We were both were pretty excited about this trip… we booked an “official” Red Sox Destination trip and neither of us had been to Chicago before. Not that we don’t love Boston and Fenway, but we wanted to see another city.
Drive from home to Bangor was pretty uneventful, except being pulled over at the border and having the car searched. It’s not like we had anything in the car that we shouldn’t have had, but I was STARVING and we were planning to eat in Houlton. I think the boys at the border were just jealous of all the sports we were about to enjoy. All flights were uneventful… were checked into the hotel in Chicago (Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile) by 6:00 their time. Had some supper at ESPN zone (they really give you too much food for one person) and then went back to the hotel to relax for the night…
Day 1 – The first of our games wasn’t until Thursday night, so we had all of Thursday to explore around Chicago. Breakfast at the hotel was pricy ($20 each for buffet) but the food was excellent, homemade, and a lot of it was organic. They had lists around telling you where products came from and that kind of thing. It was also convenient (much like the Starbucks in the lobby). After breakfast, we wandered down North Michigan Ave to the Wrigley Building to see about an architecture tour of the river (thanks for the recommendations Nik/Derek). We went with Wendell Boat Tours – $25 each for an hour tour. Was a beautiful day out, the tour wasn’t that busy, and there’s certainly lots of tall buildings to see in Chicago. Tour guide was a bit dull, but I only half listen to them most of the time anyways. After our boat tour, we walked down to Millenium Park to check out the “bean” and the rest of the park. There’s lot of giant “art” exhibits there, and an giant open air theatre that’s bigger than anything we have here at home – indoors or out. There’s other parks around this one, and we checked those out as well, stopping at Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park, and an organic gardening exhibit across from some giant statue of Abe Lincoln. They were setting up for the Chicago Jazz Festival when we were down that way, but we never did get back down there to check it out. After that, back to the hotel. Got changed and stuff and headed out to find Giordano’s Pizza… it was DELICIOUS!!! Back to the hotel again after that to change and head out to Soldier Field for the football game (Bears vs Browns). Greg’s a Bears fan, so this was pretty exciting for him. And I’ve never been to a pro football game, so that was pretty exciting for me. Soldier Field is pretty huge, and we had great seats – only 6 rows back from the end zone. After the game, we decided just to walk back to the hotel (8-9 miles I think) instead of dealing with thousands and thousands of people all heading to the same subway stop. (We learned the next day there was a bus that stopped right in front of our hotel that goes right to the field lol… but it was a nice night and exercise is good for you.) Our Sox stuff (a jersey each, 2 official MLB balls, and Red Sox magazines) were delivered to our room in the afternoon.
Day 2 – The ballgame today wasn’t until night again, so we had more time to explore. We decided to check out the Shedd Aquarium (using the handy dandy bus that goes down that way)…walked around there for a couple of hours… checked out the 4-D Planet Earth movie (for free at that, since the person working at the booth had some extra tickets just kicking around) …it’s a pretty big aquarium and it’s supposed to have the greatest variety of critters in the states or something like that. Did a bit of shopping on State Street, ate some tasty sandwiches at Potbelly, and headed back to the hotel. Headed down to the game early so we could watch Sox batting practice. Subway was a breeze – Red Line left from 2 blocks from our hotel and went straight to the ball park (since I think US Cellular Field is a stupid name, I’ll be calling it the ballpark lol)… Nice HUGE park, but it’s so new and has NO personality at all. Though I will admit it was nice to have seats that were actually facing the game all weekend. Seats for this one were row 9 from the field in center field. Seats are fairly comfy there, and there were LOADS AND LOADS of Red Sox fans there. The Lovehammers performed a couple of songs to start out the night (headed by Marty Casey that was on that Rock Star: INXS show). We lost this one in a fairly pathetic fashion, but it was fun all the same. There were 5 White Sox fans sitting in front of us that were absolutely hilarious… you had to be there, but imagine something along the lines of guys asking one guy who was getting up to get real beer (they only bring Miller Lite and Miller Genuine Draft around to the seats) to bring back a 3 foot long curly fry that curls to the left and not the right, a crockpot full of hot water, a pizza pop dipped in chocolate, and a hot dog cut in four with ketchup on every second piece 🙂 The White Sox also have hoochies that run around during the game and throw T-shirts into the crowd… sponsored by some car company. The guys in front of us were willing to take the car since they didn’t get a shirt lol. It was Blackhawks night at the game as well, so several of the Blackhawk players were on the field, and there was a big fireworks show at the end of the night (which we only watched as we walked towards the subway)… every time a White Sox player got a home run, fireworks went off as well… seems like a waste of money to me… but whatever.
Day 3 – We had to be at the field early for this day, so we headed out around 8:30 and were inside the fancy auditorium at the park by 9:30. As part of the Red Sox Nation package, we had a reception with all you can eat/drink, and we got to meet one of the Red Sox. For the most part, the group was old people and families with little kids… a bit of a drag in that regard really, but we did meet some nice people. We got to see 2004 and 2007 World Series rings and we all got to try them on, have pictures taken with them, etc etc. They would just be the staff rings and not the player rings, but that was pretty cool all the same. We also got to meet Carl Bean – the voice of Fenway Park. He was pretty funny and had some great stories (he also posed for a picture with Gus 🙂 Then we got to meet Daniel Bard, have pictures taken with him, get autographs, and ask him some questions. We also got free beer… always a bonus 🙂 After the reception, we got to go out and watch the Red Sox do batting practice for over an hour before the park was even open to the public. That was pretty cool, since they were pretty much right in front of where we were all standing. Some of them even signed some autographs and stuff. Once the park opened, we headed over to our seats (row 18 from the field, again in center field)… drank some more beer… listened to Paps heckle a dork that tried to catch a ball with his beer, watched Saito ham it up etc. Lost this one too. Had a late supper at Blackie’s – amazing burgers, though it’s a divey looking place. After all the beer and sun, we were too tired to do a whole lot of anything after supper.
Day 4 – Game was early afternoon this time, so we headed down to the park mid morning. Had breakfast at a place that I forget the name of that was across the street from the hotel. No batting practice today… and it was CRAZY hot… we finally won this one, which was nice. Seats were 4 rows from the field, again in center field… amazing view, but hotter than hell because we were beside the big wall with vegetation on it… Had a group of douchebags behind us… but that’s to be expected at games sometimes… my favorite was the one who thought Alex Rios’s last name was Ribs… Had supper at an Italian place across from the hotel (Buca di Beppo) – was good… way too much food again and they gave us a quick tour of the kitchen on the way in. After this we decided to do another boat tour – this was a sunset one that went out into Lake Michigan… it was a pretty nice, the guide was a bit more interesting, and there was fireworks that we stopped to watch because of the long weekend. Back to the hotel after that to pack…
Overall we were super impressed with most everything about Chicago…especially the taxis… you could always get one if you wanted one, no matter where you seemed to be…. Even though we didn’t ever actually need one. The whole downtown area was amazingly clean, and there was tons to do in the city even if you just wanted to walk around for a while. We didn’t do much for shopping, but there was no shortage of it. People were super friendly… it wasn’t a super expensive city… and we’d definitely go back (though we’re hoping there’s a Red Sox Destination to San Francisco for next year 🙂 We also had beautiful weather the entire time, and there’s lots of things we’d like to check out if we’re in that city again.