To get to our accommodation, the Eurostars Magnificent Mile Hotel in the North River District of downtown Chicago, we had to drive from the south through the entire city. Despite a lot of traffic, the chaos was kept within limits. Maybe that’s because Chicago consists of a network of mostly one-way streets – even though I realized that facr afterwards. I was so fascinated to drive through this metropolis of millions: Under the elevated train known from movies, past the Chicago Theater and over the bridges of the Chicago River … and then, 3 minutes before we should reach our destination, a road closure with a large police contingent.
Since an unusually large number of people with cell phones were standing & waiting along the streets, we suspected that a well-known personality would have to pass by this spot. And indeed: After we had seen Marine One flying into Washington D.C., in Chicago “the Beast” with President Biden actually passed just a few meters in front of us. (He actually launched his re-election campaign that day with the catchphrase “Bidenomics.”) What a wonderful reception! 🤩
Our sightseeing tours around the city
The next morning, well rested, we set out on foot to explore the city. We started our tour at the Merchandise Mart, which opened in 1930 and was the largest department store in the world at that time. From there we followed the Riverwalk along the Chicago River to Union Station. After a short break at Willis Tower, we continued to a significant highlight for us motorcyclists – the beginning of Route 66.
This historic sign marking the start of the famous road is located near Millennium Park. Thus, a detour to Cloud Gate – the bean-shaped mirror sculpture in the park – was of course not to be missed. Past the Crown Fountain and Jay Pritzker Pavillion – a beautiful outdoor concert venue – we crossed the BP Pedestrian Bridge into Maggie Daley Park; a beautifully landscaped park with lots of green space and recreational amenities. On our way back to the hotel, we strolled through the streets of Downtown Chicago, repeatedly passing under the rails & stairways of the Chicago Elevated – one of the largest & oldest metro networks in the world. Ideal for Micha to grab a snapshot or two of a moving train with his camera. 😊
After this leisurely half-day tour, we listened to live music at the House of Blues over dinner and ended the day with a sunset boat tour (start & end at Wendellas Michigan Avenue Docks). We went out over the Chicago River onto Lake Michigan, from where we had a wonderful view of the city skyline. Absolutely recommended to take photos at sunset!
The second and shorter part of our sightseeing tour took us through the River North District the following day. Passing the observation deck 360 Chicago, we walked along the Millennium Mile to Ohio Street Beach – a popular sandy beach in the city. From here it is only a few meters to Navy Pier – a pier with various events, recreational activities and Ferris wheel.
Unfortunately, due to the bad weather we couldn’t do a crime/gangster tour through the city; something that should be done here. Instead, we were present when Chicago broke its rain record of 1982 and the rainwater height exceeded the snow height of the entire last winter. Fortunately, we exchanged our tent for a hotel during these days 😉.
But what you should do in any case – like in New York – is to eat a hot dog. You can get the typical Chicago hot dog at Portillo‘s & Barnelli‘s: In addition to delicious food, the restaurant on West Ontario Street offers a great interior – and if you’re lucky, you’ll even get a hand-painted Chicago caricature to remember it by.
Laundromat in Downtown (desperately) wanted
As campers who travel by motorcycle, we understandably have only a limited number of clothes available. For this reason, we wanted to use our stay of several days in Chicago to wash once again. This is basically something that really works without any problems. Just search Google for a well-rated laundromat (or camp at campgrounds with laundry facilities 😉), pack enough quarters (about $2-4 for the washer and usually one quarter per 10-12 minutes for the dryer) – but most also have change machines – as well as detergent and then just wait between 20-40 minutes per wash or dry cycle.
That’s how I imagined it in Chicago, too. But in fact (to be on the safe side, I even asked at the hotel reception) there is not a single laundromat in the whole of downtown. Here, you order your laundry service including pickup of the dirty and delivery of the clean laundry via app or online. Although we were told again and again from different sides that we should not stay outside of Downtown, the prices for this service with $35 upwards were too expensive for us.
Using Google, we discovered a laundromat just outside of downtown that was easy to get to from our hotel. So we took bus #66 at the corner of North State Street and West Chicago Avenue to the Yo-Yo Coin Laundromat & Drop-Off. Admittedly with a bit of a queasy feeling, which was completely unfounded. The bus stops almost directly in front of the laundromat, which is super neat and clean. Only the ticket for the bus – $2.50 per person – you have to have suitable, unless you have a day / weekend pass for public transport.
First NASCAR Street Race
As we sat on the bus on the way to the laundromat, we noticed a billboard advertising a music and car festival that weekend. When we googled for it at the hotel, we found that NASCAR was also visiting Chicago. In fact, for the first time in NASCAR history, there was to be a race through the city. Since attending a NASCAR race (comparable to the DTM) is on our “if the opportunity arises, do” list, we took the opportunity to get (what we felt were rather expensive) 2-day tickets. These were the only affordable category for us, but including an open air concert by The Chainsmokers on Saturday night and three other country concerts during the day was totally ok. Especially if you, like me as an avid concert goer, unfortunately had to realize that the visit of a music concert in the U.S. is extremely expensive compared to Germany – for reasonably good seats and depending on the artist, you have to put down at least 200-300$ per person here. 😳
Unfortunately, everything turned out differently. Due to an Amazon order that we had to receive in person, we spent most of Saturday morning & afternoon in our hotel room. When it finally arrived and we arrived at Grant Park, the event site, with anticipation for the concert, we wondered why so many people were coming towards us. After all, the NASCAR Loop 121 race was still in progress … When we asked, we were told that the entire area had been cleared due to an impending thunderstorm, which meant that both the race and the concert had been cancelled. Disappointed, we trotted back to our hotel; after all, we still had Sunday with the continuation of the Loop 121 race and the main NASCAR Cup Series race. As if …
Sunday was the day when it rained more than it had in a long time. Even the Riverwalk, which we had walked along two days before, was completely under water. Since we were unfortunately poorly informed by NASCAR about whether the race would be cancelled or not, we were torn about what to do. After a short attempt to go outside the hotel door, we turned back and spent most of this day in our hotel room as well.
Since the daytime concerts on Sunday were canceled, as well as the race from the previous day was not continued but declared as finished, you can certainly imagine how frustrated and angry we were. After all, we had spent quite a bit of money on the tickets. Fortunately, the weather was more forgiving at around 4 p.m. and the rain eased off considerably. Since the main race had not yet been canceled, we made our way to the event site again.
And indeed, it remained dry. Although with some delay (but after all) the race took place. However, with fewer spectators than originally expected. That was our luck, because so we came pretty close to the track and could take some good pictures/videos from the built up grandstands. Overall, however, we were honestly quite disappointed by the organization – and that was not only due to the weather. The poor provision of information and the fact that all other stands/offers in Grant Park and Butler Field were already as good as dismantled by the time of the main race contribute to the fact that we will probably not visit another NASCAR race. A visit to the DTM is absolutely comparable and much cheaper. The only consolation: We were able to visit Buckingham Fountain, which is located in Grant Park (which would not have been possible without a ticket this weekend).
My Chicago Conclusion
All in all, Chicago is a very beautiful city, especially because of the river that flows through the middle of the city and because of the different architectural styles that you can see here. Two complete days are, in my opinion, quite enough for sightseeing. Everything essential is within easy walking distance, so you don’t need a ticket for public transportation. Although our hotel was located in the River North District; this was absolutely top in terms of location. We were also really pleased with the facilities, the hotel staff and the cleanliness. Only the fact that the hotel does not have its own parking lot (although stated in the description on Booking.com) and we had to pay an additional $35 per day – and that was already the discounted hotel rate – for the parking space in the Self Park Garage just a few meters away, leaves a negative impression. But that’s apparently the way it is in big American cities. In Munich, for example, we can’t complain about the prices for underground parking. Otherwise, Chicago has for me something of the “former” New York – constantly howl somewhere sirens, there is generally quite a lot of traffic or noise, but on the whole you feel – even on the way to the laundromat – very safe in the gangster city of Chicago.
For more impressions of Chicago, feel free to check out our gallery. 😊