Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chicago's State Street: Downtown's Sexy Main Street

State Street from above the L Stop

I remember going downtown during high school and feel scared and shaky walking down dark, garbage lined streets. In the 80's and 90's, downtown Chicago was downright depressing. It looked like the street Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall moved to in the movie "Coming To America".  Well....(Insert banal quote) "we've come a seriously long way, baby". State Street is no longer the ugly stepsister of Michigan Ave. You can find great shopping, decent food, and fun sight seeing walking down State St. in the heart of the Loop.

Getting To State Street.

The Red Line, Green Line, Brown, and Orange Line "L" trains all make stops on State Street. The State & Lake stop is by far the best stop to exit the train and begin an excursion down State St. into the Loop.

Shopping: For many years there wasn't any great stores on State Street. besides Marshall Fields and Carson's. In the late 90's and throughout many well recognized retailers have made their way to State Street. The great thing is that they have taken up residence within wonderfully historic building such as the few I've listed below.

The Controversial Macy's. The Marshall Field sign remains.

Target:  The retail giant moved into the gorgeous building that used to be home to Carson Pirie Scott on State Street. With great food offerings and a large selection of apparel handpicked for Loop dwellers, this Target has a great urban sophisticated vibe that makes it way cooler than the others.
Target- I love this building's design

I still love the old Marshall Field's Clock
Macy's vs. Marshall Field's: Many Chicagoan's still haven't gotten over Macy's purchasing our beloved Marshall Field's. Remember the petition? I, for one, signed it. But, the good thing is that the building's exterior and interior is still beautiful and ornate. Funny enough, there is actually still a group fighting to bring Marshall Field's back! I think we've lost guys....

Block Thirty Seven-Shops on State: You know how Michigan Ave has the Water Tower? Well, here's State Street's equivalent and it's pretty good. Block Thirty Seven has a list of impressive stores like Eileen Fisher, AkiraAnthropologie, Zara, and Sephora to name a few. Not bad, right? Plus, you can head to Magnolia Bakery for a cupcake while shopping.

Style aficionados won't be disappointed in here

Movies & Theatre

Gene Siskel Film Center: Film lovers may want to go and pay homage to a legendary film critic, Gene Siskel, by catching an international or independent film at the Gene Siskel Film Center

Broadway in Chicago-Book of Mormon, Wicked, and more all come for long runs at the Bank of America and Oriental Theaters.


Here's where I often find myself a little conflicted and in need of some help. I don't tend to find great dining in the heart of the Loop and definitely not on State Street.  You can certainly find great chain options like Potbelly's Chick-Fil-A, and Jamba Juice on this stretch of block. Or, you can head up to the Walnut Room on the top floor of Macy's for standard fare. So, I say head further north on State Street. or to Michigan Avenue.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Travel Souvenirs & Loved Ones: A Controversial View

I'm going to tell you something and you're not going to like it. I do not buy souvenirs when I'm on vacation. At least, I don't buy them for other people. There it is. I said it. Before you judge me please hear me out:

 In my everyday life I am a gift giver. I am a "for-no-good-reason" gift giver. If I see something that I think would make a friend, lover, or relative happy, then I will buy it for them immediately I have been told I am very good at giving gifts-"you give the best gifts" has been said to me. These gifts come unexpectedly and without reason. Although, I do love birthdays and holidays so I give during those times too. I come up with ideas and themes and all kinds of hoopla to make it fun and exciting. This is who I am; except on vacation.

Souvenirs are supposed to signify travel memories. When you give souvenirs it feels like you're sharing the place you visited.  But, does it really? Here's a hard truth: Souvenir buying can be draining. Trying to remember everyone is a chore. Making sure not to buy too much because of the baggage check-in that can skyrocket in fees that  rival your monthly student loan payment is an exercise in hard math. Oh, and the thing you really don't want to accept is that the gifted people will probably lose the key chain you bought, and fade the t-shirt in the dryer.  True story: my wonderful mother figure, Karolyn purchased and sent a ton of postcards from a beautiful locale that didn't reach folks until long after she had come home.

I believe the point of a vacation is to vacate your life. Leave all the routine and predictable and be completely and utterly (self) absorbed in the life of carefree traveler. You are experiencing room service, non-stop dining, and simply walking around without any true purpose except to enjoy doing whatever you want.

It's glorious..liberating..empowering! So, why ruin it by standing in a suffocating shop with an array of over-priced cotton t-shirts, refrigerator magnets, key chains, and hats to buy for people that you are giving things to most of your life anyway?I don't do it. I am giving you permission not to do it. If you are going on vacation and you come back empty handed, then blame it on me. Instead, spend the extra time and money on some new experience. A walking tour, a great meal, or buy yourself something great that will always make you think of your trip. Souvenirs aren't necessary because experiences are forever, and the best gift you can give to another is to encourage or help them to go visit where you've been and experience it for themselves.