Spring Break, Part III: Chicago

We started our full-on tour of Chicago on Thursday morning. I had been to Chicago a few times before, but the last time I was there was for Lollapalooza back in the summer of 2009, (but we were just there for the music–not the sight seeing). Previous to that, the last time I actually took in the sights of Chicago was on a band trip in 2007. So needless to say, it’d been quite a while since I actually did touristy things in Chi-Town

We started by meeting up with Andrew’s friend, Ryan, who lives and works in Chicago. Ryan knew all the best places to eat, and he took us to an authentic German restaurant, The Brahaus. Despite growing up in a mainly German town in northeast Iowa, I had never had German food before. (And those of you that know me, know I’m am usually skeptical when it comes to trying foods that I cannot pronounce.) The restaurant was quite authentic–the waitstaff was all from “the old country” and spoke in thick German accents, and the only drink choices were either beer or water. I ordered the hüner schnitzel (basically boneless, breaded, fried chicken, German style) and it came with leberknödel suppe, which is a bowl of liver and dumpling soup. At first I stared wide-eyed at the grey mass in the soup bowl before me, but after trying a few bites, I discovered that I actually liked it.

Next we were off to the Shedd Aquarium. We were surprised to have to stand in line to get in at 1:30pm on a Thursday. The place was very busy, which made photographing quite difficult. I snapped a few pictures while waiting in line.

Chicago Skyline © Holly Hildreth 2012

Chicago Skyline, with a storm building up in the background

I had been to the Shedd before, but it had been probably 9 years or so. They had done a lot of remodeling and adding on, which was a nice surprise. I didn’t get as many photos as I would have liked to, because you had to wait your turn to see the animals on display at some of the exhibits, and the bigger animals (dolphins, belugas, sea otters,) were off display as they were doing training, so we didn’t get to see them at all.

 © Holly Hildreth 2012

© Holly Hildreth 2012

Scuba Diver © Holly Hildreth 2012

Scuba Diver feeding the fish and cleaning the tank

When we got our tickets, we opted to pay the extra $3 to see the jellyfish exhibit, and I am so glad we did, as it was my favorite part of the day. Jellyfish are very tricky to photograph as they’re constantly moving and mostly kept in low-light tanks, but I am happy with the images I got.

Jellyfish © Holly Hildreth 2012

Jellyfish © Holly Hildreth 2012

Jellyfish © Holly Hildreth 2012

While we were touring the aquarium, it decided to come up and rain. Luckily it was starting to clear up as we were leaving. Our next destination was the Sears (Willis) Tower. We had paid a parking meter $10 to park for 4 hours at the aquarium, and we still had 2 hours left on our time, so we (foolishly) decided to walk to the Sears Tower and back.

Us © Holly Hildreth 2012

Andy and I outside the Shedd Aquarium after the storm passed

Lake Michigan © Holly Hildreth 2012

Lake Michigan and part of the Chicago Skyline

Lake Michigan © Holly Hildreth 2012

Gratuitous flower photo

So we walked to the Sears Tower. Poor choices all around. It was vastly farther than any of us figured. Ryan’s phone told us it was 1.2 miles. After getting home and looking on Google, we discovered it was a 4+ mile round-trip. We got our tour of the city, and I got my fill of the “wild life”.  The last part of the walk was difficult as it was rush hour and we were fighting a crowd, going the opposite direction against the flow. We finally got to the Sears Tower (I still can’t bring myself to call it “The Willis Tower”.) Luckily, we came at the right time and there was no line to get in. We were able to grab our tickets and go right up without any wait. Due to the rain, we weren’t able to see as far as you could on a clear day, but it was still a sight.

Sears Willis Tower © Holly Hildreth 2012

South Chicago and the Chicago River

Sears Willis Tower © Holly Hildreth 2012

Panoramic of the South side of Chicago and Lake Michigan

Sears Willis Tower © Holly Hildreth 2012

Northeast side of Chicago (Hancock Observatory is the tall black building in the middle/slightly right side of the photo).

Sears Willis Tower © Holly Hildreth 2012

Looking down. We later found out that the building in the bottom left corner with the grass on the roof is where Andrew's sister works. We stayed with her while we were in Chicago.

Sears Willis Tower © Holly Hildreth 2012

Andy in the new glass overhangs. These were new since the last time I'd been there. If you look down, you definitely get vertigo. Still really neat.

Sears Willis Tower © Holly Hildreth 2012

After our sight-seeing at the Tower, we made our walk back. My feet were ground down to bloody pulps by the time we reached the car and completed out 4+ mile urban trek. We were absolutely exhausted. We dropped Ryan off at his house and then made our way to Andy’s sisters’ for the night. His sister, Mary, took us out for Greek food. (I had also never had Greek food. Go ahead, gasp. I came from a small town in Iowa. We don’t exactly have anything but corn and beef at our dinner tables.) We walked (oh the agony) to The Athenian Room. I decided to try the Kalamata Chicken. The 1/2 chicken is served on a bed of fries with sauce. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was actually really good. It had a lemon+vinegar taste. After supper, we walked back to Mary’s (my feet were worn ground down past the ankle by this time,) and we were so exhausted that we basically passed out as soon as we got in the door.

The next morning we met for lunch with Ryan at an Italian restaurant where he works in Harlington Heights. We planned to tour the Field Museum next as it was pouring rain outside. After lunch, we headed toward downtown, but got stuck in stand-still traffic. After an hour and a half, we had only gone 4 of the 8 miles to our destination. By the time we hit our exit for the Museum, we realized we’d only have an hour to look around and decided that for the price of admission, we wouldn’t get our money’s worth by only being there for such a short time. So, we decided to keep driving. We met Andy’s parents in Bloomington, IL, for supper. We ate at Jim’s Steakhouse, which is absolutely amazing every time. After supper, we drove to Mt. Pulaski, IL, to Andy’s parents and stayed the night. The next morning we were headed home.

Part IV, coming soon.

All Images © Holly Hildreth 2012 | http://www.hhildretphoto.wordpress.com

Georgia Vacation – Part One: Atlanta

I’m finally back from Georgia! We had a great vacation. We saw and did so much that it seems like we were there longer than a week. To get from Iowa to Atlanta was about 16 hours of driving. We broke the trip up, (which was a good thing, because there were 7 of us in a van that could comfortably fit 6). We stayed in Mt. Vernon, IL the first night. I drove us from Waverly to the hotel, which is about 7 1/2 hours. I’m used to that amount of driving since the trip from Warrensburg, MO to back home in Iowa is about 6 1/2 hours, so it wasn’t too bad. The next morning we drove from IL to Atlanta. I’ve always liked the South and thought it to be pretty country. I hadn’t been south of Missouri in about 7 years, so it was nice to see the area again. We got to our hotel in Alpharetta, Georgia, and hung out for the rest of the night. The following morning we headed into Atlanta. We got the City Pass, which is a bundle package rate for many attractions in the area. We started out at the Georgia Aquarium.

The Georgia Aquarium is only about 6 years old. It’s located in Olympic Park, next to the Coke Factory. It’s the largest aquarium in the World, and it’s a must-see for those vacationing in the area.

Entrance into the Georgia Aquarium © Holly Hildreth 2011

Entrance into the Georgia Aquarium

Inside the front entry © Holly Hildreth 2011

Inside the front entry

My sister, Jen, touching a stingray © Holly Hildreth 2011

My sister, Jen, touching a stingray

© Holly Hildreth 2011

Tide Pool area where you could touch the animals © Holly Hildreth 2011

Tide Pool area where you could touch the animals

Conan Dolphin © Holly Hildreth 2011

Conan Dolphin

The Family waiting for our behind-the-scenes tour

The Family waiting for our behind-the-scenes tour

The World's largest indoor aquarium. This is behind the scenes. We're above the aquarium looking down. The tank itself about a football field in size

The World's largest indoor aquarium. This is behind the scenes. (We're above the aquarium looking down). The tank itself about a football field in size.

Jellyfish © Holly Hildreth 2011

The Family

The Family

The World's Largest indoor aquarium © Holly Hildreth 2011

The World's Largest indoor aquarium

Whale Shark. This is the largest fish in the world, and the Georgia Aquarium is the only place to have one in captivity. Very little is known on the species, so having four of these fish is quite the feet. © Holly Hildreth 2011

Whale Shark. This is the largest fish in the world, and the Georgia Aquarium is the only place to keep them in captivity. Very little is known on the species, so having four of these fish is quite the feet.

Georgia Aquarium © Holly Hildreth 2011

The family in downtown Atlanta

The family in downtown Atlanta

After spending the morning at the Aquarium, we grabbed some lunch and headed over to the Coca-Cola Factory.

Waiting in line at the Coke Factory © Holly Hildreth 2011

Waiting in line at the Coke Factory

In line at the Coke Factory--it was HOT!! © Holly Hildreth 2011

In line at the Coke Factory--it was HOT!!

The entrance into the World of Coca-Cola © Holly Hildreth 2011

The entrance into the World of Coca-Cola

Olympic Torches at the Coke Factory  © Holly Hildreth 2011

Olympic Torches at the Coke Factory

A machine bottling and packaging bottles of Coke © Holly Hildreth 2011

A machine bottling and packaging bottles of Coke

Us Girls before the 4-D movie at Coke World © Holly Hildreth 2011

Us Girls before the 4-D movie at Coke World

Gift Shop © Holly Hildreth 2011

Gift Shop

After the tour of the factory, we headed back to our hotel. It was still very hot outside, so we took a dip in the outdoor pool and then played some cards.

Up Next: Georgia Vacation – Part II

Also, if you would like to see ALL the photos from our vacation, feel free to check out my Flickr. I only posted a few pictures in my blog, but I have about 160 proofs you can see if you watch the slideshow: CLICK HERE