Back in May, I visited the Windy City for the first time, and I fell in love.
Chicago is a beautiful metropolitan, much of which can be attributed to excellent planning and rebuilding after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (which destroyed about 3 square miles of the city!). Just by flying to O’Hare, you can see perfectly gridded neighborhoods and streets that seem to stretch endlessly. As anyone can imagine, this is especially comforting to see when visiting an unfamiliar place, as getting lost is nearly impossible.
Plus, sitting outside downtown in Oak Park, is the first home (and studio) Frank Lloyd Wright built for himself. I have long adored Wright’s organic architecture style, and so visiting his home was must. I only wish I had more time to view more of his structures in Illinois. I had also just missed the annual Wright Plus Housewalk, which features tours of now privately-owned homes built by Wright in Chicago. Oh, woe was me!
I immediately signed up for a tour and photo pass, where we quickly learned that for all his ingenuity and eye for design, Wright was, in several ways, a bit of a pompous asshole. Case in point: this is a peak into the octagonal library in Mr. Wright’s studio. He had originally constructed it to be a local library for the neighborhood to show off his philanthropy and wealth. However, he soon nixed the idea before it was finished in favor of a place to showcase designs for clients. And yet, despite his questionable character, I still remain an avid admirer of his work.
Of course, Wright is not the only architect of significance in Chicago. Frank Gehry designed the Priztker Pavilion in Millennium Park (and LA’s own Walt Disney Concert Hall). Louis Sullivan, Jeanne Gang, Fazlur Khan, and Bruce Graham also contributed to modern skyscrapers in the downtown area.
Housed in the magnificent Art Institute of Chicago are some of the world’s greatest artworks, including Caillebotte’s Paris Street, Rainy Day, Mary Cassat’s The Child Bath, Wood Grant’s American Gothic, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, Evans’ Subway Portraits, and an incredible amount more. I managed to finish most of the three floors in three hours before closing.
Most of Chicago was commuter and walk-friendly. Abundant parks and sprinkling of sculptures and installations made exploring the city a treat.
As the O’hare airport boasts, Field Museum hosts the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex discovered. Sue, as she is dubbed, is the first thing you see once you step past these doors. The museum also featured a large collection of taxidermy (including the Great Anteater, the mascot of my alma mater), North American native culture, and an exhibition on ancient Egyptian tombs.
Unfortunately, October 3rd marked the end of Chicago’s famous Hot Doug’s. Prior to sprinting awkwardly to my flight with just ten minutes to departure, I squeezed in some time to visit the unique sausage joint. Hot Doug’s was open for 13 years, and news of its closing meant that the line was still a ridiculous 90+ minute long wait on a Tuesday afternoon. In preparation for this, I allocated three hours to travel from downtown to Hot Doug’s in Avondale, wait in line, eat the “Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli”, and take the train to the airport before takeoff. My plan worked, and believe me, it was worth every bite.