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How to Enjoy Chicago Post-Pandemic (July 2021)

What's not to love?

We love Chicago, so it’s no wonder that we decided to take our first BIG post-pandemic trip to a place that we already know and love. (–We JUST came back from Nashville ( , but there were so many surprises about the town that we were disquieted by ( , that we knew we wanted to go somewhere that we thought would be soothingly familiar. –We also could NOT travel to our other favorite place, Toronto, due to international travel restrictions STILL being in place.

We decided that instead of putting our memories in a photo album, we should share our experiences this time with anyone interested in what travel is like nearly post-pandemic (July 2021). What follows are some notes about our trip.


I n i t i a l I m p r e s s i o n s :


Restaurant Concessions

Restaurants have had to make concessions due to the pandemic, but many seem to be finding their own way. We can’t even really imagine what the dining choices would have been like if there HADN'T been a pandemic. We are new to trying to find unique restaurants and to finding local fare, so there seemed to be an OVERWHELMING array of choices, depending on what we were in the mood and had the budget for. 🌮🥩🍩😎🍸👏🏾


Weather did NOT cooperate

It was REALLY hot during these days, so we tried to NOT take walks longer than 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Our goal was to NOT burn ourselves out—literally—and to stay hydrated, so that we would stay motivated to continue on and be in the mood to try more and if trying new things.


Refreshing us pit stops

We’ve been using Starbucks along the way as places to stop, refresh, and to reboot before we head to our next adventure. @starbucks


Taking the city bus/train

Better than walking a minute longer in the hot sun. It saved our day, to be honest. We took the train back. The 7 day, all access pass covers the train AND bus for $30. The Uber rates have been crazy, so we haven’t used them at all. 😳🙌🏾


Random Art

Similar to our Nashville experience (add link), we found so much beautiful and clever street art that we just had to share some of it with you.


Other randomness

As always, there are photos that don’t believe anywhere else, but seemed fun enough to be included.


Residence Inn/Marriott (Downtown/River North)

The location is good. Room is worn. The lamp was broken when we arrived; reported it and it was fixed within a couple of hours. Security is pretty good considering the location. LOVE The Body Shop products given complimentary in the room. No maid service due to pandemic protocol. Finally got used to that, but it was nice to be informed about this early on —unlike our Nashville experience. 🤷🏽‍♀️


I n d i v i d u a l E x p e r i e n c e s :


See It All Mini Bus Tour

Host was funny, personable, and informative. Allowed us chances to get out at a few stops to explore and take glamour shots. Didn’t like that we had to wear masks, but did so anyway….🤷🏽‍♀️


Chicago Riverwalk @chiriverwalk

Chicago Riverwalk (Re-launched in 2015; restaurants, gelato, bars, boating docks and plenty of spots to sit and admire the views); floating gardens between Wells and Franklin Streets. Took a stroll after one of our romantic dinners just to take in the views.


Grant Park Music Festival

Classical music; runs through August 2021; Didn’t formally get tickets to the concert, but explored the area; enjoyed the flora and fauna of the botanical garden before heading back toward the hotel. 🪴


Time Out Market Chicago @timeoutmarketchicago

18 restaurants in one place; 916 W Fulton Market Chicago 60607; We ate beef brisket from a place called Soul & Smoke. Great branding. Tasty. But there were no sides—like friends or Mac and cheese—so we felt just a little more in-satisfied than we might’ve for a normal restaurant. 🤷🏽‍♀️ The bus-staff at the facility are superb, however, and make an effort to actively wipe down surfaces once eat party is finished.


Siena Taverna @sienatavern

Trying to finish off dinner; ended up at this place we’d passed a few times across from our hotel. Was pleasantly surprised that it was “real” gourmet food. Everything was tasty and being on the open air sidewalk patio WASN’T as annoying as I had originally thought it would be.


JoJo’s Shake @jojosshakebar

Since Day One, we KNEW we had to get our hands in one of these fun and festive shakes with all the trimmings. Wasn’t disappointed. In fact, liked how the staff made sense out of some line confusion that was erupting and took care of waiting customers by sending a staffer out to the curb to take orders. Thumbs waaaay up for these guys! 🥛


The Little Goat Diner @littlegoatdiner

Wait wasn’t long —especially since we didn’t have reservations. Ambiance was hipster-cool and waitress was chatty, which I think is their vibe. The dish we had planned to try—upon a recommendation from a friend—has been taken off the menu due to the pandemic, but what I ordered wasn’t bad, but the kick-ass component of this meal was the biscuit—which tasted like half-donut/half-biscuit and was flaky on the outside, but tender on the inside. Perfect! If I had known about THESE, I WOULDN'T have wasted calories on the “main course”! 😳🙄


Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse 🥩 @harrycarays

We ducked into this place, looking for a burger and fries and realized that they are a hifalutin romantic as all get out spot. We booked a reservation for the next day and that’s where we’re having our once a vacation romantic dinner. So far, I am having a different and indulgent Key Lime Martini. 🍸

They play Frank Sinatra songs and keep the lights low. Just what we like for our first romantic dinner out.


Portillo’s Chocolate Cake Shake @portilloshotdogs

Found a recommendation for the chocolate cake shake on YouTube, so we went there to try it (since it was right down the street from the hotel). The restaurant was chaotic—as was the online ordering process. We FINALLY got our shake. Was NOT as tasty as we had been led to believe. –Actually, our Starbucks Funnel Cake Frappuccino is a tastier, healthier alternative to this 1,400 calorie desert. –But….. at least we checked it off our Chicago “To Try” list. @starbucks


Stan’s Doughnuts 🍩 @stansdonutschicago

This was another of those YouTube travel video-recommended delicacies. Great branding; loved the bag and the retro dining room. Luckily, we ran right into it after walk about the universe, so we tried it. Perhaps they needed to be super fresh to be tasty, but we were disappointed.


“The Obama Portraits” Art Institute of Chicago @artinstitutechi

Appreciated having the opportunity to not only attend the Art Institute of Chicago for the first time, but to enjoy “The Obama Portraits” exhibit WITHIN the entry ticket price! Had to be let in for appointment slots to see the portraits—which was probably necessary, although annoying!—but it was nice to punctuate our visit to Chicago by seeing the history of its most successful residents.


Guitar Center (Halstead Ave)

Same low-energy customer service that we’ve grown to dislike—no matter what state we’re in. And when I say “low-energy,” I mean “no energy.” We we’re there about 45 minutes, played about 5 different instruments, in 4 different rooms, and not ONE employee greeted us, nor asked us ANYTHING. —That’s on top of the fact that, although there was a person stationed at the door, he did not say not one mumbling word to us. If we HAD wanted to buy something, we were discouraged to do so by folks who seemed as if they didn’t want to serve us. Same store culture; different store.

Chicago Music Exchange @chicagomusicexchange

Appreciated that CME is not making EVERYONE wear masks; only those who are unvaccinated. Also, appreciated that customers are freely allowed to play the premium basses—which seems to be rare with SOME music stores. Not only that, but we were greeted warmly at the door and felt welcomed to explore, but also to ask questions, if necessary. (As you will recall, this is our second trip to CME, here is our first: )