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A Weekend in Chicago - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Accommodation

My niece lives outside Chicago and so on a recent trip to the USA to our villas we decided to go to see her for a weekend. The flight from Orlando International takes around 2 ½ hours and cost £155 each. We stayed in the Club Quarters hotel for 2 nights for £300 for 2 people. It was very good value – a hotel on a par with an inner city London hotel so a very reasonable rate. Breakfast was available next door at the associated ‘Elephant and Castle’ English pub. The rooms included tea and coffee making facilities, microwaves and fridges so if you wanted to, you can have a snack meal in your room. Location is very central.

We purchased the ‘City Pass’ for attractions and this was definitely a good idea as for $76 per person, we gained entry to 5 of the top inner city attractions – we reckoned it saved around $60 per person if all the five are done (the ticket is valid for 10 days) Also the City Pass acts as a ‘fast pass’ so there is no waiting in what can be very long queues at entrances.

We arrived on Friday afternoon and took the train to the centre. A 3 day pass for unlimited travel on trains and buses cost $14 per person, again very good value. First we headed to ‘Shedd Aquarium’ – at the time of our visit there was a special exhibition of Jelly fish which was amazing but apparently there is always some special exhibition of a very high standard. You should allow at least 4 hours to see all the areas. There is a 4D experience (the ecological story of the penguins from Happy Feet when we were there), a dolphin show in the amphitheatre and so many fish and creatures in beautiful tanks, we couldn’t see them all. We did see the beluga whales, penguins and sharks and could have gone to chats and animal encounters if we had time.

Around 7pm we headed to the Willis (formerly Sears) tower, which is the 8th tallest building in the world. We even braved it onto the glass observatory boxes on the 103rd floor. As sun set at 7. 45pm it was a wonderful sight to see the city lights slowly coming on. By this time we were tired and ready to eat so headed back to the hotel and ate a hearty meal at the Elephant and Castle washed down with one or two examples of their extensive whisky collection!

Up early on Saturday we headed to the Field Museum – this place is huge and it would bepossible to spend days here! The dinosaur exhibition includes the largest, most complete T. Rex ever found. Highlights include the Ancient Egypt section, the Ancient Americas and again, there’s a 3D theatre and special explorers ‘PlayLab’ for little ones. Although there are many interactive displays, this is a more traditional museum and the teenagers in our party were beginning to flag a little so we stopped to eat and then headed almost next door to the Adler Planetarium with exhibitions on space, the solar system and space travel. Again an excellent place to visit but we were all ‘educated out’ by then and headed back on the train to the centre of ‘the Loop’. Here we decided on a 75 minute architectural boat rip along the river through the skyscrapers. This is definitely the best way to see the centre of the city and find out more about the spectacular city. My highlight of the visit.

Back on the bus we headed to the Old Navy Pier, a traditional pier into the amazing Lake Michigan including shops, eateries and rides including a huge ferris wheel. We ate at a typical good value US restaurant and were going to stay to one of the twice weekly firework displays, but we were just too tired!

Sunday morning and we were all shattered so a lazy brunch was followed by a walk through the parks along the lake front – beautifully maintained with huge sculptures, fountains and no sign of vandalism or graffiti. With the lake in the foreground and the skyscrapers in the background we spent a very enjoyable few hours before it was time to head back to the airport for the trip back to Orlando.
All in all, a great weekend. As we were sat by the pool watching the sun set we all decided it was a very enjoyable though tiring, way to see another part of the US and definitely worth thinking about when you are heading to Florida .

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