Thursday, July 5, 2012

Big City Fun in Chicago Part 2

Continued from part 1.

You do a great deal of walking to see Chicago so bring good shoes and be prepared to take breaks.  The city has a ton of great old architecture from the roaring 20's and onwards.  Skyscrapers abound and the cultural life is rich and vibrant. We hit the city at the end of June and early July and were caught up in a heatwave and record breaking heat for a good two-thirds of the trip so we planned inside activities to beat the heat.
If you are planning on seeing the sights make sure you buy either the Chicago City Pass or Go Chicago Card to save money, but make sure you add up your use for the cards or you're paying for extras that you'll never use.

4. The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower)
This is still an impressively tall building and the views from the Skydeck are pretty good. There was an informative little documentary (that didn't include the newer taller buildings in the world), but going up was worth it.  It was a hassle to go through the security with a metal detector and baggage x-ray to go up though.
Willis Tower and Views
Willis Tower (formerly named and still commonly referred to as Sears Tower) is a 108-story, 1,451-foot (442 m) skyscraper in Chicago, Illinois. At the time of its completion in 1973, it was the tallest building in the world, surpassing the World Trade Center towers in New York, and it held this rank for nearly 25 years. The Willis Tower is the tallest building in the United States and the seventh-tallest freestanding structure in the world. The skyscraper is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Chicago, and over one million people visit its observation deck each year.  Although Sears' naming rights expired in 2003, the building continued to be called the Sears Tower for several years. In March 2009, London-based insurance broker Willis Group Holdings agreed to lease a portion of the building, and obtained the building's naming rights. On July 16, 2009, the building was officially renamed the Willis Tower.  From Wikipedia.
James R. Thompson Building - The inside looks very cool.

We also walked through the Historic Loop Area and saw the sights.  They had a color wrap Chicago theme running at a few intersections where it was all decorated in bright colors.  We visited the James R. Thompson Center which is a very nice piece of architecture and there was a nice little shop in it on the 2nd floor for local Illinois Artists at good prices too.
The "Baboon Sculpture" by Picasso was pretty cool too along with all the old theater buildings.

5. The Bean At Millenium Park
This is a must see.  We all loved this big metallic sculpture that resembles a big silvery mirrored bean that reflects everything around it.  Seeing all of the reflections is pretty darn cool.
It is huge and you can walk around it and under it to see yourself and others in all kinds of views.  Lots of fun.  There are a number of other sculptures in the park and it is a nice piece of greenery in the city.

6. The Shedd Aquarium and Sea Jellies
On the hottest day we were at the Shedd Aquarium with half the city it seems, but staff said it's been even busier which was kind of scary. The whale and dolphin show here was entertaining and they emphasized the care and health of the animals throughout.  I'd say they were dead on as these animals are pretty smart and they seemed pretty happy.
The aquarium has some very nice exhibits with a large reef tank with sharks and rays for the Philippines and a big Caribbean tank on the main floor. The Amazon River tanks were very informative and they have some BIG freshwater fish!
My favourite highlight was the temporary Jellies exhibit.  Jellyfish are so cool and almost all water.  For something without a brain they are amazing to watch as they move around in such a delicate fashion.

Continued in Part 3.

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