Thursday, May 14, 2015

We Went to Chicago: Shedd Aquarium

Here's the view from outside our hotel room:

And here's the (in my opinion) equally awesome view from INSIDE our hotel room!

Our hotel was close enough to walk to some sites, such as Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago, but my plan was to take the bus to Shedd Aquarium, and--because this day was Sydney's ninth birthday--American Girl Place!

To that end, I downloaded both the Citymapper Chicago app and the CTA bus maps onto my phone to help me navigate. Citymapper is super cool in some ways, because all you have to do is plug in your starting and ending points, and it'll tell you which bus to take, where to walk to in order to catch it, when that bus will arrive, how many and which stops it'll stop at, and how long it'll take to get there.

Awesome right?

Except it doesn't really have walking directions, just a map that doesn't always have the street names conveniently listed, so I found myself orienteering, rather than simply navigating my way to this bus stop, and the particular bus stop that the app was trying to send us to... where the bloody hell IS that damn thing?!?

Sometimes the downtown Chicago streets go underground, which is where it looked like the bus stop was supposed to be, so the kids and I walked through the pedestrian area instead (it was lovely), and then down the steps, and then... across the street, maybe? We walked across the street, found a bus stop, waited by it--and then, going the other way, saw the #4 bus. Dang it!

So we walk across the street--where's the bus stop? Down half a block, under the bridge. Wait there--why won't you stop for us, #4 bus?!? We're definitely at the bus stop that says #4, so this time we wait, pointedly, directly next to the #4 sign--why won't you stop for us, frakking frack frack #4 BUS?!?!?!?

I am seriously condensing time here, just so you know. It's been probably an hour, by this time, with much walking back and forth and getting lost and sitting down on a bench to "let Momma just take some deep breaths and think, okay?"

"I'll just take the kids back to the hotel and they can swim all day," I thought.

"We'll take a cab. How much can it cost?" I thought.

"The damn aquarium is less than two miles away. We could have walked there by now!" I thought.

"I have two Master's degrees. I will NOT let the Chicago Transit Authority beat me!" I thought.

Finally, I said to the kids, "Let's just start walking, and see what happens. Maybe we'll think of something, or maybe the walk will be really great."

We trudged back through the pedestrian area and then took a right on Columbus. We'd walk through Millennium Park, maybe hit the Daley Park playground again. A couple of blocks down, though, what do we see across the street?

THE #4 BUS!!!!1!!!!!

The Citymapper app shows you the entire bus schedule of the bus that you want, but I couldn't quite figure out from that or the CTA site the exact map location of #4's adjacent stops, which was the final straw in me deciding that we'd just walk to the damn aquarium.

Fortunately, we were happening to walk right past #4's previous stop, a stop that it was actually stopping at, a stop that it was actually switching bus drivers at so that we actually had time to cross the street and run over to it and step on board it!

Thank you, Universe!

The night before, I'd had Matt walk across the street to the CTA vending machine at Navy Pier to buy me a bus pass and put some money on it, just so I wouldn't have to deal with quarters and dimes, and once I also figured out how to scan that, we were made in the shade. The Citymapper app does show you the list of bus stops, marking yours, so it's easy to see where to request your stop.

And that one bus stop that we worked so hard to find and waited at? The bus just blew by it as if it wasn't even there. That stop is on the CTA map, too! What the hell?

The bus driver had given us directions to walk to the Museum Campus after we got off at our stop (nothing like not knowing how to scan your bus pass to mark you as a total noob), and we wandered more or less in the correct direction to find it and take the pedestrian underpass into it.

But then... did I mention how foggy it was on this morning?

It was SO FOGGY!!!

That also did NOT help us in our navigations to the bus stop, and it did us no favors now, either. Museum Campus is just what you'd expect--grassy expanse with walking paths, and at each intersection, signs that point you in the proper direction. Since we could see nothing but fog, we followed each path to its intersection, took the path for Shedd Aquarium, followed it to the next intersection, repeat.

Except, after diligently doing this a couple of times, we then came to an intersection with no sign for Shedd Aquarium.

"Kids," I said. "This means that from where we're standing, we should be able to easily see Shedd Aquarium. It should be right in front of us. Sooooo....."

Nothing. Fog as far as the eye could see (which was about ten feet).

We wandered a bit, roved around, until eventually a roving kid stumbled onto a set of stairs. We followed the stairs up into the fog...

...and finally got to see some freaking fish, approximately two hours after leaving our hotel that was less than two miles away.

It was worth it:
Honestly, I didn't love Shedd Aquarium, because it's crazy pricey, and because we've been to Monterey Bay Aquarium several times, and Monterey Bay Aquarium is probably the best aquarium in the world. But it's been several years since we've been there, and Shedd Aquarium was impressive enough to the kids.



I really liked this coral garden.
Check this out, because you've been so good:

Shark eggs!!! How cool is that?!?

When Will finds a book that she wants in a shop, I photograph it and interlibrary loan it for her.
We finally emerged into the sunlight, in a world that was completely transformed from its morning fog.

 And yes, you can easily see Shedd Aquarium. Basically as soon as you exit the pedestrian underpass, you can see it looming in the distance, "SHEDD AQUARIUM" written large upon it, giant banners featuring aquatic life all over it.

Silly tourists.

1 comment:

ADM525 said...

I read your blog and wanted to direct you to the RTA's trip planner that includes walking directions. Visit for better directions. I hope this helps the next time you visit Chicago. Enjoy!!