I lived in Chicago for seven years in the ‘90s. I fell in love with Chicago the very first time I visited. And it was here that I began my career in earnest as a food critic and travel writer.
Much has changed since then. Just before I left the Windy City for California, Chicago politicians were talking about rejiggering downtown’s Wacker Drive along the river to make way for a riverwalk, sort of like San Antonio’s except 10 times as spectacular. It seemed like a farfetched idea for a river that always lived an industrial life. It was a shipping channel, not a recreation zone. Locals just shrugged, thinking it couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be done.
Earlier this year, nearly two decades in the making, the Chicago Riverwalk was officially completed. And what an impressive sight it is to behold. I didn’t have the time or the stamina to walk the entire span around both forks of Wacker Drive, which is miles long. But I did dedicate one morning to exploring a 12-block stretch between Michigan Avenue and the Kinzie Street Bridge.
Forever one of the world’s most significant cities for architecture, Chicago’s skyline has grown even more spectacular in recent years, both around the river and along the lakefront. Meanwhile, the conjoined neighborhoods of Bucktown and Wicker Park have certainly grown up, too. The area was still on the verge of gentrification when I left but has since blossomed into a luxury residential neighborhood to rival Lakeview and Lincoln Park. And while the neighborhood has long been a magnet for hot restaurants, it finally welcomed its first serious hotel in November, The Robey.
Here’s a quick look at my recent 72 hours in Chicago, a city that I still love — except for winters, of course. It was fun playing tourist. The first snow of the year is always beautiful, and I was able to catch that on this visit, although it didn’t really stick. Colder (brutally cold) weather and much more snow was on its way. I got out in the knick of time.
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