I love Chicago, and typically take a trip to the city at least a couple of times each year – it certainly makes for an inexpensive trip since my sister and her husband live in the Lincoln Park/Lake View neighborhood area of Chicago. I love being able to visit these two!For years I have been eager to make the trip to The Windy City for their St. Paddy’s celebration. The most notable celebratory tradition in Chicago is the dyeing of the Chicago River. Well in 2013, I finally made the March trip!
The dyeing of the Chicago River began in 1962. I was interested to learn that it is The Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union 130 that funds the annual project – not the city of Chicago. Fifty-one years ago the team dyeing the river used one-hundred pounds of dye, leaving the river a stunning Emerald green for a full week! By year three, 1964, they used only 25 lbs, leaving the river shimmering green for the intended twenty-four hours.
I was curious – and guessed that many other tourists, Chicagoans, and blog readers alike were also wondering – what do they use to dye the river? Is it environmentally safe? I did find that in 1966 environmentalist groups accused the parade committee of polluting the river. While I didn’t discover any detailed, straight answer, the FAQ section on the Chicago St. Pat’s Parade website writes:
Just like the recipe for Coca Cola, it’s (the dye formula) a closely guarded secret! But seriously, the formula has been thoroughly tested by independent chemists and has been proven safe for the environment.
So while that wasn’t the exact answering I was looking for, it seems media outlets such as CBS Chicago, The Huffington Post, and Chicago Traveler also settle for attributing that the dye formula has been approved and deemed environmentally friendly to no one in particular – perhaps the EPA?
Seeing the river dyed green was great, but I also did a lot of other fun “touristy” outings while visiting Chicago. My boyfriend, a native to the northeast, had never made the trip to the heartland of the Midwest. So of course all the tacky tourist attractions in Chi-city were a must!
We traveled to the top of the John Hancock Center – the Signature Room at the 95th – to be exact. I was under the impression to get a stunning view of the city from such heights required some sort of entry fee (a la Willis Tower, or what was formerly known as Sears Tower, which costs $18 for basic admission to the tourist hot spot Sky Deck). However, my sister enlightened us – you can take a ride up to the 95th floor of the Hancock Building and enjoy a meal or just a drink with a fabulous view of the city.
After our high flying trip to the top of the JHC, we trekked down the Magnificent Mile. While the Magnificent Mile is home to more than 460 stores and 275 restaurants we managed only to indulge in Chicago’s famous Garrett Popcorn. My sister and I are big fans of their CheeseCorn, but Andrew felt he should order the signature “Chicago Mix” – a delicious combination of CheeseCorn goodness and sweet caramel coated popcorn pieces – to get the full Chicago experience. As we munched on our popcorn we continued down the Magnificent Mile, eventually making it to the iconic Millennium Park, most famously recognized as home of the Chicago Bean.
Andrew said he was much more impressed with the Bean in person than through pictures he’s seen. I’ve been to the been at least a dozen times, but I always have fun posing, taking photos near it, each time.
Following our frolicking in Millennium Park we jumped on a bus that took us back north, making a stop at the Lincoln Park Zoo. For those of you who don’t know, the Lincoln Park Zoo is free! Not only is it free, but you can tell it is well taken care of and there is still quite the collection of animals. I highly recommend Chicago visitors take a stroll around the zoo. Our visit was short and sweet, we enjoyed watching a seal show, a territorial young lion pace and roar, and three white-cheeked Gibbons swing and play together in their zoo habitat.
We left the zoo and took a walk to Del Seoul, a delicious Korean BBQ joint in the Park West neighborhood of Chicago. We sampled shrimp tacos – which reminded me a lot of the flavors found in Bone Fish Bang Bang Shrimp (a favorite of mine and my sisters) as well as Bibimbop, a hot stone bowl with rice, veggies, steak or chicken, egg, and Kochujiang sauce
With our bellies full and our feet a little achy, we took a car to one of my favorite areas in Chicago – Wrigleyville. In the summer, I don’t think there is any better place to be than at a ball game in iconic Wrigley stadium! (Unless you’re at Great American Ball Park, cheering on the greatest MLB team – The Cincinnati Reds, of course!)
While it was a little early for baseball season (by the way, happy opening day MLB fans!) my sister and I still wanted Andrew to get a glimpse of the historic stadium, as well as take him to one of our favorite joints – Sluggers. Some online reviewers are pretty skeptical and down on Sluggers, but Brittany and I love that you can order a seriously delicious bloody Mary or tall boy at the bar downstairs, then head upstairs for some classic Skeeball, game room hoops, and what they’re most famous for – the indoor batting cages. We all had a round in the cages.
Before I knew it Andrew and I were on a plane back to NYC. It was so great to visit with my sister and finally get to be a part of the famous St. Paddy’s celebration in Chicago! I even got to see one of my best friends and college roommates during the trip – an unexpected bonus! I love NYC, but I’ll be back to Chicago in no time – you can count on that!