This past weekend my friend Kaite flew into the city from her little town in the tippytop of northern Wisconsin to visit our friend Kathleen and me. The three of us originally found each other through the magic of Instagram, drawn to our shared love of health and fitness, nature, and the trials and tribulations of navigating life as complicated late 20-into-30-somethings. We hadn’t all been together since Labor Day weekend last summer, when Kathleen and I road-tripped up to Bayfield to see Kaite’s world. That was the first weekend after I quit my job at the zoo, and so much has happened in the last eight months! It felt amazing to catch up and explore the city, and the weather ended up being spectacular, warm, breezy, sunny, 70’s and 80’s. It felt like summer!
Kathleen and I have both lived in Chicago for a few years now (crazy!), so we basically packed our favorite things to do and see in the city into two epic days and nights. Lots of walking and adventures interspersed with wine and deep conversations on life. Perfection!
I absolutely love my city, especially in the late spring when the flowers and trees are exploding into color and the weather is warming up but just before the official crazy tourist season kicks into gear. There are endless places to go, restaurants to try, shops to visit, and sights to see, and it can be extremely overwhelming if you’re visiting for the first time! We skipped the typical tourist sights (the “bean,” Millenium Park, museums, Michigan Ave, deep dish pizza) this weekend, although they’re always fun too. Here are just a few of my recommendations for an epic girls' weekend...aka a quick snapshot of my life in Chicago crammed into 2 days.
If you came to visit me for a couple of days in May, this is how it would go...
DAY ONE || SATURDAY
We crashed at Kathleen’s condo in Lincoln Park Friday night, so Saturday morning we were up bright and early for a barre class at her studio, Pure Barre River North! We decided to walk the three miles to the studio, stopping for some coffee and passing through the Green City Market.
After a killer class in which we felt more like floundering baby deer than elegant ballerinas (omg those tiny pulses are no joke), we quickly freshened ourselves up and walked over to Beatrix for brunch! I ordered an egg white omelette with tomatoes, turkey bacon, and whole grain toast with a side of green juice and it was quite possibly the best breakfast meal I’ve ever had. Maybe anything would have tasted like ambrosia after such an intense workout...but Beatrix is a must-stop for brunch in River North! The menu is full of healthy options and the atmosphere is bright and beautiful.
We hopped on a bus back up to Lincoln Park and walked around Nature Boardwalk and through the Lincoln Park Zoo. This is my happy place, an oasis in the middle of the city, and the zoo is one of the best (and the oldest!) in the country. Plus it’s free! I might be biased, but it’s beautifully landscaped, full of historic buildings, and places a big behind the scenes emphasis on local and global conservation initiatives, animal behavior research, and education.
If you walk through the zoo, you also have to stop into the Lincoln Park Conservatory right next door to bask in the tropical wonderland of the giant palms, ferns, orchids, and flowering plants. Another one of my favorite nature spots is the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond, a hidden oasis off of Fulletron Avenue, right next to the entrance to the zoo parking lot. It’s a historic garden featuring a Frank Lloyd Wright pagoda and even a redwood tree!
After walking a bajillion miles, we were desperately in need of another break so we stopped by Trader Joe’s to pick up veggies, hummus, pita chips, guacamole, and cheese and meandered our way over to the lakefront for a picnic! When the weather is beautiful, a lake visit is non-negotiable, and Kathleen and I have perfected the art of the picnic. Diversey Harbor is our favorite spot, there’s ample parking and unbeatable views of the skyline.
After recuperating from our hyper-active morning with a few glasses of rose and snacks, we cleaned up and headed over to Wicker Park for the evening! This is one of my favorite neighborhoods. There are so many fun boutiques, bars, restaurants, and the best people watching! We ended up going to Bluelight for after dinner drinks. I had never been there but was pleasantly surprised! It has a really fun diner themed atmosphere, board games, and delicious martinis. We ended up playing Jenga and Never Have I Ever until midnight, when I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.
DAY TWO || SUNDAY
Sunday was supposed to be cloudy and thunderstorm-y, but we woke up to another beautiful day! After some yoga and stretching at home (ouch, barre…) we met up at Frasca for a patio brunch. EPIC. This is one of my favorite restaurants for pizza, and the brunch is amazing! I got a delicous egg sandwich and Kathleen got the breakfast pizza. I can’t wait to go back with Ben!
Seriously. I WANT IT!
After brunch we walked through Roscoe Village, full of adorable shops and more brunch restaurants, and then made our way over to Southport for shopping. Wicker Park is good for vintage and indie boutiques, and Southport is good for specialty brand names and fun chains. David’s Tea, Paper Source, Anthropologie, Athleta, and Lululemon are my faves!
Sunburned and tired, we wandered over to Kathleen’s place again for rose and snacks on her deck. Ben met us again for dinner at Standard Market Grill, one of our favorite go-to places for amazing salads, delicious burgers, and a solid beer and wine list! I had a steak salad and a delicious Wyders Pear cider. After dinner we had to make a stop at my all time favorite froyo place, Forever Yogurt.
Aaaaand that’s how you pack three months worth of fun into two days! I think I’m still recovering.
I’m planning to share more of my favorite places and things to do here in Chicago, especially as summer gets rolling and Ben finishes school. Summer in the city is heaven!
Have you been to Chicago? What are some of your favorite things to do?