Let’s talk about my recent trip to Chicago.
For anyone who follows both my general and knitting blogs, you’ll know that this past weekend I went to Chicago for Yarn Con!
I’ll be talking about all the yarny details in my knitting post on Friday, but spending the weekend in the Windy City gives me quite a bit to talk about that’s not knitting related.
First thing’s first, travel arrangements.
My friend, Taylor, and I took the Amtrak to Chicago this year, rather than driving down.
I love taking trains places, I think they’re such an underrated form of transportation. I hate driving – traveling long distances by car makes me motion sick and the conditions of driving tend to exacerbate my anxiety, which is never a fun way to start or end a trip. So taking the Amtrak was a perfect solution for me.
Not to mention that by not driving, we didn’t have to deal with finding parking in the city or have to try to navigate the crazy Chicago traffic.
I still did get a bit motion sick on the way down to Chicago, and we ended up taking an Uber throughout the trip, but I’d do it all the same if I could.
In terms of accommodations, the hotel that we stayed in certainly had a few quirks. For example, the hallway of our floor was blue. I don’t mean blue as in blue wall, I mean it had freaky blue lighting that made me concerned about what kind of activities were hosted in this hotel.
What was particularly creepy, was that none of the other floors had this odd lighting. We checked!
The hotel was only a 15 minute walk from the event center where Yarn Con was being held, though. Plus, it was well priced and had a bunk bed, so we each got our own beds, which made it well worth it.
And Taylor did end up asking about the lighting, and it turned out that there was a perfectly good explanation. They’d wanted to fit all the halls with color-changing LEDs, but something went wrong with the tech and the changes went too fast, making it a seizure risk, so they’d set it to blue and not had it installed on any of the other floors. It was almost a disappointingly normal explanation.
Before we get into the best part of any vacation – the food – I want to say something quickly about shopping and sightseeing.
First of all, if you can possibly manage it, I highly recommend getting up early to go to the Millennium Park and the Magnificent Mile. Maybe not on a Sunday, since most of the shops on the Magnificent Mile don’t open until at least 10 on Sunday, but definitely if you can be there on a weekday.
Taylor and I woke up early because there’s a 1 hour time difference between Michigan and Chicago, so I was up at 6:30am and simply could not get back to sleep.
So, after we went for brunch, we found ourselves with lots of time, and decided to take a walk. Even at a leisurely pace, when we got to The Bean, there was almost no one there! We managed to get some great pictures at the park, as well as outside the Art Institute because of the lack of crowds.
(You can see in this picture that traffic is pretty much non-existent, it was incredible!)
Taylor and I went to a few different shops when they did finally open, but I only want to highlight one.
I’ve tried two of the variety of teas that I purchased from this store so far, and I’m already madly in love with this company.
The sheer variety of tea that they have is spectacular, and in particular I’m pleasantly shocked by the amount of caffeine free tea that they have.
I’ve mentioned before that I can’t have caffeine, and it’s always a struggle to find new flavors or blends of tea that I can drink.
I do not have that problem with David’s Tea, and in addition, the taste of their tea is also wonderful. I will definitely be ordering from their online store when I eventually (and probably very quickly) run out of what I purchased in Chicago.
Finally, let’s talk food.
Buckle up, because this is going to be a long section.
I was in charge of all of our food for the weekend (Taylor handled literally everything else), and there are good and bad things to say about just about every place we went.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all of our meals! But I was disappointed by some aspect of each place.
But let’s go in chronological order.
First, we had lunch at Nohea Cafe, a cafe near the Yarn Con event center. This place was very cute and cozy! It definitely felt an appropriate place for a couple of knitters. But I could swear that I stood by the counter for 5 minutes, watching as the woman taking orders did other things. There certainly was no hurry in this cafe.
And when our food finally came, I found myself practically chocking on my caprese panini. It was so spicy! If I’d realized they were going to coat it in red pepper flakes, I definitely would have asked them to NOT DO THAT.
After Nohea, we went to an Irish pub style restaurant that was recommended to me by a coworker who used to live in Chicago.
When you stepped into Lady Gregory’s, the first thing you notice is the NOISE. My god it was loud in this pub. Now, I know that I’m an awful old fuddy-duddy compared to most people in my age range, but come on. The club music, the sports playing, the techno lights, and the cacophony of patrons shouting to one another over the noise was a bit much.
I realize now that I should have expected this, given that it was a Saturday night and Lady Gregory’s is also a bar, but in fairness, I was misled. The pictures on the website all show the bookcases that line a few walls, the cozy fireplace, and a well-lit, pleasant dining atmosphere. It’s no wonder I didn’t expect the volume of the place.
The food, however, was absolutely fantastic.
I’m a vegetarian, and the restaurant offered a separate menu with vegetarian options. I really appreciated this, particularly because it’s so uncommon compared to what I’m used to in my own area. I ended up having a Mushroom Reuben (I’ve never had a Reuben before, thanks to pickiness before I became a vegetarian), and it was delicious. I highly, highly recommend it to any vegetarians traveling to Chicago.
On the following day, we went to Yolk for breakfast.
I’ve been to Yolk before, and I’m pretty sure that it’s one of Taylor’s all-time favorite restaurants. She insists that we go every time we’re in the city.
All I have to say, is that I completely agree with Taylor. If you go to Chicago, you absolutely must go to Yolk for breakfast or brunch. They have a ton of options, both vegetarian and not, and it is phenomenal food.
Now, the last place that I planned on eating at while in Chicago was called Urbanbelly. It’s an Asian restaurant, and I was seriously looking forward to their vegetarian version of Pho.
Alas, despite my eagerness to please in the endeavor of choosing restaurants, I neglected to check the hours of Urbanbelly before I decided on it. And they aren’t open on Sundays.
I can’t be too sad, though, because as an alternative, we went and got true Chicago deep dish from Lou Malnati’s.
I think that’s a pretty good way to cap off a trip to Chicago.