Chicago at Christmas

Thursday, December 20, 2018
 My friend Kelly had some extra airline vouchers to use up and she asked me if I was interested in going to Chicago for the weekend to check out their Christmas.  I'm always up for an adventure.  I went to Chicago several years back during the summer (in the middle of a longer trip), but I can't say I really explored the city.  Let me just say, while half of my friends were posting from NYC, and the other were posting about their elves, Chicago has some (not so hidden) Christmas charm that is not to be missed.  I LOVED seeing Chicago at Christmas time and it far exceeded my expectations for what I would find!  Starting with the (above) airport. 
 I sat next to a lady who was a native to the land of Chicago, and she gave me some great advice, including pizza at Giordano's.  I had deep dish last time I was there as well, but I don't remember it being this excellent.  We were in a full restaurant at 11, and closed the place down.  I don't even understand how they make this so different and so delicious this was, but Kelly claims it was her favorite part of the whole trip and posting the picture made my mouth water. 
 We stayed at the Drake, beautiful decor, prime locations, and swanky rooms overlooking Michigan Ave didn't disappoint. Again, we got a steal of a deal (less than 200).  We debated several different locations, but this was a great choice.  It is listed an one of the historical hotels in America, which I always trying to explore when given the chance! 
Saturday we got up and we headed out to The Little Goat.  We were able to make a reservation in advance.  It was a super cute restaurant with a fun menu. 
 It's breakfast meets Asia with some funky flavors to try out. 
 After breakfast, we headed to the Christkindl Market.  It's the 'original' German market set that has sort of spread this tradition to other cities, but this is apparently the place to be....and all the people came. 
It opened at 11, and I heard some people talking about how it was better to come early b/c it was wall to wall people later.  We had the opposite experience.  We swung through later as well and it wasn't nearly as crowded as when we were there.  There was a wait to look at a lot of the boots.  It was cold, but it was still fun.  The key....just go with some patience b/c it can be a tight squeeze, which was actually OK b/c it was so cold....I'm not going to complain about body heat. 
 There were a ton of vendors with German foods, nuts, breads, a grocery store with candies, gingerbreads, and drinks.  Ornaments, ornaments, and more ornaments, and lots of German souvenirs. 
 Each year there is apparently a mug that you can purchase with drinks.  The big controversy this year (and last) is that it's not shaped like a boot like all the previous years.  BUT, I liked my first mug just fine, and the innards (hot chocolate). 
There was a place you could eat, but we didn't try that out, but they had tables set around you could munch at after purchasing food from the outside vendors.  
 Can I just pause and tell you my Chicago experience included a lot of cheese. 
 They had pretzels with all sorts of fillings, and these wheels of cheese they set under heat lamps until it bubbled, and then they scraped it off onto your sandwich. 
 After the market, we stopped at Garrett's popcorn.  Mainly b/c every single person who heard we were going told us we had to go here.  There was a line just to get in, but it as worth it b/c A)  It was warm inside.  B)  The popcorn really was good.  I had been told to get the Chicago mix (cheese and caramel).  All the people didn't lie. 
 That evening we took a trolley tour.  We didn't book as early as we should have because some of the most popular tours were sold out, but we still had a good time and were able to see more and hop off at the Zoo and at the Christkindle Market.  You only get 30 minutes at each stop, but you at least got to experience the sites and we went past the city tree on the trip, which was fun to see all lit up.  The other tours may stop for longer, but it was still cheaper than Ubering from place to place. 
 We ended the night in Little Italy at a little restaurant called Rosebud.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  The lasagna was to die for....I mean don't, because then you won't get to experience the rest of your trip, but it's last meal worthy. 
Sunday was our last day.  At the advice of more Chicago folks we went to The Walnut Room at 10.  We were told not to go between 11-4 b/c we would be in a big line.  We were also told breakfast wasn't the star, but....we really just wanted to experience the meal and the tree. 
 We got to sit right under the tree, which was a lot of fun.  The breakfast was good, what you would expect, but our waiter was really great and I'd do it again for sure. 
 The store was decked out inside....
 ...and out....
 The window displays were animated and worth the trip alone. 
 The iconic Chicago sign is also right down the street. 
 We then made the half mile walk to Cloud Gate.  They had an ice skating rink below.
 And I have to say, as a photographer (who did not bring her camera) this was one of my favorite spots. 
 It's worth it!  I had read to go early, and we were there about noon, but I'm OK with other people in my photo. 
We had a few hours before we needed to head out, and right down the road was the Chicago Art Institute.  
 We started out just going into the shop (art shops are some of my favorite places to find souvenirs), but the gal at the desk told us they had the largest collection of Impressionist work outside of the Louvre. 
 I don't 'know' my art like I should, but I know Monet and he was well represented.  If you have never seen a painting up close with the 'gobs' of paint you have never seen art how it should be seen. 
 I was surprised by the number of famous paintings they had on site, and at the risk of filling up this feed, these are a tiny sampling. 
 But my main reason for going was this couple.....
Seriously, how often after I seen this?  Worth it!  After walking around until our feet hurt we headed to the hotel and headed home.  It was a jam packed 48 hours, and I have no doubt that there are 10 great sites I missed, but I can honestly say I didn't really have an expectations, but having gone, I'd recommend it 10 times over, and it makes me want to explore other cities and their Christmas traditions b/c I realized how much I'm missing. But first, I'm off to finish up a few of my Dallas traditions before the clock strikes midnight on Christmas in Dallas. 

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