Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Chi-Town Challenge

A few weeks ago, my friend Kate and I were discussing her upcoming business trip to Chicago. Kate's attending a conference in Chicago for work, and had taken a few days off following the conference's conclusion for a little me time in a new place! Kate was feeling a little sad panda about going to a new place alone, and exploring a new city solo. Traveling is always so much more fun with a companion and it got me thinking, why can't I go with Kate? 

Kate and I at her smashing Birthday party this year
I have the vacation time, I don't have extra responsibilities at home (a-hem baby Noels), and if it's cool with my Mr., why shouldn't I go cure some wanderlust with my friend?!

Ecard you script my life
After doing some brief research, I discovered flights were crazy cheap, and my urge to be utterly spontaneous was increasingly with ferocious intensity. I really wanted to go on this trip! After work that Friday, I chatted with my husband and he gave me the all clear, That sounds like a fun opportunity for you, you should go! WHOA. Really? Before either party involved could change their mind, I booked my ticket. SNAP! I'm going to Chicago. This all transpired within about 6 hours.

LKB = L.K. Bennett (be still my heart)
At this stage, I had already invented the Chi Town Challenge which Kate references in her text. I am that Type A, goal oriented, gotta get to werkin on somethin type person errrbody loves (F em Elle says Mr. Noel). Kate and I both have a goal to reach for this trip. Mine is very simply, to look and feel my best. After a really rough summer, and allowing my amenorrhea dianosis to get me down, I could not be happier about having this goal to work towards. I refuse to focus anymore energy into situations in which I have no control. Hence, how I got my positive energy rolling back in the right direction.

Kate and I are looking forward to all things tacky tourist, additionally, I have a half marathon to run (full training) while in Chicago. I'm gonna give myself a Chi town tour on foot! I'm incredibly excited about this aspect of my trip as well. I have well and truly crossed over to the dark side muahahaha

My questions for you: 
What are places we must see? 
What activities must we do?
Where must we eat?
Where must we shop?
Runners, where should I plan my route?

Email me

Daily Motivator


  1. You MUST eat at Mercadito (modern mexican). There are a lot of fun bars right in that area (River North) so that is the perfect place to eat/drink without having to take any cabs. For pizza I definitely recommend Piece in Wicker Park. Ive never been, but everyone raves about RPM (owned by Guiliana/Bill Rancic) also in River North. There is an interactive drinking game comedy show called "Bye Bye Liver" supposed to be a great time :) Have a blast!!

  2. Long-time reader but seldom commenter, here! Fangirl alert-- I absolutely love your blog and are excited about your upcoming trip to Chi-town, the best city in the midwest that I have lovingly adopted as my home!

    DO/SEE: Go on an architectural boat tour (sounds lame but is a good way to learn a lot and see a lot along the river-- Wendella is the tour company that I went on), visit the bean in Millennium Park (perfect for gratuitous selfies), and Shedd Aquarium is really cool (but get there EARLY... like right when it opens... if you want to avoid waiting in a huge line). Also, check Groupon for fun and cheap activity packages where you might find something a little different to try (Segway tours, etc.).

    SHOP: Walk and shop around Michigan Avenue and State Street (pro tip: State St. has many of the same [affordable] stores as Michigan but significantly less tourists! Anthro, Nordstrom Rack, etc.). There's a really cute and unique shopping area in Lincoln Park too-- Armitage Ave (right off the Armitage Brown line) has some really cute boutiques, an awesome shoe store, and a Francescas.

    EAT: Girl and the Goat is freakin' awesome food by Top Chef winner, Stephanie Izard... though you gotta make a reservation like 2-3 months out. Little Goat is her diner that's easier to get into in a pinch! Central Standard is one of my favorite restaurants thought it doesn't get near enough credit as the higher profile places. RPM Italian if you wanna maybe catch a celeb sighting (owned by Giuliana and Bill Rancic). Cafe Iberico is so NOT a touristy restaurant, but it's awesome and authentic Spanish tapas and cheapy sangria. Yolk is a great place for brunch. Visit Portillos for an authentic Chicago hotdog (if you ask for ketchup they'll give you the stinkeye), and Lou Malnati's is the best deep dish pizza and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. There are 328938 other places I'm neglecting. OpenTable is the easiest app to find/make reservations!

    RUN: Lakeshore Path, but get there earlyish (before 10am)! I personally run on the LSP on the North Side (of downtown). It's a great way to pound out long distances, and the crowd thins out north of Fullerton Beach. BONUS: Drinking fountains errwhere.

    Sorry for writing a novel, I just love this dang city and hope people who visit love it too :)

  3. Love Chicago! My BFF and I are going first part of November. So much to see, eat, drink, and shop. And you have to run along Lake Shore Drive. I could rattle on and on about all the places you need to hit.

  4. Um I am SO freaking jealous. You get to explore and RUN through the windy city!? I've heard its nothing but BEAUTIFUL!!!!

  5. I <3 Chicago! Have a great time!!

  6. I dont even know if it's still open (ok scratch that - I googled it) and this is the best food in chicago - it's called Emilio's and I grew up in Chicago until I was 10 and then my Dad moved back when I was like 18 - and lived there for awhile...he passed away in 2010 and this was our restaurant, Im talking - I can remember going to the Hillside location when I had just finished a ballet recital at 5 years is hands down the best tapas you will find anywhere and Ive tried lots (I was born in Spain) - if you guys like this kind of food check it out - the Ohio Street location is downtown :)

  7. I live in Chicago, and absolutely love it! Running, you MUST run along the lake. I would start around navy pier and depending how far you need to go up to Lincoln Park. There is a very well paved path all along. Also, you MUST run through Lincoln Park. It is gorgeous, so many people, trails, etc. If you are up for it, you should look up CARA (Chicago area runners association) and find a run club. I travel a lot so i just go to random ones whenever I can. The people will LOVE to show you around, tell you places to go, plus who wants to run 10 miles alone? I'm sure you will get millions of recommendations for restaurants, etc. but you MUST go to Publican, if you like meat. It is in an old barn. AND AMAZING. Feel free to email me with any questions. I have only lived here for a year and a half so i still play tourist all the time!

  8. Eek! Have SUCH a great time! Chicago is a MUST visit for me sometime in 2014. It's only about a 5 hour drive from me!!!

  9. I LOVE Chicago! I went there in May for work and ran through downtown and then on the path by the lake. I don't know what area of downtown it was, but it was by the Art Institute. I think my favorite restaurant was Big Bowl -- super fresh ingredients (and really good ginger cocktails). When I was there for my sister-in-law's bachelorette party, we spent an entire day drinking/eating on the Westin patio -- and that was super fun. :) Enjoy!

  10. Go to Gino's East for deep dish pizza. Address is 633 N Wells St. No matter how starved you are get the smallest size. When my hubby and I went a couple years ago (when we ate whatever we wanted and didn't care) we still could only eat one slice each! 45 minute wait because it takes that long to bake, but well worth it. Also, go to Ed Debivic's a 50's style diner which is so much fun. I took this off their website: "Ed Debevic’s, since 1984, has been Chicago’s only retro themed diner. Quirky servers in flashy costumes serve up great burgers, hot dogs, homemade chili, fries with gravy or cheese, huge salads, milkshakes, and ice cream sundaes with a side order of sass! Don’t expect this diner to be a “Please” and “thankyou, sir” kind of place. The servers pride themselves on snarky remarks and even drop their trays to do choreographed dance numbers on the soda counters!" It is at 640 N Wells St.

    Also, I second Millennium Park and "The Bean", Navy Pier, Shedd Aquarium, and The Field Museum (has Sue the only full T-Rex set of real dinosaur bones and the piano from the movie "Big"). Lots more to see if you have time!! Run by Soldier Field too. Go Bears!

  11. Deep dish pizza is a must! I went to Giordano's and loved it! Edzo's Burger Shop is also good, cheap and casual. Since you're a popcorn loving gal you have to to Garrett Popcorn Shops, it's the best!! I get it every time I go!

    As far as touristy things, I highly enjoy going on boat tours, great way to see the city. And if you're aren't afraid of heights the Willis (Sears) Tower is awesome. It has those glass boxes that you can walk out into and look down below you. One of the coolest things I have ever done!

    Hope you have a great trip!

  12. Deep Dish Pizza at Lou Malnati's is amazing!!

  13. I love, love, LOVE Chicago. My favorite restuarant is Frontera Grille, owned by Rick Bayless. One of the best Mexican restuarants I have ever been to. I also really enjoyed the Billy Goat Tavern (in Second City, the Cheezeburger, Cheezeburger SNL skit restaurant). The food is nothing really special, but I loved the history and the SNL connection. Deep dish pizza everywhere I've tried is fabulous. So wonderful.

    If you find yourself drunk in the middle of the night and in Lincoln Park, try a Chicago dog from The Weiner Circle. It's an experience, the staff is loud and rude and lots of fun. Plus it's a good dog. Ann Sather is a Swedish diner/ local chain and is wonderful for breakfast. The cinnamon rolls are to. die. for.

    When I went we got bus passes and rode them all over town. It was much cheaper than cabbing it and I think there is an app for the phone to get routes and times. I loved the architecture boat tour, Michigan Avenue shopping (Vosges chocolates are awesome), the House of Blues (yeah, touristy I know, sue me, I'm from WV), and the Lincoln Park Zoo. It's not huge but it's free and you just walk in and hello, animals! Oh and Wrigley Field. Very cool!

    I could go on and on about how much I love Chicago. Have a great time!

  14. Whenever I go to Chicago, I have to eat at Gyu Kaku, or as my BF and I call it- Guy Cock because we are obnoxious. Its a Japanese BBQ. They bring you raw meat, and you cook it on a grill in the middle of your table. It's delicious, and they have lots of options even if you aren't feeling carnivorous.

    And Violet Hour for drinks. You get dropped off at this corner and you see nothing at all, but there is a hidden handle on this wall. You go inside and its like a different world!

    I also second Emilio's Tapas (ah-mazing sangria, and across the street from Gyu Kaku). Girl and the Goat is also really good. I never thought I'd say I ate pig face or duck tongue and enjoyed it, but I did! They have lots of crazy things on the menu!

  15. The Museaum of Science & Industry - sounds lame, but it's awesome. Eat deep dish pizza at Giordano's! And shop the Magnificent Mile, of course!

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