After almost 10 hours of driving, we arrived in Chicago from Niagara. We could have gotten there in an hour less time if we drove through Canada, but without our data/ Google Maps working we knew it would turn into an even longer trip. What did we do before gps? Or even Mapquest?! Maybe it’s time to learn to navigate sans technology but now was not the time- we had a reunion to get to! A few of our friends were already in Chicago, waiting for us.
Our friends were already out and about when we got to Chicago, so we checked into the hotel to freshen up a bit before exploring. After showering in the most dysfunctional shower ever (the water was coming out from both the faucet and the shower head at different temperatures and the tub was simultaneously filling up with water), we headed out to explore a bit before meeting up with Alli, Julia, and Katrina for an improv show.
After getting a drink and some food (at a rooftop restaurant of course), we walked over to Cloud Gate, better known as The Bean – a giant bean-shaped, metal sculpture. It reminded me of the Hancock tower in Boston, how it just picked up the reflection of the city around it. We walked around The Bean, took some selfies, and made our way towards the improv theatre. Naturally, we got distracted on the way and stumbled into Sweetwater on the way. How could we not? Sweetwater is a good brewery but we opted for some Revolution’s at the bar instead – we had to go with the local brew.
We watched some of the Kentucky Derby (does any one else think horse racing is a little fucked up?), finished our beers, and headed onward. By onward I mean to another bar. A bar across from the show had $5 mint juleps as a special. Neither of us have ever had one but we knew it involved mint and that sounded refreshing. We debated what the liquor in a mint julep is, thinking it was a clear liquor. Nope, it’s bourbon. Who knew?
Skip to the Comedy Show:
So the comedy show was hilarious. Thank god, because no one likes an awkwardly boring comedy bit. There were two all female groups – Brunch and Bevy. Brunch did all improv (including an actual brunch bit) and Bevy did some original scripted work. Another of Brunch’s bits was about taking a road trip with a not so ideal partner – luckily me and Sarah don’t have that problem. Bevy’s skits were really funny and had a bit of political/social commentary side to them. One was about if Glinda from Wizard of Oz gave all the characters guns instead of what they asked for (heart, brain, courage, home). The lion winds up accidentally killing everyone. Dark, yet funny. Both groups were just total badass women. All around strong female empowerment vibes.
After the show and some champagne in the hotel room (not fancy-room-service-champagne, $5 Andre) we went back out to see what Chicago night life has to offer. Our first stop we were not impressed by. It was a country bar with too many bachelor/ bachelorette parties consisting of incredibly drunk people with zero spatial awareness that kept repeatedly bumping into us. The band did play wonderwall though, so Sarah was happy about that. There was a bar next store that we were originally trying to go to – Three Dots and a Dash – but the line was really long. Later in the night we got in with no line and the manager hooked us up with free shots (thanks Curtis!)
The bar was tiki themed and is apparently a big spot for locals. People were shocked that we knew about it, but we just found it from googling bars near us. It’s off a main road but the entrance is in the back alley and you go down stairs, past a wall of skulls, into the basement.
The drinks were awesome but wicked strong. Sarah and I couldn’t even finish ours – and we’re professionals. We ended the night with deep dish pizza ordered to the hotel room which definitely saved us from horrendous hangovers the next day.
Day one over (is anyone else impressed with how much we did after driving 9 hours? I am.)
The goal of the day was to hit up three breweries: Lagunitas, Goose Island, and Revolution. We only made it to Lagunitas and Goose Island but that’s probably a really good thing for the sake of our livers. We only toured the Lagunitas Brewery but I don’t think anything could’ve topped that.
Our tour guide was hilarious and the founder of Lagunitas, Tony Magee, is such a badass, stoner, beer making boss. Two of the stories from the tour I found particularly funny. If anyone has ever had or seen Lagunitas Censored beer, look closely behind the words “censored” and it reads “kronic”. He originally tried to call the beer kronic, but the organization that approves what you can and can’t call your beer (yea, I guess that’s a thing) told him he couldn’t blantently reference weed on his label. He was cheeky with it and asked, “well what about Miller? They’ve been selling the high life for years.” Still no leeway. Well what about one of the biggest beers in the US? Bud anyone? Still couldn’t get the label approved. Pissed off at “the man” he slapped a piece of electrical tape on top the the label with kronic printed on it and wrote censored. The label was approved and you can still see kronic written behind censored.
The next story was about the Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale, where the California Government tried to shut Tony down. He used to throw parties every Thursday at the brewery and people who tend to love craft beer tend to smoke weed. Convinced that Tony wasn’t only selling amazing beer, the California governement conducted an undercover investigation where an officer posed as Tony’s friend for 8 weeks prior to the bust. On St. Patricks day of 2005, a green holiday, a joint rolled with a sushi roller was being passed around and the officer reveal his undercover sting. Tony got the 200 day suspension down to 20 and scheduled them for a when he needed to shut down the brewery for cleaning anyway. When the officer came by for Tony to sign the agreement papers, he asked the officer if this is what he wanted to be doing with his life while blarring Primus’ “here comes the bastards.” The officer responded that he wanted to be an astronaut. If you look closely at the label, it says “for all the would-be astronauts” for the final stick-it-the-man move.
They also named one of their tanks Cheech and one of their tanks Chong at the Chigago brewery.
After Lagunitas, we stopped at Goose Island’s taproom before heading to the bean to take more pictures and to the Sears Tower, which is actually called the Willis Tower I found out. The taproom was good but pretty uneventful minus taking some cute pics and enjoying a high abv kombucha…for kombucha standards anyway.
Anyway…The Sears Tower is the second tallest building in the U.S., standing at 108 stories and 1451 feet high. Up at the top there are glass observation pods you can stand on and look down over the city – pretty terrifying if you’re afraid of heights. A women next to me was talking about how recently one of the glass floors cracked. I freaked out at her a bit – don’t tell me that right before I go stand on a piece of glass over 100 stories high!…but all was well. We waited our turn in line, took in the view, snapped some photos, and headed out for pizza.
We had eyes bigger than our stomachs. This may or may not have to do with the fact that we hardly ate earlier and had been drinking all afternoon. So, we ordered 2 pies, which was 20 slices total of pizza with cheese about and inch thick. We wound up with a whole pie left over. They were also way more expensive than we realized. I’m talking like $30 a pop. But it was delicious and worth every cent. Plus I got to have pizza pre-brunch the next morning. Winning.
End Day 2
Day 3: Sarah’s Bday!
This was our last day in Chicago and Sarah’s Birthday!! Happy 24th Sarah! Today’s agenda: brunch at Brunch and a boat tour.
We originally wanted to do brunch on Sunday but it was Mother’s day so we couldn’t get a reservation anywhere. So we opted for Monday. We didn’t really need a reservation but Sarah made one for the open table points. Pro Tip: if you go out to eat a lot, reserve through open table when you can and you’ll get gift cards when you reach a certain amount of points. Brunch was good, but if you brunch like we do brunch is always good.
….off to the Navy Pier
When we got to the pier they were starting up one of those rides where you sit in a dangling chair and the center piece lifts and spins you around in circles. We almost didn’t go on because it was $8, which we deemed a bit expensive for what it was. But then we decided if we can spend $9 on a bloody mary we can spend $8 to potentially throw up said bloody mary. In the words of Sarah, “I don’t want to say no to something just because I don’t have money.” It was $8 well spent. We spun in circles, Katrina got yelled at for using her phone while the ride was going, we all got dizzy, and no one threw up. Success
The boat tour was an architecure tour of Chicago on a speed boat. They took us for a ride around Lake Michigan for a bit before taking us on a tour through the city’s rivers. Right at the end of the speed boat ride portion we all got hit by water coming over the side of the boat – that woke us up.
The architecture tour itself was really cool and it helped that our guide was funny, almost as funny as our Lagunitas tour guide. He made Beavis and Butthead jokes – my kind of guy. We had a short history of Chicago’s waterways before heading through the city. So the Chicago River goes against nature. Instead of the river flowing into lake Michigan as nature intended, it’s been diverted so Lake Michigan flows into the river. Why? In the pre-environmental regulation days, circa Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, all of the waste from the meat packing industry and other pollutants were being dumped into the river. That waste then flowed into Lack Michigan – Chicago’s drinkng water source. Consequently, people were getting sick and dying from diseases like disentary. The solution? Dig a ditch deeper than the river to reverse the water flow and send all the polluted water down to the Mississippi watershed (sorry Mississippi).
Other tour notes:
When we passed Trump tower our guide said, “now if you look ahead to the tower that I’ve been avoiding talking about that’s staring us in the face…” Love the Trump jokes. Trump also wanted to build the tallest building in the U.S. right after 9/11 and Chicago was like, “hmmm…yea, let’s not do that.”
There’s another building that has a car lift all the way to the top that Al Capone used to smuggle alcohol up during prohibition. It was meant to bring jewels up to the building so thieves couldn’t jack the cars during the transfer.
The man who paid to have the Chicago Theater built had two reasons. One, his wife wanted to be an opera singer. Two, his mistress was an opera singer.
Sadly, after the boat tour it was pretty much time for all of us to part ways. Sarah and I wanted to get back on the road before traffic started, Julia had to catch her flight, …and Alli and Katrina had last minute exploring to do. It was an amazing weekend and I was pleasantly surprised by Chicago, but on to the next one for me and Sarah.
Next Stop: Badlands National Park