Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chicago Sights

Welcome to Chicago!  Let me take you on a tour of the Windy City on what has to be one of the most beautiful weekends of 2013.

Friday morning, I couldn't think of any better way to start my birthday than with a long run along the water.  By 8am I was running up Michigan Avenue past the likes of Apple, Nordstrom, Lululemon, and Coach.  Within a few minutes I was making the turn towards Lake Michigan.  From there, I made my way south along the Lakeshore Path.  It was a perfect 55 degrees and the energy of all of the runners and bikers on the path was exactly what I needed at the start of vacation.  After making the turn around at the five mile point, I caught the sidewalk running along the river back into the heart of the city.  Before I knew it, my Garmin was beeping for 10 miles and I was back at our hotel.

The Chicago Marathon just so happened to be occurring on the same weekend as our vacation - a fact that I somehow overlooked when we first planned the trip.  My parents and I enjoyed a three mile walk from the hotel to the conference center to partake in the marathon expo.  I was unsuccessful in the hunt for new running shoes, but the walk in the sunshine was well worth the effort.

We made a quick stop for lunch at Falafill and then made our way back to the river to catch the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise.  We sat on the top deck of the boat and enjoyed a 90 minute narrated cruise down the Chicago River.

Marina City
Built in the 1960s, the circular twin towers feature residences, parking,
restaurants, shops, a marina, and a hotel.
 Heading west along the river, we approached the division of the north and south branches.  Toward the far left of the picture below, you can see the rounded glass building that is 330 West Wacker Drive.  The design is an example of contextualism - the shimmering glass is designed to symbolize the flowing harmony of the river.

Mom looking quite fashionable with her shades and 330 West Wacker Drive in the background.
Along the south branch of the Chicago River, we came upon Willis Tower.  Built in 1974 and formerly known as Sears Tower, it was the world's tallest building for 24 years.  The entire structure is composed of multiple towers of variable height, a design known as bundled-tube construction.

As the River approaches its entry into the lake, the Navy Pier comes into focus.  The ferris wheel seen in the distance appears quite large, yet is only half the height of the original ferris wheel built by George Washington Gale Ferris for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.  The original structure stood 250 feet high.

After basking in the sun on the boat cruise, we slowly made our way back to the hotel in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago.  Between my ten mile run and then another five miles of walking the city streets, my legs were ready for a reprieve.  While some elected for an afternoon nap, I put my legs up and spent a couple of hours working on an upcoming presentation.

My birthday celebration continued at the 96th floor of the John Hancock Building.  From the lounge, the views of the city were breathtaking.  We arrived just in time to witness the sunset.

A round of celebratory drinks was ordered and enjoyed.  I sipped on a mojito and enjoyed relaxing and taking in the views of the city.

In just a short time, the bright daytime skies turned to night and the city lights created an entirely new appearance of the downtown area.  Eventually we reached the finals sips of our drinks and made our way back down to street level and towards our dinner destination.

Saturday was a bit gloomy with intermittent rain, yet we seemed to luck out and enjoy a day of shopping without getting too wet.  Sadly, the general consensus was that Michigan Avenue featured high prices and not a single sale within sight.

Sunday morning Dad and I set out for some marathon spectating and a run of our own.  Without a doubt, the energy of the marathoners filled me with a sudden urge to train for 26.2.  I've yet to decide for sure whether I will race that distance prior to Ironman Chattanooga, but I'm definitely more interested now than I was prior to witnessing the Chicago Marathon.

Practicing with the new panoramic camera feature on the iPhone 5S.
Mile 1 - only 25.2 miles to go!
Sunday was Mom's birthday, and also our last day in the city.  Our flight wasn't until late that evening, so we had nearly the entire day to play.  Mom's choice to begin the day was a walk to Argo Tea for a pumpkin spice chai latte.  Yum!

We continued our stroll with our warm beverages into Millenium Park.  Check out the modern metal architecture of the Jay Pritzker Pavillion and Great Lawn.  I can only imagine how much fun it would be to attend outdoor summer concerts at that venue.

Cloud Gate, dubbed "The Bean" by locals due to it's legume-like shape, is positioned within the center of AT&T Plaza.  The three story structure was built in 2004 by artist Anish Kapoor and cost a shocking $23 million.  It is composed of 168 stainless steel plates and weighs 110 tons.

And with that, I bring you to the end of your tour through Chicago on a picture-perfect early fall weekend.  Naturally, no trip with our family would be complete without lots of great food.  Up next, I'll take you on a culinary tour featuring the many of our epicurean delights.

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