Over spring break, I traveled to Chicago for the first time since I was a kid. After this trip, I can definitely see myself living there post-grad. I absolutely fell in love with all the city had to offer. From the coffee shops, to the museums and even the public transit; I loved every second of my time in the city.

I stayed in a small, one-bedroom Airbnb with two of my best friends from high school. The Airbnb was in Ukrainian Village and was super affordable [only $53 a night!], perfect for college students on a budget. We were close to a strip of cute shops, local eateries and the bus stop. It took a few trial and errors to figure out the public transit system [I’m honestly still confused by it] but we managed to get around the town with little complications.

The first night we stopped in Chinatown. We got there during the sunset and it was absolutely beautiful. Stepping off the L [arguably Chicago’s most iconic train route] and seeing the blue fade into orange and yellow along the horizon was stunning. We got dinner at Phoenix Restaurant, which offered a delicious variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. We chowed on some delicious dumplings, lo mein and fried rice while drinking hot green tea. After eating, we pursued a strip of shops and grabbed some rolled ice cream from Legend Tasty House before heading back to our apartment.

Photo courtesy Jess Zhao

The next day we got up early and headed to Dollop Coffee Co to grab coffee before going to the Field Museum. We spent a good three hours in the museum looking at everything it had to offer, from the Mummies to Grainger Hall of Gems. After the museum, we made our way to the infamous Bean. We took the typical pictures in front of it and then made our way out to find food. Across the street stood Shake Shack, in all of its iconic glory. It was a delicious take on fast food and had a great vegetarian burger option, which I loved. After eating, we made our way to Milwaukee Ave where we browsed the small vintage and second-hand shops. If you know me, you know I walked away with multiple bags of clothes, a gaping hole in my bank account and a huge smile on my face.

The next day we went to the Lincoln Park Conservatory, where we admired the beautiful greenhouse and had a mini, Insta-worthy photoshoot. Then, we made our way to Cafe Corbel, where we grabbed a small snack and a coffee before heading to the Art Institute of Chicago. We spent hours at the Art Institute browsing the paintings, drawings and sculptures in awe. My absolute favorite exhibit was the Thorne Miniature Rooms that were found in the basement of the museum. Spending hours at the museum caused us to build up quite an appetite, so we figured it was the perfect time to try Chicago style deep dish pizza. We went to Pizano’s and devoured a pizza, oozing with layers upon layers of sauce and cheese. It was way better than I was expecting to be and I have craved it weekly since then. The evening was filled with girl talk and a late night postmating of cheese fries and milkshakes from Shake Shack [I told you, it was SO good].

On our final day we packed up and headed out of town. On our way out we had to stop by 2119 S Homan Ave, a house made famous by Showtime’s Shameless. It was honestly weird seeing it in person, and it felt a lot different compared to on TV, but I’m still glad I went to see it. After that, we headed to our last stop of the trip, the Garfield Conservatory. It was absolutely beautiful! The weather was perfect that day so the sun shined through the glass ceilings of the conservatory and kept us warm during our stroll through the plants.

I miss Chicago so much since I left. It was such a fun time with my best friends and I am craving another trip out there soon! It is fairly close to home and the trip can be very budget friendly if needed, so you might catch me sneaking out there again this summer for a quick weekend getaway!  

Photo courtesy Jess Zhao

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