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first trip to chicago

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el paso, texas
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first trip to chicago

my husband and I are in our 50's and will be going for our first time. We are staying at the Waldorf hotel {got a great price!} and we have no clue as to what to do! should we rent a car? we want to go to the art institute and aquarium. we will be there from a sat to a tues. the forcast calls for some rain. We dont do swimming in the ocean. Please help us with an itinerary and some ideas! we are from mexico and don't know anyone from chicago who could help us out! thanks. Also, some good restaurants? not chain, but home owned!

pgo
Chicago
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1. Re: first trip to chicago

http://www.choosechicago.com/ is the site for Chicago tourists. Have a look, and let us know what interests you.

A car will be more trouble than it's worth. You can walk to many places, or take a cab, CTA train or bus.

The Shedd aquarium is very popular; get there first thing in the morning. The AI doesn't get terribly crowded, so you can go anytime the weather misbehaves. It is close to Millennium Park (there is an elevated bridge with nice views that connects the two). Add the Cultural Center to your Art Institute day.

There is a link to a list of events on the right hand side of the page.

As for restaurants, there are dozens of good ones. You should generally make a reservation on a weekend at a medium to high-end place. Try www.chicagomagazine.com for their choices, or yelp.com for ratings by ordinary people.

Edited: 20 August 2014, 20:25
Illinois
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2. Re: first trip to chicago

http://www.transitchicago.com/ - for public transit information. There's a trip planner tool on the homepage.

You've got plenty of time to explore beyond the downtown touristy areas and visit some neighborhoods. pgo's first link is a great reference.

Carmel, Indiana
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3. Re: first trip to chicago

We found Quantino's on State Street (just 2 blocks west of the Magnificient Mile) a very cozy and romantic (and popular) place to eat. It's quite loud inside, but the patio seating is lovely and great for people watching. Make a reservation for 7:30 and then get there at 7:00 and tell them you want to eat outside. then go in for a drink to wait on your table. I don't think you will be disappointed. You can always walk by a day before or so to check it out.'

On a non-rainy day, you might also enjoy the Architectural river/lake tour. Your concierge can get tickets for you, or you can just walk there (it's by the river at the south end of the Magnificien Mile by Wacker). You'll see the boats when you walk down that way. Very informative and a nice way to learn some things about Chicago...beautiful view of Chicago from the lake.

Edited: 22 August 2014, 19:06
Rensselaer, Indiana
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4. Re: first trip to chicago

Please don't go to Quartino's - chock full of tourists. There are so many, much better places to spend your dining $$$.

Sorry but I hit "Post your Reply" by mistake so I have to make this one brief. Other suggestions follow below.

Edited: 22 August 2014, 20:52
Carmel, Indiana
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5. Re: first trip to chicago

Well, we had a fabulous time at Quantinos. And...what is wrong with tourists? The restaurant has a very pretty outside patio with lots of great people watching.

The staff are friendly and attentive. I agree that the entrees might not be 5star, but the appetizers and desserts are great. Please walk by and check it out.

Rensselaer, Indiana
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6. Re: first trip to chicago

That Choose Chicago website is your best tool in seeing what's going on when you are here. And, quite frankly, there are SO MANY things to choose from, you can get the best "fit" for your interests.

Speaking of when, WHEN exactly are you here? That will give us some good information to make further suggestions. For example, Labor Day weekend (next weekend) is the city's jazz festival in Grant Park.

For first-timers, I highly recommend:

The Chicago Architecture Foundation's River Cruise - you want to go when the weather is good - sitting on the top deck is beautiful weather - just great.

You've already got the Art Institute of Chicago on your list - Good for you! It will not disappoint.

Millennium Park is just to the north of the Art Institute - and the Chicago Architecture Foundation's main location, the ArchiCentre is just across Michigan Avenue from the south end of the AI

There are free InstaGreeter tours originating from the Chicago Cultural Center - across Michigan Avenue from the north end of Millennium Park (at Michigan & Randolph) of the Loop and Millennium Park. First-come, first-served, though.

Spend some of your time in the city's parks, walk along the harbors and beaches. You don't have to go swimming to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Are you sports fans? Wrigley Field is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Even if you don't have tickets for a game, it's something to experience the energy around the ballpark on a day when there's a game. There are also tours of the stadium - on both days when there are games and when there are not. Red Line 'L to Addison - the ballpark is right across Sheffield (a street) from the Addison station.

Cannot stress enough to spend a little time in an outlying neighborhood. You only have three days there in Chicago and two of them will most likely be (mostly) taken up in the "downtown" areas. BUT consider getting dinner - maybe taking in a theatrical performance, go to a comedy club or a jazz or blues club in one of the outlying neighborhoods. Or spend a morning, visiting Old Town, the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Wicker Park/Bucktown, Lincoln Square. Maybe take the Wendella Water Taxi to Ping Tom Memorial Park and walk to get lunch in Chinatown.

Go to the theatre one evening - Chicago is renown for its theatrical offerings

Dining: Don't know your budget and types of cuisine you would prefer (although Chicago has pretty much anything you could imagine). Getting back to the comment on Quartino's, if you want a place for excellent tapas, Mercat a la Planxa in the historic Blackstone Hotel, if it's in your dining budget.

Rensselaer, Indiana
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7. Re: first trip to chicago

Lulu, you can be a traveler, a visitor or a tourist. Which phrase would you prefer to describe yourself and why? (Rhetorical question)

However, my objection was more about the quality of the cuisine than who frequents the place. I think the OP may be looking for someplace frequented more by locals than tourists.

To the OP: When you get differing points of view on eating establishments, it's always helpful in looking at reviews from other sources. You could check with chowhound, Yelp, Chicago Magazine, Time Out Chicago, any of the newspapers, etc.

Edited: 22 August 2014, 21:30
Carmel, Indiana
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8. Re: first trip to chicago

Well it is ranked #83 out of almost 8,300 restaurants on Trip Advisors. Got a 2014 service of excellence award. I'm sorry you didn't like it, but we loved Quantions. It's only a couple blocks from the Mile, that's why I suggested they walk by it and see for themselves.

Chicago, Illinois
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9. Re: first trip to chicago

You do NOT need nor want a car in this city. The Waldorf hunh? All you have to do is get out and walk around. That's a great neighborhood! The concierge will be a great help to you. The subway is close by, the major north-south bus lines are within blocks and taxis will get you almost everywhere that you've noted for around $10.

Rensselaer, Indiana
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10. Re: first trip to chicago

Lulu, there have been several threads in the past - and one just within the last month - criticizing the accuracy of restaurant ratings on TA. Do you really believe that Polo Café, Wildberry Pancakes and Café and Garrett's Popcorn really deserve 3 out of the top 5 spots for the best restaurants in all of Chicago?

IMHO, there are much better websites to go to for information on dining. I mentioned Yelp as one of them, because it usually has numerous, recent reviews, as opposed to others that may offer one per year, or it might have been quite some time since the last and is outdated. Also - and I don't know how much research the OP wants to put into this - but something to look into are those chefs that have left a superior restaurant to go to another or are opening one of their own. That's when those dining blogs of the Chicago (Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Reader) newspapers come in quite handily.

Since the OP was silent on their dining budget and type of cuisine, there's really no way of giving viable options at this time. I think that it would greatly benefit the OP to look outside those narrow confines of the Mag. Mile, River North and the Loop for some of the better dining options. Especially if they are looking for a non-chain, independent restaurant where more locals go to dine.

I used to work right around the corner from the Waldorf for almost a decade. My suggestion, if they wanted a place very close to their hotel, would be Le Colonial (French Vietnamese fusion) IF they didn't mind a smaller chain with 3 locations (SF, NYC and Chicago). But if they were against that and looking for more authentic Vietnamese dining experience, independent, non-chain, I'd suggest a trip to Argyle Street.

The OP has, probably seven meals in Chicago. Of those seven meals, some might be just breakfast or they might have one or more where they want to get something as pedestrian as deep-dish pizza, Italian Beef or Chicago-style hotdogs. I'm just saying that there more memorable places by whatever yardstick you wish to measure - atmosphere, food quality, inventiveness, fun, etc. - than Quartino's (one of the Gibson Restaurant Group). Either "downtown" or in the outlying neighborhoods.