I feel like I know “my city” pretty well. I grew up in the Chicago area, lived within 60 miles of the city my entire life, and went to college in the suburbs, where I now live. I even spent two and a half years commuting to the city for grad school.
When B and I were in college, we spent many a Saturday evening in the city. We’d pack my car with friends and head downtown, park at Moody Bible Institute (what could be safer?), and basically just walk around with no particular destination. Poor college students that we were, we’d usually have about five bucks in our pockets. If we had a little more, we’d splurge on pizza, but if we were short on cash we’d head to a place on Rush Street called Bagel Nosh where we could get a “special” for 75 cents. The special Bagel Nosh was basically a bagel with butter and cinnamon sugar, but it tasted like the food of the gods to us.
Then we grew up, got married, had kids. Life got filled with kid activities and life-in-general. Nowadays we rarely go downtown, which is sad to me. I love the city so much.
A couple of weekends ago my sister came into town. Now, usually when she comes to visit (which isn’t that often . . . ahem) we do the usual Chicago thing—shopping.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to shop with my sister; we have a lot of fun together and we have similar tastes. And I can’t think of a better place to shop than Michigan Avenue—it’s probably one of the best shopping streets in the entire world.But the two days prior to our downtown day were pretty much spent shopping, so we decided to try something we hadn’t done before.
We decided to play tourist.
I’ve been a tourist in lots of cities around the world. I’ve taken bus trips and boat trips and walking tours and bike tours. And each one has been fun, memorable, and interesting.
I know, I know. Some people think taking touristy tours are the ultimate in cheesy. And they might be right. But I can’t think of a better way to cover a lot of ground and learn something along the way than to take a tour of some sort.
So my sister and I decided to take a tour. I had done a little research ahead of time, so I knew where to go, what time the tour would leave, and even which train to take. Believe me, it always pays to do your research.
That morning we threw on sweaters, jeans, and tennis shoes knowing that in doing so we would probably get laughed out of Nordstrom. That was O.K. We weren’t headed to Nordstrom this time.
On that particular Saturday, we were going to take a little ride.
But not on one of these.
Or on one of these.
Although those would have been fun too.
This time we were going to ride bikes. Our family had such a great time on our bike tour of Washington D.C. this summer that I thought it might be fun to do a similar thing right here in Chicago.
(Oh my goodness, look at those shoes! Could they be any more white?!)
The tour was amazing and so was our tour guide, Jarod. He won my heart from the moment we met when he told me he had just graduated from Loyola with a degree in English. My kind of guy.
Our tour was the Bike and Roll Neighborhoods Tour. We started out at the bike center in Millennium Park, right next to the beautiful Pritzker Pavillion.
Our first stop was Navy Pier. If you really want to feel like a tourist in Chicago, head straight to Navy Pier. Do not pass the Shedd Aquarium. Do not stop off at Wrigley Field. Just go straight to Navy Pier, the mecca of Chicago tourism. All we did there was pick up some more riders and then we were off.
Our tour rode straight up the beautiful lakefront, stopping for a second at North Avenue Beach for a photo op.
Then we headed inland through some neighborhoods—the Gold Coast where we saw an early Frank Lloyd Wright home.
Then through Old Town.
And into Lincoln Park, briefly stopping at the zoo, but not taking the time to walk around because it was getting much too cold.
After a couple of hours of riding, we headed back down the lakefront to Navy Pier and then to our original starting point at Millennium Park.
We really wanted to stop somewhere for dinner before we headed back to the suburbs, but did I mention that my sister and I were wearing tennis shoes? I mean, hello?! This is a sophisticated city and our bright, white shoes were really sticking out like sore thumbs.
Major fashion faux pas.
We ended up catching the next train home and eating out here where people don’t care quite as much about the color of your shoes. Still, we made sure we kept our feet hidden under the table.
I have issues, I know.
So, aside from the shoe thing, the day was great. I even learned a thing or two about the city I love so much. And even though it was cold and my poor southern sister was probably freezing her little patooty off, we had a lot of fun.
Next time you’re looking for something different to do when friends or family come to town, do a little research and act like a tourist in your own hometown.