Hostels in Chicago

Wrigley Hostel

I stayed at two unique hostels in Chicago. The first was Wrigley Hostel, which is located on the same block as Wrigley Field. The area was filled with bars and clubs. The Wrigley Hostel is at a perfect location do to its proximity to the red line, bus station, baseball field, and great nightlife. The hostel was clean and filled with lots of international guests. They served breakfast every day. They had a pool table, an outdoor deck, several bathrooms, and 24hr lobby service. I met a lot of great people from all over the world. One in particular was from Australia. He walked from San Francisco to Chicago and plans on making it New York City by New Years Eve. Another person was from Italy and was there to run the Chicago Marathon. It was interesting to hear his viewpoint on the Italian food in Chicago compared to that of his home country.

Wrigley Hostel Wrigley Hostel Wrigley Hostel

Chicago Gateway Hostel

This Hostel won awards for being an extra-large hostel. Out of all the hostels I’ve ever stayed at, this place was the most technologically advanced. They had key card entrances, massive kitchen, a study area, TV room, piano room, bikes to rent, outdoor deck, computers with free printing, and free breakfast. Everything was clean and update. The bathrooms were updated with several showers and toilets. Unlike the other hostel, the location wasn’t ideal. It was about a mile or so from the nearest train station, and the area wasn’t as lively as the first hostel next to Wrigley. They did have lots of restaurants and places to walk. I met another person from Australia who’s been backpacking throughout Europe and plans to move to Canada.

Chicago Gateway Hostel Chicago Gateway Hostel 2013-10-13 17.34.18

 Overall Experience

I stayed at both hostels for one day each and I had a great time at both hostels. The people who I met at the hostels made it a great experience. Both hostels created an environment that made it easy to interact with other guests. I met people who were traveling in groups and individually. We decided to hang out to gather and share our knowledge of the places we’ve visited and hope to travel in our lifetime. I think hostels are a great place for meeting like-minded people and it is a great place to learn about others. When I visit Chicago, I plan on staying at these hostels.

 

My first time in Chicago

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.

guides

Transportation

For 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.

link Ventra Tap Map

Food

The 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.

Giodano Giodano's Pizza

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.

   Al's Beef  Valore Ristorante

Tourist activities

While 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.

Wrigley Field

Millennium Park

Surrounding 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.

Millennium Park Millennium ParkBean Millennium Park

SkyDeck

One 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.

Mill Park QNS_8997sky deck Sky Deck

 Navy Pier

Navy 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.

 

Navy Pier Bike and Roll NavyPier Distance Navy Pier

China Town

To 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.

Chinatown Chicago Chinatown Chicago Chinatown Chicago Chinatown Chicago

Overall experience

I 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.

My Experience With Running The Chicago Marathon

I want to start off by saying, “I did it!”

Chicago Marathon

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.Chicago Marathon

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.

Chicago Marathon

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.

Chicago Marathon