Taking a short trip to Chicago area? Here’s what to do in just two days

Posted November 18, 2014



I arrived in Chicago at 7:20 p.m. on a Monday night. After walking out of the terminal and into an Uber vehicle I requested from my phone while getting off the plane, I rode into the city staring at the skyscrapers that make up the beautiful Chicago skyline. The temperature hovered around 70 degrees and the windy city’s wind didn’t blow hard, surprisingly pleasant weather for being late October.

I left my carry-on bag at the hotel, which was conveniently located on Chicago’s famous Magnificent Mile, a 13-block stretch of the city’s Michigan Avenue.

After checking in and freshening up, my family and I headed to dinner at Japonais by Marimoto. On the expensive side for a student’s budget (good thing my parents were there), the restaurant showcases Food Network’s Iron Chef and Iron Chef America’s star Masahuru Marimoto’s signature cuisine, a blend of Japanese and Western cuisine.

I ordered the Ishi Yaki Hamachi Bop, a sort of yellowtail fried rice that comes in a hot stone bowl, so the fish gets cooked at the table.

“I should have ordered that,” said my mom after trying my dish. She ordered the Braised Black Cod, which although good, was nothing to write home about.

For dessert, my family and I shared the “air” cheesecake, which came with a side of strawberry red wine sorbet, definitely the highlight of my night. Japonais’ décor, food and excellent service served as the perfect opener to our brief Chicago visit.


The appointment at the Venezuelan consulate on Tuesday morning, and the reason for our visit to Chicago, took significant time away from sightseeing on our short trip. Thankfully, the consulate does business in the office building of the Chicago Civic Opera House and getting to see the building’s art deco interior was the only bright side of spending the morning immersed in paperwork.

After the appointment, my family and I dropped of our passports and important documents at the hotel, and started walking towards the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower.

Barely a line at the door, we bought our tickets and headed through the short exhibition and in to the elevator. The ride to the 103rd floor only lasted 70 seconds and when the doors opened my sister and I headed straight to one of the four glass boxes that extend from the Skydeck. Without clouds in the sky, we saw miles and miles of Chicago lay in front of us. We could see Lake Michigan on one side, and all the way to Wrigley Field on another. We bought some souvenirs and headed down, and had to go through three more souvenir stores before exiting the building.


My brother Joel and I in one of the sky decks at the Willis Tower.

After leaving the Willis Tower, we started heading to Millennium Park. On the way there however, hunger hit all of us at the same time, and Open Table suggested a brief detour towards Santorini, a Greek seafood restaurant in Greektown.

We sat down while Greek folk music played in the background, and then the server brought an appetizer platter with five cold spreads, pita bread and glasses of red wine. Since my family loves Greek food, with ordered more than we should have and shared everything. Orders of saganaki, which is flambé cheese, charcoal-grilled calamari, vine leaves stuffed with ground meet, moussaka, and a seafood platter, which had a variety of shellfish and fish filets covered the tablecloth. To the server’s surprise, there was barely anything left when we were done.

After the meal, we finally arrived to Millennium Park, a spectacular 24.5-acre display of nature, art and architecture right in the middle of the city. We took pictures with Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain, a sculpture made out of two black granite and glass brick columns that face each other and display videos of faces spitting water.


Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain at Chicago’s Millenium Park

We then walked towards the famous Chicago “bean,” formally titled Cloud Gate, by artist Anish Kapoor.

Unsurprisingly, my 14- and 12-year-old siblings couldn’t get enough of the sculpture’s reflective stainless steel, and honestly, I couldn’t either.

We spent at least half an hour taking pictures from all angles and even our parents to join our selfie.

“The Bean was my favorite part of the trip for sure,” said Joel, my brother. “I could have stayed there for at least two more hours.”

It started getting dark, so we began walking down Michigan Avenue towards Magnificent Mile and our hotel. We stopped for a couple of minutes at a Starbucks that was on the way and then kept walking while doing some window-shopping.

For dinner, we squished into the crowded bar-side tables at RPM Italian. We each ordered different pasta, and each dish was delicious. After dessert, as we walked to the hotel and took the city in, my mom said Chicago was a “beautiful, beautiful city, like a prettier, cleaner, wider New York.”

When we got to the hotel, I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.


The last day was museum day. We woke up and were at the Art Institute’s door by 10:30 a.m., right when it opened. The museum’s permanent collection is huge, so we planned ahead on the things we wanted to see. Our first stop was the impressionist and post-impressionist wing. We took longer than we expected, but every minute was worth it.

With pieces by Van Gogh, Monet, Goya, Kandinsky, Dalí, Renoir, Picasso, and others, it seemed as if the museum had a piece of every groundbreaking artist of each period of art history.

The museum’s collection is impressive, to say the least, but my favorite was George Seurat’s “A Sunday on la Grande Jatte.” The sheer magnitude of the canvas had nothing against the detail of the picture; dots and dots of different colors that when looked from 10 feet away looked like one stroke of paint.

Of course, we didn’t have enough time to see it all, so by the end we were rushing to get in as much as we could and head to the airport on time. On our way out, we luckily stumbled into the contemporary art exhibition, which had pieces by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and, among others, Jesús Soto, a pioneer of the kinetic art movement, and a native of Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela.


Jesus Soto’s sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago

Soto’s sculpture was the only interactive sculpture at the museum, and visitors could walk among the thousands of plastic tubes that hung from the installation.

I guess finishing our trip with Soto was coming full circle. We went to the consulate in Chicago because crime and political instability keep us from going back to Venezuela.

Seeing a Venezuelan artist have a room dedicated to his piece in one of the best museums in the world, reminded me of the beauty and positive things from where I was born. And I’m not going to lie, while leaving the museum, I felt a little proud.

If You Go

  • Japonais by Marimoto
    600 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60654
  • Santorini
    800 W. Adams St., Chicago, Ill. 60607
  • RPM Italian
    52 W. Illinois St., Chicago, Ill. 60654
  • Art Institute of Chicago
    111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60603
    Open daily 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Thursdays until 8 p.m.

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