Day 2 – Minneapolis, Minnesota – Chicago, Illinois
On route to Chicago, we left Minneapolis very early, around 6am. About an hour outside of Minneapolis it started to rain, not just rain, it poured, HARD!!! The wipers on the truck could not keep up between the downpour and the wind. But we drove safely and slowly to get out of it, about an hour. Thankfully the kids were asleep for most of it so we could just concentrate on the road. The drive through Wisconsin is beautiful farm land and we had opportunities to get many good pictures. Passing through Wisconsin Dells we were intrigued as we didn’t know much about this place, and unfortunately we were already on a tight time line to see all the cities we had already planned. We viewed the website as we drove by, and regret not knowing about it, as the kids would have had a blast. I would recommend checking this out and put a day aside if driving through.
One thing we also did not plan was toll roads!!! This is not common in Canada, mostly only in Ontario and certain parts of BC. The tolls in Illinois range anywhere from about .80 cents to $10.00 or so dollars depending on how far you drive on that part of the hi-way. Some are manned by people, and some only have machines that you just toss your coins into. Cameras are at every toll, I think we accidentally drove through a couple, and still have not received any tickets that we are aware of. With options of purchasing either an I-Pass or, if you are driving through a number of states in the Midwest and North-East or in Ontario, Canada, then I would suggest the EZ Pass. There is a map on the EZ Pass website that shows which states accept the EZ Pass. It shows where the tolls are and how much each toll is…oh and you save 50% on tolls when you use the pass versus paying cash at a booth.
Transportation in Chicago
We were staying just outside of Chicago, and did not want to try driving into the city during rush hour and especially in a city we do not know. We used the “L” train to maneuver our way into and around the city. This was definitely the most economical as well as stress free by not having to worry about driving, or finding parking that of course we would have had to pay for. The “L” is very simple and easy to use and you can plan trips and view the maps on the Chicago Transit Website. We bought the 1 day pass as it is good for 24 hours at a cost of $10, this allowed for us to use the train as well as the bus system. Other forms of transportation, if not going too far of a distance are taxis, as well Uber was very popular in downtown Chicago.
Things to do in Chicago
There are plenty of things to do in Chicago, that range from sports when in season to museums, science centres, or just sight-seeing through downtown and checking out the amazing things this beautiful city has to offer. If we had more time in the city, we would have checked out more things. If you are there for a few days, and are looking at doing a few different things, I suggest checking out the Chicago Explorer Pass. They offer 1,2, 3 and 5 day all you can do passes that are good for 26 different attractions. You save 55% by purchasing this way versus at the gate, as well if you register your email, you can receive a coupon for $10 off $250 or more. As well, discounts at select restaurants shopping and entertainment. You can download and use their app, or you can print the pass at home.
We just wandered through downtown, admiring the Navy Pier. It is also only about a 20 minute walk to the famous Cloud Gate (the big silver bean). There are raised urban parks, and the Millennium park also located near downtown, with activities or entertainment taking place regularly. Be sure to check the events calendar as this is a great way to spend a few hours or a full day with spending minimal money. Millennium park also boasts the stunningly designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion which hosts free entertainment at times. There was an orchestra playing when we went through, but again we were on a time crunch therefore did not spend a lot of time watching. The pavilion does have a couple of restaurants and beer gardens right next to it which allows you to enjoy a beverage while taking in the entertainment. Be sure to also enjoy the beautifully iconic river walk. It boasts plenty of restaurants, as well as options for river cruises and other activities.
We definitely want to go back to the “windy” city. It sure does have a variety of things to offer for anybody and everybody. Whether on a budget, or looking to splurge Chicago is a must see city in our opinion. Coming up next….Cleveland and Rock and Roll!!