24 hours in Chicago

It’s 3:00am in San Francisco. I am waiting for my Uber to take me to SFO airport. It’s a much awaited weekend trip to Chicago, Illinois. Why you ask? History and Films. Superman! Transformers!! Need I say more? All these films screamed out that this city is full of character and old historical buildings.
Normally when we plan our trips, we generally know something about the location we are visiting. Not this time. We decided to spend our time just exploring as we go! And so our weekend began –

 

Spectacular Sightings

Chicago is known for its skyscrapers. I mean one of the things that you just have to do when visiting is go to the top of the Willis Tower. It opened in 1973 and was the Worlds Tallest Building for the next 25 years. Won’t you like to step out onto The Ledge, a suspended glass box at the Skydeck Chicago observatory that is more than 1,000 feet in the sky? Do you know – that the window in ladies room on the tower has the most spectacular view of the city? Don’t believe me? Try it!
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Willis Tower – Chicago Skydeck

After a trip to cloud, its time to take a stroll around Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park and enjoy the colorful light and music display as it glows against the backdrop of Chicago’s skyline and lakefront. Inspired by the Latona Basin at Versailles, but twice the size as its counterpart, it is One of the Largest Fountains in the World and one of the city’s favorite icons.
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Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park

A visit to Chicago is incomplete with out s selfie in front of “The Bean” – famous sculpture officially known as Cloud Gate, at its home in Millennium Park. Also check out the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for a free performance, connect with nature in Lurie Garden, and cool off in Crown Fountain, the glass towers that spout water from its digital faces. Millennium Park is constructed on top of a railroad yard and expansive parking garages — making it One of the Largest Green Roofs in the World.
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“The Bean” at Millennium Park

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Pritzker Pavilion

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Millennium Park

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Crown Fountain – Digital Face Spitting Fountain

Combining elements of whimsy reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Maggie Daley Park (located just west of Millennium Park) is one of the newest kid-approved attractions in Chicago. This super playground can’t be missed with it’s towering play bridges, sky-high slides and a rock climbing wall that is One of the Largest Outdoor Climbing Structures in the World.
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View from Maggie Daley Park

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Maggie Daley Park

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Maggie Daley Park (located just west of Millennium Park)

Ride on the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier. It’s modeled after the very first Ferris wheel built for Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Rides, shops, restaurants and boat tours abound at the Midwest’s Number One Attraction.
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Navy Pier

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Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier

Loop up and around on an Architecture Boat tour. Chicago was home to The World’s First Skyscraper and while it no longer stands (the iron-and-steel-framed Home Insurance Building stood downtown from 1884-1931), the city’s skyline is one of the most recognizable and is filled with architectural treasures of the past and present.
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Architectural Boat Tour (Navy Pier)

  

Culinary Choices

Indulge in some cheesy goodness at the famous pizzerias that serve up our award-winning Deep-Dish Pizzas, Chicago originals with layers of cheese and buttery crust over an inch thick. Who serves up the best pies? Lou Malnatis Pizza. Everything on menu is delicious. But, we just love their Lou’s Special. Also, remember to save some spot for “Chocolate Pizza”.

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Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria

Classic local eats also include the Chicago-style Hot Dog, which piles on a whopping seven toppings! For authenticity you’ll find: yellow mustard, chopped onions, bright green sweet relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, spicy pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt. And absolutely no ketchup.
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Chicago-style Hot Dog (Hot Dog Fiend)

Smell the wonders of Chicago’s famous Chicago Mix before you even reach the storefront door at Garrett Popcorn Shops. While you might feel like it’s the Longest Line in the World for Popcorn, the intriguing blend of caramel and cheese popcorn is well worth the wait. They even got them smoked!
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Garretts Popcorn (located in Navy Pier)

Craving for some good ‘ld sandwich? Checkout the Italian Steak Sandwich at Portillos. Whats so special about a Portellos sandwich you say? You won’t know until you try. and you are like me, who like a good serving of meaty sandwich, this is a must visit place. Yummy!!
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Portillo’s Hotdogs

Need some ice-cream to cool off the day’s excitement? Head over to Oberweis Dairy for a “farm to table” experience. You won’t be able to stop yourself at one scoop. And not to forget those yummy, warm waffle cups dipped in chocolate. It just takes ice-cream to another level. Oh! and care for some organic, right out of farm milk, they got it all.
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Oberweis Dairy

 
Whether you are planning a Chicago travel itinerary for a half day, weekend or multi-day stay, these are some of the many must-sees while in the Windy City. But just as Chicago is unique, we invite you to put your personal stamp on your Chicago adventure. So let the fun begin!

Complete Escape

A trip to escape. The “Weekend getaway!”. Whether you swim, fish, sail or simply relax on its shores, you’ll be wowed by the overwhelming beauty of Lake Tahoe. Famous for its cobalt-blue water and surrounding snow-capped peaks.

“To breathe the same air as the angels, you must go to Tahoe” – Mark Twain

My cousins’ happen to be visiting me this month. What better way than to take your “jet-lagged” family on a little over a 3 hour drive from San Francisco, away from the noise and constant commotion of the city to a serene “getaway”. As any other visitors, we went with intent on low-key sightseeing, hiking, camping, and boating. So let’s get away this weekend –


We started our journey with South Lake Tahoe as destination. It’s raison d’être is tourism: the casinos of adjacent Stateline, Nevada; the ski slopes at Heavenly Mountain; the beaches, docks, bike trails, and campgrounds all around the south shore.

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We stayed at Sunnyside Resort, which is a modern lodge-style resort overlooking the west shores of Lake Tahoe. The rooms were beautiful with rustic-chic decor and lake view. The Manager was kind enough to upgrade our lake “side-view” room to a bigger suite with “full” lake view. The even had their own bar along with fireplace! (Isn’t that chandelier simply gorgeous!!!)

IMG_0582.JPGSo, after lounging around for a while, we were ready to hit the streets. Since, we were greeted by rains that evening, we decided to walk around town. And, to our surprise, we found Rosie’s Cafe – a quirky place with all sorts of vintage bikes and mechanical art hanging off the ceiling.

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The rains finally stopped next day and we woke up to a really bright and warm day. After a quick breakfast at resort, we rounded out the trip with actually going and seeing the Lake and taking up couple of trails. We started off with the especially majestic, Emerald Bay. It displays the lake at its best!

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On the scenic, winding highway around Emerald Bay, be sure to pay attention to the signs and pull off into the large parking lot and vista for Emerald Bay Vikingsholm Trail. This is not one vacation stop that you can just drive up to, you have to earn the trip here. The nice steep hike down is not for the weak at heart because the hike back up will get you if you are not in shape. Add the elevation and you can see you can run in to problems here. But the view of cyrstal clear lake is fantastic.

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Set at the bottom of Emerald Bay is the beautiful Vikingsholm Castle, a fascinating study in architecture. Between the thatched roofs with grass growing on top to the circular build of the house, you will think you are viewing a house from 17th century Scotland. The house was built by a Scandinavian owner with a tea-house on Fannette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe.

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IMG_0754_FotorAfter the hike back up, we decided to take a short and easy trail to Lower Eagle Falls. It’s absolutely gorgeous and breakthtaking. Gives a panoramic view of the Emerald Bay and sparkling Eagle Falls.

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All in a day’s (day and a half or so) fun! So we ended with a little less R&R and more fun-&-fun! Whether you’re visiting the Lake Tahoe area in winter or summer, these resorts live up to their promise of adventure. Don’t come here to relax — come to be reinvigorated, enlightened and to feel alive.

BONUS

On way to Lake Tahoe, we took a short break in small town called Placerville and decided to get some lunch in Buttercup Pantry Restaurant. It’s a cute country style cafe with goofy interiors like Vintage tin signs, fruit crate art, old cash registers, vintage gum machines and antique gas pumps. A great stopover!!

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