St Patty's in Chicago
This is part of a series of travel stories, based upon the experiences of me and my wife, on our tour across America. Read more at
Chicago – Illinois IL
The Windy City is the 3rd biggest in the States. Hosting the 2ndbiggest airport in the world, this metropolis has become a hub for finance, commerce, industry, technology, telecommunications, and transportation. Bordered by the Great Lakes, none more renowned than Lake Michigan, this city boasts an explicitly scenic vista emphasized by the bustling Chicago River flowing through its epicentre. Home to many tourist attractions including Millennium Park, Cloud Gate (The Bean), Navy Pier, Willis Tower, Shedd Aquarium, The Adler Planetarium and many more – Chicagoland bustles with things to do and see.
Boasting the 3rd biggest Irish-American community in America, the debate was easily settled on where we would kick-start our tour, seeing that the onset coincided with Saint Patrick’s Day. Situated more North and therefore still closer to winter than our Pennsylvanian brooding grounds, we arrived in Chicago in freezing temperatures. Neil, Chantel, Lindy and Joe officially started their one month exclusive tour of the “New World”.
We entered Chicago on a “green St Patties”. Now, the colour green is psychologically renowned as a mood enhancer, and therefore we were slapped with silly grins which could not wade for most of our glorious tenure in the States. Surrounded by leprechauns, four-leaf clovers and all kinds of other Celtic relics, we really thought we reached the end of the rainbow where we were bound to discover a pot of gold. This pot of gold ended up being a pot of green Guinness, but the resulting exhalation it elicited, were alike. Shamrocking through the streets, we made our way to the Chicago River to witness a truly astounding event – the colouring of the River. Using boats filled with green dye the entire river was coloured green to the receptive cheers of the party-ready crowd. Highlights included a floating boat in the form of an exact replica of a Mini Cooper, tipping canoes, paddleboard surfers and party-starters on massive yachts being chased by aqua-police! We then migrated with the masses towards the Festival ground to witness the annual parade. This however was admittedly far inferior to the usual Rag procession witnessed for so many years. The remainder of the day was spent pub-crawling through the streets of Chicago. This included a train trip to the perfectly named Linkin Park station, where we got our “student” on and partook in beer-pong competitions, foot stomping sessions to the sounds of Irish pipe bands, wacky photo sessions in front of Protestant churches and signing in false crescendos to Irish anthems. The day culminated in a shared beer at the notorious Hard Rock Café before going to our first paid attraction, which also ended up being our favourite. The Chicago sky-deck on the 103rd floor of the Willis/Sears Tower enables you to walk onto a glass-enclosed balcony and onto a ledge suspended over Chicago. From here you can witness most of Chicago’s landmarks on the horizon. Definitely for the brave at heart and not ideal for people with Acrophobia. Fortunately with Saint Paddies still flowing strongly through the system, these fears were easily diluted.
With raw throats from screaming Ceilidh (Kaylee – the Gaelic word for party) once too often, we planned a casual day of being trigger-happy tourist and we activated our City passes and began attraction hopping. Now, don’t get me wrong, we’re both more suited in-front of an Xbox or iPad than viewing the Mona Lisa or even staring at a fully assembled Dinosaur skeleton. Nevertheless, these sights were predominantly fun. Moving from the Shedd Aquarium where we witnessed an immaculate Beluga Whale show and swimming Otters, to the Adler Planetarium (Boring!) and the Field Museum (Yawn!), we finally ended up breaking into Soldiers Field (Home of the Chicago Bears and therefore immediately awesome). Read about our Los Angeles experience to see that this also became a touring custom at popular sporting venues.
Chicago though surprised with the hidden gems tucked away in its soul. The people and the ambiance that constantly swallows you makes this city a place of magic. Chicago is a city to best be experienced through just embracing the mood around you. We visited the pier which was frozen over with an icy beauty. We walked through the parks which were deserted in the cold and imagined the vibrant culture on a Sunny day. We strolled through Millennium Park and were enthralled by “The Bean” which had the uncanny ability to make any photo seem perfect. As dawn fell upon us we topped our final evening with a Brit Pop tribute serenading the legendary Pink Floyd. As close to Roger Waters often came to lyrical and musical perfection, we had a livid longing that we were experiencing something magic that needs to be shared. We left Chicago knowing this crazy diamond will forever shine on in our memories. How I wish you were here…..