Travelogue: Chicago


We spent the last full week of summer traveling to Chicago where we visited with cousins, watched baseball games, and enjoyed the art, architecture, and culture this great city has to offer.  Mind you, we didn’t get to far out of the Loop and the adjacent areas, so we basically scratched the surface of what Chicago has to offer, but it was a good introduction for the kids first visit. Aside from some sibling bickering, everyone had a great time.

Tuesday

  • We arrived early in the morning at O’Hare International Airport where I was delighted to see Michael Hayden’s Sky’s the Limit neon light display that I first saw back in 1991 is still gracing the pedestrian walkway with the accompaniment of “Rhapsody in Blue.”
  • We rode the Blue Line into the city and checked into the vintage hotel Inn of Chicago, that stands among the fancy stores, gleaming hotels, and massive hospitals of the Near North.
  • The bell staff recommended eating lunch at Giordano’s, so we settled in for some Chicago-style stuffed pizza.  It was yummy.
  • Despite being tired and cranky, we went to the Field Museum to see the dinosaurs and mummies.  I felt the museum was slightly overwhelming, looking a little rough around the edges.  But the Evolving Planet exhibition is very well done, and although Sue the T Rex was officially supposed to be off exhibit, I was delighted we got to peak through a window to see her in her new exhibit space under construction.

Wednesday

  • Peter and I picked up breakfast at Stan’s Doughnuts whose super healthy baked goods were sold in the lobby of a hospital.
  • Next came one of the highlights of our trip, a sort-of double header between the Mets and Cubs at Wrigley FieldFull report here.
  • In the evening, we rode a free trolley bus (much to Kay’s delight) to Navy Pier. Kay and Susan rode the swings, and Kay and I soared above Lake Michigan in the Centennial Wheel.  We finished the day with the weekly firework display.

Thursday

  • We walked up the Magnificent Mile and passed by the Gothic Revival structure of the Chicago Water Tower, one of the prominent survivors of the Great Fire of 1871.
  • We ate delicious pancakes and omelets for breakfast at Wildberry Cafe.
  • Peter wasn’t feeling well, so I took Kay Millennium Park where we explored Cloud Gate and the Crown Fountain.  And then Kay played and played and played (and Daddy pushed the swings harder) in Maggie Daley Park. We also strolled through Grant Park to see Buckingham Fountain.
  • We met up with Susan and Peter for dinner at Miller’s Pub in The Loop. The restaurant had kind of an old-school feel to it in the fact that the tables and booths were arranged in a way I  haven’t seen since I was a kid.  The food was good, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.
  • We finished Thursday with more baseball as the Red Sox and White Sox played a night game at Guaranteed Rate Field.   Full report here.

Friday

  • We once again started the day with doughnuts for breakfast at Do-Rite Doughnuts.  They were delicious.
  • We sailed on the Chicago River on Wendella Boats to explore the architecture and history of the city.  Chicago is known for it’s intensive architectural tours, but this 45-minute cruise was just right to satisfy a geeky Dad without testing the kids’ patience.
  • While the rest of the family rested at the hotel, I took myself on a self-guide art and architecture walk of The Loop, where I could admire the works of Jean Dubuffet, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, Alexander Calder, and Daniel Burnham.
  • In the evening we ventured out on the Brown Line to visit with Susan’s cousins. The kids got play, the adults got to talk, and we all enjoyed authentic Mexican takeaway food!

Saturday

  • Our final meal was brunch at West Egg Cafe, once again recommended by the bell staff at the hotel. It was both tasty and filling.
  • Riding a double-decker Big Bus Tour around any city would not make my top 100 list of things to do, but Peter’s always wanted to take one of these tours, and since he was still not feeling well it was a good way to see the city without too much exertion.  Peter and I did the full loop, while Susan and Kay hopped off so Kay could play some more at Maggie Daley Park.

 

Chicago is a great city! I must make sure to not wait over a decade before I return there again. I’d even consider living in Chicago, especially now that Rahm Emanuel is stepping down as Mayor.

Photopost: A Mismatched Pair of Sox


Our family visited our second Chicago ballpark in as many days with a visit to see our Boston Red Sox play their Chicago White Sox.  The game took place at Guaranteed Rate Field, possibly the saddest corporate naming rights ever awarded to a sports venue.  This was my second visit having previously seen the White Sox play the Rays in 2004 at what was then called U.S. Cellular Field. For that game I sat in the bleachers and remember having a generally favorable impression of the ballpark.

For this game, I made the mistake of buying cheap seats in the 500 level thinking we would enjoy having seats near the front of the upper rather than the back of a lower section.  Turns out the 500 level was eerily empty for a close-to-elimination White Sox game on a Thursday night. The section also has a vertiginously steep rake.  I grew up going to games at Shea Stadium so I had no problem with this, but my son has gone to most of his games at Fenway Park, so being close to the edge made him uneasy.

The game started well for the White Sox as Rick Porcello once again struggled while pitching in the early innings and Lucas Giolito shutdown the Red Sox potent offense. Avisail Garcia lit up the exploding scoreboard with a homer in the first inning and the Pale Hose were up 4-0 after two innings.  Pitching dominated for the next 4 innings until the Red Sox were able to tie up the game with a 4-run rally in the 7th capped by Mookie Betts 2-run home run.

The Red Sox scored another five runs in a 9th inning rally, including a J.D. Martinez blast,  but that time I was heading home with my punchy little girl.  We cheered from the Red Line platform as we saw the Red Sox take the lead on the scoreboard alongside the highway.  Meanwhile, Susan and Peter had snuck down to the field level seats for the final inning where Peter secured another baseball from Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel by way of a security guard.  All because Peter said “please.”

Guaranteed Rate Field is a tough ballpark to judge, especially compared with Wrigley Field across town which has all the advantages.  The White Sox ballpark was built right at the end of the “Modern” era when jewel boxes like Comiskey Park were still considered “old and outdated” rather than a classic ballpark that should be preserved, but just too early for the Retro ballpark boom of the 1990s which may have recreated Comiskey’s charms with modern ammenities.  The baseball-only facility fortunately avoided the problems of the multi-purpose stadiums and domes of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, but didn’t quite achieve the elegance of Dodger Stadium or Kauffman Stadium. While Wrigley Field feels part and parcel of its Chicago neighborhood, Guaranteed Rate Field is set apart by a massive 16-lane freeway and acres of parking (where Comiskey Park used to stand), with the South Side neighborhood basically invisible and the Chicago skyline an attractive – but distant – vista on the horizon.  Ultimately it’s a tale of levels with the field level and bleachers being and enjoyable place to watch a ballgame while the distant upper levels are much less so.

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Current ballpark rankings.

  1. Wrigley Field
  2. Fenway Park
  3. AT&T Park
  4. Oriole Park at Camden Yards
  5. Petco Park
  6. Citi Field
  7. Nationals Park
  8. Miller Field
  9. Dodger Stadium
  10. Citizens Bank Park
  11. Guaranteed Rate Field
  12. Yankee Stadium III

Former ballpark rankings

  1. Tigers Stadium
  2. Shea Stadium
  3. Yankees Stadium II
  4. RFK Stadium
  5. Stade Olympique
  6. Veterans Stadium