Sightseeing Chicago

A Victorian Dressed Up for Halloween

On my first trip to Chicago some six years back, I didn’t get a chance to do the really touristy stuff. On our first full day, we headed to Oak Park to check out the Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio tour as well as look at the houses he designed that were in the neighborhood. At the time FLW lived in Oak Park, the houses were mainly Victorian. Plenty of examples survive to this day. The one pictured above was all decked out for Halloween.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed home

FLW was known for breaking out of the box shape of the Victorian home. I would say this is a great example of that. But look, they can get into the spirit of Halloween as well! This massive property was decorated with pumpkins and ghouls.

statue outside of Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio

FLW acknowledges a few influences in his life including Japanese art. This statue was outside his first home he designed.** side note, I was on the Prairie School Traveler site and noticed Midway Gardens, this demolished FLW building, featured these Japanese ladies. While on the tour, we were shown how Louis Sullivan whom FLW looked up influenced him. Some of the stuff we saw in Wright’s home were things he was working on for Sullivan including ornamental touches found at the Ambassador.


FLW home and studio

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the home but it’s just as well. I highly recommend taking a tour yourself if you’re ever in the area. And get some deep dish/ stuffed pizza while you’re at it!

FLW orange house

This orange house was my favorite FLW house. I love that archway. While walking around the neighborhood, I was stopped by an older gentleman who had moved to Oak Park with his adult children. He lived most of his life in Chicago’s Chinatown and still maintained an office there. He said he was very bemused to watch everyone take pictures of “these little houses” when the best thing about Chicago was walking Lake Shore. He said he walked it every day even if it was minus 10 degrees. Oh boy! In any case, I did enjoy this tour of little houses.

For more of my pics, click on my flickr set.


View from Willis Tower

Back in the city proper, I headed over to Willis Tower, formerly Sears Tower. They are known for their four sky boxes on the skydeck level where you can look out over the city. There are a zillion people waiting to take photos so I only took a quick snapshot (or three) of my feet. This tour was a bit rushed. I managed to squeak in right as the sun was setting. The city took on a dreamy quality.

More pics here.


The next day, we caught the Architecture River Cruise. I wasn’t really into our tour guide. He recited a list of facts for each building but there were no human interest stories. Still, it was a beautiful day and seeing the skyscrapers from a boat was very different from the view from the previous day’s skydeck.

Marina City

Staring up at the Marina City buildings was almost terrifying. It’s true human genius we have such tall buildings. We nicknamed them the corn cob buildings.

Marina City from the eL

Here’s a normal view of the Marina City buildings from the eL platform.

See my pics from the river cruise.

We also checked out the city by trolley. I have to say this tour was worse than the duck tour I had in Boston (loved the duck, hated the tour guide). I didn’t think it was possible but having a guy laugh at his own bad jokes who wasn’t even from Chicago as our tour guide was awful.  Well, at least we drove by Buckingham Fountain, the fountain featured in the opening credits of Married with Children.

See more random Chicago pics.

Southwest column at Art Insistute of Chicago

I’m an art geek so I was very excited to hit up the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art. I kind of laughed about the southwest themed column at the Art Institute. It’s a mighty museum and a lot to go through. My favorite exhibitions were the actual architectural details from Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan buildings.

I was fascinated by this Henri de Tolouse-Lautrec painting, At the Moulin Rouge. It had actually been cut to exclude the blue-faced woman (thought to be believed as dancer May Milton).  The painting has been restored. Talouse-Lautrec has also painted himself in this painting. He is the short man in the center.

Is it time for Absinthe? Good thing I went to Longman & Eagle later that evening.

For more Art Institute pics, click here. MCA didn’t allow pics so I only had a few exterior shots.

We were able to make it to the observatory at the John Hancock building.  This was a great tour. I do recommend it over the Willis Tower one but it was nice to have both perspectives. Chicago is such a big town I’ll have to come back soon to hit the other things I missed on this tour.

Looking over to Navy Pier, I must have seemed like the size of an ant when I was boarding the Architectural River Cruise from Navy Pier.

Macaroni sculpture at Navy Pier.

See more pics from the John Hancock Observatory.


Harry Winston

You can’t leave Chicago without visiting the Magnificent Mile along Michigan Avenue for shopping. Even if it’s just window shopping. Like LA’s Rodeo Drive or NY’s Fifth Avenue.

Millennium Park

In 2004 when I was in Chicago, they had just broken ground for Millennium Park and I couldn’t imagine the space. It goes over a parking garage! It’s considered the largest rooftop garden. Now it looks so well-established. There are a quite a few attractions but the most famous one is probably the Cloud Gate, aka “the bean” or “the silver bean.”

See my pics from Millennium Park here.

I had such a great time. I wish I had a longer trip!