Last Friday at breakfast my husband surprised me with tickets to Hamilton and a weekend in Chicago and by noon we were on our way.
Now the weather in December can be iffy in the Midwest and with the lake effect winds the iffiness in Chicago is something to be reckoned with. But when the stars align like they did last weekend, well, Chicago is my kind of town.
I always run out of time before I run out of things to do.
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of my favorite places to spend a few hours. The Thorne Miniature Rooms is worth your time. It is 68 miniature rooms spanning from the 13th to the 20th century. Think doll houses for royalty. They’ve been there for years but I go again and again. As a special holiday treat, I saw the Neapolitan Creche. It’s the most interesting nativity scene I’ve ever seen and it’s only on view for a few weeks each year to preserve it. Don’t miss the Impressionists and of course, the Gift Shop. My house is filled with prints from Art Museums all over the world.
Michigan Avenue traffic was bumper to bumper and the sidewalks were filled with shoppers. The holiday lights and decorations couldn’t help but put you in the holiday spirit.
I always stop at the Torali Bar at the Ritz to see the lights on Michigan Ave from the 12th floor and take a break with a glass of Pinot Grigio or a cordial glass of limoncello.
It would be easy to plan a whole weekend around eating in Chicago and use everything else as filler. If you walk between the restaurants at least you’d be getting exercise and burning calories. Swift & Sons is a great steak house and their butternut squash pave is unforgettable (the filet wasn’t bad either). The Shake Shack is a really cool place for a great hamburger and shake and it’s founder Danny Myer is from St. Louis.
The Italian Village and Trattoria No. 10 are both good places for a bowl of pasta. Stix n Brix Wood FIred Pizza and Gino’s East are always fun for a piece of pie.
The heart of the weekend was seeing Hamilton. I don’t use the word amazing very often. This was AMAZING. It was almost 3 hours long and never once did I look at my watch. The whole play used one set so the storyline, characters and music HAD to be good. The prices in Chicago are much better than in New York and you can get tickets a few weeks out. Okay, this is probably not true over the holidays. And be warned, I can’t get “You’ll be back” out of my head.
One last tip, my new favorite place to stay is the Silversmith Hotel in the loop on Wabash near Michigan Ave. They don't advertise and they get great reviews. It's close to everything with a lot of charm and personality. It's small and cozy. It's a wonderful contrast to the big, bustling city vibe.
Head to Chicago for a week or a weekend. Plan ahead, there’s still time for a Bears game or the theatre. The Cubs opening game is in April and the Blackhawks are almost midseason. But that’s not all by a long shot. I even love the sound of the L train going by.