[amtrak trip] 24h in Chicago (3) + Chicago to NOLA


Day 4. 24h in Chicago (3) + Chicago to New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA)
Check out: Holiday Inn Express Magnificent Mile
Chicago–>New Orleans
Amtrak 59 <City of New Orleans>, Reserved Coach
Departure 8:05 PM
Arrival 3:47 PM (next day)

11:00 AM Wright (3) Robie House+ Museum of Science and Industry 

I kept running into this really fun looking Pixar Exhibition (‘The Science Behind Pixar’, through Jan 6, 2019) posters while I was walking around the streets of Chicago. I love Pixar, so I made up my mind to visit the exhibition held at Museum of Science and Industry near Hyde Park. Of course, the museum itself is also historic. It was the main venue for the World’s Columbian Expo in 1893 which made Chicago world-famous.

Close to the museum was another famous architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, Robie House. The 11:15 AM tour was available, so I decided to visit Robie House first and then go to the museum. From my hotel near Magnificent Mile, it took about 40 mins by bus (#3 or #26) and another 10 mins of walk.

Robie House is a house that Wright built for the rich young entrepreneur (bicycle parts manufacturer,) Frederick Robie. It is now under construction and is open to public Thursday-Monday, only by guided tour. Robie House is a symbolic architecture showing Wright’s distinctive, so-very-American organic architecture. The guide explained to us that while ‘organic architecture’ has diverse meanings, the essence of it is that the architecture must integrate with the nature surrounding it. The style was developed as a resistance against fancy European-ish designs that were popular among mainstream Chicago architecture society in early 1900s.

Chicago is very flat city so the Robie House was also spread flat on the ground, looking like it was lying down relaxed. The particular style is called ‘Prairie Style,’ which later was developed into typical American houses: one that I saw all the time when I drove through a typical town, the houses with garages attached to the side. (According to the docent, Wright was perhaps one of the inventors of American style garage!)

After about an hour of guided tour, I had to walk fast toward the Museum of Science and Industry. Pixar exhibition ticket (you can purchase them with mobile phone) has a designated entrance time and it was 12:50 PM for me. It took about 15~20 mins walk from Robie House to the museum. As a lunch, I grabbed a quick sandwich (Italian Sub) from Medici on 57th (established in 1955!) on a way to the museum, which was delightfully delicious (and SPICY!)

Pixar Exhibition was very colorful and interactive. I could render and play around with the characters from Pixar animations and learned a lot about the production procedure. The museum is the second largest science museum in the world, huge and full of interesting scientific stuffs. Kids were excitedly jumping up and down everywhere. I wished I could stay longer, but it was sadly the last day in Chicago and I still had places to visit so left the museum at around 2:00 PM.


Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago


Births of Woody and Buzz!

2:30 PM Art Institute of Chicago

After leaving the museum, I took another bus (#6) and headed to the Art Institute of Chicago. Since I started to learn drawing last June, I had become a big fan of Georges Seurat. I had been copying his charcoal drawings and became to admire the sensitive (almost paranoid) touch of his hand.

Art Institute is the home of Seurat’s most famous painting ‘A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.’ As soon as I entered the museum, I ran to see the painting on the second floor.

Other than Seurat’s painting, there were so many notable paintings in the museum, Edward Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks’ and Pablo Picasso’s ‘The Old Guitarist’ to name a couple. One could spend a whole day at the museum but I had to leave at around 5:00 PM because I had a train to catch and… a hotdog to eat!


Seurat’s <A Sunday on La Grande Jatte>, room 240 at Art Institute of Chicago


Edward Hopper <Nighthawks>


Picasso <Old Guitarist>

6:00 PM Hot dog

Before getting the luggage back from the hotel, I headed to the hot dog chain restaurant near the hotel, Portillo’s. Chicago hot dogs are known to be so special and delicious. If I didn’t eat Chicago hot dog, I would be so miserable.

As I was dashing into the restaurant I was shocked by its huge size! It was like ten times bigger than an ordinary McDonalds! I ordered Jumbo Hot Dog ($3.55) with EVERYTHING on it. According to its website, ‘everything’ includes “mustard, relish, celery salt, freshly chopped onions, sliced red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle, and sport peppers piled onto a steamed poppy seed bun.”

We celebrated our last meal in Chicago with ice cold beer. The hot dog was so good and I had an urge to eat one more but decided not to because I had been eating too much. Oh, how stupid I was!


Portillo’s, the biggest hot dog restaurant I’ve ever seen




Jumbo Hot Dog with EVERYTHING on it

8:05 PM Chicago–>New Orleans

At around 7:30 PM, I hopped into the train to New Orleans. The name of the train is (really) ‘The City of New Orleans’ and it runs all the way from Chicago to New Orleans (19 hours of ride.) Before people were boarding, the staff handed out the papers with seating numbers. Not like the train from Boston to Chicago, we could not select seats of our preference.

There were other differences too, which seemed interesting to me such as… 1) There’s no free WiFi for Reserved Coach 2) There is separate observation room where the seats are facing outside 3) The train is double deck and reserved coach is on the second deck. (First deck seemed to be for luggage, bathroom, A/C room etc.) 4) The train’s older and shakier  than Lake Shore Express (Boston to Chicago) 5) So many people looked like they were going to a party, very excited! However, within about one hour from the departure, most of the people on the train fell asleep.


Double decker train ‘The City of New Orleans’


“So long Chicago,” sunset from the train

***The things I learned today***

  1. Not every Amtrak train is alike but there’s no place to check what the differences are
  2. The staff kindly covered the lights in the corridor so people could sleep better
  3. Computer programmers play humongous role in Pixar animation
  4. I had learned that many of American innovations come from a garage (like Steve Jobs+Wozniak.) Perhaps many garage innovators owe it to Frank Lloyd Wright?

[amtrak trip] 24h in Chicago (2)
[Amtrak trip] 24h in Chicago (1)
[Amtrak trip] Boston to Chicago



[amtrak trip] 24h in Chicago (2)

 Day 3. 24h in Chicago (2)
Holiday Inn Express Magnificent Mile

10:00 AM Willis Tower

The great way to kick off the second day in Chicago is of course, to go straight up to the iconic 110 stories high Willis Tower (the former Sears Tower.) Willis Tower used to be the tallest tower in the US until the One World Trade Center in NY was raised in 2014. The Skydeck ($24,) has four glass boxes (the ledge, it is called) sticking out from 1,353 feet (412 meters) above the ground. And it surely looked very scary from the street. Will I be able to step into a glass box that high above? I was to find out.

It was pretty early so the line was not too long. After waiting in the line for about ten minutes I hopped into an elevator. It took only one minute to go up. The view from the top was fabulous thanks to the clear weather.

After looking around the city through large glasses, I stood in one of the four lines to get into the ledge. After waiting in line for about 15 minutes, I could step into the glass box. I felt sharp vertigo for a second, but after that it was all fun taking Insta-perfect pictures for about a minute. (Nobody was controlling the time, but ‘one minute’ seemed like a norm except for some people who were going for something like whole photo catalog shooting :-P)


minions at Skydeck, Willis Tower

11:30 AM Millennium Park

After coming down from the Willis Tower, I walked to the Millennium Park (about 20 mins,) the most visited place in Chicago last year. Rectangular twin fountains (Crown Fountain), huge + shiny bean-shaped sculpture (Cloud Gate), post-modern geometric outdoor stage (Jay Pritzker Pavillion) all made the park feel so… Chicago!


Crown Fountain, Millennium Park


Cloud Gate, Millennium Park


Inside Cloud Gate, Millennium Park

12:30 PM Lunch at Cindy’s

Cindy’s restaurant is located right across the Millennium Park on the rooftop, and it has a balcony looking over the park. I had crunchy lettuces salad and Chicken sandwich which were fresh and delicious. After the lunch, I drank a cup of iced Matcha latte from the Fairground Coffee & Tea on the ground floor, looking at well-dressed dandy Chicago people passing by.




Crunchy Lettuces at Cindy’s

2:00 PM Frank Lloyd Wright (1) Home and Studio

The afternoon was dedicated to one of the greatest architects of the US, Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959.) Wright was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin but moved to Chicago when he was twenty to find a job.

Our first stop was Home and Studio in Oak Park. From Millennium Park, it took about 30 minutes by convenient green line subway and another 15 minutes’ walk from the Oak Park station. The house offered one hour guided tour ($18.00.) The guide took us to detailed places inside and outside the house (and attached studio.)
A bonus: on the way to the house on Chicago Ave, there were several houses that were designed by Wright for his private clients which also looked very cool. How lucky are those who live in that house!


Inside Wright’s Studio (attached to the house)


Inside Wright’s Home

 4:00 PM Frank Lloyd Wright (2) Unity Temple

Frank Lloyd Wright’s first public building, Unity Temple, is about four blocks away from his House and Studio. Frank Lloyd Wright Trust who manages the place recommends visitors to stop by both buildings. The temple is still actively used by Unitarian congregation, it is open to general public only on certain dates + times ($18.00, $10.00 self-guided tour.)

The young lady guide told us the temple was built on a tight budget, and Wright eventually spent about twice as much money that the church had hoped for. Nevertheless, it looked amazingly beautiful to every detail. Wright was a believer of practicality, so the temple felt very ‘user friendly,’ not like some of those fancy but inconvenient architectures. It looked very private and exclusive from outside, but once you step inside the temple, the sunlights from the stained glasses filled the temple like a blessing connecting the space with nature outside.


Unity Temple, outside


Unity Temple, outside


Unity Temple, inside


Unity Temple, inside

6:30 PM Outside Concert at Millennium Park

We came back to the city by green line subway again. There was free orchestra concert at Millennium Park as a part of Millennium Park Summer Music Series. The seats were abundant because you were allowed to sit on chairs, grass, stairs… anywhere you could sit (and of course you can keep standing as well.) People brought ice boxes, folding chairs, tents etc. I sat on one of the stairs and enjoyed Liszt and Sibelius while practicing drawing on my tiny sketchbook. Never had I realized that a Sibelius symphony resonates so smoothly with summer breeze.


Summer concert at Pritzker Pavillion, Millennial Park

8:00 PM Dinner at Gibson’s Steak and Bar

After 1.5 hour music break at the park, we took a red line subway heading to Gibson’s Steak and Bar. One of my gourmet friends told me that Chicago is the best place to eat steaks because it features the freshest beef in the US. And I must say that absolute is true! I almost cried while eating the steak (Chicago Cut) simply because it was soooooooo delicious. I usually cannot finish the American steak because it is too large for me, but this time I didn’t leave any small piece behind because I knew I will regret it for rest of my life if I did.


Chicago Cut at Gibson’s

***What I learned today***

  1. The ledge (glass boxes) can get pulled in for maintenance.
  2. It is good idea to visit Willis Tower early in the morning. I waited only about 10 minutes to go up to the Skydeck, but when I came back down after about an hour, there was a long line formed for riding an elevator up.
  3. Chicago is very flat city.
  4. When I did some reading about Frank Lloyd Wright there were so many materials about his famous love affair(s), the murder of his mistress etc. but nobody  seemed to ‘officially’ talk about that kind of personal stuff inside his architecture.
  5. Wright hated attics and basements.
  6. Wright had six children and most of them followed the career path of their daddy.
  7. Wright was a good piano player.

[one drawing #27] plantations

On the trip to New Orleans, I took about a half day to visit famous plantations. I went with a tour to Laura’s Plantation and Oak Alley Plantation. Did a quick sketch on site and added more  details later at hotel.



(top) Laura’s Alley (bottom) Oak is Alley Plantation

On the trip to New Orleans, I took about a half day to visit famous plantations. I went with a tour to Laura’s Plantation and Oak Alley Plantation. Did a quick sketch on site and added more  details later at hotel.


Laura’s Plantation (in my real photo)


Oak Alley Plantation (in my real photo)


yes, it is a small sketchbook 


[one drawing #26] Jazzy

New Orleans is the city that invented JAZZ. Yesterday, I stopped by Madison Jazz Bar where Smoking Time Jazz Club was playing.

It was dark and I already finished two glasses of cocktail so I drew some of the points obviously wrong. Nevertheless this drawing is special to me because it is the first one that strangers sitting next (the drinkers of two glasses in the drawing) told me it was very good.

How can I not love NOLA!

“Be nice or leave!”


Base+Oboe players at Madison, New Orleans

[one drawing #25] Millennium Park

Millennium Park is the most visited spot in Chicago. I visited the park recently and luckily for me, there was a free orchestra concert in the evening. The symbolic architecture inside the park where the concert was held, Pritzker Pavillion, was very modern (maybe post-modern?) and… complicated structure.

I chose the simplest looking frame I could find and started to draw, only to realize it was not clean-cut at all. After 1.5 hour of the performance, I left the park with unfinished drawing and puzzling mind. I finished it on a train to New Orleans. My apologies for the wonderful players that  I could not included them in the picture because… it would have taken forever for me!


Pritzker Pavillion at Chicago Millennium Park


The REAL Pritzker Pavillion at Chicago Millennium Park