Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago, Illinois AKA the windy city. My son was to be a member of a good friend’s wedding party in Chicago. The problem was, my daughter-in-law wanted to go too but did not want to leave their eight-month-old daughter at home. That’s where I came in Grandma to the rescue. Of course, I was thrilled with the chance to spend five full days with my baby granddaughter, (and her parents). As a bonus, a few extra days of sightseeing in Chicago were included too.
We arrived in Chicago from Ottawa (via Toronto) Wednesday evening. As the wedding festivities did not begin (officially) until Friday evening, the four of us had all day Thursday and Friday morning to tour the city. We walked and took the train for hours each day, learning all about the city. When my son and daughter-in-law spent time with their friends Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, my granddaughter and I spent quality time together at our Airbnb home.
A boat cruise, #ShorelineBoatTour aptly named an architectural tour, taught us everything we need to know about Chicago. On this guided tour along the branches and canals of the Chicago River system, one cannot help but be amazed and impressed by the artistic beauty of the skyscrapers, old and new. The background of a strikingly blue sky on a beautiful sunny day added to the majestic scenery.
Here are a few facts I learned:
- Believe it or not, Chicago is not named the Windy City because of the wickedly cold winds coming in from Lake Michigan. Instead it picked up the nickname years ago (1892) when Chicago was awarded the right to host the World’s Columbian Exposition to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World. Other contenders like NYC, Washington DC, and St Louis were envious as the event was sure to be a huge cultural and social success. So envious in fact, that a popular NYC editor dubbed Chicago politicians and architectural leaders “windy” in their 8 year pursuit of the prestigious award.
- The Chicago River was once so disgustingly polluted that the city was sued by other states and even Canadian provinces because of its adverse affect on connecting waterways. Linking Lake Michigan (one of the Great Lakes) to the mighty Mississippi River system and eventually the Gulf of Mexico, it’s restoration was vital to millions. To do so, civil engineers designed and created a new series of canals around the turn of the century into the 1900s, then reversed the flow of the river by increasing the volume of water available from Lake Michigan.
- “The Loop” refers to Chicago’s downtown business section, the second largest in the USA, second only to Manhattan in NYC. The Loop also refers to the hub of the elevated railway system where eight separate train lines intersect downtown. This train system appears to run as efficiently as the subway system in NYC.
- A massive fire destroyed a huge chunk of Chicago in 1871. Igniting on the southwest side of the city, the abundance of wooden streets, sidewalks and buildings fueled the fire for two days, killing an estimated 300 people and costing close to 200 million (1871) dollars in damages. However, there are people that believe the fire turned Chicago into the successful, thriving city it is today, the second largest in the USA. The fire established new building standards so wood was replaced with brick, stone and metal. Innovation thrived as the economy and population soared to new heights and never looked back.
- The Chicago Outfit refers to (Italian/American) members of organised crime (AKA the mob or mafia) dating back to the early 1900s. Do you remember the 1974 song “The Night Chicago Died by Paper Lace?” It was reportedly based on a shootout between police and Al Capone’s gangsters.
- My granddaughter travelled like a pro, I’m sure her passport will be well used.
- And last, but not least, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville at the Navy Pier makes awesome watermelon margaritas!
Well, you can see I learned a lot in five days, did you learn anything?