Chicago: Towering views, lively fountains, beaches for dogs, and boat-shaped restaurants

We've officially explored outward in all directions from our apartment. We have yet to make it to areas further north like Wicker Park and Lincoln Park. We still haven't made it to the ethnic neighborhoods that we want to see like Chinatown, Little Italy, or Greek Town, but we still have time! Here is what we've been able to do recently.

Buckingham Fountain (above): This huge fountain is not only impressively large, it's also refreshing on hot, windy days. You can see in the picture that the wind is blowing the water to the right. We were able to ride the bikes through the mist after miles of biking for a much needed refresher.


Willis Tower (FKA Sears Tower): I can't say I ever want to do this again. The lines to get into the tower were around the block (go early!) and the skydeck itself was crowded and disorganized, but I'm glad we did it once. The glass cubes in the picture were added in 2009. Despite One World Trade Center surpassing Willis in pinnacle height, Willis still has the highest top floor, so this is one of the highest urban views you can
get while still being anchored to the ground.


John Hancock Center: Another one of the city's best views. This one if free if you go up to the restaurant or lounge for a drink. The Chicago Water Tower is pictured in the Center's foreground in the first picture. The second picture shows the Willis Tower in the upper right corner distance.

 Crown Fountain: This pair of fountains displays video that coincides with the flow of water. In the first picture, water is cascading down all four sides to match the waterfall video behind it. In the second the face spits water down on visitors.

Northerly Island: Chicago offers plenty of great places to the north and east to escape the downtown and look back on the skyline. While Navy Pier is crowded and full of shops, events, and restaurants, Northerly Island offers quieter paths, a planetarium, beach, and (when we were there) Phish doing a soundcheck for their evening concert.

Divvy Bike Sharing: Just this summer Chicago installed these bike kiosks and they're already everywhere with more being installed. Only $7 for a 24-hour pass which offers unlimited 30 min rides. Ride, dock, then ride again. We rode them down the lake from our apartment to Northerly Island.

Montrose Dog Beach: We've taken Bailey to dog parks, but this was another experience entirely. With hundreds of dogs left to do their own thing in a much larger area, letting Bailey off the leash here was nerve-racking. Most dogs and owners seemed to be responsible though and Bailey loved it. She's the little one above the sitting guy's right arm.


Castaways Restaurant: We've been to quite a few restaurants but none are really worth writing about that I haven't already. Castaway's is just a fun place to relax on the water. Stairways wind up the fake steam funnels to a deck overlooking the biggest lake in the world, Lake Michigan.


Lurie Garden: This is the last thing I'll post from Grant Park. Besides thinking that the man-made streams running through the garden for feet cooling were neat, I really just liked this picture. Grant Park contains Millenium Park (the Bean), the Art Institute, Buckingham Fountain, Crown Fountain, and all types of other attractions in a fairly small area. 


West Fest: Another great neighborhood festival! Every summer each of the many distinct Chicago neighborhoods puts on a festival with music, food, art, and other attractions. There are dozens of these festivals. Many of the festivals are called "Taste of (insert area)" while other just do their own thing. Some are better than others, but these are more crowded. This weekend is Wicker Fest with 40 bands for the usual city festival price of $5 (suggested donation).


Museum of Contemporary Art Farmer's Market: Only a couple blocks from our apartment, this farmer's market operates every Tuesday under whatever interesting art installation the museum has setup. It's a smaller market, but considering it's on a weekday and right downtown, it's a great time for nearby residents, like us, to stock up on produce for the week.