I can’t believe that it has taken me this long to get this post completed, but it has been a busy summer! I went on my first Chicago vacation in June and this post shares some of the things that I saw and experienced as a first time visitor. Of course I did a lot of the expected things during this Chicago vacation and I loved every minute of it. I am already planning what else I will see and do the next time that I get there.
I did a lot of pre-planning about what I wanted to do there, but didn’t really slot the activities into days. I just tried to fit in as much as I could from my list. I was there only for 4 days, so I didn’t have a lot of time. I literally jam packed each day from morning to night and collapsed in my hotel bed at the end of it all. The weather was fantastic for the majority of the days, but the final day was rainy which didn’t really stop me since I am from Vancouver where it rains a lot.
I traveled with my mom who had meetings and events to attend a lot of the time, so I did a bunch of exploring on my own during my stay and I felt perfectly safe.
I stayed at the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel, which has a fantastic central location. Right across the street there was access to the Chicago Riverwalk, so this was the first stop on the agenda and I grabbed a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants. I ended up walking along the Riverwalk every day several times getting to and from various places. It was a great alternative to walking on the streets. I walked a TON during my visit. I am glad that I packed comfortable shoes.
Millennium Park and Grant Park
As the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel was very central, I walked to these parks several times. I knew I wanted to get a photo at Cloud Gate (The Bean) and Buckingham Fountain, but when I went to The Bean the first time it was crazy busy with people. The next day my mom and I got up super early (5:30am!!) and were able to get great photos without any other tourists. It was well worth the early morning. 🙂
Buckingham Fountain is just stunning and this photo was taken mid afternoon. There were quite a few people but it wasn’t crowded. Look at that amazing blue sky!!
I also had a chance to meet up with a fellow blogger, Vanessa Lambert, while I was there. She took some photos of me at the park and then we went to get a coffee. I love meeting up with people when I am out of town.
While I was there I also had a chance to connect and have brunch at the Soho House with the lovely Jennifer Lake, too. Her blog posts and social media feed provide me with a lot of mural and fashion inspiration.
En route from my hotel to the fabulous shopping areas, I stopped at the Chicago Water Tower. I love the history of this structure and how it looks in the midst of all of the other newer structures. They had a Cards Against Humanity (love this game!!) exhibition there, but I didn’t get in to see it.
I mentioned already that I walked a lot when I was there. That was really how I got around for the most part. Using my hotel as a base, I just went from there. I love walked over all the bridges and looking down the river. The views were amazing.
Another thing that I did was get a pass for Divvy Bikes. It is a bike ride share and was perfect for Chicago with all the trails an paths. I wouldn’t be brave enough to ride them on the busy street though. One day I rode one to Navy Pier, parked and had lunch and then picked up another bike and headed along the waterfront to the North Avenue Beach where I parked the bike and enjoyed the water for a few hours and then I rode to the Lincoln Park Zoo. It was a great day! I highly recommend getting a Divvy Bike pass.
Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel
During my stay in Chicago I was at the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel. I was so happy with how central it was to everything that I wanted to see and how it had a “boutique” hotel vibe.
There were amazing unique art pieces throughout the hotel like this taxi cab (created by Jen Talbot Design) above that is made from 24,000 pencils. She also created this wall made of little plastic people. It was amazing.
Raised, an Urban Rooftop Bar is a bar/restaurant at the hotel that has stunning decor and amazing views down the river. I am sure that you will love it as much as I did.
All around the hotel are nooks with all different types of seating to relax, connect with friends or eat.
The concierge at the hotel was incredibly helpful and I am so glad that I got to know her during my stay. She had recommendations on the best time to see things, how to get there and back, she helped with reservations,etc. I can’t say enough about how much I loved staying there. 🙂
Navy Pier is a Chicago landmark and a great place to visit. I ate there one evening on an outdoor patio, which was a great way to beat the Chicago heat and humidity (which I wasn’t used to). I didn’t go for a ride on the ferris wheel, but I will try to check that off my list on my next Chicago vacation.
River and Lake Cruise
One afternoon I went on a river and lake cruise with Mercury Cruises and I am so glad that I did. I loved going through the locks, seeing the City from Lake Michigan, and the captivating architectural tour down the river. It was also a smoking hot day, so being out of the water was nice.
I really enjoyed listening to the tour guides stores about each building. I don’t think a first trip to Chicago would be complete without this tour. 🙂
I planned out some visits to some of my favourite Chicago murals and I met up with a blogger friend Ali Stone who shot some photos of me (all except the flamingo, which my mom took).
This mural is created by mural artist, Victor Ving, and photographer, Lisa Beggs. They are on a cross-country road trip in a RV creating interactive murals. I have since got photos at similar murals in Seattle and Houston. I’d say it has been a great summer for mural photos for me!
This stunning flamingo mural is outside the Flamingo Rum Club on Wells Street. You can’t miss it!
This stunning mural in Chicago (West Loop neighborhood) is by Pose and it has colours to match any outfit.
This is a mural in Chicago (West Loop/Fulton Market area) by Lauren Asta and it makes the perfect backdrop for a colourful outfit. So many people have commented that they would love to colour it in. It is like a huge colouring page.
The Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel was right across the street from the Chicago Theatre. I couldn’t resist getting a photo by this landmark one evening. My mom had to lay on the ground to get this perspective, but she is like me and will do it for the photo. 🙂
I stopped by one afternoon at the Chicago Skydeck and the line was horrendous, so I went back the next day early in the morning. I think I was in the first group up. The view was stunning and standing in the glass deck area was pretty scary for someone like me that isn’t too fond of heights (or elevator rides)!
I know that was a photo overload but I have so many more that I haven’t shared. I hope you have a great day!
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Bella Bucchiotti of xoxoBella is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for recipes, dogs, sustainability, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.
Bella Bucchiotti is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer for MSN and the Associated Press Wire.