A year ago I was visiting a friend in Michigan and decided to venture to a beach along Lake Michigan for the afternoon of Labor Day weekend. Surprisingly a year later I’m back doing the same thing only this time from the Illinois side. We met friends for Labor Day weekend in Chicago to explore some of the city sites.
After taking in a drive-in movie, an American tradition that is unfortunately losing popularity, we arrived back at our hotel early the next morning. We awoke, grabbed some breakfast, and drove downtown somewhat sleep deprived to visit Shedds Aquarium and spend the afternoon on the beach before getting some authentic Chicago style pizza. At least that was the plan in our sleep stupor.
Before leaving the hotel we quick checked ticket information for the aquarium and found a $15 service fee added to each ticket to buy online for that day. Opting the stand in line for tickets we sped off towards downtown Chicago to the lake front and Shedds Aquarium. After some time wrestling with traffic we arrived at Soldier Field to park for the day and hiked the short distance to Shedds.
Arriving at the entrance we saw the line that has formed to gain entrance into this well known destination. Following that line further and further back we realized the hike was not quite over. Amazing how long of a line for entrance into an aquarium. I’ve never witnessed a wait like this for fish before. After almost three hours in line we made it to the ticket counter. While standing in line with the afternoon slipping by we discussed purchasing tickets for the next day as the time left in this day was likely not enough to see everything desired. Asking about this option we were informed they could not sell tickets for the next day but we could purchase them online for the same amount as long as we bought them before tomorrow.
While grabbing a seat and some ice cream we decided to purchase tickets using our phones for the next day and what do you know? There was no $15 service fee. Had we only known that before today all of this waiting in line would have been avoided. Now that the aquarium was out of the plans for this day we opted to walk the Magnificent Mile and see the sights of downtown. From the aquarium we headed towards Navy Pier along the shore of Lake Michigan, turned at the famous Chicago River and headed a few blocks into downtown enjoying the riverfront development which is much improved from just a few years ago.
Once at Michigan Avenue we headed back towards the aquarium passing several street performers before stopping at Millennium Park to see the Bean and listen to some jazz in the amphitheater as there was a jazz festival taking place for the weekend. Every time I’ve looked over a picture of the famous Bean I’ve always thought is was kind of stupid. This polished metal bean sitting near the waterfront of downtown Chicago. I never really understood the interest in it. Seeing it in person I enjoyed watching all of these people excited over the different ways the Bean warps your reflection and the reflection of the city. This made it more interesting and fun to see and now I have a better appreciation for it.
Our day ended with a Chicago style pizza and the last fireworks show from Navy Pier for the summer. A beautiful night for fireworks but yet another late evening returning to the hotel for some much needed rest before waking early again the next day for another attempt and Shedds Aquarium.
Armed with already purchased tickets we entered Shedds the next day without having to wait in line. If you’re ever planning on going and seeing everything in the aquarium, I highly recommend getting tickets online at least a day ahead of time. It could save a lot of time standing around viewing the city skyline. They have one of the best aquatic shows which include beluga whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins that I’ve seen. There was also a stingray petting tank which is seasonal. Overall we spent over 6 hours taking in the exhibits and shows enjoying many different displays.
This day ended with a stop at a nearby beach to take in the waves of Lake Michigan on a beautiful Chicago afternoon. Ohh, and for lunch it was Chicago style hotdogs. How could I forget about that? There is so much more to see but we had a nice time for a Lake Michigan Labor Day! Will there be another one next year?