Author Topic: The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017  (Read 4610 times)

Offline dpk4588

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The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017
« on: May 29, 2017, 10:35:28 PM »
Intro and Planning
 
It all started when I noticed I had a Hyatt anniversary night expiring and a friend nagging me to visit. After reading that sentence you’d think I’d be using my anniversary night in the city where my friend lives, but you’d be WRONG!
 
Living in NYC (NYC doesn’t have any Hyatt category 1-4 hotels), I was thinking of where I could go for a day or two that isn’t too far but would also allow me to get good use of my free (really $75 since it’s the only reason I keep the card) night. I had settled on Philly but for a number of reasons (which aren’t relevant to this TR) that fell through. This was 5/1/17 and my Hyatt night was expiring 5/14/17. I figured since the night is book by not stay by, I can just plan something for a few weeks away. Apparently I was wrong, and the anniversary night is check-out by not book by.
 
[Side note about the Hyatt anniversary night (and possibly the sign up night). The website is very misleading, as long as you have a free night available in your account, it will show as bookable for any standard room regardless of date or category. Meaning if your anniversary night expires 5/1 and you’re look to book a hotel for 5/15 it will show as available but will fail once you try to complete the booking (and it won’t tell you why). I found this very confusing and it almost cost me my free night.  End of rant]
 
Getting back to the TR. I have a friend in St. Louis who keeps nagging me to come visit. So I thought to myself, “I have this expiring anniversary night, why don’t I go to STL for Shabbat, then fly somewhere else for a few days.” One great thing about STL is that it’s relatively centrally located and (supposedly) no more than a 4.5 hour flight to anywhere in the contiguous United States.
 
I decided on Chicago. I figured it was a short flight from STL and while I had been there a few times, I had never actually explored the city. I knew there were plenty of things to do and plenty of quality Kosher food.   
 
Once I decided on a destination, it was a matter of trying to book flights. Obviously the cheapest option would be 7.5k Avios from LGA-STL another 7.5k Avios STL-ORD and another 7.5k Avios ORD-LGA, but with the sad state that is AA availability, finding one flight with SAAver availability is no easy task, let alone three. Since my Hyatt night was expiring 5/14 it had to be this weekend, so I had to take a shot.
 
Before I looked for award availability, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to see how much cash tickets would cost. Not surprisingly flights from NYC to STL and STL to ORD were pretty expensive (~$230 NYC-STL, and ~$365 STL-ORD). Surprisingly, (maybe not so surprisingly considering the number of flights AA has) AA flights ORD-LGA were pretty cheap ~$110, and since I have the Citi Prestige I can redeem TYP for 1.6 CPP for flights on AA. Especially since there was no SAAver availability, I figured my 1.6 CPP on AA with my TYP was a good deal.
 
After seeing that revenue flights were not a reasonable option (as I had predicted) I started searching for award tickets. My first choice would have obviously been 7.5k Avios on AA but going out of NYC those flights are hard to find, and there was nothing available Thursday night or Friday morning. (After I had booked I later saw a 1:25p flight out of LGA opened up, but flying out of LGA on a Friday afternoon is not a gamble I’d like to take.) Delta’s flexible award chart generally means that last minute tickets are gonna be expensive and this was no exception. If I recall correctly, the cheapest flights LGA-STL were 32.5k, no thanks. My last option was United. I had thought about transferring SPG or MR to Aeroplan and booking a multi-city award ticket (which if I understand the system correctly would have given me two flights for the price of one) but since United flies to STL out of EWR and I wanted to fly into LGA, the system wouldn’t let me create that award ticket since they require you to depart and arrive from the same airport. Anyway, I found UA had a flight out of EWR Thursday night which worked out pretty well for 12.5k, the only issue was that since I was booking within 21 days (within 3 days actually), I’d have to pay a $75 close-in. But then I remembered there were ways to “take care of that,” (ways which as I write this TR are no longer available, at least not online) so that flight would work perfectly.
 
Now that I had my NYC-STL and ORD-NYC flights booked it was time to find the STL-ORD leg. AA has a bunch of flights and I was lucky enough that there was SAAver availability, sadly it was only on the 5a, 6:10a, and 7:19a flights. 7:19a it was. I kept checking (until sat night to see if a later flight would open up, but nothing did).
 
To recap my flights:
EWR-STL 12.5k UA + $5.60, Cash cost: $364.20, Value: 2.87 CPP
STL-ORD 7.5k BA + $5.60, Cash cost: $229.20 Value: 2.98 CPP
ORD-LGA 6,324 + $5.01, Cash cost: $106.20 Value: 1.6 CPP
 
Now onto the accommodations. In STL I spend Shabbat by my friend so there was no need for a hotel, he was even willing to drive me to the airport (about 10 mins from his house) so I didn’t have to get a hotel for the early morning flight. Since this trip was planned basically so I could use my Hyatt anniversary night, I looked to see what Cat 4 Hyatts there were in Chicago, I found 2 Hyatt Places and the Hyatt Regency Chicago. I’ve had good experiences with Hyatt Regency in the past and while I don’t think Hyatt Places are bad hotels, I don’t see them as “fancy” hotels, I figured I’d use the free night for Sunday and points (15k) for Monday night. Much to my disappointment, there was a major conference going on and there were no standard rooms available Monday night and I didn’t really feel like paying $200+ for a second night in the hotel, so I set off to find a place to stay Monday night. I knew my IHG anniversary night was expiring soon too, so I went to see what IHG hotels there were in the area. I saw that there’s an Intercontinental, but that wasn’t available Monday night, but there was a Crowne Plaza. It was available and I booked it, a decision I would not regret.
 
Once my flights and accommodations were set, it was time to figure out what I was gonna do while I was in Chicago. As much as I’d like to be sometimes, I’m not the kind of person who can just veg out at the pool or beach (especially Chicago isn’t really the place for that), so I needed to find things to see and do. My parents went to Chicago last year and they found this pass called the GoChicagoCard (GoCard). It’s similar to CityPass but it includes many more things and it’s available in 1, 2, 3, or 5 day passes. Looking at it, it covered most of the things I was interested in doing and I picked it up. The 3 day pass was $165.
 
The next complicated aspect of planning was deciding if I should rent a car or not. When I first looked, most car rentals were in the $150-$200 range. Add the $67+tax at the Hyatt and $49+tax at the Crowne Plaza for parking, and i was looking at ~$300-$350 for the car, hotel parking and gas, and that doesn’t even include what it would cost me to park at whatever attractions I went to. The decision leaned heavily in Uber’s favor. The night before I left, I found a car for about $110 which still would have made it $200-$250 for the whole auto expense and I figured I’d still beat that with Uber.
 
With that decision made, it was time to finally actually go. I guess the one good thing about planning a vacation so quickly is that you don’t have that anxious time leading up to the vacation, because 54 hours after booking my first flight, I was in the air.
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
-Albert Einstein

Offline dpk4588

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Re: The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2017, 10:39:55 PM »
Thursday - May 11, 2017
 
Due to the recent troubles NJ Transit had been having with the Hudson River crossings, I decided it would be best to leave myself more time than I needed to get to the airport because, you never know. I left the office around 330p for Penn Station to catch a NJ Transit train to EWR. I had just missed a train so I had to wait about 15 minutes for another. While I was waiting there was a local NBC reporter interviewing people about the recent NJ Transit woes, and I was praying that today wouldn’t be one of those days.  When she asked me if I commute with NJ Transit regularly, I said “no, but if you want to ask me about my experiences commuting on the Subway we could be here a while.” Thankfully, it wasn’t one of those days and I made it to EWR in about 35 minutes.
 
I flew through security and got to the gate around 5p. This was only a problem because my flight wasn’t until 718p and I didn’t have any lounge access. To make matters worse there was a Boingo WiFi hotspot, but it wasn’t working so I was at the gate 2 hours early without WiFi. It was at this point that I considered buying a refundable Delta ticket so I could use my Plat card to get into the nearby Delta Sky Club. I ultimately decided against it since I’m not sure what the rules are with cancelling a refundable ticket once you’ve checked in and have a boarding pass (which is require to gain entry to the Sky Club). I ended up using my phone as a mobile hotspot for a while but spent most of my time waiting at the gate just “roughing it” without WiFi. Tough life, I know ;)
 
From what I saw on the seat map the flight was pretty much full, and since I was boarding in a late group, and I knew my carry-on bag was technically slightly too big, I went to the gate agent to gate check my bag. I was thinking that I’d be able to pick it up on the jetway in STL as it usually is (at least in my limited experience) with a gate checked bag, but to my disappointment I would have to go down to baggage claim in STL.
 
My flight was uneventful and my weekend (Fri-Sat) in STL aren’t really relevant to this TR. The one thing I will say about the flight itself was, that when I booked the flight, all that was available was middle seats but I kept checking and Wednesday afternoon I saw a window seat in the last row of the plane and an aisle seat in a lower row (20s I think) had opened up. I went for the aisle seat since I often find the last row of the plane annoying with the galley and limited recline. It was funny because I was saying to the woman next to me that I usually go for a window but this is what I get when I book 2 days before I fly, she responded by saying she booked 2 months ago and got stuck with the middle seat. ;)
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
-Albert Einstein

Offline dpk4588

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Re: The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2017, 11:07:03 PM »
Sunday - May 14, 2017
 
Shabbat was nice, but the “real” vacation started Sunday morning with an early trip to STL. I again flew through security thanks to TSA pre-check and headed to the Admirals Club which I accessed with my Prestige. I spent some time in the lounge before heading to the gate a few minutes before boarding. I knew this flight was half empty so I shouldn’t have a problem with overhead space, but when I tried to get past the gate agent with my bag which was slightly above the height limit, she wouldn’t let me go and forced me to gate check it, and again I had to pick it up from baggage claim.
 
The flight was operated on an MD-80 which might be the oldest plane I’ve ever seen. But it got me there and for a flight that’s airtime is 47 minutes, that’s all I really care about. After picking up my bag from baggage claim I headed to the Ride-Share Pickup Zone for my UberPOOL to my hotel. I waited less than 5 minutes which was nice, and there was someone else in the car too, but thankfully she was dropped off only a few minutes away from me. Something I often find problematic with POOL in NYC is that the POOL matches will often be very far off your route, this was not like that at all and barely an inconvenience.
 
I got the hotel, which has a east tower and a west tower, and of course with my luck I went to the west tower and check-in was in the east tower. Not a big deal, I went back outside crossed the street and found my way up to the second floor for check-in. There was a dedicated check-in line/desk for Discoverist, Explorist, and Globalists, so as an Explorist I headed that way. I was hoping that my room would be available despite it still being ~9a, and as an Explorist I was “upgraded” from an ADA king room to a standard king room. There was a massive conference so I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t get a real upgrade. I got up to the room, which was a nice standard room with a view of the river and the Wrigley building.
 

Hyatt Regency Standard Room   
 
 

View of the Wrigley Building from Hyatt Regency
 
After dropping my stuff of in the room, I headed out to start with the day’s activities. Despite having been to Chicago a few times I’ve never really explored the downtown area so I thought it might be a good idea to start with the Big Bus tour which was included on my GoCard, so I could get a lay of the downtown land. There was a stop about a block from my hotel so that worked out well. I to the stop (which happens to be the first on the route) they scanned the GoCard on my phone and we were off.
 
I feel like this is true of pretty much every tour, but I found that the tour wasn’t that great because of my guide. The bus is meant as a hop-on hop-off, but I didn’t really plan on getting on and off and I was using it primarily as an informational tour. The tour guide was hard to understand, and didn’t seem to know much other than what seemed like the script she was given to memorize. In addition to that, the mic stopped working and she said she couldn’t do the tour without it (despite the fact that all 6 of us on the bus were sitting within 5 feet of her) so we sat in silence for 15 minutes until someone could meet us at a later stop to repair the mic. I decided to get off at Navy Pier because I was planning on going there eventually anyway and I didn’t see a point in being on the bus without getting a tour.
 
Some pictures from my BigBus tour:
 

Chicago Theatre
 

Sears Tower
 

First Chicago “Skyscraper”
 

Beginning of Route 66
 

Buckingham Fountain
 
 
 
I got to Navy Pier and headed for the ferris wheel. The GoCard comes with 4 rides (I believe you can do the same thing 4 times or do any combination of the different rides they have), I was only interested in the ferris wheel, and I didn’t see a reason to ride it more than once. It wasn’t my first ferris wheel, and I don’t think it will be my last, but other than the fact that this one has heating during the winter and AC during the summer, I didn’t find this one to be all that special. It was nice to get a view of the city from “out in the lake” a different perspective than the viewing decks of the Sears (not Willis as they call it now) Tower and the John Hancock Tower.
 

Entrance to Navy Pier
 

Chicago Style Rolling Stones Mouth
 

Navy Pier Ferris Wheel
 

View from the end of Navy Pier
 
Other than the ferris wheel there isn’t much to do at Navy Pier. There are a few different boat tours that leave from the Pier, there was an exhibit on the Rolling Stones, and there are bars, and restaurants, but that’s not something I’m interested in. I took a walk to the end of the Pier which was actually really far, and headed back to the city to get back on my Big Bus, hoping for a better tour guide.
 
I had to wait a while and when a bus finally came it was filled with Spanish speakers, and I was worried that I’d ended up on a Spanish tour. Thankfully it wasn’t actually in Spanish, it was just a guide who spoke Spanish so he could answer questions in in Spanish. I must say that he was a much better tour guide, sadly it was only for the last few stops. The funniest part was that the tour ends right near the Trump Tower, which he called “the tower that shall remain nameless” and pretty much the entire bus started to boo, I started to crack up. [I’m not trying to start a political fight, and I’m not saying I’m pro Trump, I just thought it was funny that these Spanish speakers (most of whom I believe were from Puerto Rico) were booing the Trump Tower.]
 

Oldest Building in Chicago - Old Water Tower
 

Old Building (currently a Bloomingdales)
 

Trump Tower
 
After the bus tour, I had worked up a bit of an appetite, and while there are two restaurants downtown, neither of them are open on Sundays, so knowing this I had brought a sandwich with me from STL.
 
After having my lunch, I took an Uber to the Field Museum. If I was smart, I would have just gotten off the bus at the Field Museum, but the Uber was cheap enough that it wasn’t a big deal. The museum is included in the GoCard, and in addition to the general admission, includes one special exhibit. I chose the “Cyrus Tang Hall of China” which was an exhibit about the ancient civilizations of China. It had lots of artifacts and stories about life in the different major historical periods through China’s history.
 

Tomb Contract
 

Dagger-Axe
 

Cheat’s Handkerchief (aka cheat sheet)
 

Child’s Tiger Shoes
 

Fengshui Compass
 
There were a few other smaller interesting exhibits, which are more permanent exhibits and are included in general museum admission.The last part of the museum I visited, which I found most interesting was “Inside Ancient Egypt” which included an actual tomb and a number of other artifacts from ancient Egypt.
 

Amazonian Feather Crown
 

Colored Carvings Inside Tomb
 

 
I stayed at the museum until closing, and the headed back to my hotel to relax for a few minutes before my Architecture River Cruise. I think calling it a “cruise” is generous, but it was great nonetheless. The tour departs from two different locations (they’re separate tours it’s not two pickups for the same tour, but I believe they cover the same area just different routes). One location is from Navy Pier and the other is from Michigan Ave, right across the river from my hotel, so obviously I went to the Michigan Ave departure tour. My tour guide Bill was awesome. He knew so much about both the history of Chicago and the designs of the buildings. He was also pretty funny. It can sometimes be boring when you have a tour guide who has all the knowledge but no personality. Bill was awesome. He ended the tour by saying “if you liked the tour my name is Bill Field, if not my name is Abe Froman,” which (sadly) I was one of the few people on the boat who seemed to have gotten the joke.  I guess one of the reasons Chicago is a great city for a tour like this is that the fact that the river flows through the city and breaks off at points gives you access to more buildings than you’d have in most cities.
 

The Chicago River (It looks pretty green to me, I’m not sure why they need to dye it for St. Patrick’s Day)
 

Marina City (affectionately known as the corn cob buildings)
 

77 West Wacker Dr - Notice the indentations in the corners, which were made to create more corner offices
 

Chicago Mercantile Exchange
 

 

Reflective Glass is a common theme in Chicago Architecture
 

The Sears Tower appears to be a number of buildings put together as you can see from the different heights
 

Want to make sure your building gets put on the map? Put a map on your building - 300 S. Wacker Drive
 

OneEleven - 111 W. Wacker Dr
 

Hyatt Regency (I can see my room! kinda)
 

NBC Tower
 

Harbor Point
 

View of Downtown from Lake Michigan
 
Following the Architecture River Cruise I took an Uber up to Shallots for dinner. I know people (including Dan) have raved about the sushi at Shallots, but I don’t like sushi, so I was obviously gonna skip that. A friend recommended that I go with the pastrami burger so that’s what I did, and I did not regret it. It was probably the best burger I’ve ever had. After my delicious burger, I took an Uber back to my hotel for the night. I loved how cheap Uber was in Chicago, but we hit crazy traffic (I can’t imagine why, it was Sunday night) and it took almost an hour to get back, which meant by the time I got back it was late so I just turned in for the night.
 

Pastrami Burger from Shallots
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
-Albert Einstein

Offline dpk4588

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Re: The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2017, 11:33:16 PM »
Monday - May 15, 2017
 
Monday morning I headed over to the Shedd Aquarium by Uber. I had the option of adding another day on the Big Bus for another $5 but they recommend not using it for transportation purposes (which I agree with since sometimes you’ll wait 20 minutes for a bus). The GoCard admission includes all the extras. I’m not generally a big fan of aquariums, but I figured I’d try this one since it was included and I’ve heard it was good as far as aquariums go. The one problem I found with the aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry were that there were little kids running all over the place. I did like Abbott Oceanarium, where I got to see the dolphins, beluga whales, sea otters, and penguins. I missed the aquatic presentation and the only run it every 90 minutes and I wasn’t gonna wait around for it. I also really liked the Caribbean Reef where I got to see lots of exotic fish. I also realized that catfish are possibly the ugliest fish I’ve ever seen. It would have been nice to catch the aquatic presentation, and had I known when it was I would have gone, but I’d say the aquarium was still ok overall. The problem I had (other than the kids all over the place), and I assume this a problem with all aquariums was that because of the glass and water between you and the fish, I found it often hard to get pictures of the things I wanted.
 

Duck
 

Fringed Leaf Frog
 

Cardinal Tetras
 

Shark
 

Caribbean Lookdown Fish
 

California Scorpionfish
 

Dolphins (They’re really fast)
 

Penguins (Eric’s favorite fish)
 

Beluga Whale
 

Milk Frog
 

Mimic Poison Dart Frog   
 
After the aquarium, I went back to the Hyatt to check-out, pick up my stuff and head over to the Crowne Plaza. Since my room was paid for with points and I had no room charges, I saw no reason to actually check-out, so I just took my stuff and left. After a quick Uber to the Crowne Plaza (which was much further west than everything else, which was a bit of an inconvenience, but considering it was free ($49) it was worth it. When I got to the hotel and went to check-in it was about 1pm and technically check-in wasn’t until 3. Due to my Platinum IHG status (which comes with the card) the front desk clerk told me that she would be able to upgrade me to a suite, but it wasn’t available, so my options were to check-in now and get a regular room or wait until after 3p and get upgraded to a suite. I decided to go with the suite. I checked my bags at the bell desk and headed over to Metroklub which is the Kosher “Business Lunch” restaurant in the Crowne Plaza Lobby. Unfortunately the lobby was under construction so I had to go outside to get to the restaurant, which was not a big deal, until I had to use the restroom which is in the hotel lobby.
 
When I got into the restaurant, I was the only one other party there. It’s a nice size place, but I’m not sure how much business they get. It was after 1p, maybe that was it, but I was still surprised how empty it was. I was given my choice of tables, and I picked one towards the middle. I decided to get the BBQ Brisket sandwich which comes with coleslaw, a pickle, and fries. The brisket was good, my only complaint, was that there was so much that the bun couldn’t handle it. The bun fell apart to the point that i gave up on eating it as a sandwich and ate it with a fork and knife.  This is when I ran into the lobby construction problem. Since I had BBQ sauce all over my hands I had to go outside, go back inside the lobby to get to the restroom. Slightly annoying. Ignoring the slight annoyances provided by the construction, I thought the food at Metroklub was very good, the service was a little slow, I had trouble flagging down my waiter, which is sad considering there were a total of three tables being serviced (by two waiters). It wasn’t painfully slow, just slow enough that I noticed it and thought I should mention it.
 

BBQ Brisket sandwich from MetroKlub
 
After lunch I headed over to the Adler Planetarium. Included in my GoCard was admission to the planetarium as well as to admission to unlimited shows. By the time I got there it was after 2:30p and there were only two shows left. I signed up for both and figured I’d use the little time I had before and after those shows to explore the exhibits. The first show I saw was called “Skywatch Live,” and was a look at the Chicago sky. The narrator/guide showed what the sky looks like at different times of the year and pointed out different constellations and when they’re visible. I found that show kinda boring and think I would have passed on it if I knew what it was so I could see the exhibits. The show also started late and ran overtime so I didn’t have any time between shows to explore the exhibits.
 
The second show I saw was called “Planet Nine,” which was about the existence of a 9th planet, no it’s not Pluto, although after seeing this show I’m not sure why Pluto is not a planet. I found this show very interesting and well done both between the graphics and the narration. The second the show was over everyone was rushed out of the planetarium, which meant I had no time to see anything other than the shows which was kinda annoying.
 
After being rushed out of the planetarium, I took some nice pictures of the skyline, since the planetarium is so far out into the lake and further south than most of the big buildings it made for a nice view. I took some pictures and ordered by Uber to head to the Chicago Theatre.  I was hoping to fit this in since it looked interesting and was on the GoCard. The problem was that the tour is at noon and takes about an hour so it only works if you can fit it in between a morning activity and an afternoon activity. Also the website said it required a reservation, so I figured I’d stop by, make a reservation and if I couldn’t make it work, I wouldn’t go, but it was not additional cost. The problem ended up being that my POOL matched me with one person, then tried to match me with another, traffic was crazy so we were already later than the estimated arrival, the driver ended up cancelling the third rider, but it took way too long. To top it off, I got to the theater box office and the guy said I didn’t actually need a reservation and I wasted my time (and money on the Uber) going to the theater. To make it worse, I ended up not going on the tour. Oh Well.
 

Adler Planetarium
 


Chicago Skyline from the Adler Planetarium
 
From the Chicago Theatre I ordered an Uber (this time I went with an UberX since I was running late) to Milt’s where I was meeting a friend for dinner. We were supposed to meet at Milt’s at 530, but I got a text at 5:15ish that they’d be there in about half an hour. So I had to wait around for 10-15 minutes. I was gonna walk to Wrigley to see if they had any nice WS Champions banners up or anything but the walk is about 15 mins each way and I wouldn’t be able to make it so I just waited around.
 
I had heard a few recommendations as to what I should get, and the friend I was with recommended the Rib Sandwich so that’s what we both went with. I had been told that I should also get the chili fries but I forgot to order those, but to be honest, I’m not sure I’d be have been able to eat them anyway. There have been a few times where Milt’s has done pop-up restaurants in NY and I’d had food from them twice but both times the food was sub-par, so I was hoping that at the actual restaurant the food would live up to the hype. And it did. When it came time to pay, instead of pulling out my wallet, I pulled out a gift certificate I “bought” from GreatKosherDeals.com who sells discounted gift certificates to Kosher restaurants. I have a bunch of credit on the site from SBS a few years ago and since the gift certificate was for $50 and dinner was $48 dinner was on AMEX. Thanks AMEX! (Boy do I miss the old days of SBS)
 
After dinner we walked over to Wrigley so I could see if there were any special WS Champions banners but there was nothing that I saw. My friend and I parted ways and I ordered an Uber to take me to the 360 Chicago observation deck at the John Hancock Tower. I got there just around sunset which made for some nice pictures. 360 Chicago has two special aspects to the viewing deck. One which they call “Tilt” allows you to (for an additional $7 fee) tilt out of the building (while still enclosed in glass) out over the Magnificent Mile. It seemed interesting but not interesting enough for me to try. Just to be clear, this was not a matter of fear or the $7 cost, I just didn’t see any reason to do it especially since you can’t take a camera with you. The other aspect I found interesting about 360 Chicago was that they had an area where there was no glass window just a screen, so in addition to being that high up and getting those views, you could feel the wind in your face 1,000 feet in the air. I thought that was cool.
 

View of Navy Pier from 360 Chicago
 

View of Onterie Center and Harbor Point from 360 Chicago
 

View of Trump Tower and Sears Tower from 360 Chicago
 

View of Lakeshore Dr and Northern Chicago from 360 Chicago
 

View of Chicago Skyline from 360 Chicago
 
After 360 Chicago, I got an Uber which had 2 very loud French speaking people in it, which always enhances my Uber experience, (thankfully I was dropped off first), and headed to the Crowne Plaza to complete check-in and crash for the night. I was already told that I’d been upgraded to a suite, but the definition of a suite can vary significantly by brand and property. I got up to my room and found that it was a two room suite with one and a half baths, a balcony that connects the two rooms, and a separate shower and bath tub. The “living room” included a TV, couch and two other chairs, as well as a fridge, microwave and sink. The bedroom had a king bed, and a TV, dresser, desk and the entrance to the full bathroom. I’d say for $49 (the AF on the Chase IHG card) I did alright. To cap off my last night in Chicago, I decided it would be appropriate to watch “Ferris Bueller's Day Off,” as it is a classic Chicago movie, with their experiences at the Cubs game and the Sears Tower.
 

Crowne Plaza West Loop Ambassador Suite Living Room
 

Crowne Plaza West Loop Ambassador Suite Bedroom
 

View from Crowne Plaza West Loop Ambassador Suite Balcony
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
-Albert Einstein

Offline dpk4588

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Re: The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2017, 11:43:19 PM »
Tuesday - May 16, 2017
 
This would be my final day in Chicago so I thought it would a good day to hit up a few of the “best” attractions Chicago has to offer. My day started with an Uber to the Museum of Science and Industry. My Uber driver was very talkative (something I hate in cab drivers) and was asking me if I’d had deep dish pizza. I told him that since I keep Kosher I couldn’t go to most of the pizza shops in town (I wasn’t sure if the Kosher shops serve deep dish, but it wasn’t worth bringing up with him), which led to a discussion on where I’m from (he guessed NY) and of course Judaism. Its rare that I go on a vacation without it coming up at some point, this time it was aided by the fact that I wasn’t wearing a hat and my kippah was visible.
 
Anyway...I got to the museum and with my GoCard came admission to the museum and one timed exhibit (not including U-505). I chose the coal mine, since I’d heard it was interesting. I was given the first tour of the day which started at 9:45a, and since it was just after 9:30a I figured I’d head straight there. I waited for a few minutes and then the tour guide came to let us in. The coal mine, Old Ben No. 17, is a re-creation of the original mine from 1933 and shows how coal is mined with modern upgrades. I found my tour guide to be kind of annoying. She didn’t get that we weren’t the kind of tour (most of us were adults) who wanted to have an interactive tour where she asks us questions and we answer, we wanted her to tell us about the mine and let us ask questions if we had them. It was cool to ride in an actual mine elevator (upgraded with walls) and real coal mine train cars, but other than that I found the experience disappointing (a theme for the museum overall).
 

Entrance to Coal Mine Old Ben No. 17
 

Mining Equipment

Just like the aquarium, I found this museum littered with kids running all over the place. There were a few exhibit that I did enjoy, including one on model ships, and one on racing cars. There was also an exhibits on model trains which was ok and I thought I would have enjoyed it more as someone who had worked on model trains with my dad as a kid. By far the best part of the museum was U-505 the first U-Boat captured by Allied Forces during WWII. There is a great exhibit on the U-Boat and for an additional fee you can get a tour of the U-Boat. My only complaint about the tour was that it has lights and sounds that go on and off automatically so the tour guide has to do his thing on a schedule and there’s no extra time stopping to take pictures of ask questions. I still go to take pictures, but I felt a little rushed due to the timed aspects of the tour. Overall I thought the U-505 was great and the best part of the museum by far.
 

Models of the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria
 

Model of The Marieville Riverboat
 

Model of City of New York Oceanliner
 

1972 Lola Racing Car   
 

1929 Rolls-Royce New Phantom
 

War Poster about Naval Intelligence
 




U-505
 

U-505 - Sleeping Quarters/Torpedo Bay
 

U-505 Communications Bay with Enigma
 

U-505 Charts
 

U-505 Scuttling Valve
 

Misc Items recovered from U-505
 

Model Train Set
 

Pratt & Whitney Engine from United B-727
 

Luftwaffe Plane
 
After the museum I went to the Crowne Plaza to check-out. I grabbed my stuff and when I checked out, there was a frum guy behind the front desk and after I checked out while I was, checking my bags with the bell desk (so I didn’t have to carry them around the rest of the day), he came over to me and started to shmooz. He told me I had been upgraded to the ambassador suite, I was like “I didn’t know what it was called, but it was nice and I appreciated it!”
 
After checking my bags I walked over to the French Market to go to Bebe’s Kosher Deli for lunch. Using another gift certificate from Great Kosher Deals, I got myself a Ruben. It wasn’t the best sandwich I’ve ever had but it certainly wasn’t the worst.  Bebe’s itself doesn’t have seating but the French Market has a seating area for the entire “food court,” so I ate there.
 
After lunch at Bebe’s at the French Market, I walked over to the Sears Tower to see Chicago from the SkyDeck. Just like 360 Chicago had its “interesting” aspect of the observation deck, so did the Sears Tower’s SkyDeck. They have “Ledge” which are glass boxed that extend ~4 feet out of the building over the street (not actually over the street, over the sidewalk I guess). Unlike the “Tilt” at 360 Chicago, this was free. It was cool to stand 1,353 feet off the ground and be able to look directly down. When my parents were at the Sears Tower last year it was the 30 year anniversary of “Ferris Bueller's Day Off” and they had a bunch of things from the movie in honor of that. They had (I don’t remember if they were cutouts or mannequins) of Cameron and Sloane with a space for you to be Ferris. It would have been cool if that was still there but I guess it was just for the anniversary. I couldn’t help myself from whistling Wayne Newton’s Danke Schoen while at the Tower just to complete the Ferris Bueller experience.
 

Chicago Nicknames - From the Exhibit/Entrance to Skydeck @ Sears Tower
 

Chicago Skyline from Skydeck @ Sears Tower
 

Chicago Skyline from Skydeck @ Sears Tower - Noticeable are Hancock Tower, Trump Tower, and 77 W. Wacker 
 

View from the “Ledge” out over Chicago Skydeck @ Sears Tower
 

View of the “Ledge” out over Chicago Skydeck @ Sears Tower
 

View of Buckingham Fountain from Skydeck @ Sears Tower
 

View of River City Condominiums from Skydeck @ Sears Tower
 

View of CFD (Chicago Fire Department) Training Facility from Skydeck @ Sears Tower
 
I took an Uber from the Sears Tower to Millennium Park to see Cloud Gate aka the bean. I went, saw it, saw the fountains that have people’s pictures on them and I was done with my sightseeing in Chicago.
 




 
I walked back to the Crowne Plaza. I walked because it was only about 20-25 minutes and with the way traffic was getting to Millennium Park, I figured it would take at least 15 minutes to get there by car anyway so I might as well get the exercise. I picked up my stuff, and ordered an Uber to take me back to Milts. The reason I went back to Milt’s to pick up dinner as opposed to going somewhere new is twofold. One, I had forgotten to order the chili fries which I was told were not to be missed (whoops), and two, because it was the least out of the way in getting between downtown and ORD.
 
I figured I was leaving myself plenty of time, but with the way traffic was, I’m glad I went to Milt’s because if I had gone further north to pick up dinner I’m not sure I would have made it with much time before my flight. I got to Milt’s ordered a Milt’s Burger and chili fries and a few minutes later I was in an Uber to ORD. An Uber ride that was only 17 miles but took 55 minutes. My flight boarded at 8, and generally I like to get to the airport at least an hour before my flight, especially when checking a bag, and this was cutting it close as I got to ORD at 6:55. I was able to check my bag quickly, (I checked it because I figured they’d probably give me a problem with it when I tried to bring it on the plane and it wasn’t worth the fight since it was free because I have the Barclays AAdvantage AAviator) and headed to security. The Pre-Check line moved fast but when I got to the metal detector, I set it off (as I often do), I removed my belt and tried again and this time I was selected for additional screening so I had to go through the body scanner. Not something I mind, except that the woman in front of me couldn’t go through the metal detector because she couldn’t remove her bracelet, and couldn’t go through the body scanner because she couldn’t raise her arm up that high. I was stuck behind her arguing with the TSA for at least 5 minutes before they finally (after some protest) let me go around her and get through.
 
After finally getting through security I headed to the Admirals Club for what might be my final trip with my Prestige card (since that benefit is being removed as of 7/31/17). I got to the club, got myself a drink and sat down to eat my dinner. I opened up the bag and saw that the “chili fries” when done as a “to go” order is DIY. They give you chili and they give you fries. The rest is up to you. Since they were no longer hot, I figured they’d be just as good, if not better if I heated them up later and at them together hot. I sat down had my burger (which was amazing), had my drink and at about 7:55p headed down to the gate for boarding. I just want to note, originally my gate was right next to the Admirals Club, but while I was on the way to ORD sitting in that awful NYC style traffic, I got the notification that my flight had been moved to a gate at the end of the concourse, about as far from the club as possible. Way to add salt to the wound AA.
 
Despite being unable to select a seat when I purchased my ticket I was auto-assigned a window seat. The flight itself was uneventful, relaxed a little, watched some TV and started working on this TR.
 

Leaving ORD
 

Arriving in NYC
 
Once I landed I checked to see what uber rates were like and I got a notice from Uber that due to the construction going on at LGA to “alleviate congestion” all ride-share and other livery cab passengers were to take a shuttle to lot where you could meet your driver. I knew this was gonna be a disaster and once I got outside my fears were confirmed. I then thought that it might be a blessing in disguise. If I took a rental car shuttle to the National Car rental across the highway from LGA, I’d avoid the disaster that is the ride-share shuttle and I’d be able to get the 40% I have on my Uber account since I technically wasn’t going from the airport. The problem was that apparently the rental car shuttles weren’t running anymore. Knowing the ride-share shuttle was a bad idea, I asked an LGA worker how i could walk out, but he didn’t seem to understand. He asked “where do you want to go?” I responded, “anywhere that isn’t property of LGA!” He told me how to get off airport property, and a few minutes later I was in front of the National Car rental waiting for my Uber. I made it home and that was it.
 
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed, and for those who came here to help plan your own Chicago vacation, I hope I was helpful.
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
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Offline good sam

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Re: The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2017, 12:50:11 AM »
Nice TR. Thanks for taking the time
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Re: The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2017, 12:54:45 AM »
Nice TR!
Were you set on ORD or did you consider STL-MDW as well?

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Re: The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2017, 02:23:06 AM »
Nice TR! Thanks for writing it up.
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Re: The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2017, 08:11:31 AM »
Nice TR!
Were you set on ORD or did you consider STL-MDW as well?
I wasn't set on ORD but AFAIK WN is the only one who flies direct from STL to MDW, and Wanna Get Away fares aren't available booking that close and 7.5k Avios was better than whatever the Anytime would have been.
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
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Re: The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2017, 08:52:26 AM »
Wow, Nice TR.

BTW LGA Hyatt is a cat 4

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Re: The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017
« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2017, 08:55:58 AM »
Very thorough write up!

Offline dpk4588

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Re: The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017
« Reply #11 on: May 30, 2017, 10:13:10 AM »
Wow, Nice TR.

BTW LGA Hyatt is a cat 4
Its actually cat 3, but either way, staying at a Hyatt Place 17 minutes from my house is not what I'd call good value out of the Hyatt night.
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
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Re: The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017
« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2017, 01:16:06 PM »
Wow beautiful TR, and I love the pictures, very detailed and crystal clear pictures, can I ask what type of camera you were using? 

 Overall amazing TR and very detailed TR. A++
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Re: The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017
« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2017, 01:23:39 PM »
Wow beautiful TR, and I love the pictures, very detailed and crystal clear pictures, can I ask what type of camera you were using? 

 Overall amazing TR and very detailed TR. A++
Thanks.
I use a Nikon D3200. I'm not "well versed" with it so I just use it on no-flash which is basically auto but it will adjust to not use flash (which from what I read you never wanna use). A few of the pictures (mainly the food and from the plane) were taken with my phone so those aren't as good.
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
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Re: The Very Windy City (Three Days in Chicago) May 2017
« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2017, 10:30:35 AM »
Intro and Planning
 
I figured since the night is book by not stay by, I can just plan something for a few weeks away. Apparently I was wrong, and the anniversary night is check-out by not book by.
 
[Side note about the Hyatt anniversary night (and possibly the sign up night). The website is very misleading, as long as you have a free night available in your account, it will show as bookable for any standard room regardless of date or category. Meaning if your anniversary night expires 5/1 and you’re look to book a hotel for 5/15 it will show as available but will fail once you try to complete the booking (and it won’t tell you why). I found this very confusing and it almost cost me my free night.  End of rant]
 

Great TR. I had a similar situation last year when i called Hyatt and had one of there reps book me a night using my anniversary night thinking it was book-by and not stay-by (one would think the rep would have told me this on the phone before booking me the room or that her system should not have let her book it). I logged into my Hyatt account a few days before my trip to check the reservation and it was not showing up. Long story short after awhile on the phone with various reps they ended up crediting my account 15k points.