Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Christmas in Chicago

We just got back from our fabulous trip to Chicago. This time, for the first time since we moved away 12 years ago, we decided to stay in a hotel in the city, instead of bouncing between various family members homes in the suburbs.

We love, love, love the city. D and I lived in the city for 11 years before moving away from Chicago. We heart the city big time. And we miss it. Badly. And frankly, we're sick of spending a fortune to visit Chicago and spending all of our time watching TV in the suburbs. Our last trip in August was better, for sure. My Dad took the girls to the Lincoln Park Zoo, and he and I took them to the Shedd Aquarium. He understood that I wanted them to experience some of the awesomeness that the city has to offer. My husband's sister lives in the city too, with her hubby and young son. They always get it. But they don't have room to put us up and while we always manage to get into the city to pay them a visit and do something fun, we always trek back to the 'burbs to sleep.

Other family members of ours just don't get it. They are happy in their suburban ways and I don't even think it occurs to them to say, "Hey, let's motivate and take the kids to a museum or something." Instead, we do a ton of just hangin' in the 'burbs. Don't get me wrong. We love hangin' with family. And we miss them all dearly. But when people come to visit us, we're the first to offer to go to every attraction, both man-made and natural, in our beautiful area so that our visitors can both enjoy our company and feel like they're on vacation too.

So this time, we took it upon ourselves. We stayed in a hotel right in the heart of the action. We had the world at our footsteps and we loved every minute of it!

Let's see...first we woke to presents from Santa. Yep, Santa visited our hotel room! Amazing, right? We hung a string of lights and set out some cookies and milk too, just so he would know he was welcome.
Then we spent all of Christmas Day with family.

The girls crowned my mom as the new Matriarch of the Family.
And had plenty of time goofing off with their cousins.

And then we hit the city. And invited everyone to play with us too (some of whom were happy to do so, and others who weren't too enthused).

My mom and I hit the sales at Crate and Barrel bright and early on the day after Christmas. I shipped home about $170 worth of terrific goods, not bad considering all the stuff I wanted to buy. Sigh. I miss Crate and Barrel.

Then she and I (and our reluctant male better-halves) we took the girls to the American Girl store. Whoo hoo! They loved it! $200 later, we walked away with a couple of these....

And then had dinner at Uno's (yep, that's right, we did ALL the tourist-trap stuff and loved every minute of it!)...

The next day, we checked out the shop windows along State Street at the former Marshall Field's (now Macy's). The windows were decked out in a Nutcracker theme. Our theme of the season.

And then went swimming in the pool on the 19th floor of our hotel. We had awesome views of the city.

From the vantage point of the 19th floor, I realized that Medina Temple, the location of mine and my dh's college graduation ceremony, had been turned into a Bloomingdale's!

Later we grabbed lunch at our favorite Italian deli, L' Appetito. Then we hit the Museum of Science and Industry where we made molded plastic space shuttles (hmm, I have fond memories of that smell!), and got to visit the Star Wars exhibit.

Then we went ice skating in Millennium Park where it was so gorgeous I cried multiple times at how lucky we were to be doing this with our children!
Then we saw the amazing Nutcracker ballet performed by the Joffrey Ballet Company at the beautifully restored Auditorium Theater. Yep, I cried there too.

And had dinner in Greektown at the infamous Greek Islands restaurant, where we noshed on, of course, saginaki (flaming cheese), and other absolutely delectable foods. Opa!

Then we took a horse-drawn carriage ride.
The next day we rode the elevator to the 94th floor of the John Hancock building observatory.
Where it was too cloudy to see much of anything, but was awesome anyway!

We visited a "castle" (the Water Tower).

And spent New Year's Eve on Navy Pier.
Where we ate ice cream, played in the snow, and watched the fireworks.

Then we rang in the New Year at our hotel with some delicious Thai food, too much champagne, and some of our wonderful family.

We probably gained 800 pounds collectively (okay, so I gained most of that), and we stayed up much, much too late, and we spent too much money. But it was worth it. Every minute of it!


Katrina said...

Awww! Sounds like a wonderful time! The hubby and I went to Chi-town a few years ago (in the summer) and LOVED it! My BIL, his wife and their baby son live there, so hopefully we'll get to go back sometime. It's a great city. Love the pics!

Mary Alice said...

Sounds like fun. Did you have a Windy City Slider?

Crystal said...

What a wonderful time! Man, you should send the Chicago Tourism people a link to your blog. What a great advertisement for Chicago at Christmas. You sold me. I am ready to pack my bags for a vacation. Ok, maybe I will wait for the weather to be a little warmer. But if I do find myself headed there, I sure know who to go to for an itinerary. Glad you are home. I missed my blogger friend. :)
PS - the girls look too cute in their little peacoats.

painted maypole said...

oh yay! i miss chicago. I used to skill school (college.. up in Evanston) to come down and see the christmas windows, skate on state, and eat roasted chestnuts from the street vendors. First tuesdays were free at the art museum, and I was often "sick" on those days.

Hooray for a great holiday. Thanks for the stories, and the memories.

the dragonfly said...

Oh, it looks fantastic!! I never lived in Chicago, but have visited many times (I grew up just around the Lake, in Michigan) and I always loved it.

Happy 2008!!

Fairly Odd Mother said...

I've visited Chicago a few times and LOVE it as well! Looks like you guys had a blast.

I feel the same way you do----we live south of Boston, and it is a great place to bring the kids.

BTW, my oldest got "Julie" too. I am so happy to have a doll with nice straight hair! My youngest has Elizabeth and her thick wavy hair is a nightmare to keep combed.

Mrs. G. said...

This sounds like the most fantastic of trips! What a great way to spend the holidays. I love all the photos. You and your husband are a handsome couple.

Slow cook Thursday still's just hosted by other people. And there is a good recipe up today...hope your hubby likes it.

Family Adventure said...

Oooh...what a fabulous trip. I loved all the pictures. I felt like I was there with you. Having never been to Chicago - I now want to go. Badly.

Happy New Year to you and yours...

Heidi :)

Marie said...

I agree, the only time I see anything of my city is when people come to visit me. My daughter has an American Girl doll too, Jess, which was Girl of the Year 2006. I would never have spent so much on a doll, it was a gift from various family members. I wish I could say she paid more attention to it, it just lays there on her bed. They are great dolls though.

Jen M. said...

Man! You guys did EVERYTHING!!

You'd make a great tourist guide for Chicago!!

Lazy Susan said...

That was interesting!

I came to your blog through a comment that you made on Laura's (I Ate the Sandbox) blog.

Anyway, we also spent Christmas in Chicago. We rented a condo (family of six, much cheaper) a block from Millenium Park. It was great to do city stuff in the morning and then spend the afternoons with family in the suburbs. My husband and I wanted to stay longer. It was wonderful to live in the city for a few days.

Next time we are leaving the whiney children at home. I'll be blogging about our trip soon.

Susan in MO

Lisa said...

It looks like a great time! I too love Chicago...and love going into the actual city. We were there over Christmas as well but stayed in the suberbs...not near as much fun :)