I was recently approached by Kendra Thornton to collaborate on post about the two fantastic cities that we call home; Toronto for me and Chicago for her. While I've never been to Chicago, I've heard wonderful things about it and even heard of a few people saying that it is similar to Toronto. I absolutely love my city and was thrilled at the opportunity to share a few of my favourite things to do here!
Here is a little bit about Kendra, followed by her post about Chicago:
Kendra, the former Director of Communications at orbitz.com, has been packing her bags and traveling the world since she visited the Bahamas at 3 months old. She comes from a family of travel agents and founded Thornton Public Relations LLC in April 2005. She also appears regularly as a travel expert on ABC, CBS, NBC and CW affiliates across the country to share travel trends, tips and deals with millions of viewers every year.
HOMETOWN FAVORITES: Chicago
Chicago is my home, and it is a wonderful place to live. There is so much to do at all times, and it is a great city to raise a family in. If you are planning a trip to Chicago, there are so many options and things to do. Chicago is home to numerous restaurants featuring some of the items that make Chicago famous, as well as unique shops and culture filled neighborhoods. Chicago is a fantastic place to live, and below are some of my favorites attractions and eateries in the city.
1. Oak Street
If you are visiting Chicago and want to spend some time pampering yourself by shopping, check out Oak Street. This is a smaller area, but offers numerous shopping options for everyone. Oak Street is a very cool place, as many of the boutiques are converted brownstones that look like they are straight out of a history book! This adds to the culture of the area, and gives it a rich historical feel. Some of the stores you will find on Oak Street are Jimmy Choo, Barney, and Kate Spade. Oak Street is easy to find, as it is only one block north of the "Magnificent Mile" on North Michigan Avenue.
2. Millennium Park
When the weather is nice, one of my favorite places to bring my family is Millennium Park. This is a national landmark that is home to the sculpture Cloud Gate, otherwise known as "The Bean". This sculpture is shaped like a bean, and tourists commonly photograph themselves in front of it. The Bean appears as if it is made of liquid mercury, and it distorts your shape and image while reflecting the skyline of Chicago behind you as well. Constructed by the Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate is 66 feet long and 33 feet high. There is so much more to Millennium Park than just The Bean, with the Lurie Garden, the Jun Kaneko Exhibition (until November 3rd!), the Crown Fountain, and more!
3. Hot Doug's
If you are looking for a great place to grab a bite to eat when you are in Chicago, check out Hot Doug's. Hot Doug's is often called the "sausage superstore and encased meat emporium," and you can get some of the best hot dog's Chicago has to offer here! This hot dog joint is Chicago true and through, with the menu featuring items named for legendary Chicago figures.
If this is your first trip to Chicago, you may not know where to stay. Pick a hotel that is near some of the locations you want to visit, and check out the neighborhood around the hotel as well. Many neighborhoods in Chicago have a unique historic feel to them, as well as interesting landmarks. To help you pick a great hotel in Chicago, check out Gogobot. This website is a great resource to have when figuring out what lodging options are available near areas you will be visiting.
There are just a few of my Chicago favorites, and merely some of the reasons I love living in this city. The next time you are planning a visit to Chicago, consider these tips and incorporate some of the destinations into your vacation. Shop on Oak Street, take your picture with "The Bean", and eat a famous hot dog at Hot Doug's. Don't forget to use gogobot for your accommodations, so you can find a hotel close to all the Chicago attractions you want to visit. Regardless of the season, you are sure to have a great time in Chicago!
And now, here's what I had to say about wonderful Toronto!
HOMETOWN FAVOURITES: Toronto
I love Toronto. I fell in love with it all over again since moving back after being away for 8 years. Since I've been back, I've made a point of exploring new neighbourhoods and trying new things. I spend my days with 2-year old twins in tow, so I've recently realized how kid-friendly Toronto is. Whether you're looking for a quiet, lazy day or a day jam-packed with action and adventure, Toronto has it all. Here are a few places that I have loved taking my twins.
The farm offers free admission and is right in the heart of a downtown neighbourhood, Cabbagetown. I still can't get over that there is a farm in the middle of the city! Take a stroll through the farm's 7.5 acres and check out the animals, duck pond and butterfly garden. Farm staff are happy to answer questions or give your kiddos an up close look at some of the animals. From May through October, a farmers market is set up on Tuesday afternoons just outside the farm's gate. When the kids are finished at the farm, grab a coffee at Jet Fuel on Parliament and take a walk through Cabbagetown to check out the old Victorian homes.
You can't go wrong with a visit to the Toronto Islands. The collection of islands actually make up the largest urban car-free community in North America. Between April and October, hop on the ferry near the base of Yonge St for a quick ride over to Centre Island. If you've got little ones in tow, try out a few rides at Centreville and check out Far Enough Farm and interactive Franklin's Children's Garden. Bring bathing suits and enjoy the splash pads, wading pools and beach. Rent bikes and travel around the island or head to less crowded Ward's Island.
This east end Toronto neighbourhood has been heavily gentrified in the last 10 years. It is now packed with trendy shops, restaurants and cafes. While it is only a 10 minute streetcar ride from downtown, it still offers a comfortable neighbourhood feel. Locals joke that you can't walk a block without seeing a dog or a stroller. Check out kid-friendly Lady Marmalade or Bonjour Brioche for an incredible brunch, but be warned that the line ups start early! If you've got a sweet tooth, Desmond & Beatrice, for cupcakes, and Ed's Real Scoop, for ice cream, are where it's at. Te Aro's espresso is top notch and their patio is fantastic for an afternoon break. Stroll along Queen East and pop into some of the independent vintage furniture, design or fashion shops and galleries or hit up one of Leslieville's many parks for the kiddos.
I'm a self-professed foodie. Pre-kids, we were often exploring new and exciting restaurants. Toronto is a foodie's heaven and you don't always have to pay an arm and a leg for it. Toronto offers a taste of every culture so you can make your way around the world, from Little Italy to Kensington Market to Little India, without ever leaving the city! Definitely step out of the downtown core and head to Queen West, Ossington or Leslieville for dinner. A few of my personal favourites: Delux (Ossington), Lee (King West), Barque (Roncesvalles) and Queen Margherita (Leslieville). From May until October, be sure to shop with the locals at one of Toronto's many farmer's markets, including the Brickworks on Saturday mornings (year round). Most neighbourhood's offer a smaller weekly market at a local park.
The city offers something for everyone so enjoy and let me know what you think!