Travel Guide: Chicago

The Windy City.  We hadn’t been to Chicago in a long time.  The first time we went, it was for our first wedding anniversary.  It made sense to visit for our 11th anniversary in December.   It’s a great weekend trip from Columbus.  If you’ve never visited, you should consider a trip soon.

When we visited 11 years ago, we were so dirt poor that we could barely afford the hotel, much less the sightseeing.  Jared surprised me with the “wanna get away” Southwest flights for $25 each.  We “splurged” on a dinner to PF Changs, and got a museum pass that allowed us to visit many museums for cheap.  We were just getting into traveling, and we were still learning.  It was nostalgic to visit again as adults.

Here we are, 11 years ago. A couple of kids!

From Columbus, it’s less than a 6 hour drive to Chicago.  It was an easy drive into the city, and traffic wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  (Not quite like DC or New York traffic, if you’re familiar with that.)

Budget/transportation tip: If you’re planning to drive everywhere like us, budget for parking.  Parking is astronomical and we paid $20-$25 every time we parked.  It’s steep if you don’t budget for it!  You can always take public transportation as well (buses, metro).  We opted to pay for parking and when we didn’t want to drive, we took Uber.  Uber was a surprisingly cheap and very efficient way to get around.  Lots of options, you just need to plan for it.


In a past life, Jared did AV at an Embassy Suites in Columbus.  This meant that we got to cash in on staying at Hilton brand hotels for dirt cheap.  I’m talking $30 a night for Hampton, $40 for Embassy and $50 for Hilton, no matter what city! We stayed in NYC, LA and DC for dirt cheap.  We got very acquainted with all the Hilton brand hotels these few years, and what we discovered was that our favorite hotel was Hampton Inn, seconded by Embassy. Hamptons have THE best beds, great breakfast and great staff.  If there’s a Hampton, we’re in.  So we stayed at the Hampton Inn Downtown West Loop.  It didn’t disappoint, as usual.

The view from our room


Spa day

Aire Ancient Baths are a dream.  We got a couple’s massage and enjoyed the baths for an hour and a half.  It’s a true spa experience.  There is literally a mound of salt you can exfoliate with.  There is hot tea available all around.  The baths are the perfect temps for total relaxation.  It seriously was so relaxing.  The spa has attendants everywhere to help you find things.  Afterward, we showered and were ready for the rest of the day.  I can’t wait to go back.

You’re not allowed to take your phone into the bath area, but I snapped a few of the lobby, which was beautiful.  You can see professional photos of the inside online.  It’s an old factory they renovated into the baths.  There are lit candles everywhere. I had no idea who gets there at 5am and spends 4 hours lighting candles, but it’s great.  Oh, and there’s spa music playing and you feel like you’re in a dream.

Adler Planetarium

The first time we visited Chicago we came here.  We have always wanted to visit again.  We saw one of the shows they offer (which seemed a little more geared toward children) and visited the galleries.  It was fun to visit space.

We were totally digging the “out of this world” vibes here.

A great perk about this museum is the view of the city.  It’s a beautiful skyline view, so be sure to check it out if you visit here.


QXY Dumplings

I’ve always wanted to visit Chinatown here, as I’ve heard great things. We love dumplings, so we chose to eat at QXY Dumplings, which had great reviews.  It was a “bring your own booze” type of place, so we brought a bottle of wine to share.  You order as many dumplings as you want (steamed, fried, etc.) and they’re so good.  That’s basically all they offer: dumplings.

Another cool thing was we signed up for a table and they put you on the waitlist and text you when it’s ready. So you don’t have to sit there and wait.  You can just show up when your table is almost ready.  It was a great experience.

Backdoor Saloon

If you’re looking for a trendy bar with good cocktails, Backdoor Saloon hits the bill.  It was extremely crowded, but the bartenders know what they’re doing and the drinks were very good.  I enjoyed the vibes.


If you’re looking for a classic diner where locals know what they’re doing, and you don’t, Manny’s is the place for you.  We loved the hustle and bustle and the extremely large delicious portions of classic deli foods.  We shared a Reuben and tried the pasta of the day.  After, we walked next door to their coffee shop and got some black joe to go.


We read good things about this place and decided to come here for a late-night donut and espresso.  It was very good and definitely worth a food splurge if you love sugar and caffeine, like me.

So that was our weekend trip to Chicago.  Have you been?  What did you do?

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