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)
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
***What I learned today***
- The ledge (glass boxes) can get pulled in for maintenance.
- 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.
- Chicago is very flat city.
- 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.
- Wright hated attics and basements.
- Wright had six children and most of them followed the career path of their daddy.
- Wright was a good piano player.