An Afternoon in the City

Hello, everyone! I recently spent an afternoon in the city, and due to my desire to both cement my memories and unload my low-quality iPhone photographs from said phone, I have decided to document how I spent about five hours in Chicago. Please enjoy!


The adventure started at about 12:30 PM, as my family members and I waited for the train to reach the station after our own arrival about ten minutes prior. I personally love train rides, and the fact that this particular one would be on an express train only boosted my excitement for what the afternoon was to bring. What can I say, aside from the fact that I greatly appreciate public transportation?

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A dramatic picture of the train tracks

Anyway, at about 12:35 PM, the train finally arrived, and we boarded one of the frontmost cars, knowing that the ones in the middle would already nearly be full due to events occurring in the city that day.

After a few stops, we had a relatively smooth journey to Union Station. All the while, I listened to the recent additions to my music library (stay tuned for the next “Monthly Monday Music Melange” post to see what those songs were), and made sure to listen to “Chicago” and “Come On! Feel the Illinoise!” by my beloved Sufjan Stevens as we arrived. Listening to those two songs from the wonderful album entitled Illinois while on my way to the city is one of my many traditions, and one of my favorites at that.

Once we arrived, we quickly made our way through the station and outdoors, with our next planned stop being along Michigan Avenue.

The two photographs directly above were taken due to my hotel obsession; the one on the left is in regards to W Chicago, a Marriott hotel (the W Hotels brand was under Starwood, but Starwood merged with Marriott). The image on the right is of the Kimpton Gray, which is one of the many Chicago hotels that I paradoxically claim to adore, as someone who has never been of “guest” status. In fact, I almost chose this hotel as the location for a meeting planning project I worked on this summer for a class, as I love the Kimpton brand and how they often conduct restoration projects for their hotels.

Well, I hope you all enjoyed those fun hotel facts. Please hire me, hotel companies that I love!

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Soon, we walked by PrivateBank Theatre, at which a production of Hamilton is being hosted. One day I will see Hamilton, as I assume writing this assertion out will help me win the ticket lottery, and thus make my wish come true.

The hotel geek in me resurfaced as we walked by the Palmer House Hilton. I actually mentioned this hotel in a speech I gave a few months ago (even though I had never previously visited it, obviously), and when taking into account my recent research on Chicago hotels such as the one at hand, I was quite excited when we walked by. Consequently, when the idea of walking through the lobby for a bit was brought up, I immediately took up the offer. The hotel’s beauty stunned me; the property truly has so much opulence and character, and I hope I can be a guest there one day, or at least spend some more time inside.

After that quick visit, we finally made our way to our lunch spot: Shake Shack. We consistently end up at this location when we are in the city, which I do not object to, since it is located in–get this–another one of my favorite Chicago hotels, the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. After a quick visit to their bathroom, I enjoyed a nice lunch at the somewhat late time of 1:45 PM. I then took one last (long) look at the area formerly used as the Chicago Athletic Association’s pool, and currently home of a Murakami installation in association with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, before we went off to our main destination for the day.

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I hope to visit the Chicago Cultural Center sometime soon

Michigan Avenue was definitely crowded at the time, but it did not take long to finally reach the American Writers Museum. I first read about this new museum in an article entitled “MANUSCRIPTS NO MORE” from the May 2017 issue of Chicago magazine, and learning about the museum’s interactive features piqued my interest, as the concept of “edutainment” and its relation to museums was a subject of research for me at the time.

Well, months later, I finally paid the location a visit!

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A sign outside of the building; the museum is on the second floor

Purchasing the tickets took a short amount of time, and we were then on our way (I quickly picked up a couple of the great, and free, bookmarks as we began our journey). A staff member recommended that we walk through the museum in what is essentially a circle, starting on the right-hand side as one walks in, so we took a right turn and officially began our visit. The Children’s Literary Gallery is in this area; obviously, we made it our first stop.

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Hello, children’s section!

Just from this gallery, I could sense the strong push for visitors to interact with the subject matter and information (as explained in the aforementioned article, and by a staff member as we arrived), which I really appreciated. I hope visitors really do take the time to utilize these opportunities, as they make the experience quite fulfilling.

Can you all tell that I really value educational entertainment?

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In order to regain our sense of adulthood, we then enjoyed the exhibit entitled A Nation of Writers. As clearly shown by the photograph above, the area was definitely not crowded at the time, and I was honestly ecstatic to have this exhibit, bursting with information, almost completely to myself. On the left is American Voices; this portion highlights 100 important American writers on a timeline, and is almost overwhelming (in a positive, enlightening way). Surprise Bookshelf is on the right of the picture, and although I do not want to spoil the surprises, I will state that sliding the boxes representing works of writing in order to experience various modes through which information is transmitted was quite fun.

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I will say that of my favorite surprises was actually within the American Voices exhibit wall, with this section asking visitors who they think kickstarted certain genres. I will not reveal what I loved so much about the execution of this section; you all will have to find out for yourselves (or you could just ask yours truly).

Yes, my friends, I had images taken of me with the gorgeous exhibit when we first walked in the area. I know…I am terrible.

At the end of this overall exhibit is the Word Waterfall, which I have seen gain much appreciation from visitors thus far, and for good reason. The presentation highlights important and thought-provoking quotes about America; after embarrassingly taking a photograph with the flash on my phone’s camera on, I took a poor-quality image, sans flash, of one interesting quotation from James Baldwin: “I love America more than any other county in the world, and for that reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

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Next, I caught up with my family in the Palm temporary exhibit that is inspired by W.S. Merwin, an American poet. I spent most of my time in this exhibit by the signs above, as it instructs visitors to contribute their own writing to a planter nearby, with a prompt being “Why would Merwin–and why would you–want to plant a tree even if it was the last day of the world?” These responses would then be sent to Merwin’s palm garden in Hawaii, as the poet uses the pieces of paper as compost. After much thought, I wrote down a response to the prompt, of which its content I hesitate to share, due to my insecurity about its quality. Regardless, I hope my piece of paper will be helpful for Merwin’s garden, and being aware of the utility of this action made me feel proud to be a contributor at all.

Following our time spent in the Palm exhibit, we made our way through the Readers Hall. I greatly enjoyed the information posted on the wall, which was also a bit interactive. Of course, I took images of all the ones that mentioned blogging as a mode of writing, and while doing so, I was happily surprised to see Poor Richard’s Almanack by Benjamin Franklin spotlighted, as I made reference to the almanac in my work regarding edutainment. Additionally, I found interest in the sign describing how taste is formed; shoutout to anyone who has given me book recommendations!

Another temporary exhibit in the American Writers Museum is the Beat Journey: Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” exhibit, featuring the long scroll Kerouac created and typed an early version of On the Road on. Honestly, as someone with an embarrassingly infinitesimal amount of knowledge, I had not previously known much about Kerouac; after reading information about him and On the Road, I can truthfully say that I am intrigued, and will hopefully soon make time to delve into his creations.

The following area we enjoyed was the exhibit entitled The Mind of a Writer. I was particularly excited about this exhibit, as someone who sometimes attempts to write. (I hesitate to call myself a writer, as I do not think I have earned even such a simple title.)

Story of the Day is a space in which visitors can utilize materials such as typewriters to write stories. I was eager to have fun with the typewriters, as I enjoy using one stationed at my abode, but the area was crowded enough for us to move along, only to never return. I know…I am terrible.

There are a few other areas of the overlying exhibit, such as Featured WorksWord Play, and Anatomy of a Masterwork, the last of which I particularly enjoyed.

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The image above is of a section of a wall that informs visitors of how their writing routines correlate with those of well-known writers. As for fuel, I was matched with Elizabeth Bishop, while for a writing habit, favorite things, and companions, my answers paralleled the characteristics of Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, and Ernest Hemingway, respectively. That group of writers is pretty flattering to be associated with, right? Truthfully, though, I probably should have selected “late at night” as my writing habit; I mean, I am currently writing this blog post at 10:31 PM by choice. (Update: Presently, as I edit this post, I still am in agreement with the preceding statement.) My love of hotels must have taken over as I made my choice, due to their relevance to my entire visit to the city…

I really loved all of the quotations displayed throughout the exhibit at hand, as they all resonated with me as a “writer.”

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The quotation from Octavia E. Butler above related to my writing experiences too much for me to not have a photograph taken of me with it; already, over my eighteen years of existence, the amount of change and improvement I can sense in my writing even just month by month is somewhat astounding. Acknowledging the notion that I will likely read this blog post of mine in the future and be appalled at its lack of quality and nuance is a bit frightening, in the same way that reading a typical piece I wrote in the past is, but it also brings about excitement. As a result, I must (and am attempting to) embrace my journey.

Also, let us just take a moment away from my sentimentality to appreciate the body language showcased in this photograph, particularly my crossed arms that make me look as though I am hugging myself. From my fascination with body language, I think I can state with some validity that my pose shows insecurity, as I am signifying the protection of my vital organs. There are two reasons as to why this pose, as opposed to an amusing one that would have demonstrated my self-awareness in regards to the quotation at hand, was captured:

  1. There were adults sitting on couches opposite the wall, watching me in confusion.
  2. Acknowledging the probable deep flaws in my current writing style was too much for me to overcome in regards to my ability to pose.

Well, at approximately 3:05 PM, we reached the last exhibit in the museum, entitled Chicago Writers: Visionaries and Troublemakers in the Chicago Gallery. There are a few components of the gallery that we enjoyed, such as the interactive map that details some particular local locations in the Chicago area that have significance to writing. Throughout this entire area, I loved reading through the small biographies of many Chicago writers, and I took some images of quotations that stood out to me. Inspiration practically oozed out of this area, which made it the perfect way to end our visit to the museum.

Before we actually left the museum, though, we had to take in some details (such as the great ceiling of books, and applications of the museum’s logo that I, somewhat inexplicably, adore), while also taking out a bit of money. Yes, my friends, my inability to stay away from merchandise incarnated itself once again. After deciding between a keychain and a hat, I ultimately decided to purchase a nice navy-blue hat. Also, I took another free bookmark; who knows, maybe I will need a few bookmarks in the future?

At approximately 3:19 PM, we exited the American Writers Museum. I truly enjoyed my visit to the new museum, and I hope to return soon in order to digest all of the information and interactive exhibits it offers (and will likely add in the future)!

We started to take notice of the approaching departure time of our train home, and thus, hurried over to the next location we wanted to see (and by “we,” I mean “me”): the former site of the Wellington Hotel. Since I had just published my post about the hotel on the day before, I was eager to properly utilize this opportunity to take some amateurish photographs of the area and add them to my post afterward.

In order to gain some context as to why I took photographs of and with a building that boasts a Lyon & Healy ghost sign and stands next to a parking lot, check out my corresponding post; the images above are included toward the end of it. (Sorry for the self-promotion.)

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Here I am, in the wonderfully flattering photograph above, teaching a family member how to take a photograph in a way that would include the Lyon & Healy ghost sign.

Once we were done in that area, we walked back to Union Station. I took a couple of photographs along the way, including ones of the Chicago Board of Trade and the view from Jackson Street Bridge. (By the way, the latter was taken soon after we walked by Sears, or Willis, Tower–it would have been difficult for me to capture a picture of the skyscraper from such a harsh angle, but I will frame my decision to not take a photo as proof that I am not too much of a tourist).

At about 4:00 PM, we arrived at the train station, and I said “Goodbye, Chicago” as we headed inside; the next time we would be truly outdoors, the city would no longer be our location. We were at the station bit earlier than we needed to be, but this decision was a a conscious one, as we wanted to comfortably walk around for a while. One of our first discoveries was of a Starbucks location; at first, I objected to ordering a beverage, but I ended up caving in and enjoying some iced coffee. Wow…I am such a typical millennial, right?

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Cute

One of the reasons why this photograph is blurry, in addition to my movement, is my broad insecurity with taking selfies in public, especially while holding objects such as Starbucks beverages. Nevertheless, my agility must have not been up to par in this specific instance, as I believe I still received a glare from a male young adult walking by.

Also, please appreciate my new American Writers Museum hat that I mentioned before, which will finally replace the hats from 2003 that I have been borrowing from my family as of late.

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I loved seeing all of the information displayed in the beautiful Great Hall that is currently under renovation. Overall, we were quite captivated by all of the Amtrak materials, but seeing a sign about The Devil in the White City in the area showcasing Union Station’s relation to popular culture made me particularly ecstatic. I am currently reading and enjoying said book, and my recent fascination with the World’s Columbian Exposition in general has led to my embracement of every reference to the event I can find.

After taking a bathroom break, we headed toward our train track; it was of my favorite number, which I took as a good omen. We headed toward the front cars, as the train was already quite crowded, and eventually, we found a nearly-empty car. About ten minutes were spent waiting for our departure, and we were then on our way back home. The train ride was fairly uneventful, in a positive way, and by the time I was done enjoying the recently-added music on my phone, we hopped off of the train. Serendipitously, after exiting, we saw a couple of people we were on the inbound train with, and had even walked through a bit of the city alongside. Aww.

We arrived back home safely, and just as I do after almost every visit to the city, I basically fell onto a couch right as I walked inside. To be honest, before our afternoon adventure, I was almost craving the overstimulation that city visits impose on me; thus, I needed to embrace this feeling. The city generally makes me feel inspired, nonetheless, and this instance was no different, thanks to the many locations I was lucky enough to enjoy with some of my family members.

“Which museum are you going to force us to go to next?” I was asked later that night.

I am not certain of my answer to the snarky question yet, but I am sure great experiences are ahead of us.


Well, I hope you all enjoyed this post detailing my wonderful afternoon in the city; I know that I definitely had a joyous time writing it! If you would like to read any of my other museum adventures, definitely take a look at my post entitled “My Museum Extravaganza.” Otherwise, thank you for reading this post in the first place, and feel free to give me feedback and/or recommendations for future adventures.

-Stephanie

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