TRAVELS | October 20, 2014

Chicago: a walkable city

A walking tour of the Windy City

Carrie, Founder & Chief Wanderer

Chicago is known as The Windy City, or depending on when you go, The Humid City. Luckily, when I was there, Chicago was more like The Perfect City; the sun was shining, the humidity was non-existent, and not once were we blown back by the wind. With limited time and fantastic weather, it quickly became more like The Walkable City for us.

Chicago has embraced the green movement, both by local tourist attractions, hotels and the city itself. Almost every trashcan was separated by waste and recycling— a nice touch for the biggest city in the Midwest. Chicago is also extremely bike-friendly; I saw locals and tourist bicycling on practically every street I walked on. The city has a bike rideshare program where you can rent a bike and when you are done leave it at any other bike sharing location. Top tourist attractions have installed solar and are consciously making an effort to reduce their environmental impact. During our short stay, we stayed at Hotel Allegro, which is part of the Kimpton Hotel group. Kimpton hotels have several initiatives to reduce their environmental impact; they use green cleaning supplies, have extensive recycling programs and donate a portion of your room rate to the Nature Conservancy.

While I was in Chicago I did my best to have the lowest environmental impact. I literally walked everywhere. I only had a half day for tourism before I headed to the Burbs for a wedding and the Fourth of July. Staying in the city was great, as it allowed us to be closer to the action and all the great sites of Chicago. My boyfriend and I started off our day by casually strolling to Millennium Park. As we made our way over to the Park, we enjoyed views of the infamous Chicago styled steel-framed and glass-paneled skyscrapers.

Once we got to Millennium Park, we walked some more! The Park is massive and covers nearly 25 acres of land. Walking through the park I understood why it is one of Chicago’s top tourist attractions: it is beautiful and is home to so many iconic Chicago images. The park has great green space, with several sprawling lawn areas. Besides making for prime picnicking, green spaces like this provide so many environmental and health benefits for city-dwellers. They help avoid soil erosion, provide better air quality, act as a carbon sink and are great places to cool off as they have lower temperatures than asphalt. Not to mention, green spaces have mental health benefits as well, providing stress release and help to enhance healing. I can attest— I felt all of these mental and physical benefits as I strolled past striking flower beds and the famous fountain at Wrigley Square. We also visited the iconic Bean. The Bean is such a funny installation in the City; it’s despised by locals and beloved by tourists. Overall, the Park was refreshing. I would almost forget I was in the middle of the city were it not for the skyscrapers poking their heads in.

After wandering through Millennium Park, we headed to another main attraction: The Navy Pier. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend the Pier as it isn’t really a sustainable attraction and it reminded me of San Francisco’s Pier 39, designed for tourists and lacking in real character or history. Despite this, I’m glad we decided to walk there, as we were able to take in more of the city along the way. We may have gotten lost once or twice but during our journey, we passed through Grant Park’s beautiful budding gardens, crossed the Chicago River, and ended the afternoon with some drinks at the beer garden overlooking Lake Michigan. Sometimes the best plan is no plan. After touring Navy Pier, we walked back to our hotel to relax before dinner… you guessed it: deep dish pizza.

While I have a lot more on my Chicago to-do list, walking throughout Chicago was a great introduction to the city as it allowed us to enjoy it with ease. We never had to worry about catching the right subway train or if we were going the right direction— I highly recommend it. It was a breeze to traverse the Windy City and I enjoyed every one of the 19,944 steps I took that day!