I’ll probably be talking about Chicago until I make my return trip next summer. Yes! I’ve already planned my next trip in my head. Why? Because the city is just that awesome! I couldn’t have asked for a better experience in a better city.
And forget what you’ve heard, there is violence everywhere! Not to negate the issues of the city, because the violence is a serious problem, but Chicago still offers a great atmosphere filled with beautiful architecture, parks, festivals, events, and people who actually smile and greet you when they pass by. What a treat!
And best believe I prayed for our protection and the peace of the city before I even stepped foot on the plane. I’m an intercessor, that’s what we do!
I picked Chicago as a place to visit this summer simply because the Taste of Chicago was on my bucket list and I’m a foodie at heart. I’d heard so many great reviews about the food and my stomach beckoned that we make it happen!
A friend and I arrived on the first day of the festival and couldn’t wait to indulge. I will say, the entry fee is free, but the tickets for the food were a bit pricy. It was $10 for 14 tickets, yet one full meal at a booth could be up to 14 tickets. Now if you simply just wanted a “taste,” then the tickets were less. But after about 3 “taste” from various booths, you were ticketless. It was all about planning.
The Taste of Chicago also had an app that offered a list of all the food booths for each day along with the ticket price for each selection. You could map out your menu and be set to go once you reached the festival, and some days we did just that. I even found a favorite booth that I visited twice, Vee Vee’s African Restaurant. They served a meal of Jollof Rice and Sautéed Goat that satisfied my stomach every time! I absolutely love goat cooked in any variation, and having several Nigerian friends, Jollof rice was a must.
Another must visit booth, which was actually a food truck, was my friend’s favorite, Cajun Connoisseur. We visited several times for their “taste” of lobster mac’n’cheese. Listen! The way they put their foot in the mac’n’cheese was a blessing! They have a restaurant in the city that we definitely plan to visit upon return.
I will say that going to the Taste during the week was great, simply because there were less crowds and smaller lines. But come Saturday and Sunday, the droves were out! Saturday was a monster and we didn’t even bother to visit on Sunday until later on the evening as the masses died down.
In the mornings we frequented various brunch spots in the city that were close to the hotel but came highly recommended. Yolk was a unique brunch spot that served my favorite, chicken and waffles. And until that very moment the waiter brought the dish to our table, I never tasted anything better! The chicken was tender and cooked to perfection. The gravy was the perfect topping that complimented both the chicken and waffle. And I topped it off with a side of cheese grits. Yes, they had cheese grits!! Chicago was winning!
I attempted to try all of the must-have food dishes while in Chicago, including the deep dish pizza from Giordano’s, a Chicago-style hot dog from Gold Coast Dogs, and fried chicken from Harold’s chicken. And if I can just be honest, the pizza was pretty good, the hot dog was a bit much, and the chicken, I probably could have fried at home myself. But the experience was still great and I can check them all off my list of must haves. I was told of several other places to try their chicken and hotdogs and will add them to my list for the next trip.
Our hotel, The Fairmont of Chicago, was a perfect choice, located in the heart of down town and walking distance from everything! The rooms were spacious and had a great view of downtown and the city life. Room service was always right on time and the front desk workers were friendly and helpful in all regards. We even became friends with some of the bell hops and received restaurant recommendations and nightlife options.
At night we frequented various places for dancing and mingling with the city folk, including stepping into a few lounges along Rush street, a famous corridor of live music and entertainment. But downtown, right by our hotel, entertainment was in full swing. The city has a Summer Dance series in which they host free dance lessons followed by live music and dancing of various genres of dance and music. I happened to catch the ‘Steppers night’ as well as the ‘House music’ night the following evening. I burned a million calories out on that dance floor, and it was nothing like dancing the night away with perfect strangers, loving music and loving life out under the summer sun.
The weather was amazing all six days we were there with a bit a rain on our last day that didn’t damper our trip a bit. We embraced all tourism attractions and did the double decker Big Bus tour around the city; took a boat tour along the Chicago skyline that was breath taking and refreshing; ran into gospel artist Charles Jenkins while walking the Navy Pier; met a beautiful, chocolate, secret service man while taking pictures in front of President Obama’s old home, and walked the Magnificent Mile, shopping until our hearts were content! A girl couldn’t ask for anything more!
The best part of my trip had to be meeting new family for the first time. I could simply say it was a huge coincidence that my dad and aunt were in Chicago at the same time, but I’ll just say it was God. My biological father’s cousin passed away and they were there for the funeral. I’m not at all familiar with much of my dad’s side of the family and it was beyond a blessing to embrace and meet cousins and aunts I’d never knew before. It was like we’d known each other forever!
They hosted a cookout the Saturday while I was there and we had a ball! At that moment Chicago was my new home.
All I can say is, “Chicago was good to me!” It’s a must visit city, particularly in the summer time as a solo trip, family trip, or a girls getaway. It lends itself to meeting the needs of everyone! Did I mention I’ll be going back? The only thing that deterred me from moving immediately was the treacherous winters! I even second guessed that for a minute! But, until next time Chi-town!