Doin’ that tourist thang…

…although if I live here, I guess I’m technically not a tourist.

My colleague and former classmate Roger Renteria (author of the WriteTechie blog) arrived in town yesterday for the STC Summit, so I decided to take a break from my “personal branding” project (more on that in a future post) and show him around downtown. I hadn’t done more than pass through downtown on the Orange Line since I moved here, so I figured I was due.

Way too many photos after the cut.

Since he was on the Blue Line and I was on the Red, we both disembarked at Monroe and made our first stop the good ol’ Sears Tower (or Willis Tower, if you insist). Of course we looked like total tourists by going in the wrong entrance–but I suppose there’s no harm in looking like tourists when that’s precisely what you are.

After that terrifying elevator ride (I’m certain it’s scarier than it was last time I took it), we arrived at the Skydeck, 103 floors up.

First, being the TC and graphic design nerd that I am, I am compelled to point out their totally fabulous logo:

Logo of the Sears (Willis) Tower Skydeck

Brilliant! Typography in a sans serif font that is quite clear and readable from some distance away, and it looks exactly like the Sears Tower (stylized, of course). I also love how its very subtle shadows and equally subtle use of perspective gives it both a 3-D effect and the implication of tallness without departing from the simplicity of the logo. I’d be very interested in seeing the designer’s other work.

Moving on, we have an Obligatory Oversize Downtown Skyline shot:

Downtown Chicago from NE Sears Tower

Obligatory photo of iconic buildings: John Hancock Center, Trump Tower, Marina City, and some other buildings I don’t recognize from above.

Please note, if you will, how you can actually see the humidity hovering over the city. I was born and raised in the desert, folks; seeing water in the air without it falling on me is somewhat of a novelty. And sticky.

Here (Boeing) is the #2 most-desired workplace among engineering majors, according to this survey:

Boeing Building from Above

#2, beaten only by NASA. I wonder if they’re hiring writers…

My last visit to the Sears Tower was A) when it was still actually called the Sears Tower, and B) before they built The Ledge. The Ledge is a set of glass-floored rooms that actually protrude from the building. They can also be retracted during inclement weather. Naturally, this called for a multitude of silly “falling” or “flying” photos, but I’ll only torture you with one:

Photo on The Ledge

Don’t jump! It’s not worth it!

The effect was somewhat spoiled by all of the scratches and fingerprints. Oh well, I suppose even at $17 a ticket, they can’t afford to replace the glass all that often.

Finally, we found this puzzling tee shirt in the ground floor gift shop (as opposed to the gift shop near the ticket booth and the gift shop up top):

"I Hotdog Chicago"

“I Weenie Chicago”?

We spent far too much time trying to figure out which synonym for hot dog best filled the blank in “I _____ Chicago.” “I Frank Chicago”? “I Polish Chicago”? “I Link Chicago”? I welcome all 3 of my readers to leave their thoughts on this hot topic in the comments.

Leaving that mystery for another day, we decided it was lunch time. Of course, since we were being and playing tourists, we had to go to Lou Malnati’s pizzaria. It was nice to have an excuse to go, since it’s been a year since the last time I had it. I ate way too much of that pie–fortunately, we were only walking on this outing. No pictures for this; I was way too busy pigging out.

Our next stop was Grant Park.

One of my earliest memories of Chicago was attending a free symphony concert on the lawn of the Grant Park bandstand. I fondly remember sprawling on a picnic blanket in the grass of Grant Park, contentedly listening to Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which in my mind at the time was “the part in Fantasia with the dinosaurs.” I think I can pinpoint that concert as the moment I knew I wanted to live here.

Because of the NATO Summit, there were more cops downtown than tourists. This made it very easy to get large panoramic photos of Buckingham Fountain with a minimum of tourist clutter. Like this one:

Panoramic Buckingham Fountain

There are actually more geese in this shot than people.

There really was a very large number of Chicago’s Finest. In addition to the multitudes roaming around in small groups, we also saw a line of about 25 cops on horses, almost as many bicycle cops, and even a few Segway cops. There were also generally three helicopters hovering over the downtown/lakefront area at any given time.

Our next stop was Millennium Park, across the street. Chicago was really ingenious about its park systems. A very long section of lakefront is public parks and beaches, and there are very few buildings anywhere near the shore. This provides a number of perfect places for biking, running, picnicking, or even just going and reading a book on the grass. Which I will probably do almost every day in the summer once I live downtown.

Millennium Park is home to the famous Cloud Gate sculpture, also known as the giant metal jellybean. I’ve taken tons of photos of The Bean already, so I elected not to this time. Also, there were many more tourists here, and most of my preexisting Bean photos were taking during the winter–when there are considerably fewer tourists (read: none).

We also saw some birds and bees:

A Tiny Bee

A tiny bee doing tiny bee things

A Brave Bird

A brave bird: This fellow tolerated us walking next to him taking pictures for about 50 ft.

A Posing Bird

A poser: This bird literally landed on the bush, contemplated us for a moment, and then struck this pose and held it until we finished taking pictures.

From here we strolled along the lakefront toward Navy Pier. Along the way (as well as elsewhere), I took a number of photos of Lake Point Tower, my future home (hey, if you’re gonna dream…). Here is a very small fraction:

Lake Point Tower from Sears Tower

From atop the Sears Tower

Lake Point Tower from Harbor

Slightly closer, from the harbor south of Navy Pier

Lake Point Tower from the southwest

From the southwest, along the Navy Pier river walk

Lake Point Tower from Navy Pier

From Navy Pier, just after sunset

Obviously, our next destination was Navy Pier. It was nice seeing it without the crowds, even though many of the vendors and attractions won’t open up until next weekend. That didn’t stop one enterprising funnel cake vendor from being open and selling me some delectable fried dough. We walked to the end of the pier and noticed an unusually large host of Coast Guard and Chicago Police boats, and a Coast Guard helicopter was patrolling Chicago’s harbors, as well. We even watched a civilian boat get “pulled over” by the police.

We were going to meet up some colleagues, but first we stuck around at the pier long enough to take these:

Sun Eclipsed by John Hancock Building

The John Hancock Center eclipses the sun

Skyline Sunset

Chicago skyline north of Navy Pier at sunset

Even though New Mexico is known for its unrivaled colors at sunset (especially during the fire season), Chicago does manage to compensate for its own version of spectacular sunset photos.

Finally, we met up with our colleagues, popped into a downtown pub, and then went our separate ways. Despite the complaints of my feet (which had better get used to it, honestly), I feel that this day was a highly successful touristy day. Yep, I definitely weenie Chicago.

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2 thoughts on “Doin’ that tourist thang…

    • Thanks so much! I saw that you have a new site as well. It looks great! I haven’t seen much of your art until now, so I’m glad to be able to see more.

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