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Windy City

Valentine's weekend in Chicago: not an island getaway, but fantastic nonetheless.

One of the great things about moving so far away from home is the new selection of accessible weekend getaways. Since coming to Michigan from Virginia, I've been amazed by all there is to do in the mitten, but also impressed by how close we are to cities in neighboring states. In particular, I love being within driving distance of Chicago.

Before this past weekend, my husband and I had each been to Chicago exactly one other time in our lives, which happened to be during the same high school band trip. We knew each other back then, but didn't hang out nearly as much as we (obviously) do now. And I definitely didn't know then that the next time I visited Chicago, the two of us would be married. Funny how things turn out.

Anyway, a weekend trip to Chicago was supposed to be my surprise Valentine's Day gift. Unfortunately, my husband doesn't always succeed in pulling off huge surprises, so when my parents told me they were coming to visit around the same time, my husband kind of blurted out his plans instead of slyly working the two visits around each other. Either way, it all worked out...we scheduled everything and set off to the windy city on an early Saturday morning.

We would, of course, get some snow right before and during our roadtrip, regardless of how dry the rest of this winter has been. The drive was supposed to take about four hours, but I'm pretty sure the slow driving and countless wrecks along the interstate tacked on an extra hour and a half to two hours. Fortunately, I wasn't driving—if I had been, it might have taken us another day to get there.

Finally, we made it through the storm, past Indiana, and into the Land of Lincoln. The all-too-familiar skyline greeted us from the freeway, and after getting re-routed two or three times by our GPS and receiving $18.50 back in coins from a toll machine (never put a $20 bill in one of those things), we made it to our first destination: the Chicago Auto Show.

I never realized how many auto shows actually exist—I went 24 years without really knowing about them, and suddenly, I'm now visiting every one in sight (I guess that comes with the territory of being married to an engineer). I won't prolong this post with all the details, but the Chicago Auto Show was made up of pretty much the same exact exhibits we saw during the NAIAS back in January (you can read more about the motor city's big event here). Surprisingly, however, this show seemed to be much more crowded than the one hosted at the Cobo Center. I suppose that can be attributed to Chicago's population, but I personally appreciate the fact that I was able to see so many new concepts in the Motor City itself.

Next, it was time to poke through loads of obscene traffic (sorry, Chicago, but you are home to some of the rudest drivers I've ever encountered), driving in circles for a little while on the trek to find our hotel. Words cannot describe how happy we were to finally reach our destination. It also helped that we had an amazing view from our 14th-floor window.

That evening, we wandered around the (freezing cold!) city, snapping pictures of everything we saw. I always forget how amazing big cities look from the inside, and with its beautiful architectural details, Chicago was certainly no exception. I constantly found myself daydreaming about the day when people dressed to the nines for every occasion, and every building featured gorgeous, hand-carved details.

For dinner, we knew we wanted real Chicago pizza. So, following the advice of a friend and taking our chances in a world filled with famous Uno and Lou Malnati's pizzerias, we decided on Giordano's. And you know what? Best pizza I've ever eaten. It was even worth the 40+ minute wait in a lobby filled with crying kids and no standing room.

Afterward, we scurried a few blocks away to Luminous Field at  Millennium Park, where we were greeted by an amazing light and music exhibit. Basically, different-colored light patterns covered the ground and reflected off a large mirror ball, which also reflected the night skyline. It was a magical ending to a great evening.

The next morning, we bundled up and headed back into the cold. After stopping for bagels and coffee, we took a trip along Madison Avenue. I didn't remember "The Magnificent Mile" from my first trip to Chicago (likely because my first visit was completely mapped out for me and centered around the Sears Tower and trolley tours), but was happy to find that this stretch closely resembled Fifth Avenue in New York City. Well, happy that there was a plethora of shopping, but a little dismayed that most things were out of my price range. Still, it was fun to channel Audrey for a day. 

For lunch, we met up with an old high school friend, who took us out for hot dogs and Italian beef (Chicago food staples). It was great catching up and learning more about the area. Plus, we got a free ride to the Navy Pier.

The Navy Pier was my favorite part of Chicago when I first visited during high school, and I'd been wanting to go back for a long time. The weather was much colder this time around, but that just allowed us more room to stroll beside the lake and stop for pictures here and there. It looked exactly like I remembered it.

Six o'clock on Sunday evening came way too quickly, but we said our goodbyes to the city and made the trek back home. It was bittersweet, but I'm not too sad about the weekend being over...I know I'll be back. That's the thing about four or five hour drives—after moving up here, they don't seem so long any more.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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