What Goes Around Comes Around – Chicago
by Terry Hogan
Galesburg’s own, George W. Ferris, invented the Ferris wheel. It was an enormous thing and was enormously successful. It was unveiled at the Columbian Exhibition (World Fair in Chicago) in 1893. It was America’s answer to the marvelous Eiffel Tower that the French built for the previous World Fair held in Paris. Now you can find a Ferris wheel at every county fair and in every civilized country. Even London and Paris have adopted the Ferris wheel as their own. So I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me to see a large Ferris wheel in Chicago on the Navy Pier. But what did surprise me was that it looked a lot like the original Ferris wheel of long ago. From the Shedd Aquarium or from a boat ride in the harbor, Chicago and Lake Michigan provide a beautiful backdrop for an American icon that has its roots in Illinois prairie soil.
I know, Galesburg is not in love with Chicago. Neither is most of down-state Illinois. Chicago is perceived as a black hole where Illinois tax dollars enter and never come back. But, let me suggest that notwithstanding long-lasting grievances, Chicago is a great place to visit. If you have a little endurance, you can minimize costs by making it a day trip, assuming the kids can sleep on the drive each way.
Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier & Harbor Tour
The 150 foot high Ferris wheel was beautiful to look at, but did not appear to be operating on the July weekend we were in Chicago. It is modeled after the original Ferris wheel at the Chicago's 1893 World Colombian Exposition. The Navy Pier Ferris wheel would provide excellent views of the skyline and lakefront, weather permitting. The Ferris wheel has 40 gondolas. Each gondola holds six passengers each. In the evening, the Ferris wheel's 40 spokes, are lit by thousands of lights. According to the Internet site, a ride is only $5/person.
Next to Shedd Aquarium are boat tours that are surprisingly cheap by Chicago standards ($10/person or less). The ride gives a great view of the Navy Pier, the Chicago Skyline, the Ferris wheel, and Shedd Aquarium.
I can’t say enough good things about the Shedd Aquarium. It was better than it used to be. It has dolphins, sharks, coral reefs, river otters, Illinois fish, fish from around the world and all are wonderfully displayed. It sits on the shore of Lake Michigan with great views of the Lake and the Chicago skyline. Judging from the screams of little kids, you’ll likely see “Nemo” of recent movie fame (Finding Nemo). Kids that weren’t old enough to count could identify Nemo and all his friends as they swam around the fish tank.
Suggestions for Shedd Aquarium:
Arrive early to avoid afternoon lines.
Buy tickets ahead of time on the Internet at the Shedd Aquarium home page.
Park in the underground parking near Shedd Aquarium at the designated museum parking. It is normally $12, but $9 if you arrive early (“Early Bird Special”). The garage is close and it keeps your car safe and cool.
Warning – DO NOT visit the Shedd Aquarium when the Chicago Bears are playing “at home”. Soldiers Field is next to Shedd Aquarium. Parking and driving would be a nightmare.
Museum of Science and Industry
It has some really good exhibits, including the Burlington Zephyr that stormed through Galesburg in its world-record speed run from Denver to Chicago, heading toward the Chicago’s World Fair. The Museum also has a restored WWII German submarine (U-505) complete with the fascinating story of its capture, its crew, and the important intelligence information gleaned from the vessel. The Museum did a great job on this exhibit. The Museum has a gigantic model train exhibit that operates with lots of trains, a model of Chicago and a model of Seattle. Stand and watch and the exhibit goes from daylight to darkness so the trains and cities light up in the dark, presenting an entirely different effect. Close study will show all kinds of activities underway in the display – mountain climbers, kids playing in back yards, etc. The more you look, the more you see. When you are done observing at ground level, go up a floor in the museum and look down on the model train exhibit. It looks entirely different. You’ll have to drag your young sons/grandsons from this exhibit. But maybe they’ll agree to leave the model trains if you point out the Boeing 727 jet liner next on the agenda.
On the downside, entirely too many “hands-on” displays did not work. Some were computer driven. Some were not. But it appeared to me that maintenance of hands-on displays was a problem.
Suggestions for Museum of Science and Industry:
The same as for Shedd although a Bears home game would probably be slightly less troublesome, but I’d still avoid it.
Lincoln Park & Lincoln Park Zoo
This was the surprising “sleeper” of our Chicago trip. It is beautiful. It is near the Lake. It has a FREE zoo and it is great. We were really impressed by the zoo. It is old and free, so I expected to see bears sitting in small barred cages, poorly fed and maintained. Again, I was wrong. They have a children’s zoo area that is great for little kids. Animals have room, appear healthy, and the exhibits are a good match for the health of the animal and for the viewing public. For the plant lovers, there is an old (pre-1900) iron and glass building just stuffed with ferns, flowering plants, flowing water, and the like. It was quiet and very peaceful when we were there.
Parking is available at the zoo that puts you right next to it for $12. Considering the zoo is free, this still makes for a cheap and low stress day. Also, unlike some zoos, you can bring your own food in and there are tables around the park where you can picnic. On the other hand, food is reasonably priced in the zoo.
What to See First?
That is your call. It depends upon what you like and who you take. For little kids, it would be Shedd Aquarium and the Lincoln Zoo, but not on the same day. Plan on one or the other. Trying to do both in one day would be pretty aggressive. It might turn fun into a “forced march”. If adults are going, it just depends on your interests and your stamina. Just remember, you can’t see it all in a day. Spread it out. Visit it again to see something new when time and resources allow. It’s unlikely that the museums will go anywhere in the near future.
Make a round trip to Chicago, and maybe a round trip on the Ferris wheel. What goes around comes around.
Useful Internet Sites
Shedd Aquarium - http://www.sheddaquarium.org/
Museum of Science and Industry - http://www.msichicago.org/
Lincoln Park Zoo - http://www.lpzoo.com/index2.html
Navy Pier- http://www.chicagotraveler.com/chicago-navy-pier.htm