A day trip to Chicago?  Why not!

It was two weeks to the day that I had met up with my son in Orlando for a day trip to Washington D.C. and this time we were going to visit the Windy City.  We had very limited time “on the ground” for this trip due to flight times coming and going, so we had a pretty firm list of things that we wanted to do on our first time on the ground in Chicago.

We did start the day with fresh juice and smoothies at Orlando International Airport since this was going to be a day pretty heavy on eating and drinking.

For this trip we had booked flights with Southwest Airlines in both directions.  No complaints there.

We typically try to leave pretty early in the morning from Orlando for two reasons.  First is to get to wherever we’re heading so we have more time to explore.  The second is to avoid the nightmare of security since Orlando seems to be the absolute worst, even with TSA Precheck.

Our first look at Downtown Chicago.

One of the really interesting things inside Chicago Midway International Airport is the Battle of Midway Memorial which includes a US Navy Dauntless dive bomber.

Our first stop was the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago on the south side of downtown.  There’s actually much more to see inside than we had time for, but here is some of what we were able to take in.

A peek at the Transportation Gallery.

This is U-505 and while you can see it as well as walk around it, you’ll need to purchase a ticket for a tour inside.  It is a guided tour and it doesn’t take too long.  Click Here for more info about U-505.

Here is the forward torpedo room.  My son and I have been on quite a few “museum ships” (actually all of the aircraft carriers across the U.S., all but three of the battleships and many others) and the first thing we said to each other was how much wood there was inside U-505.

None of the cabins are labeled, but this one had the ship’s record player and typewriter in it.

Heading aft.

Still heading aft.  The tour guide does stop at several areas to give you some background on the boat.

This was our first German museum ship so it was pretty wild seeing all of the gauges in another language.

Here is the aft torpedo room.

The Henry Crown Space Center was a must see since we’re from the #SpaceCoast and while we had no idea what to expect, it turned into a real treat.

This is the Aurora 7 capsule which was used on the Mercury-Atlas 7 mission on May 24th, 1962 from Space Launch Complex-14 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.  Click Here for more information about that mission.

Here is the Apollo 8 capsule which saw the astronauts on board become the first humans to see the dark side of the moon. That mission launched on December 21st, 1968 from Space Launch Complex-39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.  Click Here for information about the Apollo 8 mission.

This is a photo of the Apollo Lunar Module Trainer which was used at Kennedy Space Center by every astronaut that went to the moon to prepare them for their time on the lunar surface.

The Pioneer Zephyr sits in the entry hall of the museum and you’re able to walk through much of it.  Click Here for more information about this incredible train.

This is the last car looking out the back of the train.  I could easily enjoy sitting back here for a ride.

While it would have been easy to spend most of the day at the museum exploring the rest of it, we had to get started seeing as much as we could and checking off our list of things to do before we had to head back to the airport for the flight back home.

We took an Uber up along the lakefront past Soldier Field and to Millennium Park.  Our goal here was to see Cloud Gate, also known as The Bean.  Now it was Labor Day weekend and they were setting up for some holiday festivities which meant the entire area around the park was bustling with people.  We also didn’t know that The Bean would be blocked off due to some construction to make it more accessible.  Still got to see it!

Next on the list was to grab a few doughnuts from one of several local doughnut shops that can be found throughout Downtown Chicago.  There are something like eight Stan’s Donuts & Coffee shops in downtown and this one was literally right beside the Nutella Cafe which was also on the list of places to visit.

Now I’ve had doughnuts all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico and I’ll say that Stan’s Donuts & Coffee makes a great doughnut.  Honestly, it was difficult to choose what to get and there will be a visit in the future to try more.

Unfortunately the Nutella Cafe had a very long line outside of people waiting to get in and it wasn’t moving at all.  We had to skip it due to time and moved on to the next planned stop.  On the way we crossed over the Chicago River and here is the view looking east out toward Lake Michigan.  You can see a little bit of the Riverfront which we will for sure have to explore when we come back.

Now I’m not a coffee drinker (my wife and both adult kids are) and I’m not one to even mention big corporate entities like Starbucks, BUT a visit to a Starbucks Reserve Roastery is something anyone who does enjoy coffee should make a point of doing.  The drinks are not inexpensive and there was a line about 50 people long when we walked by, but this whiskey barrel aged pumpkin latte made me glad that there’s not one of these locations anywhere near me at home.  It was my son’s drink and yet I probably had a 1/4 of it.

Crushed By Giants Brewing Company is located right around the corner from the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and while neither my son nor I are big fans of IPAs (and their tap list is full of them), we were able to grab a pint from their other selections to enjoy before continuing on to the next stop.

One of the food items on the list of things to try on this trip was an Italian Beef Sandwich and Al’s #1 Italian Beef is one of the heavy hitters in Chicago.

Literally one block away was one of the Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria locations and we picked this as our place to try real Chicago deep dish AND Chicago thin crust since they’ll actually ship frozen pies to you.  We figured that if we liked it a whole lot, we knew we could have more delivered to Florida.

Now we had just eaten most of that Italian Beef Sandwich literally a few minutes prior to ordering the pizzas (I also planned on bringing pizza home to my wife on the flight home a couple hours later), so we ordered a personal size deep dish and a small thin crust.  This is “The Lou”.

We kept it simple for the thin crust with just cheese and pepperoni.

Since we were actually headed to yet another place to eat and have a beer right after leaving Lou’s, we only had a bite of each pie.  Great stuff and it’ll be interesting on future trips to try other versions of these Windy City staples to compare them.

On trips where there’s public transportation available, we’ll typically use it as needed and we did use the “L” to get around downtown and then a little later to get out to O’Hare International Airport for the flight home.

Both my son and I were pretty excited to end this day at Adams Street Brewery which is part of The Berghoff Restaurant.  The restaurant opened in 1898 and what a treat it was to dine there.

This is the Game Sausage Plate with boar, venison, and duck sausages.

We split a flight of four of the different types of beer they have on tap.

I had the Sausage Trio which had bratwurst, knockwurst, and smoked Thüringer with sauerkraut and German potato salad.  The beer in this photo is the Dunkel which according to our server is very close to the original recipe for the beer you’d have found when the restaurant opened over a century ago.

The last item we needed to pick required a visit to one of the Garrett Popcorn Shops in town.

This is some pretty awesome stuff.

A look inside the “L” station where we caught a subway out to finish our day trip to Chicago.

A perfect ending to a fun day was finding out that our plane back to Orlando was only 1/4 full so my son and I grabbed the seats by the emergency exits so that we could enjoy the extra leg room.

That wraps up my second day trip with my son in two weeks.  Next up is a multi-day trip to Wilmington, North Carolina and Virginia Beach.

Back to Off the Beaten Path