Chicago is home to the first free zoo in the United States, the Lincoln Park Zoo. The zoo is a little far from the main part of downtown, but it’s well worth the trip, especially since it’s free!
We went there on the subway and left on the bus. Although Google Maps says that the subway is faster, I think that it’s actually better to take the bus and avoid the hassle of having to transfer lines or walk the ten blocks from the station to the zoo.
Besides being free, the zoo itself is great. It isn’t huge, so it’s easy to walk in one afternoon. But even though it’s easily walkable, it still managed to have all the animals you’d hope for, like rhinos, lions, tigers, and bears. We walked along for most of the afternoon, wandering through various buildings and down paths past exotic animals from around the world. As the weather got hotter and stickier in the later afternoon we hopped a bus and headed back down to our hotel-and the pool.
On the map Adler Planetarium is not far from Millennium Park, which was right next to our hotel, so we walked. Once we got going, we realized how wrong we were. At least we got to wander along the lake for a little.
The planetarium was part of our pass for the week, so we had to check it out. It wasn’t the biggest museum, but there were some moon rocks to touch and a scale model of the solar system where the sun wouldn’t even fit inside the room. With the pass you even get unlimited shows throughout the day, so we spent some time in two theaters with enormous IMAX style screens, perhaps dozing off a bit in the dark as well. Not my favorite museum, but it was interesting to see and the view of the city was great!
Every summer for the past umpteen years the Navy Pier has hosted the Cirque Shanghai: Warriors. A show combining music, comedy, acrobatics, and feats of derring-do.
We booked it over there for the show, learning NOT to rely on the free trolley that they have running to the Navy Pier during the summer. Instead, we hopped the bus and made it there a few minutes after the show started.
What followed was amazing. There were acrobats swinging around in the air holding onto thin lines, others balancing themselves on their heads on a stand balanced on someone else’s head, motorcycles racing around in a spherical cage while defying gravity, and even some audience participation as a jester got one woman from the audience to give him a hand while he made us all laugh.
The most frightening for me, though, was when a gigantic metal contraption was brought out and tethered to the floor. A huge arm through the center linked two hamsterwheel openings. Two acrobats got it swinging by running inside, soon soaring through the air. Then they hopped out, running around on the outside as the thing whizzed around in giant circles. If that wasn’t enough, one tried to jump rope and another blindfolded himself. They nearly tripped, but I wonder if it wasn’t part of the act. Even thinking about it now my heart skips a beat…
The Hancock Center on Michigan Avenue in Chicago is a huge building. When you walk up to it you can barely see the top even when your head is craned all the way back. Unlike the Sears Tower, the Hancock is on the north of the river near the edge of where the downtown area seems to end.
Once we were inside the building covered with criss-crossing exposed iron supports, we were rocketed up to the observatory, 360 Chicago, for an awesome view of the city. On the ground we were blocks away from the shore of the lake, but in the air it looked like we were right on the beach.
We walked around, doing a circuit of the whole place, looking out over the lake and the city. They even had a cafe up there, in case you wanted to sit up incredibly high and have a bite to eat. We didn’t try the tilt, a crazy window where you hold on to the handles as the glass tilts outward a little at a time and you are left looking down at the ground as you try to hold yourself off the glass. It was fun watching people try it out though!