It always starts with this desire to flee. This happens to me a lot. :) I love to GO. Spontaneity fuels me. Thank goodness I have Paul...he evens it all out. So the first thing I do is check train rates at amtrak.com. We absolutely love to take the train. Why? Lots of reasons. We get to relax on the way into the city. We bring a cooler. Snacks and drinks. (We literally bought a backpack cooler JUST for our trips to Chicago. If you'd like your own backpack cooler, might I recommend this one... http://www.amazon.com/Thermos-12-Can-Element-Backpack/dp/B004Z5CGVC/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1344478463&sr=8-4&keywords=backpack+cooler ) It also saves us on parking. If you stay in downtown Chicago, you will pay $40/night for parking. NO.JOKE.
It is hard for this small town Iowa girl to justify that. So we park free at the train station.
- We leave out of Princeton, IL--it takes 1 hour and THIRTY minutes to get there from Muscatine. Give yourself time! We had to RUN to catch our train this time. As in...we opened the car door and heard the train whistle and grabbed our bags and SPRINTED across the tracks as it was pulling up. The train station lady was furious. Everyone within a 2 mile radius had to hear her bellow at us "NEXT TIME YOU NEED TO ARRIVE 30 MINUTES BEFORE THE TRAIN ARRIVES!!" right. 30 minutes. got it. (or not...seriously, you really need to arrive 15 minutes MAX in advance.)
- The train takes 2 hours. There are different trains. We love the double decker that has the observation car on top. Full of windows. But when we take the night train into town, that isn't an option. Plus, it's night...so we don't really need to look at the black cornfields.
- The train is not fancy. So don't go expecting luxury. I do not want to mislead you. There are people who have been riding for days. They are sleeping. And snoring. :) You will not be treated like kings or queens. There are really no rules. (we love that part! ha!) Just want you to be prepared.
- The prices are awesome. We usually get round trip tickets for two for around $60. (yes...$30/person. total. round trip.) We have paid as little as $48 and as much as $80) It's always a little cheaper out of Princeton over Galesburg or Burlington. AND...if you have AAA, you get 10% off. Which we have. Bonus.
- We always book through Priceline.com. We swear by this. We request at least 3.5 stars. We "name your own price". When you do this you do NOT get to pick your amenities. And you usually don't get a pool. So if you are going with kids, keep that in mind. We never spend much time at the hotel anyway, so it doesn't bother us.
- Usually we can get the hotel for under $100/night. And they are ALWAYS nice. This last time we got a 3 star and it was still very very nice and 1 block off Michigan Ave on Ontario. Location is important to us because we don't have a car and we don't take taxis for the most part.
- When you bid on your hotel, you get to pick your location. We always select "Millenium Park, The Loop and Grant Park area" or "North Michigan Ave area". We have never been disappointed in our hotels. Not once.
- If we go in the summer, we try to hit a game. We always get tickets at www.stubhub.com . We get tickets on this site for ALL of the MLB games we go to. Usually you can find great prices and decent seats.
- If you go to Wrigley and want to be able to walk to the game, your choices are SUPER limited. We have only found ONE hotel that is decent and within walking distance in Wrigleyville. It is cute and if you are JUST going to hit a game, you may want to stay HERE. It's cute and close. If you take the train in to downtown, you'll need to get off amtrak and walk to the RED LINE. You get off at Addison. We did this with Brigg one time and had a blast. With Brigg it was nice to be close to the field. Plus, the boys hit a night game on Friday and a day game again on Saturday, so it was super convenient.
- If you want to tear up downtown though, I suggest staying downtown and just taking the RED LINE to the game.
- This trip we went to a White Sox game and also just took the RED LINE to US Cellular field. Also got tix at stub hub and had a blast meeting Leah and Jeff there....
- Because we take the train, we pack light. Backpacks only. I really would suggest this for the train. It's kind of crazy when you get off in downtown Chicago and have a suitcase you are lugging around. I just bought this bag and LOVE IT!!!!! (Thanks to Leslie Bennett for the suggestion!!) Seriously perfect for our Chicago weekends!
- There really aren't any rules on the train for luggage that I'm aware of. We always have a big backpack and then the backpack cooler. On the way home the cooler is empty and we throw anything we bought in there.
- This is the first time we hit up a Broadway show and we LOVED IT!!! Seriously loved it! SO FUN!! I'm not sure Paul would have loved just ANY show...but this one was perfect. The best music ever. Just the right amount of humor and inappropriateness and music and story line. Simply awesome. We would have gone again in a heartbeat.
- We went to the 4:00 show. Nobody was super dressed up. They sold drinks. $6/drink. CASH ONLY. All things I wish I would have known. :)
- We also went to a show at The Second City. A comedy club that many SLN stars come out of. If you like stand up comedy, you will love this. I thought it was very funny. It wasn't Paul's favorite. He looked at me at intermission and said, "I think I'm just spoiled by being surrounded by hilarious people all the time. I don't think it's that funny!" I laughed.
- We walk EVERYWHERE. Usually when we get off the train we take a taxi to our hotel. Usually around $10. We just like to GET THERE and then get our bearings. That is the only time we hop in a taxi. Otherwise, we walk and walk and walk and walk and walk. I love it.
- The food is always amazing. I absolutely LOVE having options. So many options. I don't even know where to start. If you google or FB, you will find ANYTHING you want. Awesome.
- Sunday morning nothing is open until noon. You need to know this. The city sleeps until noon. Then it gets nuts. :) Another little fact to be aware of!
- Truth is...we just love being together. The end. We laugh harder and live lighter when we are together. It helps to have the games and the shows and the bars and the city atmosphere. But those are just bonus items. I can't tell you that Chicago is the best place on earth. I can only tell you that when Paul and I are there together, there is nowhere else we'd rather be. But I'm thinking I have said this before. Like when we were in Maine together. Or St. Louis together. or Minneapolis together. Or Colorado together. Or Florida together. So it appears that the TOGETHER part is the common theme here I won't make promises of the most fun in your whole entire life. I would just suggest DOING Chicago with someone your love and who makes you laugh and who wants to suck every last bit of life out of every moment with you. :) just sayin....