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Sunday, 12 April 2015

Visiting Chicago; A Trip To Chicago, Part 1

UK travel blog



Hello hello hello! I am really excited about this one. If you follow me on Instagram (@emshelx), you'll know that I just got back from Chicago, somewhere I never actually thought of visiting but when the opportunity arose for me to hop on a plane there, I could hardly say no. I have a long list of places I want to visit, but recently, it's the places I had no expectations of which have impressed me the most. I didn't do much research about my trip to Chicago actually because I wanted it to be more of a relaxed city trip... so let's see how I got on!
the fairmont chicago
We spent our first 3 nights at the Fairmont Chicago - as most of you will know, it's one of my favourite hotel chains (although it's not like a chain, because all their hotels are so individual and unique but they all share amazing service). The Fairmont is luxurious, warm, friendly and the service is just perfection - I seriously cannot put into words how great the staff are. 


We stayed in the Fairmont Suite which was on the 37th floor. It had insane views of Chicago, as well as the largest bedroom, boardroom area and more. I have never been so blown away with a room in my life. As much as I love clean, white luxury, I love the Fairmont because it's luxurious in a different kind of way - it's got character. 

fairmont chicago



It was hard to leave our beautiful room, but we were so excited to explore the windy city!

magnolia bakery chicago

Our first stop of the day was Magnolia bakery - you may remember this from my trip to New York


I couldn't not grab a cupcake as we passed by.

Lou Malnati's

After lots of walking around and asking lots of people for recommendations (remember what I said on my top travel tips post? Ask the locals in order to find the best places!), we stopped for our first deep pan pizza of the trip. If you didn't know already, Chicago is famous for deep dish pizzas so we wanted to make sure we tried ALL the best ones. First stop was Lou Malnati's... it's quite touristy (so we were told, but we only saw locals in there) but lots of locals recommended it to us and you know what? It was blooming good. The base was buttermilk, it was crunchy and divine. We had a sausage one because we were told this is tradition, the sausage literally melted into the cheese. Uh. Food porn.

Lou Malnatis pizza chicago
the magnificent mile


We spent the majority of the first day shopping, we shopped on the Magnificent Mile which is, you guessed it, a mile of amazing shops. It beats Oxford Street hands down.

We then came across Sprinkles cupcake ATM which got us very excited! 

After lots of walking, we got back to our gorgeous suite and indulged in beautiful chocolate strawberries - hand decorated for us by the chefs at the Fairmont. Best turn down service ever?


I love hotels that leave you cute notes in your room before bed.


  

I rested my sleepy head but first, watched some American television.



The next morning we woke up early and headed straight to the golden lounge (you might remember from my Washington DC post but in Fairmont's they have golden lounges for their guests, it's always a lovely lounge with an insanely knowledgeable and helpful concierge, loads of added benefits like a chauffeured car sometimes and amazing breakfast and snacks included pretty much all day!) The view from Chicago Fairmont's golden lounge was pretty perfect. 

The bean chicago
We walked straight to the Bean which is a famous little sculpture in Chicago - just steps away from our hotel...

chicago skyline
The skyline in Chicago was stunning and actually reminded me of the skyline in Boston - it is neat, clean and obviously the bright blue sky helps too! You can actually spot the Fairmont there too! 

the bean chicago
I wish I could say it was warm but on our first few days it was absolutely freezing! 



  
Chicago
We wandered further and took in the beautiful architecture of Chicago - a city known for it's beautiful buildings. 

  

chicago
It is such a clean city. I fell in love the minute I arrived. 

UK travel blogger

chicago




We wandered around for quite some time and took in so many beautiful sights. 



We honestly walked for miles - everywhere you look in Chicago you can see such stunning views and buildings. We took a direct straight line from the hotel and our concierge (Cody - probably the best concierge I've ever had in any hotel - so efficient and brilliant) booked us tickets to go to Shedd Aquarium - the worlds best aquarium! It was way too cold to stay outside for too long on our second day which is why we chose to spend the morning walking from the hotel straight to the aquarium and then spent out afternoon looking at the pretty fishies! 


John shedd aquarium

Booking tickets with the concierge before really helped because the queue was huge, it meant we got to skip it and walk right through...


we saw some beautiful fish - I loved these sparkly ones 


the sharks were pretty scary though!


The little ones were cute


and the tortoises made me smile. 

chicago skyline

Shedd Aquarium was really good - I have never seen so many sea creatures - it was huge. After a few hours we got back to exploring the city. We couldn't help but stop to take in the gorgeous view from the aquarium first though. Right outside the doors, you get a beautiful view of the windy city!

big star chicago

We hopped on a subway and headed to Wicker Park - we were on the look out for hidden gems in Chicago and were told to visit Big Star Taco. It was slightly out of the way but so so worth it. I completely believe in moving away from tourist areas and trying to find the places where the locals eat!

big star taco chicago


This isn't a tourist place, it was full of locals, so much so that a couple from Chicago actually asked us how on Earth we managed to find it - they were very impressed. Chicago is made up of neighbourhoods and they're all so different, quirky and cool so make sure you venture out and see them.

We tried so many doughnuts whilst in Chicago too. Oops.

We wandered around more streets in Wicker Park.


We headed back to the hotel to get ready for the evening ahead. The suite was so perfect that as soon as it got cold, we headed back there for some rest bite. It was in the perfect location, we could just pop back in and grab some snacks from the golden lounge and get freshened up and warm because it was so central. 



missguided yellow waistband dress
I wore my beautiful yellow dress from Missguided. I had to put my huge North Face jacket over the top again because it was still freezing! That jacket is a lifesaver - seriously! We headed out for dinner, because it was cold, we couldn't face walking down the Magnificent Mile again to find a restaurant  but because we were allowed to use the golden lounge in the hotel, we got access to a beautiful new Cadillac and our concierge drove us there and told us where was best to eat - ah, perfect. 

The Cheesecake Factory
I have always been completely against eating at The Cheesecake Factory (I've always imagined it to be so touristy) but I was told it's a must do and I was pleasantly surprised - IT WAS AMAZING. I was expecting it to be a tourists dream but honestly, it was actually such good, delicious food (and ridiculously big portions - you should share your food if you go there!). I had my first ever veggie burger and really enjoyed it.
  
Of course we finished with cheesecake. I have never seen so many cheesecakes on a menu in my life. We went for the apple strudel one. 

the magic parlour chicago
After dinner, we went to watch a magic show called The Magic Parlour - annoyingly no cameras were allowed so I can't even show you - but it was phenomenal, I was truly blown away. The magician was brilliant and I left feeling so uplifted and well, magical I guess! 

the magic parlour

I would highly recommend going to see it if you are in Chicago. We did the theatre in New York so fancied something a little bit different whilst in Chicago (we bought discounted tickets from a place called HotTix in the city centre). 

The following day we wandered more 


we headed to another neighbourhood (all within walking distance)

The doughnut vault

and went to the Doughnut Vault - apparently Chicago's best doughnut. An American couple that we met told us we had to visit. 


The doughnut vault is tiny, but so busy and they sell over 1000 doughnuts a day.



the donut vault chicago
mine was oozing with deliciousness.



Walking back through another neighbourhood, we came across the anti-cruelty society and went in to play with the dogs and cats. It broke my heart seeing so many abandoned/abused animals - I wanted to adopt them all.

anticruelty society chicago

We ate a lot of food in Chicago and our next stop was Billy Goats diner, a famous diner under a bridge. It's easily the worst burger I have ever had in my life (eek sorry) but it's worth going for the experience. Basically, you walk in and two rude men shout at you 'cheese burger, double cheese burger is the best' I don't really want to promote it because honestly, it was dire food wise and probably hygiene wise too but it's one of those Chicago institutions that you have to visit just for the hilarity. They basically don't let you choose anything from the menu and force every single customer to order a double cheeseburger (I am pretty sure the menu is just for show and they only stock double cheeseburgers).

billy goat tavern

billy goat's tavern

billy goat tavern chicago


I am pretty certain the burger made me ill. I am shocked to have seen people on the internet saying its the best burger of their lives - it's like the dodgiest, cheapest meat ever but it's worth just going to see the crazy service. 



It was time to walk off that burger - we came up and out of the bridge to daylight. The lovely Cody booked us onto a famous architecture boat tour of Chicago and I was so excited for this.



Chicago is known for it's architecture and the 90 minute boat tour took us around the most beautiful places, and explained, in a non-boring but friendly and funny way, about the history of Chicago and the history of the buildings. 

Chicago boat tour

It was a great way to see Chicago from the water and to learn more about the city. When travelling, I always try to do at least one guided tour just because I always learn so much. I hate to leave a city feeling like a know nothing about it.
  

I wore my favourite new Missguided dress but had to throw a jumper over the top because I was just so chilly! I can't wait to wear this dress in the Summer with bare legs! My sunglasses are from here.


Then we got way too cold and put my jacket back on.

  
boat tour of chicago


the views were just stunning.
  


After an amazing boat tour, we popped back to our hotel to enjoy the view and to warm up a little bit. 


It was a great excuse for me to catch up on some work too - how can anyone leave a room when it is just so clean, perfect and luxurious?


That evening, we headed up the John Hannock tower. 
  
  
360 chicago

I would say the views rival those of the Rockefeller in New York. We were 95 floors up and we sat there for a few hours because the views were just perfect. 

360 tilt chicago

We also did the 360 tilt, where you literally tilt from the building in a moving glass box - it was so scary but well worth doing. 

the fifth label lonely sea dress

travel blogger

I wore my favourite new dress from The Fifth Label

  
chicago city

We stayed and watched day light turn to sunset, and sunset turn to darkness. I really love evenings like this - it's great to take an hour and just appreciate the beauty of the world. 
  

chicago sunset

Nothing beats seeing the city from above. I was blown away by Chicago's beauty. 

Giordano's

We accidentally stumbled on another famous pizza institution on our way back to the hotel, Giordano's (I told you Chicago is famous for it's pizza!!!). Healthy eating out of the window, we decided, whilst in Chicago, we should probably sample as many deep dish pizzas as we can... and that we did. 


Giordano's chicago

We waited an hour and then it came (deep dish pizzas take 45minutes to cook once you've ordered them and it was over an hour wait to get seated  because the place was so busy!). 

Giordano's chicago

It was very different to our first pizza because this was a stuffed pizza pie rather than a deep dish so it lacked that crispiness. I'm glad we got the chance to try both types though. This was more like a thick pie - seriously, a genuine, gooey pie. It was so good though. It tasted wrongly delicious. I feel like I am a connoisseur now when it comes to the best deep dish pizzas in Chicago. Maybe I'll move there and become a pizza tester? Maybe not. 

3 days down and more pizza consumed than anyone should ever consume in their life. I basically rolled home back to the Fairmont... My first three days in Chicago were unforgettable, the Fairmont was just perfection, the staff really did make our time in Chicago so much better too because they just helped us with so many amazing recommendations. Do I love Chicago? Yes, yes I do!

Part 2 of my Chicago trip coming very soon! Keep an eye out!

If you want more of Chicago, you can watch my blog here and below! 


Have you ever visited Chicago? Would you like to visit Chicago? Do you like the sound of Chicago? Do you like deep dish? Have you ever seen a magic show?

Lots of love, Em x

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