We arrived Monday afternoon and we were delighted to see snow fall
We checked in the Belden-Stratford and on first sight we were overwhelmed. Our suite is a little larger then our home. Bath and a half, kitchen, dining, bedroom and walk-in closet with it's own reach-in closet
We walked in the snow in Lincoln park for about half an hour until our delight with the snow had waned considerably.
Supper @ Lou Malnati's Wells street location for Deep Dish Pizza. I had a Goose Island 321 beer. Goose Island is a local brewery and the 321 is a wheat Ale that was a little hoppy for my taste. The Pizza was fantastic and lived up to our expectations of "real" Chicago deep dish pizza. The four of us shared two of the dessert pizzas. I had seen Lou Malnati's on a television program "America's Best Pizza" program and I was particuarly enchanted with the dessert pizza which is Vanilla Ice cream, whipped cream and a cherry served on a cookie dough pizza decribed as undercooked and gooey. Ours was more like a slightly over-done & crusty cookie. Based on the TV version ours was a dissappointment
All transportation so far has been by taxi. Our drivers were two men of eastern ancestery and a young, white woman. I cannot remember ever having a female cabbie before. They all drive like insane people and I am pretty sure the lass took us the long way round but I guess she needed the money.
Back to the Belden-Stratford for an early night
found us trying to figure out the bus schedules. We walked several blocks and passed several interesting smaller buildings. We finally caught a bus to the Macys @ 111th State Street. This is a remarkable building with a 10 story open air atrium criss crossed by a myriad of escalators. Amazing to see and slightly scary to ride at the very top levels.
We picked up our Go Chicago cards at the visitor center in Macys. These cards are good for admissions and discounts all over town with preferential treatment at some of the venues. They are really a terrific bargain and also provide good discounts at some resturaunts including Lou Malnati's (damn!). It turns out these cards would be even more useful if we had arrived in late April or early May as many of the attractions are closed for the winter.
While looking for the bus for the museum we were accosted by a pan handler carrying a plastic bag stuffed full of plastic bags. He looked very much like a urbanfied aborigine. When he asked me for money I told him I was trying to scrape up bus fare to "get these kids on the bus". An accurate statement but not very forthcoming about the huge amount of cash I ws carrying. We crossed the street to get to our bus stop and lo and behold he had followed us and asked again. I chuckled and told him that he had already hit us up. He persisted and requested a third time and I felt obligated to use my "angry" voice and he scuttled away.
We made our way to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.
This is one of the world's great museums and our #1 destination in the Windy City. ( on the plane we learned that the moniker refers to breezy politicians and NOT the weather) I got to visit this museum in 1976 and I was excited to get the chance to return almost 30 years later.
The museum is a incredible montage of historical artifacts and hands on demostrations that are woven together into a succinct thread that tells much of the story of America. Of course my favorite part of the American story is the captured German submarine the U-505.
The U-505 used to sit outside in the museum courtyard, exposed to the elements. Group tours entered from the main building through tunnels that had been erected to mate with the large hole they had cut into the hull for this very purpose. The guided tour was a pretty rudimentay affair. basically in one end and out the other.
Somebody noticed it was being destroyed by the elements it became the subject of a major restoration campaign. It now sits covered in it's own concrete berth. Bathed in light effects that evoke images of deep water. A torpedo has been suspended and appears to be leaping from the forward tubes as if frozen at the moment of launch. The tour is now a masterfully created multi media experience. The tour guide tells the story of the capture of the U-505 at high sea accompanied by a piped in sound track. Depth charges, distant sinking ships, Machine gun strikes, the voices of (actors portraying the) crew and even a recording of a phonograph record found on the ship. Lighting effects married with the sound track simulate the submarine in combat manuvers. the entire presentation is nothing short of brilliant.
There is a very nice genetics lab with a series of hands-on interactive exhibits including actual microscopes attached to large screen tvs and a live chicken hatchery
The Internet Zone is an exhibit that takes the user through the basic steps of internet theory. Users can (for 1$) take a necklace from station to station. At each station they do something that helps create an interactive computer avatar that appears on the screen at each station. One station takes a digital picture of your face and places it on the avatar. If you bring the necklace back on future visits to the museum your avatar will reappear in the exhibit.
Main street USA is a series of 1890's styled store fronts on a realistic brick road. The street is dark and the stores are closed but through the shop windows we can view the accoutraments of each business. the effect is very convincing and a really creative way to display a lot of interesting artifacts.
The flight area has several actual aircraft suspended from the ceiling. Including a Supermarine spitfire, Stuka dive bomber, Curtis Jenny, Texaco Mystery plane, wright flyer (actually this one was on the ground) and several others including a jet liner that you can board. While we were there an active American Airlines pilot was on board to answer questions
The train section has several remarkable trains and a fantastic model train layout that represents a cross country train journey
There are many wheeled vehicles including several classic cars, a solar powered car and a land speed record vehicle
A huge selection of large wooden ship models depicts many aspects of craft under sail.
In the Farm section the kids sat at the controls of a running combine and practiced hooking milking. machines.
That evening we ate @ Mon Ami Gabi.. This is a french style bistro in the Belden-Stratford hotel and it was quite simply flippin' awesome. Two of the kids had Hanger steaks & frites while the other had trout and I had skate for the first time