February 23, 2013

A Whirlwind Weekend in Hyde Park (Chicago)

1. I’d take you out for brunch at Salonica, a fun and retro Greek diner on 57th Street. You can order whatever you want, but I’d strongly recommend getting the French toast. You will hear people rave about that French toast all over Hyde Park (and beyond). And while there are thousands of places I could take you for dinner, you simply can’t come to Chicago and not have some deep dish pizza. There are strong opinions about the best place to get your deep dish, but I’ve got to go with the classic chain of Giordano’s. Luckily, there’s one right off 53rd street in Hyde Park, so that’s where we’d go.

2. It’s famous for a reason! You shouldn’t miss the Museum of Science and Industry. This is seriously my favorite museum in the city, and it’s right here in our own Hyde Park. Not only is it located in the last remaining Neoclassical building from the 1893 World’s Fair, it’s right off Lake Michigan and surrounded by gorgeous parks. If the outside isn’t enough to wow you, maybe the full sized authentic German U-Boat on the inside will. They always have the best exhibits here, a great place for kids and adults alike.

3. Calories don’t count on vacation, so we’ll stop in and grab a treat at The Medici on 57th street. They have a small bakery out front and a full restaurant behind, and everything is delicious, but I can never go without ordering a chocolate shake. They are absolute perfection. Best chocolate shake I’ve ever had, and the only one I’ve found that is made with real chocolate, not Hersey’s syrup. It’s also a well known fact (advertised on the T-shirts of the employees) that President Obama enjoyed eating here. We can take our shakes and walk up to 51st street to see the illustrious Commander-In-Chief’s actual home (you know, before he lived at the White House), although due to the wall of privacy trees around the property there’s really not that much to see. We can still wave to the poor Secret Service agent that’s always stationed outside. 

4. The weather is perfect and getting outdoors is a must. We’ll take advantage of the gorgeous day at the park along Lake Michigan. There’s a beach off 57th Street where we could go swimming (if the water’s warm enough), or maybe we’d rent bikes from the bike shop under the Metra bridge on 55th and bike the Lake Shore Trail six miles up to the City. We’d coast around MuseumCampus, then head over to Millennium Park (a must for any Chicago tourist) to grab a hot dog in front of the Bean (the best place to get your touristy Chicago style hot dogs in the city, in my opinion) before biking back down to Hyde Park.

5. You’re so fortunate to have a Hyde Park insider showing you around. The locals would stone me if I didn’t show you Powell’s Books on 57th Street. As far as I know, there's no relationship between this Chicago book store and the more famous one of the same name in Portland, but this little shop is a real treat. I love coming down here and getting lost in the winding stacks. There are actually several good used and new book stores along 57th street, and browsing is a must.

6. You didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway that a trip to Hyde Park wouldn’t be complete without visiting the University of Chicago campus. Built with Rockefeller money at the end of the 19th Century, the buildings of this illustrious institution hearken back to a time of grander gothic architecture and academic esteem. They actually modeled many of the buildings off of Oxford and Cambridge architecture, so it does feel very European. Once you’ve spent enough time gawking at the gargoyles and ivy of the Main Quad (absolutely gorgeous in the Fall), make sure you go inside the Harper building to see the grand reading room (3rd floor, I call it the Harry Potter room), and check out the Rockefeller chapel (in the picture). I would also recommend the Oriental Institute (it’s free!) for a taste of the archeological work this institution is famous for (Indiana Jones, anybody?).

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  1. When I was eight (a very long time ago), we visited Chicago because my aunt was getting her PhD at Notre Dame. A highlight of the trip for me was the visit to the Museum of Science and Industry. I still remember the "starlit" room that was dedicated to the Colleen Moore Dollhouse with the chair made from her mother's emerald earring, running water, electric lights!

  2. Yay, thanks for letting me share my city! So fun to see this up.

  3. I Iove these city suggestions! I'd love to do one for DC - we're more than just the National Mall!

  4. This sounds fantastic! I have always wanted to go to Chicago, and now I have even more reasons. :)

  5. So neat! I've visited Chicago many times (since I'm just a 6-hour drive away) and have never spent much time in Hyde Park. I've done downtown and Oak Park and blah blah. So next time I am in town I'm going to check out a few of these places!


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