By Samantha Lambert
It was a 30th anniversary trip my husband Scott and I had planned, taking us from Fort Walton Beach to Chicago and back. The second half of our adventure is covered here.
We continued our trip from Louisville, Kentucky, to Indianapolis, Indiana. Along the way we saw the Meadow Lake Wind Farm near Brookston, Indiana, containing more than 600 wind turbines. According to their website, the farm can provide enough power for approximately 157,000 Indiana homes.
We made a quick stop at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway located in Speedway, Indiana. It is the home of the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is located inside the 2.5-mile oval track. Check it out at IndyRacingMuseum.org.
From Indianapolis, we headed to Chicago. Our son Alex had flown into Louisville the night before to take in Chicago with us. Luckily for us, my college roommate Kim and her husband Don live part-time in the Windy City and were our tour guides. We stayed at the Marriot Residence Inn Dearborn in the north end of Chicago. Great hotel, and convenient to the downtown sites.
That first afternoon, the three of us walked over to the Trump International Hotel for drinks on the 16th floor terrace. Beautiful views of the city from there. We then headed over to Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse on Kinzie Street where we met Kim and Don for dinner.
The food was outstanding. I had the Chicken Vesuvio, and Scott and Alex had the Chicken Parmigiana. There is plenty of sports memorabilia there as well since Caray was the longtime announcer for the Chicago Cubs.
The next morning Kim and Don took us on a walking tour of the city. We took pictures by the Chicago River and walked down Michigan Avenue, a/k/a The Magnificent Mile. We then headed to the Chicago Bean, a huge stainless steel bean-shaped sculpture by artist Anish Kapoor located in Millennium Park. The Bean reflects the Chicago Skyline and images of visitors who walk to and under it. A must-see.
We then headed to Chicago’s Navy Pier, a 3,300-foot long pier on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan. One of the major attractions there is the Centennial Wheel, a Ferris wheel that climbs to heights of nearly 200 feet and offers 360-degree views of the city.
Navy Pier has many restaurants where you can enjoy some of Chicago’s favorite foods. We had lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern which inspired the classic John Belushi-era Greek restaurant sketches on Saturday Night Live.
That afternoon, we went over to Wrigley Field (MLB.com/cubs/ballpark) on the L train. Traveling by train was super easy and convenient—three dollars for a one-way ticket. It was our first time there, and we walked around the stadium first to check it out. We then stopped in Murphy’s Bleachers, a sports pub across from Wrigley Field, for drinks before the game.
Murphy’s has been there for almost 80 years and is packed before a Cubs home game. Our seats were in the bleacher section and even though we had on New York Mets attire, the Cubs fans were pretty nice to us. It was a fun night and an easy ride on the L train back to our hotel.
On our way out of Chicago the next day, we dropped our son off at the airport for his flight back to Fort Walton Beach. We continued on to St. Louis, Missouri, where we went up in the famous Gateway Arch (GatewayArch.com), the tallest manmade monument in the U.S.
It is 630 feet or 63 stories up to the top in a small capsule-like tram. At the top is an observation deck where you see magnificent views of the city and the Mississippi River. It is not a place for those with a fear of heights. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing it.
Our last stop was Memphis, Tennessee, where we stayed at the The Guesthouse at Graceland (GuesthouseGraceland.com). It opened two years ago and is on Elvis Presley Boulevard (Highway 51). The Guesthouse definitely has the Elvis touch, along with his music playing throughout the hotel.
Shuttles take you to Graceland, which is just down the street. You are provided with a tablet and headphones that explain parts of the mansion on the tour. Our tour included the lower floor of the house, the grounds, and Elvis’ private jet, the Lisa Marie. Lunch at Gladys’s Diner completed our visit to Graceland.