Two days in Chicago go by in a flash. There is a lot to see in this city, much more than we were able to do in such a short time. But we got to spend a solid afternoon at Shedd Aquarium during our first day exploring the Windy City, and then split the second day between the Adler Planetarium and some time on the water with Shoreline Sightseeing. Seeing Chicago from the river was a highlight for me.

But it was time to pack up. After breakfast at the Talbott Hotel, that is.

There were still a few hours to kill in Chicago, though, so I settled on some experiences right there in the Near North Side.

Oak Street Beach

I’d told my son we’d make it to the lakeshore. The “shore” near the park, aquarium, and planetarium didn’t count. We needed beach. So Oak Street Beach it was, which is like, an easy two block walk from the Talbott.

We walked in the surf (do you call it surf, if it is a lake? Or are they just waves?), and enjoyed the beautiful morning. It was odd to be sitting on the sand, high-rises to your side and behind you. I’ve not ever been to so urban a beach.

From Oak Street Beach we headed north along the foot/bike path toward Lincoln Park. View is looking back toward the south, at the John Hancock Center and the rest of the Chicago skyline.

We made it out to what Google Maps calls Photography Point. I sure hope that is the real name. It is pretty much the perfect photo point in Chicago. Which obviously necessitated our own selfie.

Alright, We’re Doing 360 Chicago

I wasn’t sure what we could fit into a morning, but a half hour on the beach and a walk up the lakeshore still left us with a decent amount of time left. We’d gotten up and checked out of the hotel ahead of schedule. Left with over 90 minutes until the time I wanted to be back at the Talbott and hailing an Uber for Union Station, I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to visit 360 Chicago.

I have a thing for observation decks. And for heights. I can’t really get enough. Vista points are one of my favorite things to stop at when we have time, and observation decks are like vista points on steroids. We visited the Space Needle back in February, and even though it was my third time up, I loved it just as much.

There are two main observation deck choices in Chicago: the Willis Tower and 360 Chicago. I only picked the latter since it was in the neighborhood. But I may be a better view, since you are a hair closer to the lake. Hard to say. I haven’t done the other. The city views were amazing.

I don’t really know why, but I really liked this shot with the window print and the reflective ceiling. There are floor-to-ceiling windows around every side of the 94th floor.

If you’re interested in 360 Chicago, make sure you factor in the cost. Adult tickets cost $25, and youth (ages 3-11) are $15. The “Sun and Stars” ticket is marginally more, so if you want to see the city in both the daytime and nighttime, it could easily be worth it. We didn’t have the time, as we were moving on.

Last Stop: Lou Mitchell’s

Heading back down to earth and back to the hotel, we hailed an Uber to take us to Lou MItchell’s. This diner was one of the first recommendations made by a coworker of mine. She is an Illinois native, and has visited the city many times. Her plug for the place was completely justified.

Classic elements of dining at Lou Mitchell’s include donut holes on arrival (or while waiting in line), as well as milk duds. You’ll also finish your meal with a tiny cup of ice cream. The 95-year old establishment serves classic diner food, and our breakfast (for lunch) plates came out blazingly fast. As one of the very first business along Route 66, it is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

Onward to Detroit

From Lou Mitchell’s you only have to walk about a block and a half to arrive at Union Station. Once I’d seen how close the two are, it made more sense to pencil it in just before we left town. I knew the Chicago station would be big, but I was still impressed when we entered. It is the terminus for multiple long-distance train services across the country, as well as a few to the east and a few more regional services.

We had about 20 minutes to wait until our train to Kalamazoo. We could have certainly taken the train all the way into Detroit, but it so happened that award tickets were 4,000 miles per person cheaper out of AZO. Go figure. The rental car cost was basically the same, so we just paid a bit more in gas for the pleasure of driving across Michigan, in order to save $120 worth of SkyMiles.

Add in dinner, and we didn’t make it to the Hyatt Place Detroit/Livoina until nearly 8:00 PM. The next two days would be spent seeing Detroit with Mark Ostermann of Miles to Memories and his kids. We couldn’t wait!