It’s been a while since our Chicago trip at the end of September 2017, but an update now is better late than never. What seemed like the optimal time of year for a visit turned out to be quite hot during an unforeseen heatwave. Despite packing only one pair of shorts each, we had an excellent time.
Chicago wasn’t our only destination. First, we drove to South Bend, Indiana- home of the University of Notre Dame, where Mike went to college. On the way, we stopped by 3 Floyd’s Brewing in Munster, IN. The food was pretty amazing. We ordered cheese curds and housemade jerky.
South Bend seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere. I think that’s because it really is. It’s really a cute town (the South Bend Chocolate Company and their Farmer’s Market were excellent) and the Notre Dame Campus was even more beautiful than I imaged.
There was something we realized while planning this trip. We jointly appreciate low-key, quiet settings with the freedom to make your own schedule. That’s why we decided to visit on an away game weekend, which left the campus quiet and serene. We stayed on campus at the Morris Inn, something we couldn’t have done on a home game weekend. We ate dinner at Rohr’s, the hotel restaurant and home of Murph, the bartender. Through the years the restaurant has changed names but is still referred to as “Murph’s” by many adoring Irish.
The next day we took a morning stroll around campus where Mike was able to show me how and where he spent the four years of his college life. We visited the basilica, the grotto, Mike’s dorm, the Student Center, the main building (Golden Dome), and the giant library, featuring the “Touchdown Jesus” mural. The abundant yellow brick and distinguished architecture make the small campus seem cohesive and timeless. I loved seeing the secret places a young Mike once contemplated the wonders of life. One of my favorite parts of the campus was the statue of the Virgin Mary atop the Golden Dome. A statue of Jesus, with outstretched arms, stands below on the green. Seeming like a staged trust fall, I learned this pair is called “Jump, Mama, jump!”
Later, we headed back to Chicago to check in at the Palmer House, a few blocks away from Millennium Park. We had dinner at Xoco, a Rick Bayliss restaurant. We had the pozole and vegetable soup and saw the man himself, Rick Bayless, in full chef coat, walking through the restaurant. It was legit.
We started the next day with Do-Rite Donuts before meeting up with a friend of mine from middle and high school who is now teaching history at Northwestern University. He ended up giving us quite an amazing tour of Chicago history and architecture. We saw what was once used as the storefront for Duncan’s Toy Chest in Home Alone 2, learned about the origin of Chicago trade, visited the Bean/Millennium Park, went to a historic Macy’s, and ate the “Chicago Fire” deep-dish pizza at Gino’s East. There are so many cool things about Chicago, I definitely recommend learning more about the city.
After our unofficial tour, we wandered around Navy Pier, Buckingham Fountain, and then had drinks on the second-floor lounge of the Chicago Athletic Association (highly recommended for a quiet, cool spot).
We ended the day with a trip to the top of the (formally) tallest building in the US, Willis Tower. The One World Trade Center now stands a bit taller. I’m really glad we did it, although it felt like an amusement park with the lines and photos ops in front of a green screen. It was an amazing view and opportunity to stand in a glass box over 1,450 feet of nothing. What a great thing to do…once. I’ll always remember the guy waiting in line telling his children, “This is one of the seven wonders of the world.”
For the next and final full day in Chicago, the heat drove us indoors to the museums. You can really spend all day at The Field Museum (natural history) or The Art Institute of Chicago. We tried to do both in one day. It was great but felt a bit rushed. We still made time for some Ferriss Bueller moments.
The next morning we were up bright and early. We had our final Intelligentsia Coffee and high-tailed it out of there.
I’m not rushing to return to Chicago any time soon, but it was really cool to see such a large, diverse city full of culture.