a rain forest. I nerd every time I go there. In addition to all the things you walk through and check out, there is part of the aquarium where you can take in a show. Sometimes it is a live dolphin show or a seal show, but it is always amazing. But what is a town without food? “Little Italy” in Baltimore is for me the food Mecca in the region. There are so many great Italian places to check out. Authentic Italian food from authentic Italian chefs is, for me, a thing of beauty. Also, in the “Little Italy” district of Baltimore are many new upscale construction projects that have brought a ton of new restaurants with different styles and themes. Baltimore has a great harbor that showcases many ships from the past and present, it has a lot of unique shopping and dinning destinations and one of the countries best aquariums. I love downtown Baltimore and I am proud to call it my hometown.

    Give me lemondrops please. 😀

  • Anonymous

    From Dawn

    Sounds like you had a great day in Chicago. I’ll have to refer back to that when we decide to go back up and tour the city!

    My hometown is Chester, WV. Home to the Largest Tea Pot! Woot! It’s a tiny town nestled in the Northern Panhandle right on the Ohio River. Nothing too exciting about the town, but it was a great place to grow up because we could ride our bikes all over town and stay safe. Pittsburgh, PA is 45 minutes Southwest of us (home to the wonderful Steelers!) Also, Homer Laughlin China is in Newell, WV, just a mile down the road. HLC is where Fiestaware is made. The Factory Outlet is a great place to get a steal on the dishes. (Just take a look in my cabinets if you don’t believe me!) LOL

  • Dea

    Melisa – OMG, the HH candies taste like death….ftr – the word ISN’T what ya think 😉

    [1 : a European aromatic mint (Marrubium vulgare) that is naturalized in the U.S., has pubescent leaves and small axillary flowers, has a very bitter taste, and is used as a tonic and anthelmintic]

    STILL tastes like death – like your mouth will NEVER be happy again! lmao

  • Kat

    That was an awesome post. Seriously I so want to jump onto a plane to come for a visit. Sigh

    My hometown is Munich and the must see is the Hofbräuhaus – beer hall since 1644, the English Garden with its Chinese Tower and adjoining lovely beergarden and of course Marienplatz with the Rathaus. I llllloooovvvveeee living here.

  • Linda

    Just how do they keep the grass so green and lush in the Pritzker Pavilion?? And can they plant the same stuff at Soldier Field?

    Does Wheaton count as a hometown? 🙂

  • Melisa

    Kathy: I have never lived in a town that small…I’m not sure if I could do it or not. On one hand, it fascinates me to have a tight community like that, and on the other hand, I can see where that could be a bad thing at times. It sounds pretty; I hope you post some photos sometime!

    Mags: Come on down! I’ll show you around! 🙂

    Joeprah: I had to read your comment about 4 times because as soon as I read the word “Baltimore”, all I could focus on was the miniature Tracy Turnblad in my brain, singing “Good Morrrrning Balllll-timore….” I am loving your love for your town! 🙂 (and I’m loving that you’re a Cubs fan for “no reason”: we can use all the fans we can get!)

    Dawn(di): Don’t forget, the town produced you AND Missy Pillow! LOL
    And I will totally vouch for you on the fact that you have almost as much Fiestaware as the actual factory does. 🙂

    Deanna: LOL, I didn’t THINK that about HH candy; I just don’t like the way that sounds. Good to know it tastes like death. That saves me the 25 cents I’d have to spend to get a stick of it at my local Cracker Barrel! 🙂

    Kat: Uh-huh! Hofbrauhaus ROCKS. I’m getting misty-eyed just thinking about it. “Eins Zwei Zuffa!”

    Linda: Coincidentally (it worked out GREAT for my photos), the lawn at the Pritzker was closed for “refreshing” or something like that. It really was an amazing shade of green! And yes, ANY town is a hometown! Bring it on!

  • KathyLikesPink

    This was not only a great post, but I’m having fun reading the comments and learning about all the other places people are from!

    I doubt I will ever get to Munich, but Baltimore and the Fiestaware Outlet may have to go on my list of places to see!