My first time in Chicago was a great experience. I went there to run the Chicago Marathon. I didn't know what to expect of the city. The more I discovered the longer I wanted to stay. Although Chicago is nicknamed the “Windy City” I didn't feel it. I found the city to be one of the most beautiful cities that I’ve ever visited. The Chicago is clean, easy to navigate, and filled with great architecture. Coming out of the airport, what I first noticed was the tourist information centers. They provided maps of the city, places to visit, and tips to enjoying the culture of the city.
TransportationFor those of you flying, taking the train, or bus to Chicago, you will find the city easy to navigate. I flew to Chicago. At the airport they have tourist information centers. These centers contain maps, brochures, and computerized maps of city with places to visit and eat. The subway maps were easy to follow. You can take the blue line from the airport to downtown Chicago and other parts of the city. Depending on how long you are staying in the city, you can purchase a three-day Ventra card. It serves as a debit card that you can refill online once you register and upon return to Chicago you can refill the card. I paid a little over $25 for a few days of service. The card is used for the train or bus system and its unlimited for the days that bought the Ventra card. To use the card, just go to one of the entrances and tap the card on the electronic system to pass through.
FoodThe food was amazing. Since I was there to run the marathon I mostly ate pasta. Carb loads are great for running a big event. As a tourist, I ate at the places that were well-known by locals and tourists alike. Pizza from Giordano's was amazing. Earlier that day, I met a few people from the Wrigley Hostel and we decided to tour the city together. At Giordano's we ordered half sausage and half pepperoni pie. The toppings were stuffed underneath the cheese. The pizza was well worth the wait and lived up to the hype. Other places we ate at were Al's beef and Volare Ristorante (201 E. Grand Avenue) . We ran into Volare Ristorante by accident. We were walking from Navy Pier and got hungry. When we arrived at Volare we noticed how great the staff was for a couple reasons, the staff came by and spoke to us, followed by the manager, food came out right away, and it tasted great. The weather was nice so we sat outside. Vitore has a great choice of Italian food. I suggest you go there either for lunch or dinner. The inside of the restaurant is beautiful.
Tourist activitiesWhile staying at the Wrigley Hostel, I met a few people from all over the world. We decided to hangout and explore Chicago together. Since we were a less than a five minutes walk from Wrigley Field, we decided to walk around the stadium to take a few pictures.
Millennium ParkSurrounding the park are beautiful architectural buildings. The park is located in the middle of downtown Chicago. You can take the red line or a bus to Millennium park. The place is filled with tourists and locals alike. One of the major attractions is the big bean. It’s fun to play with and is coated in a mirror like substance. You will notice a lot of people taking pictures of themselves or others. Its’ a great place for photography. Another point of interest are ceramic sculptures by Jun Kaneko. Each ceramic figure is uniquely decorated. The park has a theater, venues for private functions, a mini waterfall, and an open Greek looking monument. The place is ideal for taking pictures, enjoying a nice walk, and to view all the beautiful architectural buildings surround the area.
SkyDeckOne of the tallest building in the world, the SkyDeck is a major tourist attraction in Chicago. If you plan on going to the SkyDeck, you should arrive early. The line is very long. While waiting online, there are a lot of games and quizzes to keep the you engaged. If you want to avoid the line, they have a five tourist attraction speed pass. Depending on your age, the price ranges, but for they offer student discounts and its about $18 if you are not a child or senior citizen. As you navigate through the building, there are several employees there to guide you. When you get in the elevator and make your way up, the elevator lets you know your elevation and other tall buildings in the world that you pass in elevation like the Eiffel Tower. When you get to the top of the SkDeck, you get a 360 degree view of the city. They have lots of souvenirs and designated areas to take photographs. Enjoy and be creative with your pictures.
Navy PierNavy Pier is a great place to walk around and have a good time with family and friends. Fortunately, we were able to see some of the people who served in the Navy walking in their uniforms. Lot's of people were asking to take pictures with them. I guess it made sense, since we were at the Navy Pier. The Pier is filled with restaurants, park, view of the water, and plenty of activities. We decided to do a self bike tour of nearby area using the Bike and Roll bikes. They fit give people comfortably. One person steers and 4 people pedal. We paid around $40 for an hour. I wasn't the one peddling, but according to my peddler's, it was a real workout. If you are not in shape, I suggest you do the half hour ride.
China TownTo get to Chinatown you have to take the red line and then the China town bus. The place was filled with lots of small shops and fruit stands. I decided to buy mangosteen which is a fruit from southeast Asia. If you ever get the chance to try mangosteen, I suggest you do so. It is very delicious. This Chinatown was one of the cleanest and least hectic out of all the Chinatown's I've ever been to. I think it was also one of the smallest. What I did like about the place was the bakeries. Lots of delicious cookies and native Chinese baked goods. Take a chance and try something new.
Overall experienceI had a great time in Chicago. One of the cleanest cities that I've been to. I didn't explore all of Chicago, but the parts that I did explore, I liked a lot. The people who I met at the hostels were diverse and I learned a lot from them. I was jealous of all the places they traveled to and that makes me want to travel more. My friend Breyon let me stay with her and her roommates and they took me out around the bars in Wrigley Field. Next time I drive I to Chicago, I want to drive and hopefully bring some friends with me.
I want to start off by saying, “I did it!” The event takes place every year in Chicago on the second weekend of October. About 45,000 people compete in the event and an estimated 1.9 million spectators are there to cheer on the participants. The event is planned months in advance and requires a lot of the cities resources to keep the event safe and functional. What I liked most about the Chicago marathon was the overall planning and communication by the event organizers. Despite the trouble of initially registering to pay for the event, everything else after that was great. The official website provided competitors of the Chicago marathon with a countdown to the event, contact information, map of the course, race information for competitors. A few weeks before the event, coordinators of the Chicago marathon sent the race packet with pickup information. The coordinators also sent weekly reminders with updates to the event and provided safety measures for when of an emergency situation. When I arrived at the expo center to pick up my race number, the expo was filled with vendors. The Chicago marathon coordinators had information booths to help out contestants with race information and where in the expo to pick up their race t-shirts and numbers. The expo had shuttle buses to take participants of the to metro stations. The expo was filled with lots of activities such as a running shoes showcases, cars, food, and expert advice on running. The day of the event was smooth and well-coordinated. There were several security checkpoints, photographers, places to warm up and stretch, and areas to check in your clothes. The race was broken down into two waves. The first wave went off at 7:30am and the second wave went off at 8:00am. I was part of the second wave. One thing I didn’t like was the clock throughout each mileage. They displayed the times from the first wave and it was difficult to tell your pace as a second wave runner. The event was filled with spectators cheering you at each mile; parts of the race were sectioned off so spectators couldn’t cross the street while you were racing. About thirty minutes within the race the first and second wave runners cross paths and that made it difficult to navigate through the runners. Every time I felt I needed a surge of energy the crowd was always there to lift me up. The energy from the spectators of the Chicago marathon was amazing. The music throughout each zone was uplifting and was very much appreciated. Some posters were definitely unique and some of the most creative pieces of work that I’ve ever seen. Although I didn’t reach my goal of breaking three hours, I felt accomplished. My first experience with the Chicago marathon was a success. The people of Chicago were great. The metal and the post race events added to the experience. I plan on running it again in the near future.