Ruth’s Top 5 things to do in Chicago

Whether you are visiting Chicago or from Chicago there are always things to do:

1. Visit Navy Pier
Navy Pier is a bustling 1.5 mile-long boardwalk that will please every member of your family. Attracting well over 8 million visitors per year, Navy Pier is lined with restaurants and studded with small shops selling everything from apparel to toys to Chicago souvenirs. While the shops alone can keep you occupied for hours, there are plenty of other activities at Navy Pier to fill your day.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier

2. Go to the “Taste of Chicago”.

While Chicago is host to dozens of festivals each year, the Taste of Chicago is easily the most widely attended. What was once a small food festival on July 4, 1980, has grown to be the biggest festival in the city. It is hailed as the world’s largest food extravaganza, attracting 3 million people annually.

Taste of Chicago

Taste of Chicago

3. Take a tour of the city.

One of the best ways to see Chicago is by tour; you get a unique perspective of the city, often with an expert guide who will tell you the history and story of each place you encounter. You can tour by boat and carriage or by foot. You can take a tour with a theme; some tours take you through certain historic or ethnic neighborhoods, such as Old Town or Greektown.

4. Visit a Museum

Chicago is a cultural city. You can find museums dedicated to every interest and every passion. In addition to the major, well-know ones, there are a number of smaller but excellent choices available. Chicago’s Museum Campus is a somewhat recent addition to the city’s lakefront. In 1996, the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive were moved so that the three museums in the area, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium, were no longer separated by a median and were brought onto one campus and joined by a lush green field with a view of the lake.

Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium

5. Shop!!!

Just a few blocks from our hotel, you will find Chicago’s Water Tower Place, a perfect location for shopping. With 7 different levels, you certainly have a wide selection for you and your loved ones. One of my personal favorites is CUSP by Neiman Marcus. They always have a wide variety of styles, from everyday relaxed fit clothing to a dresses for a girls night out. For the in between shopping, Water Tower Place, also offers dining options. This will allow you to relax and enjoy your meal and continue to shop all in one convenient location.

Water Tower Place

Water Tower Place

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Filming in Chicago

Nothing is more exciting than seeing your hometown of Chicago in a film, from Lower Wacker Drive in “The Blues Brothers” and “The Dark Knight” to seeing the entire River North district in “Transformers – Dark of the Moon”. With summer movie season upon us we will be seeing our beautiful city of Chicago in more movies.

lower-wacker-drive-in-tdk1

Lower Wacker Drive

Man of Steel” (Opens June 14, 2013) which stars Henry Cavill as Clark Kent aka Superman, along with Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and others, is expected to feature the Loop’s Chicago Board of Trade and Willis Tower buildings prominently. The Board of Trade will be used as the exterior of Kent’s workplace, the Daily Planet, while the Willis Tower will provide the interior shots of the newsroom setting. Chicago has been prime filming locations for both Metropolis (Superman) and Gotham City (The Dark Knight). The architecture of downtown Chicago has been key for filming such nostalgic pop culture icons. If you think about it, Chicago is a Metropolis and is a perfect for such film such as Man of Steel. With a Justice League movie on the horizon we might see Chicago the prime filming locations such as New York was for The Avengers.

This summer is going be a hot spot for movies being filmed in Chicago. There has been plenty of rumors and speculation about where the next Transformers movie will be shot this summer and at least part of the movie will be filmed in the Windy City. Picking up where the last movie left off. Mark Wahlberg is set to star in and produce the Michael Bay film.

Andy and Lana Wachowski (who were behind the Matrix trilogy) are also preparing for another futuristic science fiction film, Jupiter Ascending, which will star Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, and Sean Bean also star in the film which will begin a 4-5 week shoot in Chicago on June 24. Andy and Lana Wachowski are no strangers for using Chicago for their movies. Being Chicago natives they used and filmed certain scenes for The Matrix trilogy in Chicago. If you watch closely you see Chicago city streets and locations seen throughout the movie. In the Matrix Reloaded they recreated a portion of the I-90/I-94 going into the city for a climatic chase scene.

Matirx

They just finished filming the highly anticipated Ferris Wheel scene on Chicago’s Navy Pier for Divergent and will be filming all over the city. The film stars Shailene Woodley, Ray Stevenson and Kate Winslet. The acclaimed young adult novel in which the film is based on is set within a dystopian version of Chicago. The novel has been compared to similar young adult books such as The Hunger Games because of its theme and target audience.

Move over New York and Los Angeles, looks like our town is prime for filming such blockbusters and as a Chicagoan I say thanks.

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Mystic Blue in Chicago

Gone are the heavy jackets, gloves, snow boots, and frozen faces of Chicago winter. Summer is upon us and citizens are wearing shorts, sporting flip flops and even, dare I say, getting sunburned! Recently I had the opportunity of experiencing one of the best kept secrets in Chicago tourism. An attraction that is perfect for summer, especially with this lovely weather we Chicagoans have been having as of late. The Mystic Blue Boat Cruise allows an exciting, fresh perspective for exploring the city.

The Mystic Blue Boat cruise departs from Navy Pier. I boarded the Mystic Blue on a Saturday evening for a friend’s birthday party. I didn’t really know what to expect, as I had never been on a cruise of Lake Michigan. I was immediately greeted by the Captain and Crew and knew it was going to be a fun night! The Mystic Blue has 3 enclosed, climate controlled decks, with dinner and dancing on the main level. Dinner was served buffet style and consisted of a specialty fish entree, pasta, potatoes, vegetables and more. On this particular cruise there was a cash bar for any Guests looking to “wet their whistle.” Guests are free to roam about the ship and are advised to eat at their leisure. Shortly after the majority of patrons dined, a dessert buffet was set with everything from cheesecake to fondue with marshmallow’s and rice krispies on skewers. All the while, a DJ played music and encouraged guests to dance, the Crew even performed a special choreographed number, which was very entertaining. Later in the evening, fireworks from Navy Pier were seen by all. The observation desk upstairs provided a great view of the city skyline at night. It truly was a unique experience that I would recommend to any guest or visitor to the Chicago area.

Chicago Skyline

To get to Navy Pier and The Mystic Blue Boat Cruise from the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown, you may either take a cab, walk, or utilize the Free Shuttle service (inquire at the Front Desk for details). A cab will take about 5 to 10 minutes to reach your destination, or if it’s nice outside a leisurely walk is only about 1 mile from the hotel. If walking, head east on W. Illinois St. toward N. State St. Continue N. onto Streeter Dr. Keep right at the fork. By this point you will see Navy Pier. Turn right onto E. Grand Ave. Your destination will be halfway down the pier on the right.

Schedule and pricing can be obtained here.

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