Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chicago 2007 Trip Report

I don't know if anyone will be interested in some small town folk’s first visit to Chicago but here it is...

Our Okie family, which consists of parents and three teens, left on Wednesday and drove to Springfield, IL where we stayed at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel. The “Abe" as the kids not so affectionately called the hotel was a $50.00 per room bid on Priceline. I knew we would be arriving late and leaving early so we wanted something cheap. The location in downtown Springfield would be great for a longer stay. When we first walked into the lobby I thought we got lucky on our Priceline bid but the rooms haven't been updated since Lincoln slept there! Our bed actually sunk in the middle and the bathroom towels were the worse I have EVER seen in any hotel. The room had a dirty feel simply because it was so worn. Bath and Body Works toiletries were a shock. I wouldn't stay here again even if it were free.

Then early Thursday morning we traveled on to Chicago. Our main reason for the trip was to visit a university that our daughter is considering, so our first stop was River Forest, IL where we took the college tour and enjoyed seeing the beautiful neighborhood.

We were planning on using Starwood points for the Sheraton Suites hotel in Elk Grove Village, IL. We do not travel much but have been loyal Starwood members always choosing to stay in Starwood hotels and saving the points for the right occasion. I booked a room with two double beds and a fold out couch, which would accommodate our family. On arrival I was told the only option was a king and fold out couch. Even with my computer printout that showed what I booked, I was basically told tough luck. SO…we had to find another hotel and at this point we were stressed, tired and disappointed!

The first hotel we see is the Holiday Inn Express in Arlington Heights, IL. It was a very pleasant surprise! The room was clean, the beds were a huge improvement over the Abe, and our $139.00 “two doubles and a rollaway” rate included breakfast. I would stay there again!

We enjoyed a huge mall in Arlington Heights. A triple-decker! It included a great Chicago souvenir store, and we ate our first Chicago style pizza at Gino East…YUM!!

Friday was our sight seeing day so we headed into downtown Chicago. I must mention that the driving time consisted of my husbands’ two fisted grip of the steering wheel and frequent stomping of brakes and my frantic cries of "do you see that car???!!", and interspersed with prayers for survival. The kids wanted to know why in Chicago people do not pay attention to lane lines on the road and were constantly yelling at their dad, "Hurry! They are honking at us!!". How embarrassing.

The embarrassment continued when we parked on the top level of a parking garage near the Sears Tower where we had a wonderful up close view of several buildings. I, of course, immediately began looking up and even pointed at a building with these wonderful lion head details that I didn't want the kids to miss..."Mom stop it! We look like tourists!!".

We enjoyed the visit to the top of the tower and would certainly recommend it. Just an aside...the tallest building in our town has nine stories and it is double all the other buildings in our town. Great tourist stop!

Next we planned on ESPN Zone for lunch. I had printed the directions and info on the recommended parking garage which we eventually did locate, but drove all through the garage and it was full. This was a new big city experience for us. We had lots of fun trying to figure out how to get out of the garage without paying! NOT. Okay, so now we are a bit stressed and decided to skip ESPN Zone (thankfully we had visited other locations) and went on to the Field Museum.

When paying for our admission at the museum we were asked if any of our party were teachers or students. Although I did not have my teaching credentials with me and the kids did not have student identifications, the lovely clerk gave us the considerable discounts anyway. Teachers get in free to the museum so it is definitely worth taking an ID! The museum was EXCELLENT! We all enjoyed our time there. Great gift shop too!

We left the museum at closing time (5:00 pm), so you big city people can imagine just what the freeway looked like. We decided we would experience more of the city driving through it, so we took an exit and ended up driving through the Hispanic area. All the kids are taking Spanish in school so we enjoyed the time reading all the signs. I had read on the internet about neighborhood tours with residents and on our next visit we hope to take one. Just the drive was interesting! We were not in Oklahoma anymore!!

We went on to the Hyatt in Lisle, IL where we enjoyed our last night. I was able to book two rooms with two doubles for $139.00 on the first room and a rate of $54.00 for the kid’s room. I signed up for the Hyatt points and think I will change loyalties. The Hyatt was great. Our only issue with it was our experience in the dining room. We being typical tourist were wearing jeans, t-shirts, and sweatshirts. We were not dirty or unkempt just very casually dressed, and we were seated in the very back corner of the EMPTY dining room. As we were being seated the host made some comment about the lighting being better. Whatever! We are hicks but not stupid ones. Even the hick kids had it figured out.

Good lesson on discrimination. As I am typing this I am thinking that you probably just had to be there to know the truth in this experience, but anyway, we still enjoyed the $115.00 hamburger and pasta meals! I would mention too that the beds were extremely small for doubles. I can't quite figure that one out. We greatly enjoyed our short visit. It was really amazing to me how you can get in a car and drive 12 hours and seemingly be in a new world. We hope to visit Chicago again (if our daughter chooses the school there, that will be a given) and enjoy the many things that we simply didn't have time for on this visit.

Entertainment Links:

Sears Tower

Field Museum

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