Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grant Park

One day last week, I spent almost all day on my bike (with rest stops, of course) riding the lakefront path, around Grant Park, Olive Park, Oak Street Beach, North Avenue Beach, the harbors....

I rode down to the south end of Grant Park, where my love affair with the park and city began some nine years ago.  I would occasionally spend weekends at the Essex Inn, across the street from the Hilton.  They had great rooms with very reasonable rates, an attached restaurant which served good breakfasts and good enough lunches and dinners, a health club and indoor pool, and were across Michigan Avenue from the south end of Grant Park.  And I could hop the free Hilton Hotel shuttle up Michigan Avenue in the winter!

My first searches for a city condo all took place on the south end, the up-and-coming side of the city, which I was assured would have lots and lots of restaurants as soon as the new condo buildings were occupied.  I'm glad I took my time getting to know the city, though, because here we are nine years later and in a housing downturn in the U.S. and although there are lots of new inhabitants on that side of the city, there are still not a lot of new restaurants.  Although, the building along Roosevelt Road is coming along with new stores, a Whole Foods among them.  In the end, after I rented a furnished apartment for four months to make sure I would really like city living, I bought my condo in Streeterville (River East-ish area) north of the park and couldn't be happier with my neighborhood.

But here is where it all started.

(Click photos to enlarge)
The Essex Inn
(and behind it the very first condo building in which I looked at units for sale)

The Hilton next door

South Michigan Avenue

Grant Park's south end across from the Essex Inn

Did you know there was a statue of Lincoln in Grant Park and Ulysses S. Grant in Lincoln Park?

Taking a photo break (not The Bee...this is my hybrid Giant in the city)

Looking northward

Summerdance (free dance lessons and dancing) takes place here

At the very south end of Grant Park is the sculpture Agora, 172 torsos with legs, several meters high, and made out of cast iron by a Polish sculptor. Walk or run through the sculpture, and definitely take photos.

Bonus: one of Chicago's best breakfast/brunch places is more or less across the street -- Yolk! 

A Giggle

This ad for a bike from a bike blog I read just tickles me.  Can you figure out why?  ;)

Music on the Esplanade at Chicago's Botanic Garden

Chicago's Botanic Garden is legendary.   There are so many activities/events/projects going on at the Garden, it would be impossible for me to discuss them all in one little blog.  To see some of them and new ones as they develop, go to the Chicago Botanic Garden blog.  There are videos and information now ranging from the Green Youth Farm to Creating Lily Hybrids at Home to America's Best Rose Garden to the Baby Swans Born at the Garden to Tips for Conservation and Sustainable Living to Prime Crabapple Blossom Viewing to How to Plant a Tree.

Here is an Interactive Map of the grounds.

"Want to see all the splendor and learn all the facts? The Garden offers two types of 35-minute tram tours. Both the Grand Tram Tour and the Bright Encounters Tour are open to visitors with no advance arrangements needed, no minimum numbers.  The Grand Tram Tour is a narrated tram tour around the perimeter of the Garden providing an overview of all areas. Trams are wheelchair-accessible.  The Bright Encounters Tour is a narrated tram tour that offers a close-up look at the gardens on the main island."

About the Chicago Botanic Garden

"The mission of the Chicago Botanic Garden is to promote the enjoyment, understanding, and conservation of plants and the natural world.

The Garden continues to strive to meet the lofty goals set more than a century ago. The Chicago Botanic Garden, with its world-renowned plant collections and displays, is one of the country's most visited public gardens and a preeminent center for learning and scientific research.

The 385-acre Garden features 24 display gardens and four natural areas, uniquely situated on nine islands surrounded by lakes.

The Chicago Horticultural Society was founded in 1890. At its heart was the understanding that the city of Chicago was incorporated with the Latin words Urbs in Horto, meaning "city in a garden." The Society hosted nationally recognized flower and horticultural shows and supported Chicago's lakeshore improvements and park system.

After a period of inactivity, the Chicago Horticultural society was restarted in 1943. In 1963, the Chicago Horticultural Society was granted 300 acres of forest on the outskirts of the city, and the Chicago Botanic Garden established roots. With the groundbreaking for the Garden in 1965 and its opening in 1972, the Society created a permanent site on which to carry out its mission. The mission encompasses three important components: collections, education, and research.

From its founding, the Garden has hired leading architects, beginning with the master plan by John O. Simonds and Geoffrey Rausch. Edward Larabee Barnes designed the Education Center as the Garden's first building in 1977. The Malott Japanese Garden, Sansho-En, was completed in 1982. Throughout its existence, the Chicago Botanic Garden has developed gardens and educational facilities with a meticulous eye toward its original mission."

But what I most love (apart from my favorite gardens, The Waterfall Garden and The English Garden) are summer evenings at the Garden.  Monday evenings are Carillon Bell Concerts and lights on Evening Island, Tuesday evenings are Music on the Esplanade concerts, Wednesday evenings are Dancin' Sprouts (music and entertainment for the young) and Thursday evenings are Hot Summer Nights music and dance lessons (samba, tango, swing, Hawaiian, etc.)

Eighty dollars a year for membership to the Chicago Botanic Garden is a real deal!  There is even easy access to the North Shore bike trail from the Garden, so making a day of biking, then dinner and a free music concert is a great time!

Here are some photos of last night's Jazz on the Esplanade, which I enjoyed with a friend:

(Click photos to enlarge)
Bring your chairs, tables, dinner, etc.

Listen to great, free music (this is a jazz band tonight.)

Walkway from the gift shop and cafe to the gardens.

Outdoor deck of the cafe.

Note:  For pictures of some of the garden beauty, see post entitled "Too Much of a Good Thing" from October 25, 2009 in my archived posts (along the right side of the blog.)