For our wedding anniversary Robin and I decided to take a 3 day vacation to Chicago. We also made the decision to leave the car at home and let Amtrak do the driving. Neither of us had ever traveled by train so we were looking forward to the new experience.
Booking Amtrak is easy. Their website is intuitive and works just like the airlines booking engines. We selected Galesburg as our point of departure, although we could have chosen Kewanee or Princeton also. Total round-trip train fare: $76 for two passengers.
We arrived at Galesburg, Illinois at 7:10 AM on Friday for our 7:43 departure. Parking was convenient right in front of the train station. Scanning the barcode I received in my email from Amtrak was easy. You just walk up to the kiosk, hold the barcode up to the machine and your tickets print out. So simple! A ticket agent is on duty to help if you have trouble.
Being a seasoned air traveler I expected to have to squeeze our carry-on bags into a small overhead and then sit with my knees firmly implanted into the seat in front of me. This was not the case. The overhead cargo area was huge and seating was amazingly comfortable and spacious. The ride was smooth and fast and it was fun watching the scenery pass by through the oversized windows. Why did we ever give up train travel as a primary means of transportation?
Below is a review of the things we enjoyed while in Chicago.
Lodging: The Palmer House Hilton, 17 East Monroe Street in the Loop. The Palmer House is an iconic Chicago landmark. Location is convenient and the stately lobby is breathtaking. The rooms are lovely and every staff person we dealt with was highly trained in the art of hospitality. In-room internet access did come with a daily price tag which varied with your choice of access speed. Our room was booked using our website, www.myblacktieconcierge.com, and we got an excellent rate. By the way, they usually have very interesting and unique music playing in their public areas. The theme even carries through to their website. It’s a very clever marketing strategy that I like.
Gibsons Bar and Steakhouse. Located on Chicago’s Gold Coast at 1028 North Rush Street, Gibson’s has a reputation as a place to see and be seen. The walls are covered with photos of celebrities who have eaten there. We arrived for Sunday lunch after church and were seated promptly. Their menu is legendary and features items in all price ranges. We both enjoyed a bowl of their famous Bookbinders soup, which was delicious. Our entre’s were top notch, large quantities and reasonably priced.
Italian Village 71 W Monroe in the loop. Three separate and distinct dining areas are located here. We ate upstairs in “The Village”. Our food was phenomenal (lasagna and cannelloni) and we also enjoyed watching an Andrea Bocelli concert on the TV screen while we dined.
Beef and Brandy. 127 S State Street. We actually ate here twice, once for breakfast and once for late afternoon dinner. It was conveniently located next to the State Street Palmer House entrance. Beef and Brandy is very ‘80s decor featuring decent food at very reasonable prices. Nothing fancy. Of particular note, they offer sweet potato fries and liver and onions.
Jersey Boys. This Broadway Production has been playing an extended run at the Bank of America Theatre since October of 2007. It is the story of Franki Valli and the Four Seasons rise to fame in the mid 60’s. Those of you who have seen the show earlier may want to go again, as several of the main cast members have been replaced by new talent this spring. Highly, highly recommended! We purchased our tickets at the box office roughly 3 hours before the show started.
On Friday and Sunday our feet were our primary means of transportation but we used Chicago Trolley on Saturday. They feature double-decker open top buses that you can hop on and hop off at your convenience. This was a great way to get around and see everything. Tour guides were on each trolley and they were all very courteous and entertaining.
Other places we visited:
Navy Pier-a great place to see and do a lot! Of course, the Ferris Wheel is very popular!
Moody Bible Institute-we took the 2:00 PM tour on Friday afternoon and learned a lot from our student tour guide from Jamaica. The Moody Bible Campus is one of Chicago’s best kept secrets.
Moody Church-The historic Church on North Lasalle Blvd was our place of worship Sunday morning. Excellent music and inspiring worship!
Millennium Park-recently completed park next to Grant Park features a giant mirrored kidney bean shaped sculpture(technically it is called the Cloud Gate) and L.E.D. fountains that spray water from the mouths of facial images. Very entertaining and unique! There is also a state-of-the-art music venue and a lovely garden. This facility was under construction the last time we visited Chicago.
There’s always something going on in Chicago and we are fortunate to live so close. We are looking forward to the day when the Quad Cities has Amtrak service to Chicago!