I’m still catching up on our adventures with G. Much of early September was taken up with adjusting to school & starting cheer, then J and I having Covid, then Cute W heading out of town for a conference. But for the third weekend of September, we’d planned trip to Chicago.

M was playing an away game in the Chicago suburbs on Saturday, and we decided to take a trip out to see her and then play tourist with G. We arrived on Friday night and immediately headed to our friends’ house. Their daughter is M’s roommate and teammate, and they were already hosting another teammate’s parents because of the game. They greeted us with deep dish pizza (checking off our first tourist “must-do” within an hour of landing in Chicago), and Cute W was so deeply impressed with how they’d transformed their home into a party space during Covid that he may or may not have ordered us our own karaoke machine shortly thereafter.

After dinner and some catch-up time, we headed downtown to the ACME Hotel Company, where we stayed in spite of the fact that they advertised themselves as being for hip people: the location and price were great.

On Saturday morning we headed to a Goddess and the Baker for a scrumptious Morning Sandwich and some tasty chocolate baked goods.

And of course we couldn’t go to the soccer game/tailgate empty-handed, so Cute W picked up some Do-Rite Donuts. We were just a teensy bit disappointed because our first Do-Rite Donut experience was phenomenal and life-changing, but now that they have multiple locations, they are just very good.

Our daughter’s team tied the hosts 1-1, which was a bit of a bummer, but it was the first time G got a chance to meet M, and tons of parents were able to show up to the game since Chicago is such an easy destination.

Yes, I know. You can kind of see her face here. She’s a full adult now and you can see her all over the college website, so here we are.

Left to our own devices we may have lingered, socializing and watching the men’s game. But we knew this could be G’s only chance to visit Chicago, so we had to go see some sites!

First, it was time to fuel up with some super-tasty tacos near our hotel at Taco Maya. The fries were fab, too.

We’d decided to get the Chicago CityPASS, and we punched our first ticket with an Architecture River Tour. Our guide was entertaining and informative, and the weather was fantastic for a boat ride, so it was tons of fun. G got plenty of great pictures, and I’d definitely recommend it for a first overview of the city.

After the boat tour, we headed to Navy Pier, and once again we truly lucked out, because there was a free Chicago Live! festival with music and dance performances spread out all over, making it far more entertaining than just a typical walk along the pier. By this time it was evening and we had almost fully exhausted ourselves, but we managed to stay out late enough to take in the fireworks show, which was absolutely worth staying up past our bedtime for (yeah, I know they don’t show fireworks late, but we’d been extremely busy for the last 36 hours!).

(I ruthlessly stole this picture from G’s Instagram because Cute W and I didn’t take pictures.)

On Sunday we checked out a restaurant that hadn’t been on our radar at all, but G had paused to look at it curiously, and we soon realized that Ed Debevic’s was a perfect tourist destination for G. It’s a retro-style diner with servers who are campy, snarky, and faux-rude and food that’s really quite tasty. We went in so ignorant that Cute W was taken aback at his reception by the host and I had to quickly whisper “It’s a shtick, it’s a shtick!”

This was a super-fun meal, and the food was classic diner-delicious, so our going was a happy accident.

Next, we headed to Lincoln Park Zoo. I regret to inform you that neither Cute W nor I took a single picture at this zoo. I have no idea why. We saw many animals and were so enthralled that we forget about our phones? I don’t know. This hadn’t originally been on our “must-do” list, but it was a fun destination that was free, open early to suit our jam-packed schedule, and conveniently located on our way to our next destination: a Cubs game.

We had arranged to meet friends for this game, which was G’s first baseball game ever. Once again, the weather was perfect, which made everything better. We got traditional baseball snacks and just to be a helper I got the margarita that came in a souvenir Cubs cup so G could have an extra souvenir. G was pleased to see a couple of Brazilians on the roster and learned just enough about the game to cheer when it was time to cheer. And luckily, there was plenty of cheering, because the Cubs won! That always makes a game more fun, and they lost the next few games after that, so once again, our timing was impeccable.

We’d had hopes of at least popping into the Art Institute of Chicago, but by the time the game was over and we were headed back down, we were on a tight schedule to get to our timed entry at the Willis Tower (aka the Sears Tower).

It was cool to catch these views, and it’s a great spot for pictures, but they really hustle you through your visit to The Ledge, the glass-floor balcony spots along the Skydeck. G would have happily spent twice as much time snapping pictures, but there was a line forming behind us. I had heard that the best time to go was at sunset, but for our purposes, the best time might have been the very first slots of the day or anytime when there weren’t quite so many other people waiting for their photo ops. Absolutely worth it just for her Instagram posts, though.

Speaking of Instagram posts, our one bit of bad luck is that there’s currently construction around The Bean, so we weren’t able to check out that public sculpture except from a distance. I did take a couple of pictures of G so that she could prove she’d been there, if pressed, but with the construction walls, the images were not cute.

And speaking of social media, G had saved a TikTok or some other social media snippet from 2021 where someone was raving about Raising Cane‘s chicken. When she mentioned it, neither Cute W nor I had ever heard of it, and we tend to shy away from fast food, so G said never mind, we don’t need to try it. At which point we laughed and said something along the lines of, oh, sure, you’ve been thinking about this mystical chicken for years and now we’re a few blocks away, so we should absolutely just skip it. Of course not! Which led to a running joke, which is that we’ll say, “We’re making G’s dreams come true! That’s our job, making your dreams come true!” The Raising Cane’s chicken was tasty, but instead of making it a full meal we shared one meal as an afternoon snack. Which was just perfect: a full meal of friend deliciousness would have been way too much, but as a nice substantial snack, it powered us through plenty more walking.

At nightfall we checked out Art on the Mart, an illuminated public art show along the river. Umm, we didn’t quite understand it, but, you know, we’re glad we gave it a try. And by this time it was late and we were hungry, so we Yelped around for something that we thought would make a good late dinner. We landed on Ēma, which was absolutely fantastic. It was a little fancier than our other meals, and we had the chance to try tons of different things with all of their small plates. Here are some snap peas, homemade stracciatella, and a very yummy almond & garlic spread.

On Monday morning it was time to check out of the hotel, but we still had almost a full day before we had to be at the airport, so we headed to the Shedd Aquarium, which thankfully checks luggage. We arrived early enough that it was crowd-free at first, and we took in a dolphin show and got a chance to pet some stingrays. I was also a big fan of the aquatic-themed decor.

After the Shedd Aquarium, there was a conveniently-located hot dog stand that had plenty of great reviews on Yelp, so it was a quick and easy lunch before we rolled our suitcases over and checked them in at the Field Museum.

G loved posing with the various reconstructed animals, and I was charmed by the fact that even grown-up Native Americans like to ensure that they don’t misplace their gloves. But it’s a big museum, and I’m not going to lie. While we had fun, fatigue was setting in. At a certain point I was like, “Y’all check out that exhibit. I’m going to just sit right here on this bench.”

Which was perfect timing to head to the airport, where we could begin several hours of mostly sitting quietly, looking at our phones, and dozing. We could congratulate ourselves on making the most of a short few days, and somehow everyone was able to wake up the next morning and power through work and school.

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