Editor’s note: The following is the first in a series by two Warsaw residents who enjoy traveling. Look for future stories about day trips, weekend getaways and distant destinations.
By Shari Benyousky
and Antony Garza
I was futilely bashing my toes against the cement-like snow packed in my Toyota’s wheel wells, when Tony suggested a trip to Chicago. Chicago? He showed me a picture of people without coats enjoying lush green ferns. There was no time for the Caribbean, so after unfreezing my feet, we booked an Airbnb for a weekend. Chicago done right can be (mostly) warm. If you’re ready to escape from the midwestern slush, here’s how you can get your summer fix too:
Picture a glass building larger than a football stadium. When you enter, the air is so warm that you voluntarily remove your coat. You’ve found the Garfield Park Conservatory. If you squint, you can imagine dinosaurs between the prehistoric ferns and palm trees over the lagoon. Be sure to find the secret trails and to book your timed FREE ticket here.
Tip: Wear a mask and bring your vaccination card to show at the door of all Chicago restaurants, events, and museums.
Puerto Rican dinner – After your feet get tired of wandering, and you’ve smelled enough flowers, and Tony has taken pictures of all of the hidden turtles and the enormous yellow goldfish, stop to eat mind-boggling amounts of warm roasted pork, rice, beans, and sweet fried plantains called maduros at Jibaritos y Mas at 3400 W Fullerton Ave. Easy street parking. Be sure to go in the dine-in side and not the pick-up side.
Arise, brew some coffee in your Airbnb (or tea if you’re Tony), and Immerse yourself in the techno glitter twenty-first century mash up of music and images of Van Gogh’s paintings brought to life at the Lighthouse ArtSpace in the Germania Club. The paintings are so large, you can see his individual brush-strokes.
Tip: find the secret entrance to the upstairs balcony so the images swirl around and below you. The show loops every thirty minutes. Stay for at least two.
After you finish marveling, head over to the Art Institute of Chicago and find hidden room 240 where you can see real Van Gogh paintings at the tip of your nose. The Museum has an entire room full although sadly, not Starry Night. Purchase tickets ahead of time here and avoid any wait in line.
Tip: When you pull into the underground parking lot, consider whether you want to park near the East Monroe Modern Museum entrance or the South Michigan Main Museum entrance between the copper lions. This way you can stay warmer underground and come up in the correct place.
On your way back home, eat over in Greek Town as street parking is easy and restaurants are plentiful and affordable too. Try MelI Café 301 S. Halsted Street.for local and fresh options to please every eater. Try Banana Bread French toast, Chicken and bacon omelet, and a fresh-squeezed orange and strawberry juice.
At last, your summer longings have been assuaged. Put on your wool socks and drive the long, flat, gray highway home. With luck, you have Tony along to entertain you with a sun-drenched description of your next possible vacation trip.