We started out way underestimating the time we needed at the airport on a Saturday morning and got in the longest line of our lives to check our bags. We knew at this point there was no way we were making our 8 a.m. flight. (Ironically, later I learned that one of the benefits to our US Air Mastercard was first class check-in, which would have saved us about 45 minutes of waiting in line. Doh!) After we finally got our bags checked and got through security, it was 5 or 10 minutes later than our scheduled departure time. So we headed straight to the customer service desk to see about getting placed on a later flight.
We are there for about 2 minutes when they realize our flight is still there and had been delayed about 25 minutes. If we ran we could possibly make it. So we did. And we just barely made it. They had already checked in standby passengers so some of our seats were taken so Charley and I sat away from the rest of the family but that was okay - somehow we actually made it on our flight! Whew! On to Chicago...
We packed all of this into 4 days in Chicago:
- Lunch at Grand Lux Cafe
- Visited SkyDeck Chicago in Willis Tower (we bought the CityPass)
- Visited Millenium Park, saw Cloud Gate and let Charley play in Crown Fountain
- Take-out Deep Dish from Giordano's
- Visited Shedd Aquarium
- BRIEFLY visited Field Museum before we were reminded museums aren't really our thing
- Visited Navy Pier and rode the Ferris Wheel
- Took an architecture boat tour on Tall Ship Windy
- Visited Lincoln Park Zoo
- Ate at Portillo's
- Walked the Riverwalk
- Visited 360 Chicago (John Hancock Observatory)
- Visited Adler Planetarium
- Went to a Chicago White Sox Game
Whew. It was a very fast paced four days. But we saw almost all that we wanted to see. (John would have liked to squeeze in a visit to Wrigley Field even though they weren't in town while we were there but we never made it.) We didn't love it all (Adler Planetarium wasn't really our thing nor was Field Museum, and we weren't that impressed with Lincoln Park Zoo either) but we had a great time anyways!
I do want to mention that Charley did so great just rolling with the punches. Her naps each day were unplanned and just occurred whenever she couldn't hold her eyes open any longer, whether we were at lunch, on a bus, at the zoo or while waiting in line for security at the White Sox Game. She was such a good traveler! (But she IS 2, so don't get me wrong - there were definitely some tantrums and sassiness thrown in there - just not as much as I expected!)
We relied 100% on public transportation and had no issues at all, minus a couple of bus rides that we would have preferred be a bit shorter - but there's no way to fix that! The "L" trains were definitely dated looking along with some of the stations but seemed to be in great working order. We couldn't believe how rusted and old some of the stations looked though.
We all FIVE shared one room at the Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront and we really could not have been any happier with that room. It was so much bigger than most hotel rooms which left plenty of room for Charley's bed we brought along (seriously - that was such a great decision to bring!) and had sitting areas other than on the beds which we really liked. The hotel was downtown, on the water and in the middle of everything. I booked on Hotwire and can't remember if it was a name your own price deal or what, but ended up getting that room for only $125/night!
After Chicago, we rented a car and made our way to Traverse City, Michigan. I was really looking forward to this next hotel because it was set up like a condo and had two separate bedrooms on two different floors and a mini kitchen and all. I knew that would work much better for the five of us, even though we'd had no issues thus far with sharing a room.
But, as soon as we walked in the door we were overcome by the smell. At first we thought it was just really old and musty. It was SO awful, truly. The place had a pool though so we spent a good bit of time there, and if we weren't there then we were eating at some of the delicious restaurants in town. We ate at North Peak Brewing Company and Folgarelli's Market and were so impressed with both. And then the next morning we went to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as you already know.
When we got back to the room that afternoon we soon realized that it wasn't just an older musty place, but that it was dog we were smelling. We didn't want to complain if ALL of the rooms smelt this bad so when we asked our neighbor if theirs also smelt and they not only said no, but mentioned that the people there before us had two giant dogs. This was when I made the realization that I'm not really interested in staying in any pet friendly places from now on. It was terrible. We classed it up like true southerners and drug the chairs from the kitchen table outside to sit in to avoid sitting in the room. At this point we realized how ridiculous this was and John went to talk to the manager. We were only staying there one additional night, but he offered to refund us the second night and half of the first night because he felt bad about our stay. We took him up on the offer and made our way to our next destination, Petoskey, Michigan, one day early. (I don't want to give the hotel bad press since they did make it right with us and it seems we just had bad luck with our room, so I'm not going to mention the name of the hotel here.)
Once we got to Petoskey we didn't really have many plans (except the wedding of course) so we just chose things based on location and Trip Advisor reviews. Over the course of 3 days, we visited a Fish Hatchery which was free and informative, a ski resort for chairlift rides and an adorable working farm that had an awesome restaurant as well. All of those things were either free or close to free. We also drove the supposed tunnel of trees but were really unimpressed. You would think a tunnel would mean the trees create a nice arch over the road, but not so much. There were trees on both sides of the road so if that's something you aren't used to then maybe you'd find it more impressive than we did, but it just looked like anywhere else to us.
The wedding was Saturday evening and was so beautiful overlooking Lake Michigan. I Rented the Runway for the first time ever and LOVED my experience doing that. The dress was perfect and fit well and was so easy to return. Will definitely be doing that for any future events.
On our way back to Chicago we stopped over in Michigan City, Indiana for one evening to sort of cut the drive a bit shorter. The town was, um, sketchy. It looked pretty touristy and like many people vacation there, but we really weren't impressed with the visit to Washington Park, and it's the number one rated thing to do here! Our hotel was nice and clean and in a safe area it seemed, so no complaints there but glad we didn't stay there any longer than one evening.
The next day we made our way back to the airport where we got held up on the runway for at least an hour. That sucked especially since we were all ready to be home after being gone for 10 days but thankfully we made it home safely (and quietly! Charley slept the entire flight!) and didn't kill each other after being in such close quarters the entire time. We really like each other I suppose!
there are a few random things I wanted to share too about this trip:
- That packing light thing is for the birds. I ran out of clothes and didn't think through all of my outfits. (Didn't pack enough light undies for a couple of white/light shorts I brought). However, we had to do the ol' suitcase switcheroo at check-in because a few bags were overweight. So fun to rearrange undies in front of a really long line of impatient people! So taking more clothes wouldn't even have been an option anyways unless we checked another bag (that inevitably wouldn't have fit in the rental car.)
- We tried to grocery shop on our first day there to save ourselves from eating out every single meal for 10 days. I think that saved us for all of two meals. It's no fun to eat in a room with no table/silverware/dishes/etc.
- My kid lived on the iPad and my iPhone all week.
- Seriously - no more pet friendly hotels.
- That was really long. Are you still with me?
- Did you know it's light until like 9:30 or so up there? It was so strange and I had never realized that.
Thanks again for those of you that gave me awesome suggestions for our trip!
How ridiculous that I titled this post 'A Quick Trip Recap'. There was nothing quick about that recap. But I'm leaving it because I just need this to be done already.