Chicago with Minimal Walking

Dave’s parents came to visit us in Champaign, and we quickly ran out of things to show them here, especially since Dave’s mom can’t do a lot of walking (knee problems). So we spent today in Chicago, where we fortunately had a nice, sunny, not-too-hot-and-humid day.

We have just about perfected our parking strategy in Chicago. Since parking can be something like $4 for the first 20 minutes, and $26 for two to 12 hours, it seems to make the most sense to just park the car in the most convenient garage and leave it there for the day. Normally we would then just walk or take the El everywhere, but today we taxi’d everwhere.

We had lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern, made famous by Saturday Night Live, and also by the Cubs’ curse of the billy goat. It’s actually a good place to grab a quick bite to eat, despite being in the netherworld underneath the Magnificent Mile.

Then we went to the Willis Tower – more famously and formerly known as the Sears Tower, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the third tallest structure in the world. The wait to get up to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor was about an hour, but the way they have it designed, the wait is actually quite tolerable. Visitors stand in lines in various different waiting areas, which are all packed with factoids and exhibits. They even showed a 10 minute movie in the last area before we got on the elevator to go up to the main event. The view of course is spectacular, though today it was rather hazy and we couldn’t see four states as one can on a clear day. The most novel thing is an addition called “the ledge”, which are four windows that protrude out of the building so you can actually stare straight down to the street nearly 1700 feet below. I thought it was pretty cool, but the guy right in front of us sure looked like he was going to lose his lunch.

After that, we took a 90 minute architecture river cruise / tour, sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The cruise starts just off Michigan Avenue and goes up the Chicago River, veering off to the North Branch, then the South Branch, then back down by the Navy Pier, then back again. The woman narrating the tour was a volunteer docent, and she really knew her stuff. Chicago is, of course, well-known for its excellent and varied architecture, so the tour was really a treat. Plus it was a beautiful day (though perhaps a bit sunny to be on the deck of a boat for that long without sunscreen), so it was a nice way to be out-and-about without walking.

We had dinner at a place called Bijan’s Bistro, where the food, the atmosphere, and the service were all top-notch, while still being casual enough that we didn’t feel out of place wearing shorts and T-shirts. If you’re in Chicago looking for something other than deep dish pizza, this is a good choice.

After dinner we retrieved our car and drove around the city a bit (no trip to Chicago is complete without at least a few minutes on Lakeshore Drive), then headed out to Oak Park for a spin around Frank Lloyd Wright’s old neighborhood (though Dave’s mom is mad at him, after having read a book about his mistress) and to pick up some Starbucks before heading home.

So, if you’re ever wondering if there’s a way to spend an entire day in Chicago with someone who can’t really walk around much, I can testify that it can be done enjoyably.

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