Chicago has been my favorite city since a five week high school journalism program at Northwestern University (where I took my first, terrifying 80$ cab ride from the airport to Evanston by myself). While journalism didn’t stick, the magical feeling of freedom and excitement from the city did, and I’ve been back almost every year. Chicago is different from San Francisco or New York or Atlanta, it has this deep seeded Midwest attitude that makes it seem a lot smaller, more attainable. And the lakefront has a running path that’s literally swarming with potential running friends.
John has been planning this weekend for months. I found out on Wednesday that we were going (and seeing our friends that live there), Thursday, my friend accidently gave it away that she was flying in from California. And Friday, my other best friend from California texted me that she wanted to come too. She booked a same day flight and left for the airport with her baby.
We got in late Friday and didn’t really have much motivation to leave the hotel. John booked the Westin on Michigan Avenue. It was gorgeous, our room was huge and there was a little birthday surprise waiting for me that I devoured before taking off my coat.
We briefly caught up with my friend down at the hotel restaurant, the Grill, which, because of the boring name and poor price to quality ratio, isn’t worth linking (my other friend was riding around the city on a shuttle with her baby and a driver who kept passing her hotel).
The baby woke up Saturday at 4am, ready to go (this is why I never go out). Our first stop was the baby’s godmamma’s, new bakery, By the Park. I’ve seen pictures, but, in real life, it blew me away. She pours everything into what she’s passionate about, and her cookies, especially the Zilker Park, are amazing. And she has a play area for the kids. Win.
After dessert(s) for breakfast, we walked down the street to Standard Market for lunch. The kale salad with grilled tofu was the perfect follow up to a two cookie and a cranberry biscotti breakfast.
Trying to move 5 big people, two babies, two car seats and a stroller across town could only be done with two Ubers, so after we got back to the hotel we set out to walk to Millennium Park to, of course, get a Bean picture, and walk through the Art Institute.
I love walking, but when you’re carrying a baby, it’s really walking with a 20 pound weight on your chest that likes to pinch you and scratch off your freckles. By the time we got back to the hotel, my back was killing me and I was completely over the idea of going to one of the really nice dinners John had booked. So we did it up in true me 30th birthday fashion– deep dish pizza, Sprinkles cupcakes and champagne, while the babies chased each other around the room and we laughed until well past their, and our bedtime.
My California friends were on an early flight Sunday, so I took a quick Uber down to Lincoln park for a Lagree class my friend bought for my birthday. The lady at the front desk was skeptical when, standing in the classroom, I asked her what, exactly, Lagree was. It’s high intensity, almost impossible Pilates. It was the hardest workout class I’ve ever done and, if anything had me feeling 30, it was this. It was amazing.
John’s last surprise was brunch at Chicago Q. I loved the juxtaposition of classy, cozy and cottage like but with a sports bar feel. We ordered brunch (with a side of Mac n cheese), mimosas, and filled up on the homemade pickles and chips. I would go back just for the appetizers. It was truly one of the best brunch places I’ve been to and the perfect first meal to kick off the next decade.
A huge thank you to my amazing friends for celebrating with me, in what was probably the most boring weekend of your life, but, to me, was absolutely perfect. And thanks to my husband for spending so much time planning the perfect birthday for someone who doesn’t like birthdays.
Sweet Notes: Chicago
Stay: The Westin off of Michigan Avenue. The hotel is gorgeous and the soap like a perfume I love but I can’t remember what it is. It’s driving me crazy. The Westin is in a quieter section of the touristy part of town, 5-10 minutes to Macy’s and about a 40 minute walk to the Bean. It’s a ten minute drive to Lincoln Park which has the zoo, arboretum and much less crowded shopping.
Eat: For lunch try The Standard Market Grill (kf). Open and modern, it has everything from kale salads to pizza and burgers. For brunch, Chicago Q (kf) is a must. Get the Mac n cheese. Yes Mac n cheese is a brunch food. For authentic Chicago deep dish, Lou Malnati’s. Their crust is buttery and delicious. Expect long lines. For dessert, By the Park Chicago (kf). Get at least two cookies, and make one a Zilker Park.
Workout: Studio Lagree. You’ll constantly be looking at the clock praying that the class is over. But it’s the best workout I’ve done in a long time and the studio in Lincoln Park has a great city vibe. Other options, Flywheel has the best spin class I’ve taken and you can compete against the other riders, the Barre Code’s Bootcamp is unlike any other barre class. Or just bring your running shoes and hit the lakefront.
*KF is kid friendly, meaning changing table, high chairs and people didn’t glare at you for bringing the kid.