Chicago Sightseeing (Part 1): Double Decker Tour

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As a recent graduate, I am in decompression mode for the summer. This process started right after school ended, when I went to Miami and even when I de-installed my part of the MFA exhibition. Chicago was next on the list to enjoy as a new person. The need to be a complete tourist — having resisted for three years — has taken over. The double-decker bus tour beckoned to me, and I hopped on.[flickr id=”7401138692″ thumbnail=”medium_640″ overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”]

For newbies, the bus tours are an excellent way of literally and figuratively getting around the city. I purchased a three-day hopper pass, allowing me to disembark the double-decker at any of the designated points through downtown. Want a closer look at the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza? Jump off and get a picture. What about checking out the Water Tower shopping scene? Step off the bus and into some stores. The pass even gives you the freedom to check out the neighborhood tours — south, north, and west sides  —  along with a night tour of downtown to check out the city lights.

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If we’re talking tourist Chicago sites, we must address Navy Pier, the centerpiece of such attractions. This stop emptied my double-decker of current passengers and re-filled it to capacity with new ones. The draw to walk the Pier is enormous, with its cavalcade of shops, stained glass displays, boat tours, carnival food, and lakeside scenery. The focal point (for my money) is the Ferris Wheel, which I did make a priority to ride weeks before — right after the opening of the MFA exhibit, in fact. It is a third of the size of the original Ferris Wheel that was unveiled at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, but it is just as iconic to the Chicago cityscape. Pay the money to ride this wheel on the Pier. It’s worth it.

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We continued north, and there I decided to get a Chicago dog. There are several places in the city to get such a creature — Hot Doug’s and The Wiener Circle to name two — but the bus stopped near Portillo’s, and Portillo’s I went for my dog. This establishment is perfect Chicagoan tschotske heaven, displaying everything from Al Capone to Michael Jordan memorabilia on its faux-brick walls from the good ole days of The Windy City. It’s a tourist’s delight, and I (forgive the hot dog pun) relished in it.

I took a photo before I ate. Look at this. I mean, really look at it. Mustard, peppers, poppyseed bun, tomatoes, pickle, relish, and, oh yeah, the actual hot dog itself. Glorious.

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We crossed the river to head back downtown. The day had come and gone. I picked up a few more interesting tidbits about the city I’ve walked through and on and around for so long while a Columbia student. Through a tourist’s eyes, I saw the city anew again. It wasn’t just the place around my school anymore. It was a very real city, teeming with history and food and architecture. Granted, it was always these things when I was going to school…but those things took on a new light now. It felt good to be back in the city I’ve known for so long just one way.

…and, man, that Chicago dog!

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