Sightseeing takes on a much different perspective be it by plane, train or automobile but a world-class city like Chicago is perfect on foot. For the first time in decades, I was in town for WordCamp Chicago the weekend of April 28th, took a different approach to getting around enjoying the art, architecture during free moments.
A good walk for me consists of the following elements:
- Steppibility or Distance – the ability to clear your mind, breathe during the stroll is important with 3,000 to 7,000 steps as an end goal;
- Shade quota – I’m not good with too much sun, so the option of dipping into shaded areas along the path is important as well; and
- Visual interest – a change of scenery is great for walking, I seek something different from where I am. At home I drive to a local area park with lots of terrain and level changes or in this case, Chicago has incredible public art and architecture, a river winding through the loop and people rushing to and fro
Day 1: Friday, April 27th 14,880K Steps
Our first event, the speaker’s dinner, held at Jefferson Tap, was in the evening so midday I took off east on Randolph St towards Lake Michigan. Before my heart event, I would never think to move around a city on foot, but a new day brings a new outlook on trying to incorporate activity into everything I do.
Chicago is very similar to New York in that the streets are bustling with traffic, pedestrians, bikes, boards, trains and everything in-between. Immediately, the West Loop has theaters with the classic marquees, elevated trains, and the Ogilvie Transportation Center. What sticks out is the industrial feel of the station – girders, rivets of a very mature transit system and the bright green bike lane stripe.
Very quickly, you see the water of the Chicago River complete with a drawbridge, replete with tour boats beneath me and an awesome pedestrian path that I wish I had time to explore. To the north, the elevated train buzzed by at set intervals. Ah, the big city at its best.
In Los Angeles, our transit system is a baby in comparison and to the north and west the elevated trains chortle by on intervals in the cold spring air. The underbelly of the system throws patterned shade and creates more tourist interest with both street level and above ground stations at the Oglivie Transportation Center then Clinton. Being a transportation agency employee, this alerted the Trolley Jolly in me.
As an art history minor in college, the first gem along my path was Monument with Standing Beast (1984, Jean Dubuffet, French Painter and Sculptor) in front of the James R Thompson Center. One of three sculpture commissions in the United States based on Dubuffet’s painting series Hourloupe (1960). Such a graphic, organic contrast to the straight lines of steel and brick surrounding it, the white fiberglass sculpture is emblazoned in my memories as a one of a kind piece.
Along the Water’s Edge
Crossing State Street, then Michigan Avenue made me feel like I was in the midwest again as both of these famed streets are near my alma mater (in nearby Ann Arbor). A slight incline, then slow decent brought me to Lake Michigan. To my left were tall, colorful condominiums and at my back the full view of the skyline was now apparent in one eyeful. On the right the Federal Building Columns (Henry Ives Cobb, 1905), two Corinthian columns guarding the entrance to the Cancer Survivor’s Garden.
I turned south and returned up Monroe Street. Millenium Park and Art Institute of Chicago rounded out a full day of sights and sounds. Up Michigan Avenue was a burger joint (Shake Shack) in a historic landmark (Chicago Athletic Association Hotel). Wow, art is everywhere here and day one was awesome.