The repeats included strolling Magnificent Mile for the window shopping and strolling Millennium Park for the people watching. What was new was visiting the Chicago Cultural Center; taking a walking tour of the downtown area with a Chicago Greeter and attending a theater performance of the Lookingglass Theater Company.
While many towns have national companies rehashing Broadway standards, Chicago has a vibrant independent/repertory theater community. Through The League of Chicago Theaters I obtained a discount ticket for a Lookingglass Theater Company production of Ethan Frome.
This adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel was written and directed by ensemble member Laura Easson. It is an intimate theater located in the landmark Water Works building. I had an excellent seat. I was practically in the production because my seat was on the stage with the actors.
If you know the novel; there is a critical moment involving a frightening sleigh ride. I felt I was on that scary ride. It was an exciting theater experience.
The city of Chicago has a unique architectural presence and a rich history. To learn more about both, I decided to take a walking tour of the downtown area with a Chicago Greeter. A Chicago Greeter is an enthusiastic resident who conducts tours based on their area of expertise. If you plan ahead you can be matched with a Greeter who is an expert in your area of interest. If you don’t plan ahead you can meet with an “Insta-Greeter” for a pre-programmed tour. I didn’t plan ahead. I took the pre-programed tour with “Insta-Greeter”, Norm.
Norm, a spry octogenarian, guided me and 2 other tourists though downtown and pointed out some of the distinctive Chicago construction design elements and techniques. He told us that much of the ornamentation that looks like stone carving was actually terra cotta elements attached to the facade; a less expensive alternative to stone carved decorations. He also, said that the city’s history with fire resulted in them embracing new construction materials and techniques such as poured concrete construction and the use of iron on the exteriors of buildings.
After the tour I went to the Skydeck in the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower). Standing on a glass ledge 103 stories above the city makes for a queasy yet exhilarating experience. It was worth the long line to get in.
Finally, I was directed to the Chicago Cultural Center by my Experience Designer (I swear that is what they call themselves at the Amalfi Hotel). The center is a resource of information to all the doings in the area but, it is an attraction in of itself. The historic building can be toured; there are exhibits by local artist; and there is a library, reading room and funky cafe. I think I spent 2 hours exploring the center. I could have spent 2 days but, I had to catch a train.