Weekend Getaways Near Ohio – Chicago
It’s that time of year – scheduling vacation days! For those of us who work 40+ hours a week, the vacation day is a cherished, strategically-placed 8 hours that allow us the mind-break we need.
Traditionally, vacations are thought to be a “week vaca to the tropics” etc, but what I find to be the most bang for the buck are weekend getaways near Ohio. These spots are close enough to drive (cheap enough to fly sometimes, even) and are perfect for spending anywhere between 2.5-5 days.
My personal favorite weekend getaway is Chicago. It’s really easy to plan expeditions, please a crowd, spice up some couples’ time and execute travel plans. The fam, boyfriend and I went this past weekend, so I figured I’d share my wealth of knowledge and tips.
Who should go: Anyone. Chicago weekend getaways are good for families, including children, teenagers, adult children and shoulder-bag dogs. Great for bachelor and bachelorette parties – you will see these nearly everywhere at night. Girls or guys trips, and the good old couple’s getaway. E and I have been there a few times and always find something new. I’ll also tag along with my parents to visit my sister which is usually pretty good for family bonding time… and extreme sidewalk walking.
How to get there: Driving is easy for those who don’t mind being in the driver’s seat, and great for those 2+ people trips. Drive time from Ohio to Chicago is around 5.5 hours – 6 hours plus a one hour time change between states. You can also look to spend around $60-80 in tolls, and this is only a one tank trip only if you’re not planning to come back, so factor in two tanks of gas. Hence, why driving is better for those going in a group. Flying is your other option, and you can get good deals on plane tickets through Southwest (until they cancel the CAK-MID flight in November 2013 – no idea why, the planes are always packed) and I’m sure other airlines too. Also, your travel time will only be around 3 hours with check-in and flight. Personal note – Midway’s ticket check and security line make you want to pull your hair out. CAK is awesome though, and they have power outlets available for your use. Yay, Ohio airport win.
What to do in Chicago: Eat, shop, look, drink, spend money, listen, try public transit, meet people, take in culture, get jealous, be a tourist. A few notable things to do and places to see:
Chicago Detours: This is a unique historical/architectural walking tour that not only takes you into some of the more recognizable buildings in Chicago, but also educates you about this history in a fun manner that includes iPads, videos, photos and a spunky tour guide. We went on the interior loop tour which was pretty neat, even E, an architecture aficionado, enjoyed it. It’s $26 each, but you can usually find a Groupon in the CHI town area that will get you in around $17. Like history and drinking? They even have a “Good Times Historic Bar Tour” which is a bit pricier at $34 + drinks, but hey, you’re drinking and taking in history so it’s technically like paying for college again.
There are also the Chicago “staples” that you should make sure you to see:
- The Bean – in the middle of Millenium Park (also a must see.)
- Buckingham Fountain
- The Water Tower
- The Magnificent Mile (Shopping is easier, and there are more sales on State St. which is a few blocks away. The stores are the same, but generally have more in them, as most of the stores on Michigan Ave. are flagship stores.)
- Wrigley Field
- Frank Lloyd Wright’s Studio and Home in Oak Park
- Soldier Field
- The BEACH – lots of volleyball games, snack shops and places to sprawl out in the sand.
Education/Museums: Field Museum, Aquarium, Science and Innovation, and the Planetarium are all in onespot. Plus, you can get in for discounted prices if you get a “City Pass which saves you a ton of money, There is also an option to visit the Hancock observatory. *OR – If you are cheap… go for a drink on a floor below the Hancock Observatory in their Signature Lounge to avoid paying an $18 admission. Instead you can pay $7.50 for a domestic beer and look out that window instead. I don’t normally make that beer suggestion, but wine (poor quality) at $14 per glass… you will feel shafted.
Other activities include pub tours, boat tours, the Navy Pier, street festivals, beer and fresh market festivals, music events on corners, and street vendors. Or come for a holiday, everyone likes getting a good level of drunk on St. Pat’s day and what not.
Chicago Getaway Food: Looking to please a crowd? Good, because I’ve never personally been able to pick one spot and go enjoy it on my own either. That’s kind of the vacation way though, correct? So for those who have a mom who hates anything spicy (a spec of black pepper included), a dad who loves Cajun, a sister who is lactose intolerant, the following spots work: Lou Malnati’s, Pizzeria Uno, Giordano’s or Gino’s for Chicago Style Pizza, Al’s Italian Beef, Potbelly Sandwiches (also in Canton now), The Black Duck and Su Casa Mexican. I also hear that Star of Sian is fab Thai food but can’t 100% vouch.
Some notable stops for a refreshing cocktail include:
Old Town Social: Get their Earl Grey Southside, Hendricks gin, black tea syrup, lime and mint.
The Barrelhouse Flat: The bartenders there get to create their own signature drinks, and they’re amazing and totally hand crafted. I tried the Harold & Maude, and recommend it.
Goose Island Brewery: You have to get Matilda or Sophie.
If you’re not much for drinking, Lincoln Park has a farmers market on the weekends with fresh, organic sodas that have rhubarb, mint, lemons, limes, coconut, etc. as the focus ingredient.
When: Go in the spring, summer or fall. Honestly, I’ve been there each time and can’t complain. Each season has its own ups, spring has the St. Patrick’s Day celebration which is HUGE, you can check out the beach near Lincoln Park and Downtown in summer and fall is just very pretty and you’re not sweating bullets the whole time should you choose to walk 15+ miles during your weekend getaway.
Also note that Chicago is ENORMOUS. The different neighborhoods that are included that should be checked out include:
- Downtown Chicago: The Loop, Near North, Near South
- Oak Park
- Lincoln Park
- Wicker Park
- Old Town
Tell us more about your weekend getaways near Ohio! Are they in Pennsylvania, Indiana or Michigan? Tell us, we love hearing more about your suggestions.