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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Getting to know Chicago better with each visit: this time, zoo and lakefront

My husband and I enjoyed a whirlwind weekend earlier this month in the so-called Windy City, where it wasn’t particularly windy and where our son Joe is in a computational neuroscience graduate program at the University of Chicago. 

This time we didn’t get to the school or his neighborhood in Hyde Park, which is about eight miles south of the heart of downtown. But we did walk for miles, hoofing it from the zoo – where admission is free, imagine that – south through downtown and past the Navy Pier to our hotel in the financial district called The Loop, where elevated trains traverse.

Joe, Summer and Jim on Chicago River boat cruise
on May 11 with Navy Pier in the background.
Gorilla at the Chicago Zoo,
which has free admission.
Chicago is my kind of town: extremely walkable, with plenty to see and do, a cool mix of old and new architecture, a concentrated downtown core, lots of museums, skyscrapers that aren’t overwhelmingly imposing, and a massive lake along which people can walk, run, beach, boat or just relax. Yeah, the per capita murders are way up there, but that just means don’t go where you shouldn’t. We’ve never had a problem. Glad Joe is a direct flight away in such a great place to visit.

I always like to check out new places to eat, and enjoyed rack of lamb at The Gage near Millennium Park and lobster bisque and scallops at Devon. We lucked out with the weather, and on Saturday we checked out the farmers’ market, the zoo, and the beaches and walkways along Lake Michigan.

I call it the Wilco buildings they're on
of the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album cover.
I had just finished reading “Devil in the White City,” Erik Larsen’s non-fiction account of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (and a serial killer preying on young women), which really made me appreciate architect Daniel Burnham. He was the main man behind construction of the fair and later the person responsible for, among many wonderful things, the parks and trails that let people enjoy Chicago’s miles of lakefront.

For my third consecutive year I rode along the river on the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s boat cruise. Last May we shivered in hats and gloves. This time I ended up with a sunburned nose. Each time, though, it was a fun way to see the city’s lively riverfront and the wide variety of offices, residences and hotels, from the Wrigley Building to Trump’s tower.

My husband and I ride the El like pros now, taking the orange line to and from Midway, where our Sunday night flight was a bit delayed. We didn’t have as long a layover, however, as the Duke women’slacrosse team

We watched the young women dancing and laughing and videotaping themselves over and over, having a jolly time. We realized a few days later that they used their hours in the terminal to create an imaginative music video based on Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.” 


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