Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chicago and Grand Canyon Trip Advice

One of my favorite parts of blogging is interacting with all of you.  It’s fun sharing knowledge (or lack there of).
Nate and I are currently planning two trips.  We are going to Chicago for a long week-end with some dear friends of ours.  We are also looking at heading to the Grand Canyon in August-ish.
Here’s where we need you…
What are Chicago favorites?  Favorite restaurants? Places? Shopping? etc.  Nate and I have been to Chicago a handful of times but our friends haven’t.  Nate and I have have done a lot of the touristy stuff but feel free to share all of our wisdom.  Who knows what we’ve missed!  I’d also love recommendations of thrift stores/unique shops. 
Chicago 008
Next up: the Grand Canyon.  Flights to Phoenix from our local airport are ridiculously cheap right now.  Our plan is to fly into Phoenix and start our adventure from there.  We would like to spend a few days hiking in the Grand Canyon.  What are your favorite things to do in Arizona? Restaurants?  Suggestions on where to stay to fully enjoy the Grand Canyon?  Any other awesome things to do/see in Arizona?
via AAPG
Thanks in advance for your help! Bring on those suggestions!


  1. Grand Canyon - bring a couple of water bottles with you! I hiked it in 100 degrees heat and it was tough. Are you going to the south rim? The best views and trails are from there.

  2. Never been to either, can't wait to see your adventures!

  3. The Grand Canyon is amazing! We took a helicopter ride all over the Grand Canyon and it was beautiful! Also, if you have time I would also visit Sedona, I loved it.

    1. Sedona is lovely too. Oh, and I wouldn't recommended taking a burro down the canyon. It's scary!

  4. sedona is beautiful, my dad flies out there often for work and sends me gorgeous photos. I am not sure how long of a trip you want to make it, but my parents did hiking at the grand canyon and then headed up to Zion National Park which they say is one of the most amazing experiences of their lives...hiking is incredible and their photos are dropped-jaw-worthy.

  5. I've never been to either so I can't really help, but I'm excited to hear other people's suggestions!! I've always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon!

  6. you have to eat giordanos at least everyday you are in chicago.

  7. I have never been to Chicago but one of my favorite bloggers lives there and does restaurant reviews all the time. Check her out and drop her a line, she always replies!

    When I went to the Grand Canyon we did a helicopter ride around the canyon which was awesome!

  8. Oh Chicago... home sweet home :)
    Definitely do the Architectural Boat Tour. It sounds nerdy - but its actually pretty awesome. Plus, you get to spend some time cruising around the city in a boat.
    If you like Mexican food (especially giant margaritas) you should travel to Cesar's. It's near Belmont & Clark, which is a quirky punk-ish/artsy area. Cesar's has "Mega Margaritas" that are delicious, gigantic, and cheap. :)
    (You can either hop a cab, or if doing public transit, take the Red line to Belmont)
    The museums are always fun if you're feeling touristy.
    Michigan Avenue and State Street are the best places for window shopping. Water Tower Place is a "mall" on Michigan Avenue - There's a restaurant on the Mezzanine level called Food Life which is PERFECT for a group to eat at. Its really good food - set up cafeteria style. Here's their website: It's great when no one can agree on where to eat - there's italian, sushi, burgers, organic, desserts and more :)

    I haven't had my coffee yet, so that's all I've got for now... enjoy both trips, though! :)

  9. How exciting! I wish I had some advice to share, I can't wait to hear about your trips.

  10. Sounds like fun! I've never been to either place :-( but would love to some day.

  11. Check out Chicago Bites for a bunch of restaurant reviews if you're looking for something different. A personal favorite of mine is Joy Yee in Chinatown...korean stone bowl with spicy meat sauce and scallops. YUM.

    You can do a chocolate tour or a cupcake tour if you're looking to eat your way through the city. ;)

    If you decide to eat at Giordano's make sure you go to and get a $25 certificate for whatever location you're hitting up. There's usually codes floating around to buy the certificates for $2. My husband and I won't even step in the door of Giordano's without one of those in hand. For our $2 we get a food credit of $25 when we spend $35. Which means, our large and meaty pizza, an appetizer, and two drinks ends up costing us about $17-22 with tip.

  12. I've never been to Chicago, but I was at the Grand Canyon in January (although we didn't come through Phoenix so I'm no help there). There's only 1 little town in the area, so sleeping and dining options are limited outside of the park. There is an ENTIRE town inside the park though, which looked lovely. We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, which was good enough for the 2 nights we were there. There was a much nicer hotel across the street (The Grand Hotel) which had a live Banjo player in the restaurant, which was awesome. I bet a helicopter tour would be a ton of fun.

  13. Ooooo, I love traveling! I'm going to second Lyndsay's suggestion about Zion. It's one of my favorite National Parks (and I've been to A LOT, thanks Dad). That's where we did that river hike last Fall, which I would totally and whole-heartedly recommend. But the whole park is stunning and incredibly majestic and very different from the Grand Canyon.

    I've been to the Grand Canyon, but someday I'm hoping to go back and white water raft through it. So, you should do that and let me know how it is. FYI, if you ride a mule down the canyon be aware that they walk very VERY close to the edge. Your foot would probably be hanging off the edge. I know you love heights, so just FYI. (But they say they've never lost a mule, so there's that)

    Also, the meteor crater outside of Flagstaff is a waste of time, in my opinion. It's a hole in the ground. I don't know, maybe it's cooler as an adult. As a kid I was super unimpressed.

  14. Grand Canyon is on my list, too!

    But we're in the 'burbs so I'm in the Chicago often. My sister lives in Wicker Park/works in South Loop and we love to eat in her areas.

    If you get yourself to Feast in Wicker Park you're in for a treat, both with the food and the shopping (it's up a few blocks from Feast at the gigantic intersection) in the area. When we're in South Loop, I'm a big fan of Karyn's on Green! Their butternut squash soup is ah-mazing :)

    We also have some friends in Bucktown where we eat at Piece for pizza and Hot Chocolate for dessert.

  15. Grand canyon advice: BRING ME. I've never been but I'm excited to hear how it goes!

  16. I've been to both places and they are amazing! Have fun :) I'm jealous now, I need to go and book a trip somewhere.

  17. An awesome coffee shop is Intelligentsia Coffee :D and of course Frontera (Rick Bayless) restaurant is great as well! His little small place called xoco is great for Torta's and fresh pressed hot chocolate oh and Churro's.

  18. Hi Michelle....I'm your mom's friend from grade school. I've lived in the Phoenix area for 26 years. I love the Grand Canyon!! I've hiked rim to rim three times as well as several other trips. I could write you a book! I'm sure you know that the tickets are cheap because most people think it is insanely hot in Phoenix in August! It also means you can often stay in a $500 a night room at a beautiful resort for cheap! The Grand Canyon will be crowded. If September is an option, I would suggest it. The temperatures at the rim will be cooler, but hiking down will also be a bit toasty. For the full Grand Canyon experience, you would need to stay at the El Tovar which was build in 1905 and is right on the rim. Stunning! There are several other options as you will have difficulty getting reservations for August. Send me a note if you (or anyone else) want me to keep going....and going....

  19. my favorite restaurant in Chicago is Cafe Babareeba...yum-o!

    They serve amazing Spanish Tapas among other's over on North Halsted St.

  20. Hey! I've enjoyed reading your posts for a few weeks now! Anyways, my husband and I took a Chicago weekend in Feb. In retrospect, I wish we would have planned ahead to get tickets to Second City comedy club and if we went back, we'd go in warmer weather to do the boat tours. I liked staying in "the loop" b/c it was easy to get everywhere by foot or train. Eat some deep dish pizza (I had never before) and go to American Dog but don't be upset if your city has a dog and it doesn't taste quite right.

    Our trip in detail is here if you are interested or if you just want to see what the seats on a megabus look like...

  21. When I visited the Grand Canyon in 2006, we stayed at the Yavapai Lodge in the park and loooved it. It's not luxurious or anything, but perfect if you want to stay right near the rim and explore the canyon.

  22. Restaurants: Ben Pao. Hub 51 (great brunch). Giordano's. I've heard great things about Girl and the Goat, Frontera, and The Purple Pig. My best friend loves Gene's and Jude's in River Grove (amazing hot dogs).

    A fun thing to do is to go to the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building for cocktails. Amazing views of the city for only the price of your drink!

    Touristy stuff: Navy Pier, river boat tour, Michigan Ave, Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), Millennium Park, museums (Field, Science and Industry), zoos/aquariums (Lincoln Park, Brookfield, Shedd), segway tour, White Sox game (we don't mention the other team in this house).

    I only know of the thrift stores in Oak Park because that's where my best friend lives (9 miles west of downtown). The names of the shops and links to their websites are listed in this post: If you head to Oak Park you can tour Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio (also mentioned in that post).

  23. My husband proposed to me in Chicago, so it holds a special place in my heart. I would suggest you go to Shedd Aquarium and the Art Institute. You guys have a blast! :)

  24. Do a segway tour. I haven't done a Chicago one, but the one in DC was super duper fun! I want to go to the Grand Canyon sometime, too. We almost drove out there when we were in Vegas, but decided against it.

  25. For Chi-town I heartily second the Segway tour suggestion - slightly nerdy by Oh so fun!
    For the GC - I would say to at least set aside one day to spend in Sedona. We honeymooned there and it is a little slice of Heaven. We stayed at Boots and Saddles B and B and the owners were so sweet. They even gave us a map of the town, asked us what we were hoping to do and then told us the best places to go, see, shop and eat. It was phenomenal. And the breakfast- to die for.

  26. This sounds like an incredible vacation! I've never been to either of those places, soooo can I come! ;)

  27. Chi-town is so fun! Unfortunately I don't have any great advice about where to go but you should definitely visit "the bean" and Millenium Park - they're just fun!
    As far as AZ, I just went last summer! We stayed in Sedona (very artsy) and also went up to the Grand Canyon. We hiked 3 miles down into the canyon and my best advice is to take plenty of ice water (in a thermos that will keep it COLD) and also some salty snacks!
    Have fun!!

  28. When you are in chicago go to YOLK for breakfast. Best breakfast everrr. There are two of them I believe. So delicious and worth the wait.

    We always love going to boystown. Best shops and the bars are always a blast there.

    If you go to wrigleyville, obviously visit the Cubby Bear, even if there isn't a game in town. It's still super fun.

    RIDE THE EL to get everywhere. It's so cheap and not as scary as you would think. You can pay for one 12 buck cab ride, or ride the el all weekend for less than that!

  29. I live in Chicago! I have to second the Yolk suggestion. It is the BEST breakfast place. There's one in the Sputh Loop on S. Michigan by the legs in Grant Park. The wait times can be long on weekends, but totally worth it. Afterwards you can walk through Grant Park (take Ike to Grant Bark Park!) and over to the Museum Campus. Everyone always loves the aquarium and the walk around the lake front and to the secluded 12th Street beach, which is around the peninsula from the planetarium.

    Lincoln Park is fun to walk around (and the zoo!). Cafe BaBaReeba has great tapas. On the Magnificent Mile, Purple Pig is to die for! It also has long waits, but seriously amazing food and wine. In Belmont Harbor you can take a flying trapeze class!! It's my favorite summer activity - you liked zip lining, so you should love this! It's even safer and the instructors are awesome.

    MK Restaurant is a fun fancy restaurant to go to if you want to splurge - read yelp reviews and your mouth will water for their desserts. Sugar Bliss cupcakes at Washington and Wabah in the Loop are worth a trip, then walk through old Marshall Field, now Macy's across the street.

    Hope you have an amazing visit! My husband and I moved here from NJ after falling in love with the city on a weekend getaway five years ago!
    Touristy things: as others suggested, the architecture cruise is a lot of fun and very informative. Save money and get great views: on weekdays go to the Daley Center at 55 West Washington. Go up to the library on the 29th floor for beautiful views of the whole city. See the Hancock and Sears Towers and the lake. It's the court house, so just go through security and up you go! The floors are actually double height. So you're really 60 floors up.

  30. Hi!

    I love your blog! And I especially love your house, and wish I had one just like it! Ha.

    Anyway, I live in Arizona! The ridiculous thing is I’ve only been to the Grand Canyon a total of 2 times in 22 years (that’s my age). But you’re in luck because I’ve hiked it. Now, I’ll just warn you that, it is fairly warm (around 120's) in august in Arizona. A few years back, we did the hike in august and I really wouldn't recommend it. While it was pretty and fun, you need a lot (a ton!) of water and maybe a different month of the year to really enjoy it. However, if august is the only month that will work, totally do it…just bring a lot of water and snacks.
    A really fun place to go is Sedona, I went last year and stayed for a few days and got the chance to explore. It’s a really fun, easy-going, yummy food place to go. In flagstaff, which you’ll pass through on your way to the Grand Canyon, is another awesome little city as well. There, you can enjoy lava tubes, tons of antique stores, and some of the best of the world whole in the wall coffee shops.

    Feel free to e-mail me with any questions or to get names of places!
    Hope Ike doesn’t miss you too much with all the traveling plans, but from the sound of it, grandma’s and grandpa is a good place to be for him.


  31. My dad's family lives in Chicago so we love going out there! My favorite thing is the architecture tour by boat. So fun and informative. Our favorite Chicago pizza is Ginos East and you must have a chicago hot dog (my dad takes us to Wolfies-- no idea how to get there). Wrigleyville is one of my favorite areas and don't forget to stop at for AMAZING home things!

  32. Grand Canyon advice: sunscreen, hats, those spray fans, whatever - vanity need not apply there. It's breathtaking. (If you're driving up, keep your eyes closed and have Nate lead you from the parking lot to the rim; it's worth the terror.)

  33. If you stay in Phoenix long enough to have breakfast, you HAVE TO HAVE TO HAVE TO go to Matt's Big Breakfast in downtown. I used to live a few blocks away from it and it is literally the world's greatest breakfast place. The bacon and hashbrowns will change your life. Have a fun trip!

  34. While you are in Chicago you must fine a small blues club on Clark street. If you like blues (and who doesn't), just ask a cab driver he'll know the best clubs. You also have to go the Navy Pier and the museum of Science and Industry. Have a fun trip! Connie :)

  35. I love Chicago! Just walking around the city is my favorite part! Stopping by from the Networking Blog Hop...I am your newest follower! I would love if you would check out my blog and if you like what you see please follow back :)
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  36. Watch the sun rise at the Grand Canyon--it is an amazing experience!

  37. Having just moved from Phx, I'll try to help on that end... but Phoenix in August - no wonder the flights are cheap!! It's pretty miserable there that time of year. Even at night, we're talking 105 degrees or so on average. And, maybe 120 during the day! So... basically, don't stay in Phx for too long. Maybe check out Cave Creek if you like Indian made jewelry and interesting western style shops. It's on the NE side of Phx. It's a mile or two of shops in a tiny town. Then, drive north to Sedona. Spend some time there. It's typically 10-20 degrees cooler there due to elevation. It's very pretty with the red rocks and shops. Good hiking in all of these places, but not so much in August. Then, head north to Flagstaff. It's an adorable little town. And, finally, to the Grand Canyon. It's a bit of a boring drive ones you get past Flagstaff, but easy. Keep in mind, there isn't a ton in between each of these places, so stock up on food and gas in between. But, from Phx to the GC, it's only 3.5 hours. So, not that far. Mainly, stay hydrated and keep cool. Enjoy!!

  38. Oh, and Flagstaff is even cooler and the GC is cooler - so you are headed in the right direction and may be able to hit temps around 90-95 at the GC on a good day. That's not too bad.

  39. I was just browsing on Pinterest and found a pretty cool Grand Canyon lookout/ skywalk.

    1. That is out in the middle of nowhere & there is nothing else around there. The closest city/town is Kingman, AZ, or Las Vegas, NV.

  40. Being born and raised in Arizona, I would personally think about picking a different time of year to hike the Grand Canyon, here's why:
    July and August comprise our monsoon season in Arizona and hiking can get quite dangerous. Since the monsoons come quickly and drop a lot of rain in a very short time, the dry desert doesn't have time to soak up the water and the canyons get very susceptible to deadly flash floods. You don't want to be near any rivers or canyons when these hit! The heat is still really bad in August as well, even as far north as the Grand Canyon, so hiking can be dangerous if you aren't accustomed to high temps. The Grand Canyon is beautiful, and so is AZ, but August is probably one of the worst times to visit, imo =) September or October should be much better - not too hot or cold and the summer storms will have passed.

  41. this is clearly an old post by now, but i am going to concur with sedona. rent a jeep for the day in sedona and they will give you a map so you can explore the red rocks on your own. the boyfriend is very adventurey and loved being able to drive on our own, not part of a larger tour just enjoying the ride.

  42. I second (or third or fourth or whatever it is by now!) a trip to Sedona. We used to go to Arizona every Thanksgiving because my grandparents lived out there, and although I haven't been in years I still have great memories of how beautiful Sedona was. In the Grand Canyon, I'd recommend staying at the Bright Angel Lodge. It's right in the park and very cozy!

  43. Absolutely check out Sedona! If you are driving, I'd encourage you to visit Sedona on your way back to Phoenix after visiting the Grand Canyon because you get to drive down Oak Canyon and its super gorgeous! Also, book early if you want to stay in a hotel right on the South Rim... we booked about 2 months in advance and there was only one room available.

  44. I have a friend who just hiked from the north rim of the GC to the south rim of the GC & it was pretty warm down in the river...hitting 100+ degrees. The donkey rides are reserved way in advance. Brandy's is a good place to eat in Flagstaff. Little America in Flagstaff is a great place to stay. Have fun.

  45. As an Arizona resident who loves the Grand Canyon, I have to agree that August is rough. Even though the rim may be comfortable, it is at a higher elevation, so as you descend into the canyon, the temps heat up considerably. However, you can enjoy hikes along the rim trail that can afford you many different views. Just bring water - I would recommend a Camelback - hats and sunscreen!

    Another option for lodging, if you are into camping, is Mather Campground in the park. It is awesome, and there is a shuttle bus stop right there, so you can hike the rim trail for as long as you want, and when you have had enough, just hop on the shuttle bus for a quick ride back.

    Many have suggested Sedona, and it is lovely. Definitely take the scenic route between Sedona and Flagstaff, by driving Oak Creek Canyon. Slide Rock State Park is a fun time, though it gets pretty crowded in summer. Also around Sedona, you can also check out Jerome, an old mining town turned funky/artsy community and Tuzigoot, an ancient pueblo. Depending on how much time you have, you can also take a trip to Prescott, though sadly historic Whiskey Row suffered from a fire recently that took out several businesses. The Sharlot Hall Museum is neat.

    Have a great time!

  46. Chicago: eat breakfast at Yolk! It's on Michigan Ave. the opposite direction of the river, but it is across from Grant Park. Also eat at Portillios. It's downtown and it's the perfect place to get a Chicago dog, fries, and drink for cheap! Burgers are great too! Wicker Park is an interesting area for unique shops. It also has a big Reckless Records if y'all enjoy vinyl. Ragstock is a huge vintage clothing store off the Belmont stop. Land of the Lost is right there tooOh! Can't believe I forgot! Cupcakes! Lol Sweet Mandy B's in Lincoln Park. Delicious cupcakes! They have a creamsicle cupcake that is ridiculous. If you take the subway you can walk a few blocks to it and the neighborhood is real nice for a walk. Taking a water taxi is fun and nice way to see Chicago from the river. The Ghiradelli shop has the absolute best chocolate chip cookie sundae ever. Yes it may be considered touristy, even though they have them in other cities, but it is in a touristy spot, but it is absolutely worth it. Lol locally, wonderful frozen custard at scooter's. Mmmmm. Ok that's all I can think of for now. Lol

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