Sunday, December 31, 2006

I can see your house from up here.

I'm not prone to nosebleeds so the zippy elevator that whisked us to the top of the John Hancock Observatory in Chicago, Illinois didn't bother me as much as some folks. I will admit that I felt like we we being launched instead of transported to the 94th floor but when the doors opened the view made it all worthwhile. 1,000 feet above Chicago with views in all directions but it got even better with "Skywalk". This section of the observatory was open air. Just screened in so you could feel the wind on your face and hear the sounds of the city from below. Not for the faint of heart. I was surprised at how much room there is to walk around up there and they even identify the surrounding buildings for you. On a clear day they say you can see 80 miles and four states. Since the Hancock Observatory is right at the magnificent mile, it's a natural to visit before or after some shopping and great food. Aah Chicago!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

How'd they do that?

It's not as easy as it looks. I'm certain that putting full-size trains and planes inside a building takes patience. That's why when you walk around the The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois, you keep saying "Wow!".
Industrial is the feel here as you explore a maze of inventions that changed society. Technology is showcased on a grand scale with lots of hands-on opportunities for kids of all ages. I really enjoyed the robot exhibit where "Robbie the Robot" towers over the entrance welcoming you to a fun exhibit of robots in our culture. An Omnimax theater offers spectacular speciality films, too. From the time you enter the building and take the giant escalator up to the exhibits, you gawk and point. For an inspiring journey of human ingenuity, spend some time at The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. You won't regret it.

All Natural

Sue is the most complete T-Rex skeleton ever found and you can see her at The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. But Sue is only the beginning.
The Field Museum was created to house the collections from the 1893 Columbian Exposition and includes over 20 million specimens today.
My first impression was one of walking into the ultimate taxidermy display. Poised lions, antelope and water buffalo stared back at me like a static zoo. The obvious advantage to seeing these animals presented in this way is the detail. You can stand and notice every ripple of the Rhino's skin, since they are not moving. They also had skeletal displays of many animals. A full-sized Walrus skeleton will stop you in your tracks! I was also lucky enough during my visit to enjoy the Tutankhamun traveling exhibit, which was spectacular. The quality and preservation of objects 5,000 years old is awe-inspiring. Being able to study and understand the natural world around us is a great gift and The Field Museum delivers on every level.


When I was a kid watching the "Aquaman" cartoon, I dreamed of being able to summon the denizens of the deep to do my bidding, just like him. Experiments at the beach during family vacations proved ineffective. No dolphins rallied to my side despite my deep concentration. Never the less, I developed a strong connection with the Sea and it's creatures when Jacques Cousteau began sharing his adventures on film. I've been a big fan of Aquariums ever since.
The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois was the largest of it's kind when it opened in 1930. Millions of gallons of saltwater were transported from Florida for the exhibits. From the beginning, this aqurium was a huge hit. Today, it is a wonderful adventure.
The Pacific white-sided dolphins in the Oceanarium were a highlight for me. Watching them jump and swim was mesmerizing! The Oceanarium Amphitheater has a spectacular view of Lake Michigan during the shows, which are well presented. What I like most about Shedd is the way it's designed to encourage you to explore. Multi-levels, little nooks and hidden exhibits surprise and delight if you take the time to discover them. When I found myself alone at Secluded Bay with the Beluga Whales, I was tempted to dive in! Of course, you can see sharks and rays, jellyfish and lionfish, piranhas and penguins. A great menagerie of water creatures. So I had to do it. One more time I had to try. I closed my eyes and concentrated with all my might sending out signals to the denizens of the deep. Here of all places it had to work. I stared at the clownfish as it darted in and out of the anemone. I sent out my signal of brotherhood when suddenly it turned to me and went "Bloop".

I see stars

The Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum in Chicago, Illinois is the only one to feature two state-of-the-art planetariums. It was the first and oldest one built in the western hemisphere. Copernicus would be pleased. As an avid stargazer, I couldn't get enough.
Perched over Lake Michigan, Adler offers wonderful shows, historic astronomical instruments and modern space exploration exhibits. I really enjoyed the Stars of the Pharoahs Show. It was in the starider theater and was a combination of IMax style flyover video combined with classic Planetarium star fields projected 360 degrees around plush seats that tilted back just the right amount.
The history of Astronomy is really brought to life with a great collection of antique instruments for studying the sky including the Atwood Sphere, a planetarium which is 15 feet in diameter you step inside to see a representation of the night sky. Very cool.
If you ever gaze up at the night sky like I do, a trip to Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum is a real treat!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Chicago: A toddlin' town

Chicago is my kind of town. While they tear down and build up constantly, they seem to blend the old and new beautifully.
Two things impressed me most:
1) The town was very clean for a big city.
2) The people were very friendly.
Everywhere I went, the door swung wide and a smile greeted me. The vibe here is busy but not frantic. Modern with an old-fashioned twist. Grounded. I loved the food. Pizza, red hots, beef. I couldn't stop eating! One place was better than the next.

"HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders"
Sandburg was right...