My kind of town, Chicago is.

For this weekend's nuptial extravaganza, Courtney and I road-tripped down together from Minneapolis to South Bend. We left around 3pm last Thursday, though, and didn't feel up to making the whole drive to Notre Dame...because when one factors in losing an hour, due to the fact that ND is about 20 minutes into the Eastern timezone, we would've been arriving around 2am. Um, no thanks. Instead, we decided to have a little mini-vacation in Chicago along the way!

I have approximately 1-bajillion hotel points from my tenure at my Big 4 job, in which I got to travel to cosmopolitan destinations like Fargo, Appleton, WI, and St. Cloud, MN. Woo! Thankfully, those hotel points got to stay with me when I left, and now I got to put them to good use for a super-discounted rate on a night at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel. Hello, friend. Right off Michigan Avenue, with views of the Hancock Center and Lake Michigan, it's one of the more glamorous hotels I've gotten to stay in! I was pleasantly surprised by the size of our room...and there were super nice touches like a rainfall shower head and personalized computer with restaurant recommendations, online booking options, and taxi services available too. 

Court and I hightailed it across the street as soon as we checked in for celebratory drinks at the Drake Hotel's bar. My dad recommended it, and I have to say, it was fabulous...dark wood, moody lighting, and a Prohibition-y aura that made our prosecco and creme brûlée seem even more delightful. 

The next morning, Courtney slept in while I woke up super early and went on a gorgeous stroll through downtown...taking in some of Chicago's amazingly varied architecture. I love how from one block to the next, that city can go from soaring, modern, industrial behemoths to small, intimate, old-fashioned churches and museums.

My walk, however, wasn't purely for aesthetic appreciation of the was to go see this girl!! 

Laura's a Chicago resident now and met me for 7am coffee and breakfast at this darling cafe called Fabcakes. We split a peach-and-blackberry muffin and a pepper-and-feta quiche, along with possibly the best latte I've ever had...vanilla and rose-flavored! It was so different but so yummy, and the great food and drink just enhanced our quick, hour-long catchup session. Isn't it funny how an hour with one of your best friends can simultaneously fly by and feel like it stretches forever? I absolutely loved getting to catch up--and am so excited that she's making the trip to the Twin Cities this weekend for a visit!

After Laura had to leave for work, I took a leisurely stroll home along Michigan Avenue and found Courtney still sleeping, so I settled myself in the lobby with a book. Instead of reading, though, I found myself researching the Knickerbocker as I took in its gorgeous lobby and bar. Turns out back in the 20s and 30s it was allegedly a Midwest headquarters for Al Capone's gang, and he supposedly ran a speakeasy out of the penthouse and a brothel down in the basement. Hugh Hefner was also a former owner, and the hotel is fully renovated to its historic glory today. How cool! 

Courtney and I checked out around 11 once morning rush hour died down and headed toward Millennium Park, where I'd researched gluten-free brunch (Courtney's gluten-intolerant), for a stop at Wildberry's Cafe. After a half-hour wait with a decadent Intelligentsia Coffee toffee nut latte, we were seated and ordered their sinfully gluttonous breakfast omelets with pancakes on the side. My omelet, with spinach, goat cheese, and caramelized onions, was amazing...but what took the "cake" (pun SO intended) were my pumpkin spice pancakes. Courtney said the gluten-free pancakes were fantastic as well--I definitely recommend it!

We also did the de rigeur tourist thing in Millennium Park...because what kind of good little Chicago tourists would we be without paying our respects to the Bean?!

Our last stop in Chicago, though, veered very much off the touristy path. Courtney, you see, is a business analyst for Target, and being one of those "I drank the Koolaid" Target girls, she was dying to see the new "City Target" that opened up on State Street several months ago. So there you have it, friends: my trip to Chicago included an hour spent in a Target. Because you can take the girl out of Minnesota...but you clearly can't take the Minnesota out of this girl!

All things considered, our stop gave us a perfect opportunity to split up the drive to Notre Dame, and couldn't have kicked off Andrew and Alyssa's wedding weekend with more fun! Courtney's first trip to Chicago was a big success, and I can't wait to get back...perhaps a Christmas visit to Laura is in the cards!