Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Line Through Number 96

As I mentioned last week, we spent the weekend after Thanksgiving in Chicago, with Queen Elizabeth and her crew. The trip was timed to not only see the little princess a month before her 3rd birthday, but also walk Michigan Avenue and State Street when they are dressed for Christmas. It's been a long time (too long) since I've been to Chicago for the Christmas lights and windows. It was almost an annual trip with Mama Virgo when I was in high school, but years fly by and the holidays zoom past, leaving me in a dust of boxes and bows. And I promise myself that next year we are definitely going back north for the holiday lights and festivities.

You may recall that I also had one Chicago-specific item on my 101 list. Since "the ledge" opened at The Willis Tower (which will forever be The Sears Tower to me), I have been itching to go. I am terrified of heights, but the glass looked thick and the bolts looked strong. So, why not? A "safe" way to conquer my fear! Go Team Ally! Sunday morning, we hopped a downtown-bound train for ledge-walking and window-shopping.

The weather had been uncooperative from the moment we arrived in Chicago. Drizzly rain, fog, and brisk winds had failed to move on out by Sunday morning, as The Weather Channel had promised. When we arrived at The Willis Tower and looked up, the entire Skydeck was encased in a cloud. The signs posted in the lobby said, "Visibility: zero" and the staff kept reminding us that, at the top, you could not see anything. "It's fine," I assured them. "I just want to walk out on the ledge." And every single one of them looked at me like I had 24 heads perched on top a broom stick. I guess most people don't pay $15 each to see nothing but fog. Although...The Willis Tower does have an active duty military discount so Neal's ticket was free...bringing our total to a whopping $7.50 per person, which is a perfectly acceptable price for zero visibility. Also, when you can't see a thing, there is no line in which to stand. Bonus!

When you arrive at the tippy tippy top (also known as The Skydeck), you should be greeted with:
Views of up to 50 miles and 4 states.

This is what we saw:

So, clearly we were not there for the view. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that there is not 1, but FOUR, ledges on which to stand! This is the most commonly snapped photo on the ledge. How could we pass up the opportunity to be common?

Oh, and then there's this one...

And the view from one ledge, looking down the row at the rest of them (you could not get this picture, all people-free, on a clear, highly visible day. Double bonus!)

This one's for you, Hutch!

Let's ignore the sensible shoes I'm sporting in this picture. Apparently my right foot got really pissed that I stuck it in knee-high boots and then ballet flats for the week before. Mama Virgo and the guy at John's Run/Walk Shop have yelled at me enough for all of you. 

Goodbye, Skydeck. Thanks for the memories. And now I can cross #96 off the list! 

After descending (and now Keanu Reeves and I have something in common...we've both taken a walk in the clouds), we headed to State Street...in the rain...because at some point while we were 103 floors above earth, The Weather Channel got it very, very wrong. I stopped for a few quick snaps of Chicago life. We generally do not meander around Chicago. We are usually on a mission to get to dinner/a play/a store/a museum and there's no time for photographing street scenes. But on this particular Sunday, we had nowhere to be until 6:30.

And then we ventured over to Millenium Park because, somehow, in the 4736397473 times I've been to Chicago, I've never been to The Bean. I have no idea how that even happened. So, since we were there and all...

Neal made me time this picture for when his lips were closed because his teeth were so jacked (which, ordinarily, would not be an issues...except when they are 20' tall). 

The bean! 

  I realize that this is art and that it was intentionally positioned in a way as to reflect the Chicago skyline, but how freaking perfect! And the trees, which should have long shed their colors, were in full display on this dreary, chilly day.

Proof that the rain would just not quit. Thank goodness someone had the insight to put hoods on pea coats.

There was also the obligatory ice rink installed for the holiday season.

And a sign that reminded skaters of the rule: Absolutely no shoes on the ice. Positively no shoes on the ice. Y'know...in case either the absolutely or the positively part threw you.

When we left Millenium Park, we strolled over in an ever-increasing drizzle to the windows on State. Apparently, we passed the wake being held for Mayor Daley's wife, which was held at the old Chicago Public Library. We just saw a half dozen camera crews and people lined up all the way around the block. At the time, we didn't know what it was...just that it looked important.

The Macy's windows were disappointing, to say the least. The theme this year was the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which I fully support. Each of Macy's designers (Sean John, Martha Stewart, Emeril, Michael Kors, etc) designed an ornament and proceeds of ornament sales went to Make-A-Wish. So each window advertised 2 of the ornaments. It was a gigantic marketing campaign. And even though it was for a good cause, it looked rushed and...well...half-assed.

The most exciting window I saw was this:

which is nothing like this:

Everything in this window is made of hair. The photo was borrowed from Shana's post about the Christmas windows in NY. If you want a front-row seat to some ahhhhmazing windows, check out the rest of this post.

The Peninsula, which is home to one of our favorite Chicago watering holes, was decked out in lights and lions in bows...

as was the water tower...looking so very A Christmas Carol-y with the horse-drawn carriages and bare branches dripping with white lights.

Even Crate & Barrel looked fetching with the red awnings.

The Chicago radio station dressed a window for the musical, A Christmas Story (is it just me or is it really difficult to imagine the dad busting out into song?)

 and then, of course, there was Marilyn...

Even at 26 feet tall, she still has sculpted deltoids. My goal in life is to look so good that, when magnified 22 times, I can still bring the sexy back.

As we braced for the wind and scurried across the bridge, I stopped for a few last, finger-numbing shots of the city...

and I promised sweet-n-breezy Chicago that we wouldn't wait so long next time.


  1. That might be the highest elevation jazz hands capture ever!

    I was doing great looking at your pics until the one showing it looking down. Then I got nauseous. I tried to look again and I had serious vertigo. From a freakin picture! I refuse to let my heights fear get worse with age like it did with my mom. If I can concur spiders I can concur this right?

    The rest of your trip looked fantastic! Why is Neal's face so big on that screen? I clearly don't know enough about Chicago :)

  2. I really want to go to Chicago. What I don't want to do is stand on that ledge...because, seriously...I got dizzy and panicked just looking at the pictures.

  3. Okay, now I MUST go back. But not to The Ledge. I do not care whether I ever conquer that particular fear.

  4. Damn it. I've never wanted to go until now.
    Ya know...hairy beans would be funny. Okay, that is so random I don't even know.

  5. Sounds like a great trip, and all that fog probably made standing on the glass ledge, uh, easier! Glad it was fun!

  6. I loved Chicago...except the cold. And the wind. And the rain.
    Ok - so the weather was horrible, but the city was fantastic.
    Your pictures make really me want to go back...I miss the bean

  7. Great photos!!!! So glad you enjoyed your trip!

  8. Oh, this makes my heart hurt. I miss Chicago so much! I heard that the windows weren't that spectacular this year. Kind of sucks considering their whole Magnificent Mile Bonanza for Christmas every year. Disappointed tourists does not a return visitor make.

    I'm so glad you all were able to visit though. Next time... Julius Meinl. Southport. Brown Line. Do it!

  9. I love your pictures! Chicago is such a wonderful city... I haven't been in ages, but I'd like to revisit someday. And my god, that ledge... terrifies me, too. But good on you for conquering your fears, hunny! That's awesome :)

  10. This city is definitely on my list of places to visit. I should have already gone there Mike's family lives right outside the city. I love these pictures and the skydeck looks like TOO much fun. Although Mike would NEVER venture out there to take my picture [heights freak him out]. So I might need your and Neal's photo skills ;)

    So happy he's home, and you guys are doing all this fun stuff together!!!


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