Navy Pier

Navy Pier

A flight to Chicago for business and pleasure found us in the Windy City (nicknamed for its politicians) on St. Patrick’s Day.  Our hotel on the Magnificent Mile found us well situated with a view of Lake Michigan and near interesting sites.  Navy Pier, for example, has had significant developments since a 1995 visit when it was initially being developed.  The giant ferris wheel is a distinctive landmark with historical roots as Chicago unveiled the first Ferris Wheel for its 1892-93 Columbian Exposition which celebrated the 400 years since Columbus’ discovery of the New World and Chicago’s rise from ashes after its devastating 1871 fire.  Navy Pier now boasts numerous restaurants ranging from McDonald’s to Ravi, where we enjoyed fine dining along with the view of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline.  Another surprise was discovering the Smith Museum of  Stained Glass Windows, 150 religious and secular windows in a permanent installation near the end of Navy Pier in what is called Festival Hall.  Finally, we enjoyed an outstanding presentation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the beautiful 500-seat Courtyard Theater of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.  The acting and staging was superlative.  Navy Pier is not to be missed on a visit to Chicago.

Chicago Skyline

Chicago Skyline

My wanderings down Michigan Avenue took me by the large statue of Marilyn Monroe near the Chicago Tribune Building and across the street from the Wriggly Building.  I explored Millennium Park and especially enjoyed the reflections of city and tourists in the enormous silver bean shaped sculpture.  A separate entry will describe my visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.  North from our hotel I explored the Lincoln Park Zoo, which will also be a separate entry.  However, I will share here a view of the Chicago skyline from Lincoln Park.  My visit to the Chicago History Museum answered many questions about the city.  The name of the city, for example, comes from an Native American word for “wild leeks.”  Native Americans, the French, then British, and finally Americans all recognized this spot as an ideal crossroads with river and lake for transportation.  Interestingly, unlike most other cities, manufacturing never built along the lake.  My visit to this museum brought back earlier experiences in the city.  For example, there is news footage from the 1968 Democratic National Convention where I tasted my first tear gas.  Also, there is a reprint from a newspaper article about the death of the Rev. Bruce Johnson, who was a graduate of Garrett Theological Seminary and who was doing community organizing with the Young Lords, Puerto Ricans living in Chicago.  The museum currently has a special exhibit, “Out in Chicago,” which explores gender, sexuality, and nonconformity by looking at the following four themes: individuals and their bodies, family and home, communities, and political action.  I did not know that Jane Addams and Francis E. Williard each had significant long-term relationships with women.  Another highlight of the visit was an elevator ride to the top (actually the 94th of 100 floors) of the John Hancock Building for views of the city, including the photo above showing Navy Pier.  Along with the observation windows, a small skating rink shares space with a cafe and gift shop.

Green Chicago River

Green Chicago River

Chicago takes St. Patrick’s Day very seriously.  On the eve of the big day, we found a long line at Timothy O’Toole’s Pub, but the wait was worth it.  My corned beef and cabbage was the best ever.  The hosts and wait staff were dressed for the occasion.  A leprechaun dressed bar man circulated selling $3 shots of some kind of green concoction.  Although my spouse chose to drink green beer, I opted for Guinness.  On Saturday we joined the crowds lining the Chicago River to watch as a boat dropped coloring to turn the river green.  We then followed the crowd down Columbus Avenue to reserve a spot to see the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  We waited a little more than an hour leaning on a lamp post with the sun behind us.  The weather in Chicago was unprecedented during our stay.  Going back to 1871, the previous high temperature in Chicago on March 17th was 74 degrees.  This St. Patrick’s Day broke that record with something in the 80s.  We watched marching high school bands, Celtic men playing bagpipes, and a few floats.  Numerous political candidates and their followers took advantage of this campaign opportunity before Tuesday’s Illinois primary.  St. Patrick’s Day is taken very seriously in Chicago!

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