While most of my time in Chicago was spent indoors at meetings and events with the BlogHer and Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) conferences, I managed a couple of hours walking around. It was a quick reminder that Chicago is one happening city in the summer. On every visit, I stumble upon free live music, events and fascinating art and culture exhibits. There must be something for anyone to do at any time on any day.
I was fortunate enough to start my tour at the Chicago Cultural Center on the corner of Millenium Park where TBEX was held. It was hard to stay in the overcrowded meeting room with such beautiful weather outside. Thank heaven for interesting discussions.
After the day’s sessions, I walked down the stairs (because the only thing you see from an elevator is the inside of an elevator). On the third floor is the spectacular dome of stained glass designed by Tiffany. If this was not enough to take in, live opera was drifting upstairs from a rehearsal. (Was Merchant Ivory filming nearby?)
I headed down Michigan Avenue to the Art Institute of Chicago which I had never visited (try visiting Chicago in a cast.) Art is not just in museums in Chicago. The city is famous for its architecture including designs by Daniel Burnham, Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan. Unlike New York, where the tall buildings are densely packed on the small island of Manhattan, Chicago’s skyscrapers have room to breathe. The extra space allows me notice the contrasts built into the city, one of my favorite being between the angular and ordered lines of the buildings and the less perpendicular naturescapes and sculptures.
I love looking at art. Even if it is not my aesthetic, I appreciate the artist’s perspective or technique. While visiting select exhibits in the new modern wing of the Art Institute, I found the building itself was art. Not just the architecture but as you can see above, the windows, window coverings and skyline looked as provocative as anything on exhibit.
If you think art and design is only housed in museums, take a look at these lettuce plantings in a urban garden in Grant Park. The only kind of gardening I enjoy is edible, so you can bet I am going to try something like this next year.
Returning to my hotel for a cozy room service dinner and cheesey movie in bed to mark my last night without family, I watched people gathering at the Jay Pritzger Pavilion in Millennium Park. The Park is filled with information kiosks and I asked what was going on. It turned out, there was a free concert. I grabbed some very tasty satay and sangria, sat back and enjoyed the music and view.
As dusk settled on the city, I walked through Millennium Park enjoying the beautiful lighting and watching very excited tourists.
The designers of the park did something right because everyone I watched in the park was smiling, laughing, playing or seemingly having a great time.
See everyone standing by the “cloud gate”? It is a sculpture that would not be out of place in a Dr. Suess book. Reflecting everything around it with distortion that is less fun-house and more dream-like, visitors spend a lot of time exploring the landmark. I wonder how birds react to it?
Happily walking home, I turned the final corner to my hotel and caught a last glimpse of the visual contrasts that I love in Chicago. What a city to visit in the summer!