Spring Break: Chicago Edition

Friday, April 10, 2015
If you were wondering why I started my Chicago posts with food, it was because it did not play that big of a role during this trip. As everyone knows, I have been in grad school for what seems like 1-2 years now and it has absolutely been draining. It is hard to keep a steady mindset on doing what you love when you are being guided to do things that are not necessarily things that you would do yourself. I have been struggling for half a year trying to find the motivation to go through school and to really find myself in the zone of design, but when you make school your priority, living life and enjoying every aspect of it gets pushed back - leaving you to wonder what your purpose is in the world.

This trip to Chicago meant everything to me. It helped me take a step back from school and remind myself that there is more to life than just getting good grades and being a perfect student. I was that student that had to get straight A's or a GPA over 3.5. Now I am just trying to balance enjoying life and doing school, even at the risk of getting average grades because there is no use in losing yourself in something that does not define you later down the road in life. I am not knocking the idea of going to grad school, by all means do it if it helps you towards your career, but do not let it consume you.

Here are some photos that I took throughout my trip. I hope you enjoy!

1811 Sheridan Rd
Evanston, IL 60208 

This trip was an unexpected one as I did not think I would ever see a beach (or sand for that matter) during my time in Illinois. Located on North Western University's campus, this beach (with a neighboring park) is absolutely stunning. Unlike the waves that you would see crashing to and fro from California, the waters were smooth and subtle - an advantageous view for students attending this university as it really soothes any stresses that you may be overwhelmed with. There is a parking structure in particular that goes up multiple floors (7, if I remember correctly) and at the top of the structure you get a beautiful view of the surrounding towns adjacent to Evanston. If you ever want to clear your mind or just take in a beautiful view, this is the place to do it.

6955 S Harlem Ave
Bedford Park, IL 60638

I have not been go-karting in ages nor have I ever been in a gas-powered go-kart. Located quite a ways from where I was staying, it is about a 40-45 minute drive to Bedford Park, where this factory is located at. Upon arrival, you could already smell the carbon monoxide from within. Because these are gas-powered go-karts, the building is heavily ventilated. I would advise that as you are getting geared up to rummage through the glove box at check-in (and I will explain why momentarily). Firstly, you are greeted by an employee at the receptionist desk where you will tell that person how many people are racing. I suggest picking the amount of rounds you want to go with your friends as the race lasts approximately 7-8 minutes and if you decide to race again later, you have to wait in a queue again. For four people, it totaled up to $101.

Once everything is paid for, you are given a helmet sock to wear (sanitary reasons) and promptly asked to wait in the briefing room where you will be briefed of the rules and meanings of every flag color that the employees may wave during your race (and from here you will pick up a neck brace and helmet). After the briefing, your party will be guided to your designated go-karts and commence racing. As I mentioned earlier, the building is heavily ventilated which means going at a possible 45mph in chilly weather means you will lose all feeling of your hands. My hands were completely numb from the cold and from the stiffness of the steering wheel. I highly suggest coming here with friends if you have the time to do so. It is pretty pricey, but if you pick up a membership, you will save a lot over time. Plus, you also get to see your lap times. Unfortunately, I did not get to see mine because I was in a go-kart that did not have the timer installed.

4905 Old Orchard Center
Skokie, IL 60077

Chicago has a ton of malls and all of them differ in sizes and stores that are offered. I was fortunate enough to stay in a hotel that was across the street to an outdoor mall where it had practically every store that I would shop at. The Barnes & Noble was quite massive in size and it actually reminded me of a library by the way it was set up towards the back of the store. The cafe was also of a decent size, offering enough capacity for college students and business individuals alike. If you did not pack enough undergarments for your trip like I did, behold ladies, a Victoria's Secret with plenty of lingerie to go around. While I did not eat at this mall other than grabbing a lemonade from Auntie Anne's, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from alongside a theater as well. As you can tell from the photos above, I did stop by a Tiffany & Co. store, but I did not make a purchase myself. I have been eyeing the Paloma Picasso olive leaf band ring for the longest time and I was generously gifted (and surprised!) by a friend the ring cuff version of it.

6318 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60660

As I mentioned in my previous post, my friend took me to my first billiard hall where there was plenty of tables to go around the night that we went. While I cannot say I am the best pool player out there (I will destroy anyone in the 8-ball pool iPhone application though, haha), I did manage to win two rounds. It was a really chill environment and if you want to grab snacks or drinks, there are menus available for you to pick from. On the other side of the hall is a cafe where stand up comedians tell jokes and stories to keep you entertained throughout the night. It is definitely a place you can take large groups of friends with to just hang out and shoot around in.

1425 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

Unfortunately this is the only photo I have of Wicker Park because I was too excited to eat at Birchwood Kitchen (my review of it is here) to really take any other photos. Wicker Park is like a "hip urban" area of Chicago. I do not know how else to describe it. There are a lot of local eateries that are located only within this area and other hole-in-the-wall places as well. It is definitely a different vibe than the rest of Chicago, but very quaint and artistic. If you are into trying new things, take a walk around Wicker Park for yourself and you will see what I mean.

9599 Skokie Blvd
Skokie, IL 60077

This is going to be quite a story to tell. Originally, I had booked my stay at the Best Western and took that chance despite only having 8 reviews on Yelp. While I knew it was not going to be the most luxurious place to stay at, it was conveniently located near the places that I needed to be. Unfortunately, it did not go as well as I had hoped it would. The employees were found lounging in the front lobby area eating lunch and the room that I was assigned to ended up not cleaned (almost looked used momentarily) and the radio was on full blast. After a bit of consulting, I decided it was not a hospitable place to stay at and I immediately booked a place at DoubleTree. It was the quickest and non-stressful booking I had to do on the spot and I was absolutely pleased with the customer service that the staff at DoubleTree offered for me. If you were wondering, I was offered a cookie that I unfortunately did not eat much of because I was too exhausted from the fiasco that took place prior to getting a room at DoubleTree.

I had two minor incidents that did happen during my stay, both of which the hotel staff took care of immediately. The first incident was with the heating of the room that I could not seem to turn off. It felt like I was in a sauna. After leaving the room for a few hours to grab food to eat, I came back with an immaculate room and the temperature fixed. The second incident was not knowing when to leave for the housekeeper. On this day, we left for quite a bit of time and came back to it being in the same condition (we needed new towels). It was not too big of a deal as we waited in the lobby and were presented with vouchers to the breakfast buffet. Despite those two incidents, the hotel itself is a beautiful establishment conveniently located by a mall and plenty of restaurants to dine from. If I ever stay in this area again, I will definitely book it at this particular DoubleTree.

To see more of my trips to Chicago, check this tag here. Thank you for reading!

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