“Are you serious? Have you been to Central Park?” Is how I responded to this question from Millennium Park, the fifth or so place it was posed on my trip to the infamous second city.
My job has now taken me to Jersey City, LA, and Chicago — three places where people habitually compare their home to New York City, and I am not one to engage in this debate. Was Chicago cleaner, more spacious, and friendlier downtown? According to everyone living there, yes. I have to admit that the park won me over with that giant bean alone, and Chicago is the first of the three places I found blog-worthy, but I had an even work-play proportion this time.
We arrived bright and early on Wednesday at 9 am heading straight to the office. This was my first time at Rand McNally’s headquarters and I was outright giddy to see the archives. If there’s one nerdy thing I love, it’s maps. I want to see the whole world and I’m inspired by the view from a distance. Plus, who doesn’t love poking every spot they’ve been on a globe? In addition to my highly anticipated trip down to the basement, I finally met the coworkers I’ve been emailing and conference calling in person, and saw the village that is Skokie in all its glory.
After a lengthy brainstorm session for our next promotion, the CEO invited our team of four to a Cubs game, the perfect authentic Chi-town experience. It was Ryan and I’s first trip to Wrigley Field, a major addition to my collection of famous sporting venues visited. (None of which I deserve to go to with my lack of interest or enthusiasm for anything but FSU football.) The outing was a ridiculous combination of surprises and laughs from my bosses scalping tickets from questionable characters, a dozen people trying to squeeze through the railing I sat by, one boss gifting us all hats with jokes scribbled on the back, and the cover band of a lifetime singing Poker Face afterward. It didn’t hurt that the Cubs won 4-2 with three home-runs, either.
We were treated to Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza the following evening and toured the city on Friday. While waiting for a friend we ventured to Millennium Park where the competition with NYC heated up. If you haven’t been, the park is monstrous, artsy, and beautiful. A perfect oasis surrounded by amazing architecture. An orchestra performed in an awesome amphitheater with families picnicking about, children played in fountains oddly adorned with close-up face photos, and tourists were drawn to The Bean in droves, unable to pull away from their own mirror image.
Our walking tour led to Moe’s Cantina where we devoured some amazing Mexican cuisine then rushed back toward Wrigleyville for a friend’s comedy show. At the iO Theatre we cracked up with Henrietta Pussycat and the best audience volunteer I’ve ever witnessed. Our final morning was spent in the most Middle American diner I’ve braved in my life, a highly recommended joint in Arlington Heights. And something you would never find in New York City.
In the end, I’ll always choose the mutli-industry capital of the world, Central Park, the Hudson River, Rockefeller Center, Broadway, Times Square, and Soho over any other city if for no other reason than the fact that I need that many incentives to survive winter. Chicago was a blast to visit and a destination I’ll undoubtedly return to eagerly, but this is my first city. It’s just a summer on the go.