We are back from Chicago. Visited the Premium mall (near Aurora) yesterday, and was quite impressed. This was my first trip to the Aurora mall, and I was surprised to see so many premium brands and shoppers (esp. the crowds at Coach store). Judging by the size of crowds in the mall, it seems the economy is doing fine. But yesterday, the unemployed number announced by the gov (470,000) exceeded the expectation again. The market tanked again, although I think it has more to do with the July 4th US holiday, people want to play safe in this long weekend.
I rent the car from Enterprise near my home, this is a small rental office to serve the Lou Fuze car dealership. I booked an “intermediate”, and they offered the PT Cruiser to me. This is one small mistake I made, I should have booked “midsize” or “standard”. Usually Enterprise has a free upgrade in airport locations, but not this small office, as matter of fact they have to get the PT Cruiser from another office. Initially I was a little uncomfortable about taking this little car to Chicago, but the PT Cruiser turns out to be very good, except one minor problem: there is no guard/screen for the trunk.
In this trip, we tested out our newly bought Garmin Nuvi 755T GPS system. I have been to Chicago several times before, but thought it would be handy to have this device. It worked for us very well, my wife is especially pleased with the visualization portion. She think that gives her a lot confidence driving to a new place. I think this is largely true, besides one pre-caution: always pay attention to the car and the traffic. GPS is just a little electronic advisor. Process that piece of information along with other important info and make your decesion.
Chicago is the only US city to bid for 2016 Summer Olympics. Interestingly St. Louis is the first US city to host one. But nowadays Chicago is the only true international city in the Midwest US, and it has done some face lift to appeal the Olympics committee, e.g., the new Millenium Park, and the new Art Institute building etc. There are also a lot of condo developments along Michigan Ave. and lake.
To avoid the high parking fee at downtown, we parked our car at Cumberland station, and took the CTA blue line. Chicago has a pretty decent public transportation system, the train is not as fancy as the new ones in Shanghai, but they got job done.
I used to think La Quinta Inn is pretty good, but after travelling and staying at Hampton Inn, Double Trees, Residents Inn (Marriot), I felt La Quinta is just ok. The unlucky part of this trip: they gave us a room near the door and it’s noisy. Slightly better than the room at Hampton Inn where the noise generated by AC/ice machine is unbearable.
Need to verify if a regular room at La Quinta is better.
Stay in downtown or stay in suburban
I stayed near downtown only once: Hyatt at McCormick. That was for CFA test. The downside for downtown is the price (including the parking fees); the upside is obviously close to the action.
Odds and ends
Bring some coins (quarters) as there are some toll roads, and there are no people at some toll exits (exact change is expected).
Did not go to “A taste of Chicago”, arguably the biggest food festival in the US (or world). St. Louis has similar festival which we went once. As I get older, I felt I can eat less and less.