It seems that the only things keeping me motivated lately are my little mini-vacations. It is nice having something to look forward to. Although I love where I live, and can be happy just hanging out at my house, it is nice to get out of town and experience something new every once in a while.
Nic and I have been planning our New Year’s Eve trip since last July. We first started looking at New York City, but then realized that it is really expensive to stay there. Then we looked into New Orleans, which was also expensive and was hard to get around without a car (since the cheaper hotels were outside of town). We finally settled on Chicago. It was in our price range and we have never been there together.
We took the Amtrak train from Kalamazoo, which was under $50 round trip and was only 2 hours each way. It was nice that we took the train. Parking in Chicago is outrageous and traffic is terrible. Plus, public transportation is pretty amazing in that town.
I reserved a room at the Hampton Inn & Suites, right downtown Chicago, for 2 nights. It was a very nice hotel with great staff, clean rooms, and a kick ass pool and hot tub. The continental breakfast wasn’t so bad either. We were in walking distance to everything that we needed. The hotel was right in the middle of shopping & restaurants and only 4 blocks away from the trains. Nic and I walked everywhere and we were so impressed by how close it all was.
When we first got into town, we took a taxi from the Amtrak station to the hotel. We were early, so we left our bags at the front desk and went out to get some lunch. Nic’s aunt recommended a diner for us to eat at. Ed Debevic’s was a blast! It was a 50’s style diner where the waitstaff is entertaining and very RUDE (in a good way?). Our waiter was making fun of me for ordering the vegetarian chili (which was amazing). Apparently I looked like the typical vegetarian hippy… He was hassling everyone and it was fun to watch. At one point during our meal, all of the servers got up on the tables and started singing and dancing to “YMCA”.
After lunch, Nic and I headed to Michigan Ave for some retail therapy. Living in the Upper Peninsula, we do not have great shopping options. We have a mall that has about 8 stores in it and besides outdoor gear, I have to travel somewhere to get good shopping. Nic wasn’t so fond of holding my purse and coat while I rummaged through the sales at Forever 21, so he was excited when we went into the Eddie Bauer store. I have never even heard of Eddie Bauer before, but I was in love! I got myself a great softshell jacket (the red one that you will see in pictures) for 50% off.
We walked down to Navy Pier after shopping and went on the ferris wheel. I feel like this is something that every tourist has to do. The weather was very cold, but no snow. It didn’t get above 30 degrees while we were there but we were bundled up and didn’t mind walking around the city.
We warmed our bones in the hot tub at the hotel after our walk around town. Then we headed out to a comedy show at Second City’s UP Comedy Club. It was a Christmas themed show with a lot of improvisation. The show was great but we were less than impressed by the food and also by the drink prices! Holy crap, $6 for a light beer! I guess we are spoiled by our cheap drinks in Michigan because everywhere we went to get drinks during this trip was expensive.
The next day was New Year’s Eve and we had no plans until 10 pm for dinner, so Nic and I slept in and enjoyed our day. We took the train to Wicker Park and Bucktown and went resale shopping. I got some great deals and Nic moped around while he held my purse and coat again 🙂 We also stopped and had sushi before going back to downtown Chicago. Our plan was to go to Millennium Park and go ice skating, but it was so cold and our feet hurt from walking, that we ducked into a building to warm up. We stumbled upon the Chicago Cultural Center. It ended up being a neat place (free!) with some art galleries and amazing architecture. We even sat in on a piano concert.
After lounging in the pool and going into a food coma following Chipotle burritos, we got ready for dinner. We made reservations at Quartino Ristorante. The place was packed on NYE but the overall experience was excellent. The food was in smaller portions and priced accordingly. Which meant that we got to try multiple dishes. Our waiter was great and bought Nic a shot of house-made Limoncello because he had never had it before. We will be back at this restaurant when we come to Chicago again.
We bundled up our coats after dinner and stopped by the liquor store to get some drinks. Then we headed down to Navy Pier with about 2 thousand other people with the same idea on New Year’s Eve. The roads were jam packed and the sidewalks were all moving in one direction; to the lake. We tried jumping on the free Navy Pier trolley, but once the traffic came to a halt, everyone got off and walked the rest of the way. It was a balmy 11 degrees and windy! I was contemplating just going back to the hotel but Nic wouldn’t let us have a boring NYE inside a hotel room. I’m glad we didn’t go back because the fireworks at Navy Pier were beautiful. The speakers blared Frank Sinatra and we had a front row seat. It was a memorable New Year’s 🙂