Things to do

Chicago - What not to miss

Chicago is one of my favorite big cities in America, rich in history, architecture and culture there are countless things to enjoy while visiting this bustling city. This post is broken out into 3 sections including; things to do, places to eat and drink and places to stay.  If you're planning on travelling to the US anytime soon, find out about the ESTA Visa program at www.estaform.org 

Things to do in Chicago

Architecture River Cruise

One of my favorite things to do when visiting Chicago is climbing board one of the river boats to enjoy a tour presented by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Learn about the architecture and design of over 50 buildings on a 90 minute tour. Cruises depart daily and cost approximately $40 for adults. The boats offer open-air and air-conditioned seating with a full bar service available onboard.

All tours depart from Riverside Gardens, Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive (Southeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge). Be sure to book your tickets in advance as they sell out quickly.

Recommended: http://www.cruisechicago.com/

 All Aboard, Chicago

All Aboard, Chicago

 Architecture River Cruise, Chicago

Architecture River Cruise, Chicago

 Architecture River Cruise, Chicago

Architecture River Cruise, Chicago

Millennium Park

A trip to Chicago wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Millennium Park to see The Bean or “Cloud Gate” as it’s officially named. The park also offers a state of the art collection of architecture, landscape design and artwork that provides the backdrop for a wide range of free cultural programs. Stroll through the gardens and enjoy this tranquil oasis located in the middle of a bustling city.

Recommended: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/millennium_park.html

 Cloud Gate or The Bean, Chicago

Cloud Gate or The Bean, Chicago

  Millennium Park, Chicago

Millennium Park, Chicago

  Millennium Park, Chicago

Millennium Park, Chicago

John Hancock Center 95th Floor

If you want to enjoy a cocktail with a view then I highly suggest visiting the 95th Floor of the John Hancock Center. The Signature Lounge offers premium cocktails with a dazzling skyline view of the city. I would suggest arriving around 5.30pm and staying until sunset you won’t be disappointed.

I wouldn’t bother with the food here its average to say the least, the cocktails are good and the view is unbeatable.

Recommended: http://www.signatureroom.com/TheSignatureLounge

  John Hancock Center 95th Floor, Chicago

John Hancock Center 95th Floor, Chicago

  John Hancock Center 95th Floor, Chicago

John Hancock Center 95th Floor, Chicago

Navy Pier

Navy Pier is a 3,300 foot long pier located on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Featuring a wide range of cultural activities, seasonal celebrations, festivals, fireworks and entertainment there is always something happening.

Recommended: http://www.navypier.com/

 The view of the city next to  Navy Pier, Chicago

The view of the city next to Navy Pier, Chicago

Comedy Show at the Laugh Factory

If you are looking for something different and highly entertaining I suggest booking a ticket for a show at the Laugh Factory. Since opening its doors in 1979, the world famous Laugh Factory has been recognized as the number 1 comedy club in the country. Countless comedians have taken to the stage in this iconic location and entertained audiences for years. I saw the Nasty Show which was unbelievably hilarious.  Sit back order a cocktail and let the good times roll.

Recommended: http://www.laughfactory.com/

The Magnificent Mile

The Magnificent Mile, sometimes referred to as The Mag Mile, is an upscale section of Chicago's Michigan Avenue, running from the Chicago River to Oak Street in the Near North Side and is a mecca for shopping. The mile offers the best shopping experience with an abundance and variety of boutiques and stores. The shopping is very diverse and sure to please everyone!

Recommended: http://www.themagnificentmile.com/

 Start of the Mile, Chicago

Start of the Mile, Chicago

  The Magnificent Mile, Chicago

The Magnificent Mile, Chicago

Chicago-Magnificent-Mile

Places to eat and drink

The Terrace at Trump Tower

One of my favorite bars in Chicago has to be the sophisticated outdoor Terrace at Trump. Enjoy the most iconic views of Chicago’s skyline including the Wrigley Clock Tower, Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, while sipping on one of the many handcrafted cocktails on offer. 

Recommended: https://www.trumphotelcollection.com/chicago/rooftop-restaurants-chicago.php

  The Terrace at Trump Tower, Chicago

The Terrace at Trump Tower, Chicago

  The Terrace at Trump Tower, Chicago

The Terrace at Trump Tower, Chicago

 Coconutty for the cocktails at Trump

Coconutty for the cocktails at Trump

The Purple Pig

If you are in desperate need of a break from shopping on the Magnificent Mile stop in at the Purple Pig. This intimate restaurant has an amazing selection of cured meats, cheeses and classic Mediterranean fare. The staff are extremely friendly and will be happy to pour you a large glass of wine or mix up a cocktail to help you relax.

Recommended: http://thepurplepigchicago.com/

  The Purple Pig, Chicago

The Purple Pig, Chicago

Sable Kitchen and Bar

With the tag line “the cocktail is king” you can expect to enjoy a drink or two at this restaurant. Located in the heart of Chicago the restaurant offers a variety of small plates designed to share. This restaurant is perfect for a medium sized group, with 5 of my girlfriends we managed to sample quite a lot of the menu and we were not disappointed.

Recommended: http://www.sablechicago.com/

Eataly

Eataly is a smorgasbord of amazing Italian food including pizza, pasta, cheeses, cured meats, wine and my personal favorite Nutella. A trip to Chicago wouldn’t be complete without visiting this amazing establishment.

Recommended: http://www.eataly.com/us_en/stores/chicago/   

  Eataly, Chicago

Eataly, Chicago

Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House

This seafood restaurant and steakhouse is only a stone’s throw from the John Hancock tower and a great place to eat after watching the sunset from the 95th floor. With a large variety of steak and seafood dishes there is surely something to please everyone. If you are big into seafood be sure to sample the Alaskan King Crab legs!

Recommended:  https://www.hugosfrogbar.com/

Rock Bottom Brewery

If you are lucky enough to visit Chicago during the summer months make the most of the sunny weather and head to the rooftop bar at Rock Bottom Brewery. With a wide range of beers, cocktails and light bites this out door bar offers great views in a cozy atmosphere.

Recommended: http://www.rockbottom.com/locations/chicago

Studio Paris Nightclub

If you are looking for a big night out in Chicago you can head to Studio Paris Nightclub which offers bottle service inside its chic indoor/outdoor lounge. 

Recommended: http://www.studioparisnightclub.com/home

Places to stay

I have stayed in a few different hotels in Chicago all very different and unique in their own way. Depending on the type of hotel you are looking for, how much you are willing to spend and the location you want to stay in here are three hotels that I would recommend.

The Trump Tower ($$$)

In Chicago you’re either staying at the Trump or you’re not. The 92 story hotel is located right in the heart of the city and offers impeccable style and five-star service. You will enjoy the highest level of luxury during your stay and will not be disappointed. While the cost of staying here is quite high, if you book far enough in advance you can scoop up a bargain through any of the hotel deal websites.

Website: https://www.trumphotelcollection.com/chicago/chicago-specials.php 

 The Trump Tower, Chicago

The Trump Tower, Chicago

 Room View The Trump Tower, Chicago

Room View The Trump Tower, Chicago

The Talbott Hotel ($$)

The Talbott Hotel was built in 1927 and has been recently renovated in keeping its historic charm while offering all the modern amenities one would expect. I really enjoyed my stay at this charming hotel and found the staff and level of service offered amazing. The hotel is reasonably priced especially if you book well ahead of time.

Website: https://www.talbotthotel.com/ 

 The Talbott Hotel, Chicago

The Talbott Hotel, Chicago

Holiday Inn Mart Plaza ($)

If you are looking for somewhere inexpensive to stay that is located in the heart of the city then the Holiday Inn is for you. The hotel is clean, has friendly staff and is very reasonably priced.

Website: http://www.martplaza.com/

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3 Days in New York City - a complete itinerary

New York is an amazing city, with so many things to see and do it can be a little overwhelming if you have never been before. The following itinerary will help you maximize your time in New York by grouping key attractions together. People often think that Manhattan is quite small, after all it is an island, however it can take a reasonable amount of time to get from one neighborhood to another so this itinerary will help you avoid wasted travel time. This is a three day itinerary and each day starts from The Marcel at Gramercy Hotel located in the Flatiron district. This post focuses on the main attractions NYC has to offer, I will write a separate post on hotels, restaurants and places to drink. 

Day 1: Flatiron, Empire State, New York Library, Grand Central, Rockefeller Center, St Patrick’s Cathedral & Central Park

Today you will walk approximately 3 – 4 miles, starting at the hotel head over to 5th ave and turn right so you are walking towards Central Park. You will see the following sites on your journey.

Flatiron Building

The Flatiron Building will be the first thing you see, it is located next to Madison Square Park. When the building was first completed in 1902 it was considered a groundbreaking skyscraper standing at 21 floors it was the tallest building in the city. The building was constructed on a triangular block and its name “Flatiron” comes from its resemblance to a cast-iron clothes iron. The building is known worldwide as the quintessential symbol of New York and it has been called one of the most iconic skyscrapers in the world. 

 Flatiron Building, New York

Flatiron Building, New York

 Flatiron Building, New York

Flatiron Building, New York

Empire State Building

The next building you will come across is the Empire State Building which was completed in 1931 and is 102 stories high. You can travel to the top of the building to the Observation Deck which offers great views of Manhattan, however the lines can become extremely long and the view is obstructed by a wire cage which encompasses the deck. I would recommend skipping a trip to the Observation Deck and opting for the Top of the Rock experience which will be discussed below.  

 Empire State Building, New York

Empire State Building, New York

 Empire State Building, New York

Empire State Building, New York

New York Public Library (NYPL)

The next landmark you will happen upon is the NYPL which houses nearly 53 million items and is the second largest public library in the United States and the fourth largest in the world. The Library has an impressive exterior with two large lions guarding the entrance and a wonderful interior featuring wonderful places to kick-back and relax with a good book.  Be sure to check out the Rose Reading Room and the Map Room. 

 New York Public Library, New York

New York Public Library, New York

Grand Central Station

From the New York Public Library you can take a minor detour from 5th ave and visit Grand Central Station. Used as a backdrop for many well-known movies and TV Shows including Gossip Girl, Bad Company, friends with benefits and many more. Grand Central Station was built during the heyday of American long-distance passenger rail travel. The station covers 48 acres and has 44 platforms which is more than any other railroad station in the world. Be sure to look up at the beautiful zodiac ceiling. 

 Grand Central Station, New York

Grand Central Station, New York

Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock) & Radio City Music Hall

Heading back to 5th ave you will reach Rockefeller Center which is surrounded by some 200 flagpoles which display flags from countries in the United Nations. The centerpiece of the plaza is 30 Rockefeller Center, this building is where the famous Lunchtime atop a Skyscraper photograph was taken in 1932. I would recommend a trip to the 67th-70th floor observation decks which offer amazing views of downtown and Central Park. In winter an outdoor ice skating ring is set up in the plaza if you are up for a little excitement. 

 Top of the Rock, New York

Top of the Rock, New York

 Rockefeller Plaza, New York

Rockefeller Plaza, New York

St Patrick’s Cathedral

Across the road from Rockefeller Center you will see the imposing St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The stone has recently been cleaned and the cathedral casts a striking pose in stark white. 

 St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York

Luxury Shopping

You are now in New York’s heart of luxury shopping, within a few blocks you have Saks Fifth Avenue (with the most impressive Shoe Salon I have ever seen), Bergdorf Goodman’s (with an amazing restaurant that overlooks Central Park), Tiffany and Co’s flagship store and many others. Even if you can't afford to shop at Chanel, Prada or Burberry you must take a stroll down one of the most famous shopping streets in the world. 

Recommended: After a long morning of walking stop at the BG Restaurant located on the 7th floor of the Bergdorf Goodman restaurant which offers sweeping views of Central Park. 

Recommended: http://www.bergdorfgoodman.com/stores/restIndex.jsp

Central Park

The last stop on the day’s tour is Central Park which was originally opened in 1857.  It is located in the heart of Manhattan and is 843 acres in size. The park is beautiful in summer and winter and has many fun activities on offer. You might want to check out:

  • Bethesda Fountain and Terrace
  • Boat House Café
  • Central Park Carousel
  • Central Park Zoo
 Central Park, New York

Central Park, New York

 Bethesda Fountain and Terrace - Central Park, New York

Bethesda Fountain and Terrace - Central Park, New York

 Central Park in Winter, New York

Central Park in Winter, New York

Day 2: Manhattan by Helicopter, Statue of liberty, Wall Street & the World Trade Center Memorial

Today you will walk approximately 3.0 miles, start by walking to the Metro station and hop on the downtown train to Whithall St. 

Manhattan by Helicopter

If you want a bird’s eye view of the big apple and surrounding areas then a helicopter tour is a must. You will see Manhattan like never before as you travel up and down the Hudson River. Although the tours are not cheap the experience and views are worth it.

Recommended: http://www.heliny.com/  

  New York Skyline

New York Skyline

  Helicopter Pad Lower Manhattan, New York 

Helicopter Pad Lower Manhattan, New York 

Statue of liberty

The Statue of Liberty has been welcoming immigrants to the United States since 1886 and was a gift to the U.S from the people of France. The statue is of a female figure representing Libertas (the Roman goddess) who bears a torch and a tablet evoking the law upon which the date July 4th 1776 is inscribed. The statue is an icon of freedom with a broken chain that lies at her feet.

If conditions are favorable you can see the statue from the Free Staten Island Ferry however it doesn’t go very close so if you want to take some great photos be sure to buy a ticket. You have two options when purchasing tickets, do you want to get off the Ferry and walk around on the Statues Island. It’s a personal preference but remember once you are on the island it is hard to get good photos as you are too close. 

  Statue of Liberty, New York

Statue of Liberty, New York

  Statue of Liberty from the air, New York

Statue of Liberty from the air, New York

Wall Street and Federal Exchange Plaza

The next stop on today’s tour is Wall Street and Federal Exchange Plaza. Wall Street is only 1.1km long and spans 8 blocks, it has over time become the symbol of the United States financial markets. Located on Wall Street is the New York Stock Exchange which is directly opposite Federal Hall. Federal Hall is a National Memorial and it was built in 1842 as the United States Custom House. It is operated by the National Park Service as a national memorial commemorating the historic events that occurred there.

  New York Stock Exchange

New York Stock Exchange

Charging Bull Statue

The Charging Bull, which is sometimes referred to as the Wall Street Bull is a 3,200kg sculpture that symbolizes aggressive financial optimism and prosperity. It is one of the most iconic symbols of Wall Street but be warned getting a photo with the bull may take patience as the line can become extremely long. Due to my inability to wait in long lines I do not have a photo to share with you. 

World Trade Center Memorial

The new World Trade Center is built on the grounds of the original World Trade Center which opened in 1973 and was tragically destroyed in the September 11th attacks of 2001. One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the United States and has now been officially opened to the public. 

Recommended: A visit to the National September 11 Memorial is a must. The memorial is a tribute to the remembrance and horror of the 3,000 people killed in terror attacks of September 11, 2001. The Memorial’s twin reflection pools are the largest man made waterfalls in North America. The pools sit within the footprints where the twin towers once stood. Surrounding the pool on bronzed paneling is the name of every person who died during the 2001 and 1993 attacks. Inside the Museum displays artifacts associated with the events of 9/11, while presenting stories of loss and recovery. 

Recommended: http://www.911memorial.org/

  Twin reflection pools, New York

Twin reflection pools, New York

Century 21

If you are looking for a designer steel head across to Century 21 one of New York’s largest discount department stores. Its directly opposite the memorial and there is always a bargain to be found inside.

Day 3: West Village, High Line & the Brooklyn Bridge

West Village

Today you will walk between 3-4 miles, from the Hotel you can take a leisurely stroll over to the West Village which is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Manhattan.  The neighborhood is a maze of small street lined with shops, cafes and bars. Here you will find Carries Apartment from Sex and the City down one of the tranquil tree lined streets. Right around the corner from Carries Apartment you will find Magnolia Bakery if you fancy something sweet to nibble on. You will also find the beginning of the High Line in this neighborhood. 

Carries Stoop: 64 Perry Street, New York, NY 10014

Magnolia Bakery: http://www.magnoliabakery.com/

  West Village, New York

West Village, New York

High Line

The High Line is a 2.3km park built on an elevated section of an abandoned New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line. Attractions along the line include different species of flora and fauna, murals, sculptures and more. In summer laze about on one of the many benches and enjoy the lush environment in the heart of a bustling city.  

  The High Line, New York

The High Line, New York

Brooklyn Bridge

A trip to New York would not be complete without walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. From the Highline you can catch a taxi, hop on the metro or walk 2.4 miles to get to the start of the bridge. The bridge is a hybrid cable-stayed suspension bridge and is one of the oldest bridges of its type in the United States. It was completed in 1883 and connects Manhattan to Brooklyn. 

  Brooklyn Bridge, New York

Brooklyn Bridge, New York

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