Six Flags & The Windy City

Trip Start Jun 12, 2012
Trip End Oct 18, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Howdy folks,

Steffie and I had a very early start to the day and we weren't even camping! We had to get up and get ready at 6am because our host Thomas had to get to work early. It didn't really inconvenience us because we hadn't seen any of Milwaukee the day before. So it gave us a chance to have a bit of a look and we started at a very ornate water tower we had seen the day before. We drove down North Lincoln Memorial Boulevard which runs alongside Lake Michigan and passed by the famous sail-styled art museum. We parked on Michigan Street and walked a few blocks west to the riverwalk to try and find the Bronze Fonz. The TV show Happy Days was set in Milwaukee and we found the Fonz (eventually) standing in front of a Chinese restaurant in his classic pose.

It was time to get back to the car before the peak hour traffic started and we drove south on Interstate 94 just across the border into Illinois whilst avoiding the highway tolls. Our destination for the day was the Six Flags Amusement Park which is a chain of amusement parks across North America. We bought an annual pass which allows us unlimited entry, but we still had to pay $20 just to park inside! The park is like Dreamworld with lots of rollercoasters, sideshows and a waterpark. We got there as the gates opened at 10am which ensured that we had prime position to take advantage of smaller lines. Little did we know that most of our time would be spent lining up for rides. We hit the rollercoasters first with a wooden one caled Viper and one of their more modern ones called Ragin' Bull. Continuing around the park we lined up for American Eagle: the park's oldest wooden rollercoaster which seemed tame compared to the new ones. It was starting to warm up so we cooled off with the log ride.

Before lunch, we decided to line up for Vertical Velocity which is a pretty new, magnetic rollercoaster that has a single U shaped track. It was hot standing in the sun for 45 minutes and the ride was pretty short, so it wasn't really worth it. We went back to the car for lunch and got changed to go to the Hurricane Harbour water park. We weren't keen on paying $12 for a locker so we stashed the towels in a corner and went on water slides for 2 hours. Unfortunately many of the rides also had long lines, but we found a few that had shorter ones. In the middle was this giant, pirate themed kids jungle gym which dumped a large bucket of water every few minutes.

Half drowned and disappointed with the wave pool, we went back to get changed for a few last rides. It was getting late in the day so we lined up for the X Flight which is only a few months old and the most weird looking rollercoaster I have ever seen. There were two seats hanging either side of the track and the whole thing twisted like a jet fighter along the tracks with a few loops thrown in for good measure. It was awesome! The Dark Knight indoor rollercoaster sadly wasn't.

It was stil another hour of driving before we hit Chicago so we jumped back on the highway and headed for Charles and Isabel's house. I first met Charles and Isabel on a hike in Banff last summer and we exchanged details telling me that if I was ever in Chicago I should look them up. So I did and we ended up staying with them. They live in a pretty nice townhouse just outside downtown Chicago and it was a big change from sleeping in a tent! We met their youngest daughter Carolina, while the rest were away at summer camp.

In the morning, we had yummy waffles for breakfast and set off to explore downtown. Luckily the train station isn't far from their house, but we had to walk 2 additional blocks to buy a day pass. It was worth it though as it saved us a lot of money and at 10:30am, we jumped on the L Train which loops around downtown high above the street. It is quite famous and has been in a number of movies like the Blues Brothers. Our first stop was Willis Tower (the new name for the Sears Tower) and is the highest tower in the Western Hemisphere.It was built in 1973 and was the tallest tower buiilt at the time until the Petronas Towers were built in Malaysia in 1998 (depending on how you measure them). Anyway you look at them, they make the other skyscrapers in Chicago look small. Apparently they were designed like 9 bundled tubes each with different heights with the tallest ones being 108 floors high. The sheer logistics of building and operating the structure are amazing with 104 elevators servicing the tower and the skydeck is on the 103rd floor, 412m above street level. There is even a glass floor where you can tempt fate and step outside the building to see the street below your feet.

We had lunch at Subway before heading to Millennium Park. They have a number of different areas incorporated into the park including Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a large Frank Gehry designed bandshell, Cloud Gate which is reminiscent of the Silver Balls in Rundle Mall although much bigger and better. Crown Fountain which is a large skyscraper styled video water feature plus many other smaller sculptures and gardens. It is a really cool feature of Chicago and was a good lead into our next attraction next door at the Art Institute.

The Art Institute is the second largest in the country after New York and holds a pretty damn big display of just about every art type. There are many different examples of Monet, van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Dali, Renoir and Picasso just to name a few. When we were there, there was a large exhibit by Roy Lichtenstein and we were glad to have our audio sets to listen to a bit of history about some of the pieces. The place is really so huge that you could spend an entire day there. We didn't see everything and there is no way we could appreciate everything we saw in such a short time frame. Contemporary Art is quite shit and I wish that we spent a bit more time in the World Art sections instead. It was simply art overload, too much to take in and enjoy in just one viewing. Ferris Bueller would be proud of us though.

We made one last stop at Buckingham Fountain near the lakeshore which is one of the largest in the world. It seems that everything in Chicago is larger than life and even walking back to the loop station we passed 2 large Indian Sculptures on horseback. We were quite tired, but absolutely satisfied with our first day here!
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