Squirrely Summertime Chicago Bucket List Adventures

In this post: Chicago French Market, Garden of the Phoenix, Russian Tea Time, Cindy’s Rooftop

When I was thinking about my Squirrely Wanderlust Adventures for 2018 I couldn’t help but think about downtown Chicago. Most 30-somethings who live so close to a big city spend a lot of their young adulthood (and let’s be honest, even teenage years) downtown exploring, hanging out, partying, really getting a feel for their city. Not this girl. If I went to the city it was for a purpose – for a concert, show, SOMETHING. I don’t ever recall going to downtown Chicago just to go. Call me a suburbanite, country girl, whatever you want, but my love for the city has been a recent affair.

I thought about my love for being a foodie and how much I loved getting to do new things and experience everything life has to offer. I realized how close I was to a ginormous city that had so much to offer…. and I wasn’t taking advantage of it. HELLO?! Sometimes those stars have to align and hit you smack-dab in the face to make you realize something so clear. It was then that I realized that I wanted to explore all the Chicago neighborhoods, I really wanted to explore the whole city. I wanted to KNOW Chicago like some of my friends do – know how to find my way around, know where things are, know the neighborhoods, everything. So up on my visionboard went 2 pictures – one that says “eat around the world” because I realized how much diverse food options downtown Chicago has with all the ethnic neighborhoods, and the other picture says “25 things you must do in Chicago before you die” because I created a summertime Chicago bucket list of all the really amazing things I wanted to do and experience this summer.

This weekend kicked off not 1, but 2 days of Squirrel in the City adventures that I split into 2 blog posts, so watch for part 2! As I go off in search of adventure and gather lots of memories and do lots of exploring, I want to share it all with you! Sometimes the best adventures are the things that are so local to you, you forget that they’re there.

The first day I spent with my friend Sherry on a Friday, on the docket of things we wanted to do were the Chicago French Market, Garden of the Phoenix, Russian Tea House and Cindy’s Rooftop. I’m happy to report we did them all! Here’s what you need to know about these guys –

  • Chicago French Market – unlike the name implies, this market has tons of food options, most of which aren’t French. That was a small bummer, but there are plenty of things to see and aisles to explore including Peruvian food, raw vegan food, Mediterranean food, French food, Japanese food and more. Be careful going here during the week at lunchtime, it seemed to be a hot spot for the locals to come grab a bit to eat during their lunch hour. Can’t say I blame them!
  • Garden of the Phoenix, formerly known as Osaka Gardens – you want to talk about an adventure trying to find this place! Thank goodness we had a great Uber driver that was patient with us while we tried to locate where we were going. This garden is a Japanese garden in the heart of Jackson Park. It’s off the beaten path somewhere you wouldn’t really expect to find it, and wouldn’t know to look for it unless you knew it was there. It’s amazing that such a peaceful place can exist with all the city hustle and bustle. It’s definitely a must-see, especially if you need to decompress and get away from all the busyness and energy of fast-paced city life.
  • Russian Tea Time – this place was so cute! It was definitely an older place, and with Sherry’s research she said that it was a more authentic place to have a real tea time rather than some other places available in the city. We opted to do a couple pots of the Jasmine tea (I love me some Jasmine tea!!) and the a la carte dessert plate. You had the option to order a full tea which included a bunch of desserts and sandwiches, but we opted to pick and choose what we wanted. The table next to us had the full tea, which was 3 tiers of food – while it wasn’t what we were particularly looking for right then, it looked delicious! The mini desserts we had were super yummy and we definitely loved the tea there!
  • Cindy’s Rooftop – this was a place Sherry recommended because a lot of people had recommended it to her. Apparently it was THE rooftop to be at with the best view. Off we headed to the Chicago Athletic Club building where Cindy’s sat at the top. We walked in and were immediately greeted with a really long line to get up the elevator – apparently lots of people know about Cindy’s! We realized the elevators were small, and Cindy’s was up on the 13th floor and there were other floors and things where people were getting on and off at. Finally we got on the elevator and up we went. Cindy’s is a rooftop bar and place to grab some grub, they have an inside and an outside area to sit and socialize. We of course went outside where it was totally packed to see the views of the lakefront and Millennium Park. The day had been pretty cloudy and overcast, so we weren’t sure we were even going to go – afterall, what’s the point of being on a rooftop if you can’t see anything?! Luckily though, the weather broke, the clouds went away and the sun came out so we got pretty beautiful conditions for the rooftop experience! While the wait is a bit annoying, I would definitely recommend going up to Cindy’s at least once to catch the view!

In the next post I scamper off to the Art Institute of Chicago, Magnolia Bakery and Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea!

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