Category Archives: illinois

Chicago Expedition: Millennium Park and the Art Institute

After our morning in Graceland Cemetery, Kat and I had our last adventure of my Chicago visit. We got lunch and ate in the grass at Millennium Park, where there was a crowd of fellow loungers and visitors. The park has some cool, very sleek and modern icons, like the above Pritzker Pavilion.

Of course, its most famous landmark is the Cloud Gate, better known as “The Bean.” The huge silver gleaming sculpture reflects everything around it sharply and slightly distorted. It was a little swarmed, but definitely worth seeing.

We then stepped inside the amazing Art Institute of Chicago. The museum is best known for its incredible Impressionism collection, but we entered via the modern wing and it was just as stunning. The wing opened in 2009 and was designed by Renzo Piano.

Here is a glimpse of one of the gorgeous rooms of the original building. I loved how much natural lighting was in the space. (The lighting at the Field Museum was just awful, so this was refreshing.) Everything about it was perfect. I even liked the dainty security ropes.

Alas, the time came for me to fly back to New York! I still think it’s crazy how much we managed to do in just a long Fourth of July weekend. Thanks to Kat for being an intrepid and enthusiastic host and urban explorer with me!

Chicago Expedition: Graceland Cemetery

I can’t miss an opportunity to see a beautiful old cemetery. On my last day in Chicago, Kat and I walked from her apartment over to Graceland Cemetery, a peaceful place established in 1869.  Its 119 acres are home to a striking collection of statuary and the mausoleums (mausolea?) of many a rich Chicagoan, as well as a coyote. We saw the little animal peeking at us from behind the tombstones, keeping its distance as it loped in the shadows of the trees.

Our visit took us by many interesting graveyard sites, including the above William Kimball monument and this regal knight. The knight is known as “The Crusader” and marks the grave of newspaper publisher Victor Lawson.

There was also this boxed in sculpture of a young lady over the grave of Inez Clarke who died at the age of six. There is a story about a cemetery guard finding the box empty one night, only to see the sculpture back in its case in the morning, supposedly after some wandering.

The Palmer family have their own private Pantheon with soaring columns and imposing tombs.

Then there is the ornate Getty Tomb designed by Louis Sullivan. It’s claimed as the most significant piece of architecture in the cemetery, and, interestingly, at the 1900 Paris Exhibition, a cast of the door was exhibited.

However my favorite grave was Bruce Goff’s. The architect wasn’t even listed on the map I’d pulled up on my phone, but I recognized the blue glass in the distance, instantly remembering Redeemer Lutheran Church where I went to Sunday School in Bartlesville. Goff has many distinctly modern homes and buildings in Oklahoma and taught for a number of years at the University of Oklahoma. His marker was actually designed by one of his students, but it incorporates his prairie gothic style perfectly. It was wonderful to stumble upon the grave of someone I’ve admired for so long, in a completely unexpected place.

Chicago Expedition: Museum of Science and Industry

I will love any museum that features not only an IMAX movie of tornado chasing, but an actual tornado itself. During my visit to Chicago, Kat and I journeyed by city bus to the Museum of Science and Industry, a stately, imposing building. Built in 1933 for the Century of Progress Exposition, it’s the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere. Large enough to fit a 40-foot tornado.

The twister that formed from water vapor was definitely one of the most eye-catching exhibits in the museum, spiraling in the sensory overloading Science of Storms wing, where a Tesla coil would also periodically pop and weather balloons rose and fell. But there were many competing wonders big and small. My mind was exhausted by the end of our visit, and we didn’t even see everything after hours exploring.

Across from the storms was another tumultuous scene, where aircrafts, a train, a balloon, and all manner of automobiles seemed to careen toward you. That locomotive on the left is actually the first vehicle to ever go faster than 100 miles per hour.

Another exhibit made it possible for you to experiment with mixing oxygen, fuel, and heat to create a flame. Probably the only situation when such experimentation is safe.

I have an odd fondness for dated exhibits, especially those that look like rather well done science fair projects. I found this little model of a Solar Power Tower to be endearing.

I’m not sure how they ended up at a science museum, but there were some creepy circus dioramas, including this one of a side show.

I also enjoyed this magical plasma sphere.

But my favorite things in the museum were the antique science contraptions. (Look at the above flower lightbulb!) Here are some more wonderful things:

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