A Concert Trip to LA and Chicago
After spending some time with family in San Diego, I took a detour through LA on my way to Chicago for a concert. I spent ~2 days in each city, and tried to make the most of it, with very little planning done ahead of time. Below, I describe the day-by-day itinerary, with some thoughts scattered throughout.
- I ended up driving to LA from near San Diego instead of taking a flight, which was my original plan. Turns out that the little 12 seater Cessna that was supposed to fly us isn’t super happy flying in a little wind (supposed hurricane), so they cancelled my flight with ~12 hours notice.
- The rental car I got was a Polestar 2, which was fun to drive, but finding charging spots near LA was annoying. With the charging spots the Polestar found along the route, 1 of the 3 chargers at the first location was broken, and the other 2 were occupied. I found a larger spot afterwards, but I only got ~50 kW charging instead of the ~150-350kW that was quoted, so my stop ended up being longer than expected. This was also after having paid for the extra charging option with the rental ($35 or so) which would let me return the car nearly dead on battery.
- I ended up arriving in LA around ~8pm. I also had to go to get my car swapped at the airport, which killed a little time. Interestingly, the rental car facilities weren’t all directly adjacent to one another - it was a ~15 minute walk from the Hertz facility (returned the Polestar) to the National one (my rental for LA), which isn’t like other airport rentals I’ve been to.
- I was in the mood to try some Indonesian food, so I found an upscale restaurant which was open late-ish. Unfortunately the food ended up being kinda disappointing, and definitely not worth the $80 or whatever the total meal came to. There were a ton of better ways I could’ve spent the money. There was a second, cheaper, Indonesian restaurant right next to it that closed a little earlier - I probably should’ve just tried going there and eaten quickly.
- I drove over to Santa Monica Beach / Pier, since it was supposed to be pretty. Finding legal parking here was tricky, I definitely killed ~30 minutes driving into various lots, only to find that the parking was residents only, or the meter wasn’t working or whatever. There’s a few official beach parking lots too, but only one of them was open when I got there. I ended up giving in and parking in the real beach parking lot for $15 or so.
- Overall, I thought the Beach / Pier wasn’t really worth it - it’s a standard boardwalk affair, with some street vendors selling churros / writing your name on rice / doing name paintings / etc, along with a small amusement park (ferris wheel, small rollercoaster, etc), and an arcade. The arcade seemed to have some fairly recent games though, so that was nice. In hindsight, I would’ve saved myself the money / time and gone somewhere else.
- On the way to my hotel, I stopped by Urban Lights, the public lantern art you see on Instagram and such all the time. As I perhaps should have expected, even at 9pm or so it was still quite packed. I didn’t even bother going into the center of it, just grabbed a couple pictures from around the side. The closest parking was a block or two away - I happened to park near the Petersen Automotive Museum, which I wasn’t initially planning on visiting, but seeing it in person convinced me to add it to the plan for the next day.
- I got to the hotel and checked in. The hotel was fine, though it had a bit of a smell, and was generally less than I expected for $150 / night. At least parking was free / included, though the ramp into the parking garage is steep, with a low ceiling, so definitely a little pucker-inducing.
- In hindsight, I probably should’ve skipped both the Santa Monica Pier and Urban Lights, and tried something else, like the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, which was open until ~11pm, and was quite near my hotel. I didn’t get to do this later in the trip, and is something I’ll probably try to see next time I go to LA.
- If I had arrived earlier in the day, it would’ve been nice to go to the Grand Central Market, which I hear comes highly recommended as well. Unfortunately, it was closed by the time I arrived, but perhaps I’ll be able to go next time.
- Before the trip, I was able to reach out to a friend and set up a tour of JPL from ~9am - 11am. I drove over to Pasadena from the hotel for this, planning to arrive a little early (~8:50), but ended up arriving right around 9am due to the infamous LA traffic. I’d probably have left a little earlier in hindsight, but I didn’t end up missing anything.
- The walk over from the parking lots to the visitor center is also a couple minutes (at least parking was free), and you then need to show ID before they’ll give you a visitor badge. There were also a few forms I had to fill out ahead of time. I started planning this ~2 weeks before arriving, which was enough time, though perhaps a little tight.
- The tour overall was fantastic (at least, for a space nerd), and I’d highly recommend this. There were also some public tours going on in the morning, but when I looked online those seemed to be booked out, so you’d probably want to book those further ahead of time. There was definitely a tour starting at 9:30 AM, potentially some earlier too.
- The gift shop inside the JPL campus is much better than the one in the visitor center. I made the mistake of not stopping in the shop on campus thinking I’d be able to get back in later, but I wasn’t allowed to be there unescorted, and the security guards won’t escort you to the gift shop inside. They also got mad at me when I tried to grab my visitor badge again from the return box and use it to get past the security gate again. Oops.
Petersen Automotive Museum
- It was a decent drive (~45 mins-1 hour?) back to Hollywood. I drove directly to the Petersen Automotive Museum, which, as mentioned above, I stumbled upon the night before and wanted to add to my itinerary. This time, I parked directly in the museum itself (street parking didn’t occur to me, and it was probably full anyway), but at least I was able to stay parked here the entire day (open until ~11pm iirc, even though the museum closes at 5ish). Parking was $15 or something. Interestingly, the parking lot also had a few cars on display near the museum doors, e.g. the (or one of?) Tesla Semi prototype from 2017. Neat.
- I had lunch at the cafe in the museum itself. I was a little early (~11:30?), so the pizza they had wasn’t available yet, but I was still able to get something from the bakery.
- I ended up spending ~2 hours at the museum. I think I could’ve maybe spent another 30 mins here, but anything longer than 3 hours probably would’ve been too much. I went through the entire museum, though I kinda glossed over the small section dedicated to motorcycles.
- The gift shop was pretty neat, if you’re into model cars and other automotive collectables and such. I wasn’t. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a nice deck of cards that was car related.
- I went to the Academy Museum afterwards, since it closed a little later (~6pm instead of ~5pm iirc?). It was just a short walk over, basically across the street, so I could leave my car parked in the Petersen museum like I said above.
- This museum was really nice - surprisingly large inside, with a ton of movie memorabilia from basically the advent of movie making onwards. Just entering the lobby should give you a sense of scale, the ceilings are like 3 stories high.
- I ended up spending ~2-3 hours here. I got a lot of value out of the time, but I think I could’ve easily spent another hour or two here. Towards the end there were definitely sections I had to skip as I was getting late for the Griffith Observatory. I really enjoyed the time overall though, one of the best museums I’ve been to. Also highly recommended.
- If you can plan ahead, it might be nice to try to align your trip with a movie showing in the basement of the museum. IIRC the showing they had the day I was there wasn’t particularly appealing to me, and I had to run anyway.
- The cafe / restaurant at the museum (Fanny’s?) also seems pretty nice (fairly upscale), if you’re looking for a nice sit-down experience rather than the quick meal at the Petersen Museum, this might be the way to go.
- One of the floors was still under construction when I went, set to open in September 2023 I believe, so if you go after that you’ll have even more content to keep you occupied.
- The gift shop at the museum was also really nice - they had a bunch of neat card decks from various movies, including a lovely set from Dune that I ended up buying.
- I didn’t end up doing the Oscar experience (separate $15 ticket), but supposedly that would’ve let me pretend to go onstage and collect my own Oscar. Could’ve been fun, but alas, no time.
- I walked back to the car and then either stopped at the hotel for a bit, or went directly to the observatory, I don’t remember. Probably the latter.
- My original intention was to get to the Observatory an hour or so before sunset, parking directly at the top, which would hopefully have given me enough time to see the various displays at the Observatory before it closed.
- Unfortunately, the traffic situation made this impossible. I think the entirety of LA had the same idea I did, so the quoted time to get to the summit basically ended up being doubled. Even worse, I got turned away from parking at the summit, as the parking lot was full, so I had to drive a decent bit back down the mountain.
- I ended up parking on the opposite side of the mountain from where I came, and then hiked up to the top (~20 minutes, 0.7 miles, but fairly steep). In hindsight, I should’ve just planned on doing this from the very start, which would’ve saved me a bunch of time sitting in traffic, and would’ve allowed me to get up to the top earlier.
- Until sunset (~20-30 minutes, I think?) I just stayed outside on the nice grassy lawn outside the observatory, taking photos of the Hollywood sign and such. I didn’t have any quarters for the various tourist telescopes that they had, but I’m not sure how much those would’ve added anyway.
- There were also a couple of free public telescopes, which was really cool to see. They didn’t let you take photos through the telescope for some reason, but you still got a really zoomed in (~80x?) view of the moon - you could clearly make out individual craters, which was incredible. My first time seeing the moon at that level of detail.
- After sunset, I walked into the observatory, and bought tickets for the last show of the night at the planetarium. I headed almost directly there and waited in line for ~20-30 minutes, being the first person in the queue. I originally did this because I thought there wasn’t much more to do / see at the Observatory, which turned out to be wrong. I did get a great seat for the planetarium show (right in the back is apparently where you want to be), but I should’ve taken an extra 10-15 minutes to wander around inside.
- The show was probably really good … but I fell asleep for a little bit in the middle. Long day, I guess?
- I think we left from a different door than we came in from, which put me on the roof in a new location. I wandered around a bit and found the Observatory’s “real” telescope, instead of the smaller ones they had in the front lawn. There was a really nice astronomer showing off the telescope and answering questions, and I had some fun chatting with him for a while. I think the last entry was 8:45 into the room, and I just barely made it.
- Unfortunately, this was right after some very heavy rain in LA. As a precaution, the observatory closed up the telescope / dome, but apparently in doing so, some of the parts got stuck, so they weren’t able to aim the telescope at anything interesting. They could still rotate the dome around though (it can move a full 360 degrees due to some slip rings), which was still cool to see.
- The telescope isn’t actually used for real science, but that was apparently never the goal. The observatory was built as a “public science” exhibit from the very beginning, intended to get people interested in space. Otherwise, there’s no reason to build an observatory right next to a densely populated city like LA (with stupid amounts of light pollution).
- The observatory was nearly closed at this point, but I still had some time to wander around the exhibits inside. I found myself inside a very large room with a bunch of planet models hanging from the ceiling (in the basement?) which I unfortunately had basically 0 time to explore. I wish I’d have arrived earlier and knew that this room existed, I would’ve liked to explore it.
- On my way out, I also found a couple of models which were supposed to show you the sun’s spectrograph … but that only worked when the sun was out, which is yet another reason I should’ve arrived earlier, and probably not spent as much time relaxing (and catching my breath) on the lawn. For future reference, these exhibits were just on the entrance level of the observatory (a few rooms in) so you wouldn’t have to go far to see them.
- I also discovered the gift shop a little too late. Turns out it closes at 6 or 7 … oops. I would’ve really liked to get some space themed stuff since I wasn’t able to get cards at JPL. Oh well.
- The security seemed pretty on top of kicking everyone out at 10pm when the Observatory closed. I then had to hike back down in the dark which was … less than ideal. I thought originally that there’d be more people going down with me, and it’d be okay, but it seemed I was the only one left going down that route. Maybe all the others just left a little earlier, or maybe the back route isn’t that popular anyway. I had 2 phones going for flashlights all the way down, playing music to keep myself sane. The terrain wasn’t bad (though there’s no railings, so make sure you don’t fall down around the turns), just very dark.
- I tried finding a cocktail bar on the way back to my hotel, but the couple that stood out didn’t have any parking available nearby, so I ended up just driving back directly to the hotel and prepared for another early morning (and checkout).
Paramount Studios VIP Tour
- I booked the 9:30 AM VIP tour of Paramount Studios. This also turned out to be a fantastic experience, and I’d definitely recommend it for any movie fans.
- The VIP tour included parking, which was nice, and also (unexpected) let you place a coffee order for free when you checked in. That was nice. I guess they had plenty of PAs on hand due to the strikes? I did feel a little bad about booking a tour at the studios during the strikes … but tour guides still got paid, so that’s good I guess?
- In the waiting room, there were a bunch of Paramount’s Oscars. They’d won 12 or so (among the most for a studio), and had 5 on display. In the next room, though, you got to actually hold one of the real Oscars (which are surprisingly heavy), and your tour guide took a couple photos of you with it. You get the picture printed (5x7) at the end of the tour. They didn’t give me the original files from their DSLR, but she did take photos with my phone as well, which is almost the same thing.
- Speaking of photos - your tour guide is your “personal paparazzi” throughout the tour, so you can get photos of yourself taken whenever you want (with your own phone), which I certainly took advantage of. She pointed out a number of popular photo ops, and I selected a few of my own (e.g. the Star Trek teleporter in the archives).
- The VIP tour was a decent bit longer than the normal one (~2 more hours?), and included a few additional stops (in particular, the archives and the sign shop). In the archives, in addition to seeing lots of cool movie props, we got to meet some of the people working on film digitization. They happened to be doing Gladiator at the time, which was cool. At the sign & paint shop, we got to meet people who make just about all of the signs used in Paramount films, including (notably) the original plaques for the various Star Trek ships (e.g. Enterprise), which were just casually hanging up on a wall in the shop. I got some close-up photos so I can hopefully replicate those one day.
- The VIP tour also included a fancy sit-down buffet-style lunch. I noted in the sign-up that I was vegetarian, and made a special request for bacon-free gnocchi, which they gladly accommodated, and had a separate bowl ready just for me. Our tour guide Bailey also recommended the peach lemonade (or iced tea, I forget), and the brownies with added strawberries on top, both of which were good suggestions. The meal selection apparently changes every season, but is otherwise the same day-to-day within a season.
- The VIP tour finished at ~2:15 or so. It could’ve probably finished a little earlier, but at the end we were waiting for someone to finish shopping at the gift shop for a decent few minutes. We all had to escorted off the lot together, which is why I didn’t leave earlier (~2pm). Apparently, this is because some overzealous writers would occasionally try to get their scripts on people’s desks after sneaking onto the lot for a tour.
- The gift shop had some really cool jackets, but things were kinda overpriced. $700 for a replica Top Gear Maverick bomber jacket was a bit much, even though the jacket did look nice.
- Overall, I really enjoyed this tour, and thought it was a great use of time. In hindsight, I maybe should’ve taken the morning tour (9:00 AM), which would’ve gotten me out a little earlier, and given me a little more time to walk around Hollywood, but lunch was pretty good (and looked better than breakfast) so it’s hard to complain.
- On Reddit, the Warner Bros tour is typically recommended above the Paramount Studios tour. I didn’t have time to do both this trip, but since Paramount made more of the properties I enjoy (in particular, Star Trek and Top Gun), I opted to go for the Paramount one. Given how much I enjoyed the Paramount tour, I now have high hopes for the Warner Bros one, and look forward to my next trip to LA with this in mind.
Walk Of Fame
- I had maybe 20-30 minutes before I needed to leave for my flight. Originally, I had planned on walking around the Walk Of Fame during some downtime on one of the other days, but arrived late on Monday and didn’t have time, and didn’t have time during the day on Tuesday. I could’ve potentially gone at night on Tuesday after the Observatory (and maybe should’ve), but it didn’t occur to me.
- I found some street parking and walked along the Walk Of Fame for a little bit, but didn’t manage to make it all the way down before I had to start walking back. I probably needed another 20-30 minutes minimum to see it all and take pictures and such. There’s stars on both sides of the street, plus various street food vendors and such, all of which I barely had time for.
- I also parked a little further away than I expected (or needed to). Street parking along the Walk Of Fame seemed reasonably open in the middle of the day, 2:30 PM in the LA heat on a weekday. This didn’t help with the amount of free time I had.
- Next time, I’ll budget more time for this. I don’t think there’s much to do here per se, but it still would’ve been cool to see more of the stars, and go all the way down.
- After a fairly long drive in LA traffic, I returned my car, made it to the airport, and hopped on a plane to Chicago.
Miscellaneous Overall Thoughts
- It might’ve been nice to get started on the JPL tour a bit earlier (8am?). If that’s an option, and I had planned the drive to the Observatory a little better, I think I wouldn’t have felt as rushed everywhere. Given the limited amount of time I had, I think I still made the right call trying to squeeze all 4 things into a single day on Tuesday, but with a little more time in LA I probably would’ve moved JPL (or maybe JPL + Observatory, since they’re close) to another day, and spent the extra time at the other things.
- I booked a hotel close-ish to Hollywood, with the intent of walking around the area. Unfortunately, this didn’t end up really happening, and I ended up just driving everywhere. I didn’t have the free time to walk around anyway. Next time, it’s probably better to just get a hotel a little further out, rather than one directly adjacent to Hollywood, and drive a few more minutes. Parking (garages) is plentiful, and fairly cheap, at least compared to other major cities.
- I wasn’t able to visit any of the famous theatres, e.g. TCL Chinese Theater / Dolby / etc. That would’ve been really nice, and is something I’ll definitely have to do next time I go (along with proper time spent at the Walk Of Fame).
- I found a nice taco truck outside my hotel. I’d definitely recommend eating more of your food out of a truck.
- The hotel charged me an extra $20 or $40 when I checked out, apparently some hotel fee that wasn’t captured in the Capital One travel portal, but would’ve been if I had used booking.com?
- While on the plane, I realized I hadn’t planned on meeting up with any friends I had in Chicago. I quickly messaged a few folks who reported their locations as Chicago on LinkedIn, and was able to set up time with 2 of them over the next day and a half.
- In order to make the various events I just set up, I booked a car on short notice, even though I was originally planning on making this trip without a rental car. This turned out to be a huge mistake. Allow me to elaborate:
- The rental car facility was at the opposite end of the airport train from where I arrived (and where I ended up departing from), which meant a long (15-20 minute?) journey to the rental cars.
- I ended up getting a free “upgrade” to a 2018/9 minivan with Avis, even though I had booked a sedan. This happened to me once before (Seattle?), but I was able to get it “fixed” by downgrading to a RAV4 at the Preferred booth. Unfortunately, this time, the Preferred booth had a huge line (presumably from the many others in a similar situation), so I just bit the bullet and took the minivan.
- I drove over to the hotel, which was fine, but then got stuck trying to find parking. Turns out there’s basically no street parking available (it all seemed to require some permit?). I even downloaded an app for street parking, but it required a $10 preload to use, which was more than I thought I’d be paying for parking. That turned out to not be true, and perhaps paying the money would’ve been a good decision.
- I even drove around for 30 minutes or so trying to find better options, but found nothing.
- There were a few garages near the hotel, but they were all exceedingly expensive, at $50 / day or so. Eventually I thought I’d just eat it and park by myself … but the parking garage near the hotel was also completely full, so I ended up having to valet the car, for an extra 15 bucks a day.
- When I was parking, the valet told me that it’d just be 5-10 minutes to grab my car. That … was also not accurate, it ended up taking ~20-30 minutes when I was departing.
- What I should have done is just taken Ubers / public transportation everywhere. I didn’t even use the car much, only to get to / from the airport, and to / from UChicago to meet a friend. Ubers were a lot cheaper than expected, only like $20 to from the airport to the hotel.
- Pretty much all my time was spent just walking around in areas near the hotel, which I had specifically chosen as being in the center of things I wanted to go see, in an attempt to obviate the need for a rental car. Oops. Next time, I’ll definitely just Uber everywhere.
- The hotel was also fine. It was a “classic” upscale American hotel, with stylings that reminded me of the Continental from John Wick (though decidedly less fancy). The room was a bit old-fashioned, but it got the job done, and I guess had some quaint old charm or something. I would’ve probably had a better take on this if I didn’t just get reamed for $65 a night for parking by the hotel.
- I ended up landing in Chicago at ~midnight, but I’m pretty sure it was at least 2am before I went to sleep due to all the car shenanigans. Definitely just Uber next time.
Brunch + Millenium Park
- This was the only full day I had in Chicago. I got a lot less done (in terms of number of distinct things) than I did in my full day in LA, but I did the one thing I came to Chicago for, so still a win overall.
- My hotel happened to be pretty close to a Starbucks Reserve Roastery. I thought this was only a thing in Seattle, but they had one here too … and potentially in other places. I got some brunch here, and picked up a Starbucks branded deck of cards.
- For some reason, the 2 days I was in Chicago were some of the most excruciatingly hot days the windy city had the entire year, and were incredibly uncharacteristic. The 95F+ temperatures were substantially hotter than I had in LA, which was … unexpected. This made walking around more painful than I was expecting it to be.
- Nevertheless, I did the ~30 minute walk to Millenium Park, which is where the Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) by infamous vantablack licensor Anish Kapoor is. Annoying, it was closed for repairs or construction or something, so I didn’t get to take a picture up close or anything. At least I got to admire some really nice architecture on the way to the Park. Did you know the City of Gotham is based on Chicago? I probably should’ve known that, but it didn’t really click until I was there.
- The Park seemed really nice, but the sweltering heat made it impossible to stay outside much longer. Luckily, the Chicago Museum Of Art was right nearby, so I decided to go there for some AC, and also to see pretty pictures I guess, to kill some time before the Kamelot show.
Chicago Museum Of Art
- I decided to go to the Art Museum based on the recommendation of one of the friends I was supposed to be visiting - I’m glad she suggested it, because it turned out to be incredible. Supposedly one of the best art museums in the world, and I could definitely see why.
- I ended up spending ~2 hours at the museum. I could have easily spent another 2 (or more), but I needed to leave early to make the Kamelot concert VIP event thing. I skipped a good chunk of the first floor exhibits, and didn’t see the Van Gogh exhibition at all (though that was separately ticketed and not nearly as interesting to me anyway). There was a bunch of East / South Asian stuff in the first floor that I only had a chance to skim. Definitely deserves a second visit at some point.
- The exhibits were split up somewhat by decade / era. There was a “modern” art section that I thought was a little too abstract for my taste, but the “contemporary” section had some pieces that really stood out to me. I got some really nice photos, and some inspiration for wall decor in the event I ever want to do that.
- Now it was time for the main event, really the reason I planned on coming to Chicago to begin with.
- The VIP tickets I had said to arrive by ~4:30 in order to be on time for the VIP event (meet-n-greet, signing, and photo). I took a subway a few miles (which I could just pay for with Google Pay, which was really nice), and arrived by ~4:15 or so. Early is on time, right? There were only a few people ahead of me in line at this point.
- We got let in almost exactly at 5, and then fairly efficiently made our way through the merch booth (giving you a chance to buy extra stuff to sign) and the meet-n-greet & signing, and then a second round through for a couple photos with the band. The whole operation was fairly streamlined, but it also meant you didn’t have too much time to interact with the band beyond just saying hi. Still, you got to get up close with them and have them sign stuff and such, and if I was a little more extroverted I probably could’ve struck up more of a conversation.
- There was one dude who got like 20 different things signed, a whole bunch of albums and such. Later on, right after the Battle Beast set, he handed one of the players an album and a marker to sign right on stage. That’s levels of self-confidence and extrovertedness I can only dream of.
- The swag bag had itself (drawstring bag), a postcard, and some guitar picks. Separately, we also got our VIP badges, and a poster. I originally wasn’t planning on getting anything signed (didn’t bring anything), but the poster and bag seemed like things to get signed. Someone also suggested that it’s a good idea to get the VIP badge signed, so I did that too.
- As it turned out, Melissa Bonny (Ad Infinitum singer) was doing backup female / harsh vocals for Kamelot, and she was also at the table signing stuff. That was a nice surprise!
- After the meet-n-greet and signing, we were able to head onto the floor. I managed to get a spot front and center, right up against the barricades. By far the closest I’ve ever been to the band in a show, and it was incredible. Guess there was some value to getting there early and standing in the intolerable heat for 45 minutes after all.
- The concert was phenomenal - I appreciated all 3 bands, but especially enjoyed Battle Beast. Seems like I managed to learn all of the songs from their setlist in the few months since I’ve been listening to them, which was unexpected. Kamelot played some deeper cuts, but I still knew most of the songs. Totally worth the trip
- I had a working theory that the audio mix is usually balanced for the last band to play (the headliner), given my experiences at e.g. the Evanescence / Within Temptation concert last year, but that didn’t seem to be true this time. The Xandria set wasn’t mixed super well (low vocals I think?), Battle Beast was done well, and Kamelot had way too much bass. The first 2 bands didn’t seem to do much about it, but Tommy (Kamelot’s singer) went to the audio engineer in between songs and was adjusting the mix himself for the first few songs. Another band member or two (probably at least Youngblood, the founder) also went to do that. After the first few songs, the mix was a lot better, though the backup vocals probably could’ve been louder. This new datapoint contradicts my earlier theory, and the mystery of why bad mixes occurs still remains.
- The only slightly annoying thing at this concert was a few people a bit behind me who were trying to start a mosh pit. The venue didn’t really have the space for moshing, as the floors were in multiple raised levels. This didn’t stop them, though, which resulted in excessive shoving back and forth. My poster ended up getting a bit crushed :(. One of the ladies behind me apparently almost got trampled (per her yelling at the moshers), and I think they toned it down a bit after that, but definitely didn’t stop. Luckily, there were 2 large guys behind me who also clearly didn’t appreciate the moshing, and were able to push back and keep it constrained mostly behind me. Watching for my safety from getting crushed definitely detracted from the experience a bit, but I still enjoyed it overall.
- There was one dude who tried crowdsurfing, and ended up smacking me in the back of the head as he fell down (clearly, we weren’t expecting that). He was the only one though, and the rest of the event was tamer after that.
- Overall, still totally worth attending.
- After the concert, I went to a bar to meet up with a friend. I was quite hungry (didn’t eat anything since brunch), but it seemed there was very little open at night. Per my friend, all people do at night in Chicago is drink lol. Luckily, she was able to find us something that least served some light food, fries and such, until ~midnight.
- I was planning on hopping on a train immediately after the concert, and made my way over to the station fairly quickly. Again, could just tap to pay with my phone, which was lovely. Unfortunately, the trains … mostly didn’t seem to exist? I distinctly recall 2 or 3 separate trains that were supposed to have arrived at the station, but just … never came. After waiting ~20 minutes, and missing a few non-existent trains in the process, I made my way to the bar.
- I debated walking back from the bar to the hotel (just a mile or so), since it was apparently fairly safe (along W Huron, or even the few streets around it), but ended up just taking an Uber because I was lazy, and didn’t want to figure out how real the supposed threat of a homeless dude chasing me was. It was like $7 or something … yet another data point for how I should’ve just taken
- Check out from the hotel was 11am, which was also a little earlier than I was expecting. I’d probably try to look for a hotel with a 12pm checkout time next time.
- I was able to just leave my carry-on bag in the corner of the hotel lobby after I checked out. My other motivation for renting a car (apart from being able to drive it down to UChicago) was to store my bag in it after I checked out, but that turned out to not be necessary. Good thing I didn’t try to do this, either, as it would’ve taken 20-30 minutes to get the car back from valet. Some people also left their backpacks in the corner, but I wasn’t brave enough to do that, so I just took it with me for the rest of the day.
- I walked down to the pier (again admiring some of the lovely architecture), and took the first architecture boat tour I saw, with this company. I didn’t do much research into the various tour options - all the options seemed roughly comparable. I didn’t really have any complaints from this tour though, and I’m not sure what I would’ve changed anyway, so I imagine you’re probably fine with any of the companies.
- The tour was 75 minutes, and you got to see lots of really pretty buildings. Absolutely worth it, I got some lovely photos and learned a decent bit about Chicago’s history / architecture. Also, cow puns.
- There was one particular alternative tour option that stuck out, a fancy brunch on a boat + tour, but it supposedly required business casual or higher dress code, and I definitely didn’t have that with me. Seemed like it could’ve been fun though. I was originally planning on trying do to that with a friend until I saw the dress code … oops. Fortunately, the timing didn’t work out for us anyway, so I don’t have to worry about what I might’ve missed on the tour.
- The tour guide pointed out Navy Pier during the tour, which was distinct from the river area I got onto the tour from. It was a mile or so away, so I took a nice walk over there. I didn’t really have a plan for the day beyond doing an architecture tour, so I was just kinda wandering around aimlessly.
- The walk along the river to the Navy Pier was pretty nice. I thought about getting on another boat tour to go onto the great lakes (the other boat didn’t do that since it’d have had to go through some locks), but I think I was just running out of time, and so I opted to just wander around the Pier instead.
- The Navy Pier was kinda like the Santa Monica Pier, but imo substantially nicer. Perhaps it’s because I was there in the middle of the day and not tired from a bunch of driving, or perhaps it’s because it was in fact actually nicer. I’m leaning towards the latter.
- There were a couple of souvenir ships where I ended up finding some nice “premium” playing cards. Yay!
- I took another liesurely stroll back to the hotel, stopping along the river to take in the windy city for a bit. It was yet another blisteringly hot day, so I didn’t want to spend too much time outdoors, but near the river the wind helped keep the apparent temperature manageable.
- I got back to the hotel, grabbed my car (after the 20-30 minutes of valet), and drove down to UChicago to meet up with a friend. That was nice, even though it was a ~30 minute drive down to UChicago (longer than expected).
- It ended up being over an hour to get from UChicago to the airport, plus the long train from the rental car facility … but I eventually made it, and got home to Pittsburgh. Another trip fairly successfully completed.
Miscellaneous Overall Thoughts
- The first day in Chicago was spent fairly well, but I probably should’ve done a bit more research / planning for the second day. I don’t think I used the morning as effectively as I could have. Part of this is because I was trying to remain flexible to see if I could find some more time with friends, but in hindsight maybe I should’ve just accepted the time I had and moved on to try something else, e.g. the Museum of Industry and Science.
- As noted above many times (because I’m still annoyed by it) … I really should’ve just taken Ubers everywhere. Somehow the charge on my card from the hotel came to $163.08, which is even more than the supposed 65 x 2. Probably some more random hotel fees, even though I thought I prepaid everything :|.