Mom, this train track was in the movie, “Divergent”, said our 10 year old as arrived the ravishing city of Chicago. Clickety-clack said the train, linking the sky-scrapers above the road. Chicago is one of the best cities of America; it’s a blend of rich heritage and modern architecture. Our March Break Madness comprised of a trip to Windsor to meet family friends and then driving further west to Chicago, Illinois in the United States.
Directions:-The distance from Toronto to Windsor is 369Kms on Highway 403 West and 401 West. Toronto to Chicago is 840Kms using the same highways. From Windsor to Chicago, I-94 W highway and is 458Kms. Approximate travel time from Toronto-Chicago will be 8-10 hours inclusive of breaks. Chicago time is an hour behind Toronto.
Windsor is located in South-western Ontario and is on the border of US; it showcases the Detroit River and beautiful Detroit Skyline. Canada is not only famous for its Hockey players but also for its sculptures and artists. Windsor lake-shore has a beautiful Sculpture park and as they say, “A Museum without walls”. There are several monuments and benches which were donated in the memory of loved ones to the city. Since Windsor is the border of Canada and connects to Detroit (US) through Ambassador Bridge. Both cities celebrate Canada’s National day(1st July) and American Independence day (4th July) together, both contribute and arrange fireworks in the middle of the river which attracts a lot of locals and tourists and is mostly celebrated a week before.
While visiting the city with our friends, they mentioned a church which was the oldest in the community and was built more than 120 years back. This church was recently closed down in spite of people donating even millions to save this heritage architecture. The church holds memories of many who married and who got baptized here. It holds a special place in many people’s heart and they are sad to hear about its closure.
Swami Vivekananda represented India and Hinduism at the “Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893 in Chicago, US. This city takes me back to my grade 8 History lesson. This was the first time I had heard the name of the city. It definitely has an old heritage and history of World War.
After having -40 degrees temperatures in Toronto this winter, reaching Chicago which was plus 20 degrees Celsius was absolutely cheerful, I could smell spring just around the corner. As we entered the city, we got in flashback of famous “Hollywood movie-Divergent”, the dauntless woman jumping out of the train to pass her test and her journey of being a Divergent. We parked our car in Public car park and started to explore the vibrant city on foot. A few clouds, little sun and no wind-chill made it good enough to walk around. While on our foot journey and exploration, we reached Michigan Avenue, a very famous Hotspot for tourists. A kind suggestion from lady working in a souvenir store to visit “Millennium Park” and “Navy Pier”, these are the two best main attractions here, she mentioned.
“Millennium Park” is located at the heart of downtown on Michigan Avenue and favorite destination of everyone visiting this famous city of Chicago. The Park that offers landscapes, amazing architecture, sculptures, huge play area for kids with smooth floors and many more things to give you an unforgettable memory of a lifetime. Each famous destination has unique monuments and architecture which sets it apart from the rest of the world, for Chicago it was Millennium Park.
“Cloud Gate” at Millennium Park, was designed by British Artist Anish Kapoor reflects Chicago Skyline and clouds on this beautiful sculpture and is made of pure stainless steel. Inspired by liquid mercury, the sculpture is among the largest of its kind in the world, measuring 66-feet long by 33-feet high.
To add to my serendipity, the huge play area for kids was another main attraction, showcasing the alluring Chicago Skyline. Kids enjoyed their playtime, happy parents and electrified children enjoying the rides and swings on a beautiful warm day was a real delight. It felt like we just opened our doors to the universe after being trapped in the box for a long time.
“Navy Pier” was our next destination on foot journey, it was a definitely a long walk around 20 minutes from Michigan Avenue but totally worth it while you enjoy sightseeing of the city. It was a warm day, luckily it was 20 degrees in the middle of March .We found ourselves very fortunate and wanted to cover everything possible on the very same day. To get a real feel of the city, walking, taking local transport is always a good idea.
“Navy Pier” was planned and built to serve as a mixed-purpose piece of public infrastructure. Its primary purpose was as a cargo facility for lake freighters, and warehouses were built up and down the Pier. However, the Pier was also designed to provide docking space for passenger excursion steamers. Pier, especially its outermost tip was designed to serve as cool places for public gathering and entertainment. Today, the pier is Chicago’s number one tourist attraction. Ferris wheel, Children Museum and Carousel attract a lot of kids and their families.
“John Hancock Center” is the tallest tower and a part of magnificent Chicago Skyline. 95th floor of the skyscraper offers 360 degree glimpse of the city and Lake Michigan.
After walking the whole day, we were out of energy and took a public transport to our parking in downtown. Our feet were killing us and we no longer wanted to walk anymore and decided to land in our bed at the hotel. It took no longer than 2 minutes for my hyperactive kids to fall asleep, I could feel, they were exhausted after having an adventures day outdoors.
Some Tip here:- Always take a picture of the place where you’ve parked your car if you’re in a new place, we tend to forget the directions and it gets very difficult to reach back. Showing picture to locals can help you reach the right place.
We chose Hyatt Place in Lombard, a suburb in Chicago for our stay this time. This hotel is 35Kms from downtown but totally worth it. It provides clean spacious rooms, large breakfast buffet, fee Wi-Fi and ample of free parking space which is not available in the city. Very close to the Outlet mall, restaurants and other necessities. Please read our hotel reviews here, http://www.hozpitality.ca/news/reviews/hotel-review-by-hozpitality-hyatt-place-lombard-chicago
Next morning, the sun was out, bright clear skies, a gorgeous day but -4 degree Celsius, this forced us to be indoors with kids. Science Industry and Museum of Chicago is a world class science museum and another most visited destination in Chicago. A lot of science facts to learn from, good activities for kids, tours to explain the history. Coal Mine and U-5 Submarine caught our interest and we took a 45 minute tour of both. We reached there around 11:30 am and most of the main attractions were already sold out for the day, this place was definitely busy even on a Tuesday.
Some tip here:- Make sure to reach here as early as the museum opens to get maximum exposure, there’s a lot to do and learn about science facts and history.
Coal Mine Tour:-
Feet below in earth’s crust, an elevator takes you down to a spooky area surrounded with black rocks. Our tour guide described, how coal miners did back in 1930’s with no light, no ceiling and without any modern technology. She explained us about 3 big hazards inside the mine which included Carbon Monoxide, Methane and water. One of the other big danger inside was due to coal dust which could make breathing very difficult and created lung diseases for those working in the coal-mine. Since Methane was a poisonous gas, she clarified; they carried a group of Canary birds with them below the ground. “As these birds could sense Methane, whenever they stopped chirping, it was time to leave the place”, she informed.
Young American white female, must be in her college years was quite confident and knew what she was talking about, she told us, “Labors earned only 17-20 Cents for their 12-14 hours labor and used the old machines to dig coal from the mine back in 1930’s”. Now a days, they use all modern machinery and techniques. When asked, how those big machines could’ve fit in a small elevator and brought this deep under the ground??? “The machines were brought into pieces and then assembled inside and were as big as 5 football grounds”, she specified.
After the goofy lift below the ground, she took us to historical train ride to give us a feel of a coal-mine and showed us those huge machines. She said, “It made loud noises due to which most of the people lost their hearing”. These machines were brought into the museum from a real coal-mine which was closed in Chicago. “Since Chicago is the 5th largest producer of coal in the United States, some home owners now get Coal-mine’s insurance along with their home insurance, their house is at high risk of damage if there’s an active coal-mine beneath”, she mentioned.
This whole thing gave us a feel of 1900’s coal-mine and how those people worked hard for hours and for very little money, risking their lives and staying in a closed spooky area for 12-16 hours a day and 365 days of the year. This coal-mine tour is a must while exploring the Science Center in Chicago.
Our tour guide this time was an African American lady with shoulder length curly brown hairs, painted nails, quite stylish and very well spoken. She took us back to World War 2 in 1944 when German’s voyaged Bermuda. Capturing U-505 was only part of the battle, US Navy was asked to tow the sub-marine to know German military secrets. It was a difficult task as this U-boat was at the danger of sinking. This sub marine was later brought to the Museum after the World war ended. The boat was brought in first through different carriages and then walls and ceilings were built around it.
“59 German men in 200 ton steel vessel feet below the sea level for 100 days”, she mentioned. They had one room which had multiple bunk beds and only 2 washrooms, they weren’t allowed to wash themselves due to lack of water and rubbed alcohol to clean their skin, imagine how bad it would stink??She smiled. They had only 2 pair of work clothes, 2 pair of underwear’s which were re-used again. There was plenty of food for them, everywhere she said, in their beds, rooms, in lobby, corridors, kitchen and even in the bathroom, yuck, she sighed. There was a small kitchen where chef prepared all 3 meals for 59 men every day. And to add to their misery, there was only one bathroom at the end of the sub-marine.
She informed us, “Only one German perished during the capture of US-5, rest 58 men were caught by US Army and jailed as prisoners”. Guiding us inside, she took us from one corner of the historical boat to the end explaining each and everything; we were very impressed by her knowledge and presentation.
Highlight of our trip was “Mirror Maze” which I experienced with my son, glasses, images and confusion added to our excitement, we had to go through the glasses and find exit. I was mistaken most of times thinking of my son instead it was his image, he scared me many times from the back. I thought he was front of me but he was rather behind me. It looked like Zombies roaming around coming closer to you, most of the people were walking with their hands ahead of their bodies. We didn’t want to come out from there and repeated it many times.
We wished for more but then saw one gentle-man shouting, we’ll be closing the museum at 4o’clock. We were really disappointed, wished it was open till late or we had arrived earlier than 11:30am.
Soul soaring beauty of Chicago gave us an unforgettable memory of an American city. Our March Break was indeed fruitful inclusive of meeting old family friends and a road-trip to Chicago. So Go-Chi-Ca-Go….