200 Things To Do In Illinois – Morton Arboretum

Illinois celebrated its bicentennial as a state in December of 2018.  To celebrate, the Chicago Tribune published the Bicentennial Bucket List: 200 Things To Do In Illinois, celebrating the best the state has to offer in history, food, architecture, culture, sports, nature, drink, and oddities.  Now that the state is starting to open back up following the corona virus outbreak, I figured this was the second-best time to look through this collection and cover the ones I’ve done/eaten/seen.

We continue things this week with one of the entries from the Nature category: Morton Arboretum, from Lisle, IL.

Thank Morton Salt Co. founder Joy Morton for this “tree museum” spread across 1,700 acres.  Trees from 40-plus countries populate the nearly century-old arboretum, whose offerings include walks with a certified forest therapy guide.  Cap off the arboreal experience with a cup of tea made from edible plants foraged along the trail.

The Morton Arboretum was a favorite field trip location during my grammar school years.  I have vague recollections of trips there, mostly about seeing trees and butterflies.  I haven’t been there in well over 30 years, so you can’t expect much more from me, can you?

200 Things To Do In Illinois – Route 66

Illinois celebrated its bicentennial as a state in December of 2018. To celebrate, the Chicago Tribune published the Bicentennial Bucket List: 200 Things To Do In Illinois, celebrating the best the state has to offer in history, food, architecture, culture, sports, nature, drink, and oddities. Now that the state is starting to open back up following the corona virus outbreak, I figured this was the second-best time to look through this collection and cover the ones I’ve done/eaten/seen.

We kick things off with one of the entries from the History category: Route 66, from Chicago, IL.

Snap a selfie under the “begin” and “end” signs of historic Route 66, the legendary 20th century highway that stretched nearly 2,500 neon-lit miles from Chicago to Santa Monica, California.  The brown markers are at Michigan Avenue and Adams Street (the westbound starting point) and Michigan and Jackson Boulevard (eastern terminus).

The Mother Road was decommissioned years ago, but lots of Route 66 relics remain along Illinois’ 300-mile stretch between Chicago and St. Louis.

Truth be told, I can’t say that I’ve even seen the signs marking the start and end of Route 66 on Michigan Ave, but it isn’t for a lack of being in the area.  I spent most of grad school 1 block east of Michigan on Jackson, so I would make the walk over on occasion, as time permitted.  Not to mention events in Grant Park, like Lollapalooza or the Cubs championship parade in 2016.

200 Things To Do In Illinois – United Center

Illinois celebrated its bicentennial as a state in December of 2018. To celebrate, the Chicago Tribune published the Bicentennial Bucket List: 200 Things To Do In Illinois, celebrating the best the state has to offer in history, food, architecture, culture, sports, nature, drink, and oddities.  Now that the state is starting to open back up following the corona virus outbreak, I figured this was the second-best time to look through this collection and cover the ones I’ve done/eaten/seen.

We kick things off with one of the entries from the Sports category: United Center, from Chicago, IL.

Seeing the stars of the Bulls and the Blackhawks go to battle in the Madhouse on Madison is thrilling – or infuriating, depending on how the teams are doing.

But no trip to the Near West Side stadium is complete without genuflecting at a trio of statues commemorating former Chicago hockey and basketball greats Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Michael Jordan.  You’ll find Hull and Mikita outside, while His Airness is enshrined in an atrium that opened last year.

I’ve been to the United Center 10 times, for 4 Bulls games, 4 Blackhawks games, a 2011 NCAA tournament game, and a concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.  My first two Bulls games came in 1997, a month or two prior to Michael Jordan’s return to the team.  My only game during the championship years came in November of 1997, when I saw Jordan and Bulls defeat the Hornets.  3 of the Blackhawk games came during their lean years, with just one coming during their championship runs.  The NCAA tournament game saw the Purdue Boilermakers fall to VCU in a surprising upset.

 

200 Things To Do In Illinois – Elk

Illinois celebrated its bicentennial as a state in December of 2018.  To celebrate, the Chicago Tribune published the Bicentennial Bucket List: 200 Things To Do In Illinois, celebrating the best the state has to offer in history, food, architecture, culture, sports, nature, drink, and oddities. Now that the state is starting to open back up following the corona virus outbreak, I figured this was the second-best time to look through this collection and cover the ones I’ve done/eaten/seen.

We continue things this week with one of the entries from the Oddities category: Elk, from Elk Grove Village, IL

For nearly a century, a small herd of elk – that’s right, elk – have resided in a 17-acre fenced-in pasture in Cook County Forest Preserve’s Busse Woods.  It all began in 1925 when nine cows and one bull arrived by train with much fanfare from Yellowstone National Park.  The herd’s numbers have vacillated over the years. but you can still spot a few of the animals and imagine a time when an estimated 10 million elk roamed North America.  Watch them grazing, and if you’re lucky, hear the males bugle during the fall mating season.

In the fall of 2016, I ended up in Busse Woods, taking, what I thought at the time, was a nice walk with a friend.  As we went through the woods, we came across a surprising sight: elk.  I had no idea they were there.  Looking back, this afternoon was the start of one of the most trying times of my life, something that still causes my grief to this day.  If I could trade the elk for some peace of mind, I would do so in a second.

200 Things To Do In Illinois – Skydeck At Willis Tower

Illinois celebrated its bicentennial as a state in December of 2018.  To celebrate, the Chicago Tribune published the Bicentennial Bucket List: 200 Things To Do In Illinois, celebrating the best the state has to offer in history, food, architecture, culture, sports, nature, drink, and oddities. Now that the state is starting to open back up following the corona virus outbreak, I figured this was the second-best time to look through this collection and cover the ones I’ve done/eaten/seen.

We continue things this week with one of the entries from the Architecture category: Skydeck at Willis Tower, from Chicago, IL.

No story about Illinois architecture would be complete without name-dropping Willis Tower, or as many old-schoolers still like to call it, Sears Tower.  When it debuted in 1973, the 110-story icon from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill began its quarter-century reign as the tallest building in the world.  Play tourist, and pose for pictures on the Ledge, a glass balcony jutting out 4.3 feet from the side of the Skydeck on the 103rd floor.

I’ve made the trip up to the Skydeck at Sears Tower (not being one of those people, just haven’t been there since the name change) a handful of times over the years.  Two stick out in my memory: once in high school and my most recent trip back in 2004.

The high school trip was memorable, mostly for what went on outside the Tower than in it.  My friends Scott, Mike, and I made the trip downtown (probably when we weren’t supposed to) and tried to help some poor soul parallel park.  If the goal was to not hit the cars in front or behind her, then we failed.  After that, we managed to get Scott in for the 12 and under price, despite being 16-ish.

The 2004 trip came between games of a crosstown doubleheader, this one featuring the Marlins and Expos playing at US Cellular Field during the day.  With time to kill before the nightcap at Wrigley, Pete and I went up to the Skydeck, since he had never been before.

200 Things To Do In Illinois – Arlington International Racecourse

Illinois celebrated its bicentennial as a state in December of 2018.  To celebrate, the Chicago Tribune published the Bicentennial Bucket List: 200 Things To Do In Illinois, celebrating the best the state has to offer in history, food, architecture, culture, sports, nature, drink, and oddities.  Now that the state is starting to open back up following the corona virus outbreak, I figured this was the second-best time to look through this collection and cover the ones I’ve done/eaten/seen.

We continue things this week with one of the entries from the Sports category: Arlington International Racecourse, from Arlington Heights, IL.

After a fire ravaged the racetrack in the mid-1980s, the northwest suburban attraction emerged like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

The lavishly landscaped grounds, rebuilt track and stately new grandstand once again made this a magical spot to experience thoroughbred racing.  Arlington made history as the first thoroughbred racing site with a million-dollar purse.

Another north side spot that I never would have gone to were it not for the location of my job.  We’ve made a few trips over the years (3?  I want to say 3) for team outings, but, outside of those, I have had very little interest in going and wagering on the ponies.

200 Things To Do In Illinois – Pilsen Murals

Illinois celebrated its bicentennial as a state in December of 2018. To celebrate, the Chicago Tribune published the Bicentennial Bucket List: 200 Things To Do In Illinois, celebrating the best the state has to offer in history, food, architecture, culture, sports, nature, drink, and oddities. With the state still shut down due to the corona virus outbreak, I figured this was the second-best time to look through this collection and cover the ones I’ve done/eaten/seen.

We kick things off with one of the entries from the History category: Pilsen Murals, from Chicago, IL.

Pilsen’s tradition of thought-provoking, often political murals began a half-century ago and is still going strong.  Take a stroll through this ever-changing but still primarily Hispanic neighborhood to see stories of immigration, gentrification and Latino culture on colorful display.

I’ve made a single trip to Pilsen in my day, to see Rhea Butcher perform at Thalia Hall.  While I didn’t go out of my way to see the murals, I do recall coming across some of them while looking for parking and then walking from the car to the theater.  It’s probably not the biggest impression, but, hey, it still counts.  Maybe I’ll even make it back someday.

200 Things To Do In Illinois – Rialto Square Theatre

Illinois celebrated its bicentennial as a state in December of 2018.  To celebrate, the Chicago Tribune published the Bicentennial Bucket List: 200 Things To Do In Illinois, celebrating the best the state has to offer in history, food, architecture, culture, sports, nature, drink, and oddities.  With the state shutting down tonight due to the corona virus outbreak, I figured this was the second-best time to look through this collection and cover the ones I’ve done/eaten/seen.

We kick things off with one of the entries from the Culture category: Rialto Square Theatre, from Joliet, IL.

Putting on more than 150 events a year, this Jewel of Joliet evokes a bygone era with its Greek, Roman and Byzantine architecture.

Afternoon tours are offered most Tuesdays.  The nearly century-old theater gets especially festive at the end of the year with its monthlong Home for the Holidays programming, with movies, concerts and other special events.

My one and only trip to the Rialto Square Theatre came in 2015 to see Craig Ferguson during his Hot & Grumpy tour.  To be honest, I don’t remember much about the theater itself, so I can’t say that it left much of an impression.  I certainly would be willing to go back if something interesting was coming to town.

200 Things To Do In Illinois – Chocolate Cake Shake

Illinois celebrated its bicentennial as a state in December of 2018.  To celebrate, the Chicago Tribune published the Bicentennial Bucket List: 200 Things To Do In Illinois, celebrating the best the state has to offer in history, food, architecture, culture, sports, nature, drink, and oddities.  With the state still shut down due to the corona virus outbreak, I figured this was the second-best time to look through this collection and cover the ones I’ve done/eaten/seen.

We continue things this week with one of the entries from the Drink category: Chocolate Cake Shake, from Villa Park, IL.

Portillo’s chocolate cake is legendary, and it’s a treat made all the more lip-smacking when jacked up with ice cream and given a run in the blender.  Indulge at the Portillo’s in the western suburb where the hot dog empire was born in the early ’60s.

Truth be told, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a chocolate cake shake.  I’ve certainly purchased my fair share, though, as it’s a favorite for both Danny and Michael.

200 Things To Do In Illinois – Lake Michigan

Illinois celebrated its bicentennial as a state in December of 2018.  To celebrate, the Chicago Tribune published the Bicentennial Bucket List: 200 Things To Do In Illinois, celebrating the best the state has to offer in history, food, architecture, culture, sports, nature, drink, and oddities.  With the state still shut down due to the corona virus outbreak, I figured this was the second-best time to look through this collection and cover the ones I’ve done/eaten/seen.

We continue things this week with one of the entries from the Nature category: Lake Michigan, from Chicago, IL.

You didn’t think we’d forget about this freshwater ocean at Chicago’s front door, did you?  Don’t just look at it.  Get in it.  And on it.  Departing from Navy Pier, Shoreline Sightseeing’s Classic Lake Tour is a 40-minute nautical jaunt along 6 miles of the Third Coast.  From the water, you get a better appreciation for the city’s skyline, a human-made mountain range.

It’s hard to document my experiences visiting Chicago’s lakefront.  I’ve taken the occasional lunch cruise as part of work outings.  I’ve spent a little time on the beach, most notably for a mid-80s television competition between the Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks.  The picture above is from the museum campus, over by the Adler Planetarium.

If anything, I wish I could spend more time down by the lake.  Living far out in suburbia doesn’t make it easy, though.