Belles on Location

Wandering without a Plan on a Spring Day in Chicago

A Quick Springtime Visit to Chicago

This past week I was in Chicago for the incredibly amazing SOBcon, or Successful Online Business Conference.

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Bikes for rent at Bike and Roll located by the entrance to Millenium Park Chicago

Both life and business can feel quite virtual these days. I was very drawn to SOBcon’s concept of being a place where “virtual meets the concrete.”

Spotted in Chicago: Another kind of "virtual meeting the concrete."

I left the conference room on midday Sunday with a brain that felt as if it were a loaded freight train, but without enough fuel to go where it wanted to go.

Not the ideal situation as I was faced with the decision of what to do on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Chicago. (Next time I go to Chicago when I have a little more time, I definitely will be checking out Chicago’s neighborhoods beyond the area around Michigan Avenue.)

I determined my options:

1. Find an outdoor cafe and download the information and mini-epiphanies that had made their way inside my then tired and swirling brain, and eat a solid meal. This sounded good in concept, and practical me was very proud.

2. Nap. As I sat crossed legged on my hotel room bed to make my decision, comfy hotel room sheets just a duvet away, tired me diligently worked this angle. The possibility of watching replays of the Royal wedding and ordering room service was sounding pretty good.

3. Even though I hadn’t researched what to do, to grab my camera and go.

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Guess which I did.

Both spring and love were in the air. (the silver object in the background is the BP pedestrian bridge which connects the larger Grant Park to Millennium Park)

Conceived in 1997 and finished in 2004, the 24.5 acre Millennium Park Chicago features world class art, music, architecture and landscape design.

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Many people were taking advantage of the beautiful Sunday afternoon to visit Millennium park

Almost half of Millenium Park is comprised of the Great Lawn/Jay Pritzker Pavillion. Besides looking really cool, the steel trellis over the lawn distributes sound over the popular outdoor concert venue.

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Looking across the Great Lawn/ Jay Pritzker Pavillion

As I was walking across the BP Bridge, I overheard a young couple having a lively discussion. She was pointing at the building on the right in the above photograph and said that she was sure it was the tallest building in the world designed by a female architect.

He said she was wrong; not only was the building not designed by a female architect, he claimed, but that the tallest building with such a distinguished honor wasn’t even in Chicago.

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When I got back to my room I looked up this business about Chicago, tallest buildings and female arcitects. Turns out they were both right and wrong. The tallest building in the world to have been designed by a female-led architectural firm is indeed in Chicago, but it isn’t the typical sharp angled skyscraper to which she was pointing.

Located just beyond it, she was thinking of  Aqua.  Aqua, a water-themed residential building, was designed by the female led Studio Gang Architects and completed in 2007.  With its undulating curves don’t you think it looks somewhat feminine?

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Tulips in many of Chicago's public areas are in full bloom this time of year. Don't be surprised if in some places it looks as if someone has been lying down on them!

A few moments before I took the above shot, several tourists were sprawled out on top of the tulips to take pictures. I managed to get a stealth photo of this but decided not to share it.  (Because I’d be pretty horrified if I were them, and therefore, didn’t ask them to sign a release form!)

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The Buckingham Fountain at Grant Park. Several companies offer Segway tours in Chicago.

Given my empty stomach I opted not to go to The Art Institute of Chicago. Perhaps I would go back after I had lunch at Berghoff, the oldest restaurant in Chicago; but it turned out Berghoff is closed on Sundays.

That’s when I made the fateful decision to keep walking – straight towards State Street.

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Filene's Basement

Shopping at places like Filene’s Basement and Nordstrom Rack is challenging even when fed, watered and well rested. I avoided the long lines of the dressing rooms, opting instead to try on what seemed to be a hundred pairs of shoes. I eventually left both places empty handed, which trust me – is a good thing.

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Pizza from Bacino's room service at the River Hotel

That room service idea from earlier suddenly sounded like an idea that’s time had come. The Art Institute of Chicago will just have to wait until next year!

Margo Millure currently lives on the South Carolina coast. She is a writer/editor/photographer and the founder of Travel Belles. Learn more about her at

This article has 14 comments

  1. Margaret Peters

    Breath-taking consideration of my favorite American City! Particularly loved the bicycles and the stellar buildings.

  2. Margo Millure

    Thanks, Margaret! The architecture in Chicago is truly mind-blowing. I look forward to returning and learning more about it soon! 😉

  3. Katy Stewart

    Has to be the best way to explore Chicago – it was made for wandering without a plan. love the pictures, a really fresh take on a photogenic city!

  4. Krista

    I love that you went for a walk instead, Margo!! How fun to see Chicago through your eyes. Makes me feel all peaceful and stroll-ish. 🙂

  5. Margo Millure

    Katy, thanks so much!

    Krista, definetely “peaceful and stroll-ish” 🙂

  6. Ayngelina

    What a perfect afternoon!

  7. Federico

    Great photos. Chicago’s skyline is among my favorite in the world

  8. Erica

    Millennium Park was definitely one of my favorite things from visiting Chicago.

  9. Abby

    Awww I love Chicago when it’s not… winter. Gorgeous!

  10. hogga

    Unplanned days are my favorite! Sounds like a great time. I usually spend too much money on unplanned days though. Browsing in stores and buying crap I don’t need haha.

    PS that pizza looks mouth wateringly delicious. You’re killing me here!

  11. Margo Millure

    Every time I see that pizza pic, a part of me cries 🙂

  12. Laura

    I absolutely love Chicago. As home to some of the best American architecture, I’d live and work there in a heartbeat if it weren’t for the cold.

  13. Rosemary Neave

    Hi – have hired one of those bikes, what fun biking around Chicago. I loved it. I went there to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s achitecture – next time go and see his studio and buildings – stunning!

  14. Margo Millure

    Thanks, Rosemary! Next time I get there, I definitely want to rent one of those bikes – looks like the perfect thing to do on a nice day in Chicago. And get to the FLW house – definitely! 🙂

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