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Trip Report (April 5-7)

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Indianapolis...
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Trip Report (April 5-7)

My daughter (age 15) and I just returned home from our 2 1/2 day trip to Chicago. Thought I'd post about our trip while it's still fresh.

We took the Mega Bus from Indianapolis to Union Station. I have mixed feelings about this service. On the way up, we had a very old bus that felt like it had no shocks at all from all the bumping and squeaking it did. The driver kept pulling off onto the shoulder of I-65 about every 20 minutes all the way to Chicago. I never did find out why, but he would stop the bus and then go into the stairwell and then come back to the driver's seat and take off again. I figured maybe something was wrong with the door and he had to stop and adjust it or something. I was going to ask when we got off, but he was busy helping people with luggage and I didn't want to wait around to find out.

We took a taxi to the Courtyard Marriott on Ontario St. Nice place. We got there about 12:30 and even though check in isn't until 4pm, they let us check in early. We had a room on the 20th floor, so we had a view, nothing spectacular, but it was a decent view. King sized bed and pull out sofa bed, desk and chair, flat panel TV with internet. (Internet was not exactly free, like advertised) I'll do a seperate hotel review on here too.

We left the room and went out to get our bearings. Walked up to Michigan and down other streets. Stopped at Pizzeria Due for lunch. Amy, my daughter, loves Chicago pizza now! We had a veggie pizza and it was very good. I also had a Caeser Salad, which was just drenched in dressing. I couldn't eat it, it was just too wet and very strong with garlic. Service was great too.

Left and stopped at Virgin Megastore where Amy proceeded to do significant damage to my credit card. She got a ton of CD's she'd been looking for but hadn't found in Indy. We stopped in other stores, then went back to the hotel for a little while. Then we decided to find our way to the Ford Theatre to get our names into the drawing for Wicked tickets. We asked at the concierge desk and they told us which bus to get on and where to get off (I had this all written down but couldn't find it!)

We got the 145 bus to State & Randolph, got our names into the drawing and had about 30 minutes to kill, so went to Border's and looked around. Got back just in time for the drawing, but we didn't get picked, so we got on the bus and went back to Michigan Mile. Did more stores, didn't buy anything, but had fun looking.

We were still full from pizza at lunch and snacks we'd had later in the afternoon, so neither of us wanted dinner. We stopped at Walgreen's for some things we needed that we'd forgotten and called it a night about 9pm (10pm Indiana time, and we were pooped!)

Friday morning we ordered room service for breakfast. Waffles for Amy, fresh fruit with yogurt and granola for me. It was good, but not worth the $32 it cost. Amy is a typical teenager, she has a hard time getting going in the morning, but I eventually got her up and we were out of the hotel by 9:30.

We took the bus up to the Hancock Observatory. Absolutely this was the best part of the trip by far! Spectacular views and the price is very reasonable for this kind of thing. I've been up on the top of Empire State Building and Top of the Rock in NYC, and I liked this so much better! I just cannot say enough about this place. The employees were so nice and friendly too. We got the audio tour and stayed up there about an hour and a half. I just didn't want to leave. We took a lot of pictures too.

Left the Observatory and caught the bus down to Grand. Went down the stairs and saw the sign for the free trolley to Navy Pier, but we never saw the trolley. We started walking, thinking we'd see it sooner or later. We ended up walking the entire way. It was so cold! We were darn near frozen by the time we got there. We went in and ended up having a sandwich there, then walked around some. It was ok, but neither of us were too impressed with it. We walked aound outside some, and I think if it had been warmer and the rides and boat tours were open, we would have liked it much better. So when we return, we'll check it out again.

When we left, we saw the free trolley, so got on it up to Grand. Walked back to the hotel from there for a rest. Amy read a little and I took a short nap. Then we decided to do a museum. We're not into museums normally, but it was too cold for the zoo, which was on our list. So we picked the Field Museum mainly because it was cheaper than any of the others and also because the guidebook said to allow 2 hours versus 3 for Shedd and the Science Museum.

We took the bus again to the museum, no lines to get in, it was about 2:00 I would say. Saw Sue right away, it was impressive. Went into a few exhibits, had a snack at the bakery place, then left about 4:00.

Took the bus again over to State and Randolph, went into Border's where the ticket drawing was for Wicked, and put our names in. Then walked down to Garrett's for some caramel corn. Good stuff! I see why everyone recommends to stop in there! We got a jumbo bag and managed to save some to bring home. We didn't get picked again for tickets, there must have been 200 people there that night, and only about half that the first night.

Hung out in that area awhile. Went into Macy's, what a cool store! I'm glad we went in. I've never seen a store that big. Didn't buy anything once again, but had fun looking.

Took the bus back to Michigan with the idea of stopping at the hotel to drop our caramel corn off and then going to Ed Debevik's for dinner. It was about 7:30 at this time. We got into the room and Amy asked could we just stay and rest a little while before going out. Well, she fell asleep. I was pretty tired myself, so didn't wake her, and by the time she got up it was after 9pm. We decided we didn't want to eat that late and we weren't really that hungry, so we ended up skipping dinner again. We got to talking and she said how much she liked the Observatory that morning, so we decided to go again!

They charge $4 a person if you return within 24 hours, so we went and got to see the city all lit up at night. It was pretty cool. Took a bunch more pictures too.

We stopped in at a corner store by the hotel for some juice and then at Dunkin Donuts for some breakfast items, then went back to the hotel and watched a movie and ate more caramel corn.

Slept in a bit this morning, then checked out and had the hotel keep our bags while we went up to the Hershey store. Bought some candy and a huge container of chocolate syrup for my husband who is addicted to that stuff, and then went to Macy's and into Water Tower Place for a couple of hours. Then back to the hotel to get our bags and get a taxi to Union Station.

The trip on the bus back was better. We had a newer, nicer bus, and the driver didn't stop except for the fifteen minute potty break that is scheduled. The bus was about half an hour late and it was so cold standing there waiting, but finally we got going. We got back to Indy about 45 minutes late. Union Station has signs all over the entrance about how Mega Bus customers cannot wait inside, but that was ridiculous given how cold it was. We got there about 2 hours before our bus was leaving, so we went in and had some lunch and sat around waiting. No one said anything, but still...my feeling is that it's a public place, how can they say some people can't wait there?

We had a good time in Chicago. It would have been great if it hadn't been so cold, but we didn't let the weather keep us from doing what we wanted. This was supposed to be a nice getaway for my daughter and I to do whatever we wanted when we wanted to, and that's exactly what we did. We talked about trying to come back in the fall, and this time we will make sure to order Wicked tickets in advance!

JSorry this is so long, but I have just a few more thoughts:

1. We had ordered visitor passes from the CTA website 2 weeks before the trip and they arrived in about 4 days time. So glad we did that, and the buses were easy to use and get around town in.

2. So many people we asked for help were friendly and eager to help us find our way. Clerks in stores were so nice. We'd walk in and someone would say good morning and when we left, they'd say thanks for coming in and have a nice day. That happens here, but not every time you go in a place! People asked us where we were from, and offered suggestions on things to do, without us asking for them. I just think people in Chicago are awesome!

3. I had heard that there were a lot of homeless people around and that they could be agressive. Oh my gosh. I just was not prepared to see as much of that as I saw. Amy, who has just the biggest heart in the world, was so moved by this. She and I had a long talk while walking to Navy Pier about how we should just be so grateful for what we have and not wish we had more, because look at all the people who just don't have anything. One girl we saw had a sign saying she was stranded and trying to get to Seattle. If we hadn't been on the bus, we would have helped her. She was just so sad, sitting there in the cold, and I had to wonder if her mother was somewhere worried and wondering where and how she was. Seeing all this just really affected us. We have homeless people in Indy, of course, but it just isn't as prevelent. Also, we saw a lot of people giving them money, and that made us happy that they weren't just ignored like in a lot of big cities.

Well, this is long enough! Thanks for answering the few posts I had and helping with your advice and suggestions! We will return!

Illinois
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1. Re: Trip Report (April 5-7)

Wow! That's one of the most extensive trip reports I've read in a long time. Glad you had a great visit.

Chicago, Illinois
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2. Re: Trip Report (April 5-7)

Not to sound to jaded, but the "need bus fair to Seattle" is a pretty well known scam. The person wasn't stranded. The person was just trying to get money.

Also, be careful around the homeless people. I have a lot of sympathy for them, but a lot of caution. I have never been hurt by them, but I have heard of others who have. My wife and my dog have both been kicked at random by them (neither was hurt -- the dog was lucky since he was a puppy at the time). I also had "wandering homeless guy" try and pick my pocket outside of the Lord & Taylor at Water Tower Place. The guy acted like he just bumped into me but I felt him reach into my pocket. Luckily he chose an empty pocket.

I have heard from Chicago POs that some are well known for, when you open your wallet, grabbing the whole thing and taking off.

As a rule, I try and keep my distance. It is unfortunate, but it is the safest thing to do.

Indianapolis...
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3. Re: Trip Report (April 5-7)

<<Not to sound to jaded, but the "need bus fair to Seattle" is a pretty well known scam. The person wasn't stranded. The person was just trying to get money.>>

You don't sound jaded. Actually, I told my daughter almost the same thing. That maybe the girl's story was true, maybe not, and that a lot of times people will try to scam you with a story. But, it's still sad that there are people in that situation. And it still makes you realize how much you have when you see someone like that.

We were coming out of the White Hen store by the hotel Friday evening and there was a homeless guy there waiting as people came out. I made sure I got between him and my daughter, just in case. He asked us how we were and I just nodded and went on, but I felt a bit uneasy until we got across the street.

Chicago, Illinois
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4. Re: Trip Report (April 5-7)

It is a tough message to convey to kids -- you want to help, but you value your personal safety more than you want to help. It is a tough message but necessary.

With regard to the specifics of your last post: If you are talking about the White Hen on Ohio, I know the place (and I've seen the person).

I've never seen that person do anything that I would consider a real threat, but at the same time, I could see how some people would perceive the person to be a threat. Any time there is a large person blocking your way, even in part, it can be intimidating. The City really needs to step up on this to prevent it for reasons made apparent by your post. The last thing the City needs is to have a perception as a place where there are a lot of allegedly homeless people who harass tourists.

The good news on that front is a new alderman was elected to represent the general area. He gets sworn-in in May, replacing a guy who has been in the City Counsel for over 30 years. We expect that he will be a bit more responsive and will do something about what a lot of residents consider a real problem.