Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Falling in Love with the Second City

Growing up in the shadow of man-made mountains, I never realized that most kids don't go to Broadway plays or museum exhibits practically every week. It wasn't until high school that I discovered even the kids from my hometown didn't spend their summers exploring the ethnic neighborhoods, swimming in the largest of the Great Lakes or cheering on the Boys in Black.

A few weeks ago when my best friend from Idaho met me in Chicago for vacation, I wanted to help her fall in love with my favorite city in the world. There was only one slight problem: I've had almost thirty years to explore Chi-Town, and Tammy only had six days.

Day One: Home Sweet Home

After landing and meeting up at the airport with many hugs and much giggling (yes, I giggle), Tammy and I met up with my family at Protillo's, the best greasy Italian beef around—and their chocolate cake shakes aren't bad either. We then drove around my hometown to show Tammy where I went to school (it was homecoming weekend, so we saw everyone leaving the powder puff game), all the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings along tree-lined streets, the library where I spent the majority of my free time, and the old downtown area, complete with riverboat casino and the last theater Frank Sinatra preformed in before his death.

Day Two: Bookends

We started off the day with an L ride up to the Newberry Library. Though I've walked past it many times, this was the first time I had ever been in the library built by the man who founded the American Library Association and has the highest honor in children's writing named after him. We then walked down the Magnificent Mile and saw one of the only buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Of course, sampling Chicago's famous stuffed pizza and taking pictures of Cloud Gate (more commonly known as "The Bean") are must-do tourist activities. We then ended our day chilling at the Harold Washington Library, which was—at the time of its completions—the largest public library in the world.

Day Three: Faith and Family

Saturday morning we headed to the LDS temple in the morning with my mom. The grounds are always so peaceful and beautiful, and this particular temple has a lot of meaning to me personally. We also ran into some old friends of my parents who knew them BC (Before Children), which was kind of cool. Back at my sister's house, her boyfriend Tom was getting ready to leave for a month of Army training in Germany. We ate lunch and played some card games until he had to go. While Tom will only be gone for a little while, his trip to Germany is in preparation for deployment to the Middle East next year. Not an easy afternoon of good-byes.

Day Four: Hyde Park

This had to be the most beautiful day of the entire trip. We didn't spend anywhere near enough time browsing the local bookstores, but we did spend a few hours learning the history of the written word in the Oriental Museum. They were setting up for a wedding at the Rockefeller Chapel, and a few knights in shining armor were practicing their sward skills on Quad of the University of Chicago. After walking around the Museum of Science and Industry and discussing the Columbian Exposition that took place there in 1893, we enjoyed the perfect weather along the lakefront. To cap off a pretty perfect day, we had dinner with my middle school English teacher, who, after all these years, is still correcting my grammar.

Day Five: View from the Top

What does the world look like from the top? Very small. The Willis Tower—nope, I just can't do it. The Sears Tower is not my favorite tourist stop in Chicago, but we did start off the day walking through Grant Park, where we strolled the Museum Campus and enjoyed the cooling spray of the water at Buckingham Fountain. The gardens were still a bit of a mess from the Chicago Marathon the day before, we everything was still in bloom. We also caught a bit of the Columbus Day Parade, and I stopped by my favorite paintings at the Art Institute. Then we traveled up to catch a glimpse of four states on Skydeck before hopping on the L to Old Town where Second City performs. I've seen the troupe several times, but as improve mandates, no show is ever the same.

Day Six: Boat Ride

The Wendella Boat Tours have been a staple of family activities for years, and no matter how often I do it, I always have fun. It's the perfect view of my favorite city. After five days of non-stop touring, we headed back to my parent's house for a not-so-quiet dinner with my high-school best friend and her family. (I love it when my worlds collide like that.) It doesn't seem to matter how far away I live or how long I've been gone, but dinner at my mom's table always feels like home.

Honestly, I already miss Chicago—especially my family. But I'm also glad to be back in DC. My heart might reside in a few places across the country, yet I'm always glad to come home again.

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