City Highlights with Big Bus Chicago

I am a sucker for Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) buses while traveling – I think it’s a great way to see the city, and I don’t care how touristy I look, even in my hometown! As I prepare to leave the Midwest, I’ve been extra touristy this summer so naturally I wanted to take a ride with Big Bus Chicago. I always like to ride the full route, if time permits, and then loop around again to hop off where I want to. The Chicago route takes about two hours for the full loop. Here are all of the fun stops you will see if you take a ride with Big Bus Chicago.

Fort Dearborn

Stop #1 is at Fort Dearborn, along the Chicago River near Michigan Avenue. Before or after your tour, you can check out the new Chicago Riverwalk, which is growing each season with bars and restaurants catering to the boating crowd and pedestrians.

Chicago Theater

Stop #2 is the Chicago Theater, which houses the famous “Chicago” sign on State Street. Early in the summer, I joined the tour at this stop (after a delicious lunch at Latinicity in nearby Block 37) The stop wasn’t marked and I wandered around quite a bit before waving down the bus on the southbound side of State Street. (Later in the summer, BigBusChicago appears to have an attendant stationed here so it should be easier to find, but it’s across the street from the theater if you can’t spot it)

The Willis Tower

Longtime Chicago residents know this building as the Sears Tower, once the highest skyscraper in the world. You can visit the Skydeck, 103 floors above the city and test your mettle on one of the clear ledges that leave you suspended high above the city. Summer weekends will find lines snaking around the block, so plan accordingly! This stop is also a great place to hop off and grab the water taxi to Chinatown!

Millennium Park & Palmer House

Stop #4 is Palmer House, a Hilton hotel located just off State Street. I love browsing through Merz Apothecary on the ground floor of the hotel. Nearby Millennium Park has a full schedule of events year-round. There are concerts, sculptures, and fountains for the kids to splash around! Make sure you stop at the Bean for a photo sesh!

Millennium Park

Art Institute

The beloved Art Institute of Chicago is easily recognized by the lion statues flanking the Michigan Avenue entrance. This museum is a must-visit for any art lovers visiting Chicago.

The Hilton Chicago

Stop #6 is the Hilton Chicago on South Michigan Avenue.This is the best stop to hop off and explore Grant Park, which has been called Chicago’s front yard.

Adler Planetarium

The eastern-most point of the tour stops at Adler Planetarium along Lake Michigan on the museum campus.

Shedd Aquarium

Right next to the planetarium is the Shedd Aquarium, one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Lines can get pretty long here as well, so plan ahead for your tickets.

Field Museum

Sitting across from Soldier Field, the Field Museum houses so many collections, including a rotating schedule of special exhibitions. Visit T. Rex Sue, the most famous resident of the Museum and then spend up to a full day exploring the hallways of this grand museum.

Field Museum

Image Courtesy of the Field Museum

Sheraton Grand

Stop #10 is at the Sheraton Grand, along the Chicago River. This is a great place to hop off to explore the Streeterville neighborhood, which includes AMC River East movie theater, Lucky Strike bowling, or Pinstripes Bocce Ball & Restaurant.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier attracts millions of visitors to Chicago each year. If you’re into chain restaurants, this is a great place to stop for a meal. Harry Caray’s and Margaritaville are two of my favorites. There’s also a Bubba Gumps and Giordano’s, home of Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Navy Pier also houses a giant ferris wheel, children’s museum, Shakespeare Theater and an Imax theater. This is the departure point for many boat cruises, so hop off the bus and get out on the water!

Water Tower

Water Tower Place is the heart of the Mag Mile shopping district. We used to take bus trips here from the Quad Cities when I was young, which seems funny now, but people still come from all over to shop here. There’s a great food court and American Girl Place is a big attraction as well.

John Hancock Center

As seen in the photo above, the last stop on the Mag Mile is the John Hancock center. The Hancock Center is now known as 360 Chicago and in an effort to one-up the Willis Tower Ledge, 360 Chicago offers The Tilt. That’s right, not only are you suspended 94 floors above Michigan Avenue, you are tilting out at an angle. Or, you can save your cash and just enjoy a drink at the Signature Room on the 95th floor.

Hard Rock Cafe

From the Mag Mile, your BigBus will head west on Chicago Avenue, to the final stop at the Hard Rock Cafe. Here you’ll find the Rock N Roll McDonald’s, Portillos and the Rainforest Cafe, among many other restaurants. You can hop off here, or continue back to stop 1 at Fort Dearborn.

Big Bus Chicago

Big Bus Chicago has open top double decker buses like you’ve seen in many cities. On busier summer days, they also deploy trolleys to handle overflow traffic. (I recommend the bus as the trolley is enclosed on top, and very loud, so it’s hard to hear the tour guide) When you arrive at each stop, often there will be another bus just ahead of you. Rather than waiting around for your bus to depart, you can run ahead and jump on the next bus. I did this several times as I was just riding the loop, not hopping on and off. Of course, if the buses are full, you may not want to give up your prime seat and chance it on a new bus! Big Bus Chicago also offers a night route, which is not included in the basic ticket, but definitely sounds like a fun time to see the city!

So, what would be your first stop on a BigBus Chicago tour?

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I was a guest of Big Bus Chicago on this tour. These are solely my personal opinions and I was not financially compensated for this post.

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Summer Fun in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Just three hours from Chicago is the 2nd largest city in Indiana: Fort Wayne. Not really on my travel radar before, but the theme of my summer is the “Best of the Midwest” and I wanted to see it all! When the folks at Visit Fort Wayne invited me to visit and shared a list of options, I was overwhelmed by the choices! My first impression of Fort Wayne is that it’s a lot larger than I imagined. At 250,000 people, this is no po-dunk farm town. From my two-night visit, here are a few fun things to do in Fort Wayne.

Fort Wayne Baseball

My first stop in Fort Wayne was Parkview Field for a Friday night Tin Caps game. Parkview Field is rated the #1 Minor League ballpark experience in the country, and I’m not surprised! The park, built in 2009, has a ton of options for watching the game. I thought the lawn section in the outfield looked pretty fun. There are plenty of food and drink stalls, along with games and activities for the kids. Parking in a nearby lot was $5, but I’m sure you could also find street parking if you arrived early enough. When I visited, it was 70’s Night, and there was plenty of disco entertainment, and good 70’s jams between plays.

Tin Caps Game at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fort Wayne Outfitters

Fort Wayne Outfitters is your one-stop shop for outdoor fun in Fort Wayne. Their location in the Cass St. Depot offers a gear shop, boat rental and bike rental. I was able to take a kayak out on the St Mary’s river, and given a tour by local river enthusiast, Aaron, who regularly paddles the area, picking up trash along the way. Like many Midwest towns, the rivers in Fort Wayne weren’t always valued for recreational opportunities, but are now seeing a resurgence in funding and conservation. We paddled along Headwaters Park, where the Three Rivers Festival was taking place, with boat tours and helicopter rides. The river was abuzz with activity!

Kayaking St Mary's River, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Arts United Center

If you are a theater buff, go see a performance at the Arts United Center. If you prefer architecture, get yourself on a tour of this unique building! The Arts United Center was designed by world-famous architect Louis Kahn as part of a larger Arts Campus in the 1960’s. The 655-seat theater features performances by Fort Wayne Ballet, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Fort Wayne Dance Collective, and more! The building is an architectural marvel, with folded concrete walls and brick arches throughout. Next door at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, you will find two special exhibits highlighting Louis Kahn and his work in the community.

Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fort Wayne Festivals

The Fort Wayne calendar is chock full of festivals. When I visited, the Three Rivers Festival was in full swing. This 9-day festival draws nearly half a million visitors each summer! There are over 80 events including Food Alley, Art in the Park, the Three Rivers Festival Parade, the Raft Race, Children’s Fest, and the Chalk Walk at the Arts Campus! Evening concerts highlighting artists like The Purple Xperience (Prince tribute band) and Rock of the 80’s Tour had crowds dancing until dark! Three Rivers Festival is more like a ton of festivals within a festival as there seemed to be events all over town.

Image Courtesy of Visit Fort Wayne

Image Courtesy of Visit Fort Wayne

Bicentennial Woods

Bicentennial Woods is one of many properties in the ACRES Land Trust, and is a wonderful respite from urban activity. Located on the north end of town, Bicentennial Woods features 2.6 miles of hilly hiking trails along a shallow creek that is perfect for splashing around on a hot summer day. We found many intersecting, unmarked trails, so a good sense of direction (or a GPS unit) is a good idea, although you’re never too far from civilization to get lost. When in doubt, follow the creek!

Dog-Friendly Hike at Bicentennial Woods, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fox Island County Park

Fox Island is a great little park on the edge of town with a swimming beach, seven miles of hiking trails, wildlife observation towers and a doggy beach! A $2 entrance fee provides access to the park for the entire day, even if you leave and come back. We visited on a warm summer Sunday and there were lots of families enjoying the beach and nearby picnic shelters. Fox Island is a great place to take your pup when it’s hot out.

Fort Wayne Hotel

During my visit, I stayed at the Ramada Plaza Fort Wayne Hotel and Conference Center. Pet friendly is the #1 hotel requirement for me when traveling, and the Ramada allows dogs up to 80 pounds for a $50 pet fee. The outside of the hotel is not much to look at, as it’s one of those large convention hotels on the northern edge of town. However, the interior has been updated more recently, and there’s a pretty cool indoor/outdoor pool with a nice sundeck. The hotel is about 15 minutes from the downtown area.

Ramada Fort Wayne

More Fort Wayne…

For all that I saw in Fort Wayne, I feel that I missed even more! There’s the Children’s Zoo, Science Central, the Genealogy Center, the Botanical Conservatory, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, DeBrand Chocolate Factory tours, 12 free splash pads and over a dozen farmers markets!

Fort Wayne also appears to have a serious foodie fling going on. There are plenty of brewpubs, food trucks, cafes and ethnic dining available for all kinds of tastebuds!

Image Courtesy of Visit Fort Wayne

Since there are so many fun things to do in Fort Wayne, I recommend starting at Visit Fort Wayne to plan out an itinerary of your interests. Feel free to contact them via Facebook or Twitter as they are a great resource for information, and can help you narrow down the many, many options in the area!

So many fun things to do in Fort Wayne, Indiana! @visitfortwayne #myfortwayne Click To Tweet

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Summer Fun in Fort Wayne

I was a guest of Visit Fort Wayne. These are solely my personal opinions and I was not financially compensated for this post.

I’m participating in The Weekly Postcard blog roundup. Click the photo below to check out other posts this week!

 

Two Traveling Texans
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