Girlfriends Weekend in Chicago

Me, Amy & Jennifer - 1992

Me, Amy & Jennifer – 1992

Moms need a break sometimes. And sometimes, moms need a break to visit with old friends and have a fun girls’ weekend. Jennifer, Amy, and I have been friends for more than twenty years, we all are full-time working moms, we have a combined total of five kids, and we rarely have the chance to spend an entire weekend together.

Yes, WE needed a break.

Back in 1992 when we were carefree college students and in the throes of our passionate affair with hockey, we spent a booze-infused weekend in Toronto that involved a professional hockey game (the details of which are a bit fuzzy), and hanging out at a bar with the players afterward. We realized this year was the 20th anniversary of that unforgettable trip so we decided we needed to do something (almost as) crazy. The ideas started spewing: should we go back to Toronto? Maybe meet in Ann Arbor for the NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game (so glad we canned that idea; we all know how this NHL season has turned out)? I said, how about a weekend in Chicago, since Jen and Amy both live in different parts of Michigan? My dear friends at first objected, as they know of my undying love of travel and figured I’d want to get out of town. But I insisted and promised that I’d be a tourist just like them.

And I was. And it turned out to be the perfect working-moms’/girlfriends’ weekend.

Me, Jen & Amy at Shaw's Oyster Bar - 2012

Me, Jen & Amy at Shaw’s Oyster Bar – 2012

We arrived at our hotel, the Hyatt Regency, on Friday afternoon, then quickly set out to do some shopping! The Hyatt Regency’s location is ideal for shoppers looking to drop some serious coin – or even just window shop – on the Magnificent Mile. We walked up and down Michigan Avenue, got some early Christmas shopping done, and even stopped in at an adult establishment for a few happy hour cocktails. Then it was back to the hotel to freshen up for our fabulous meal at Shaw’s Crab House. Though we were full from dinner, it didn’t stop us from enjoying a few more beverages in the Oyster Bar afterward. Ok, maybe we closed the place down but we had a lot of catching up to do!

Despite closing the Oyster Bar the night before, we were up early the next morning to spend some time at The Art Institute of Chicago. I’ve been to AIC several times in the last few years but I don’t mind going back. There is always something new to see, something different to discover. The girls and I managed to cover a lot of ground in our time there and the highlight for me on this visit was the Thorne Miniature Rooms collection. If you haven’t seen this section of the museum, it’s exactly what the name implies: intricately-detailed miniature displays of European and American homes at various points in history. As someone who tries to get a glimpse of how the locals live wherever I travel, perusing the miniature rooms was almost like a trip back in time. We quickly looked in on the paperweights exhibit (yes, an entire room dedicated to paperweights), and then we had to find a watering hole to watch some college football (the details of which I will not share; yes, my team lost).

Thorne Miniature Cape Cod Living Room, 1750-1850

Thorne Miniature Cape Cod Living Room, 1750-1850

We spent the evening at the John Hancock Center, starting with a ride up to the Observatory for my first nighttime visit. My city looked beautiful from high above, all sparkly and lit up. After that, we managed to beat the crowds and land a table at the Signature Lounge, the skyscraper’s famed establishment on the 96th floor where we enjoyed large servings of scrumptious food and huge, delicious cocktails. We walked down Michigan Avenue back toward our hotel, stopping many times along the way to practice our nighttime photography. Expending all that creative energy made us thirsty once again, so we decided to stop into DaddyO’s Pub in the Hyatt for another beverage. Yeah, we closed that place down, too.

Nighttime photography practice on Michigan Ave. Bridge

Nighttime photography practice on Michigan Ave. Bridge

Sunday morning arrived way too quickly, and with it the realization that it was time to start working our way back into mom mode. Jen and Amy still had trips back to their homes in Michigan ahead of them, so we made our way back to my house to visit with my family for a bit before saying our farewells. Our working-moms’/girlfriends’ weekend was just the break from reality that we needed to reconnect, relax, and reminisce. My only hope is that we don’t wait another twenty years to do it again.

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16 Responses to Girlfriends Weekend in Chicago

  1. Frances Folinazzo December 7, 2012 at 6:42 am #

    Photos are so beautiful.
    I am glad you had such a good time.

    • Francesca December 12, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

      Thanks, Mamma!

  2. elatlboy December 7, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    Lot’s of great places you guys went to… fun. Love the lounge and views up-top the JHO. Always great times! Would love to people watch and see the crowds and everyone shopping along Michigan Avenue this time of year. 🙂

    • Francesca December 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

      Thanks, Aaron! I definitely wanted to make it to Signature Lounge with the girls since we didn’t make it there during our tweetup back in May.

  3. The World Wanderer (@TheWrldWanderer) December 8, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    Sounds like the most wonderful weekend! Though, this is making me sad. My college friends and I already have trouble getting together, and none of us have kids…yet. Does this mean it’s just going to get more difficult? 🙁 I sure hope we’re smart enough to plan little getaways like this. What a great idea!

    • Francesca December 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

      It can get more difficult, Erin. But that means we just have to try a little harder. And promise one another that you’ll plan something like this every so often – maybe every two years, something like that – and stick to it!

  4. Kieu December 8, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    Chicago sounds like the perfect place for girls weekend. My girls and I usually head up to Napa or San Francisco. 🙂

    • Francesca December 12, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

      Well, la ti da! Napa or San Francisco, eh? 😉

  5. Traveling Ted (@travelingted) December 9, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    Sounds like a great time in Chicago. Love the college flashback pic. It looks like a picture out of a John Hughes film.

    • Francesca December 12, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

      LOL Ted!! That’s awesome. What about the picture makes you think of a John Hughes film? All the curly hair or the awful patterns on our clothing?

  6. Pola (@jettingaround) December 11, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    Sounds like a great time in good ol’ ChiTown!! I’m glad you made it to Signature Room. And I must check out the Miniature Rooms at AIC, had no idea…

    • Francesca December 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

      That Miniature Room is pretty neat. Definitely do not skip it on your next trip to The Art Institute!

  7. Ana Silva O'Reilly (@mrsoaroundworld) December 12, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    Lovely weekend! I think Chicago is a wonderful place – and great that you got to see it ‘as a tourist’

    • Francesca December 12, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words about my hometown, Ana. I’m glad that you are so fond of Chicago!

  8. Raul (@ilivetotravel) December 12, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    I wanna check out the SIgnature Lounge!!! And what exactly makes that establishment an “adult” establishment? 🙂

    • Francesca December 13, 2012 at 7:40 am #

      We will go next time you visit, Raul. Promise! As for the “adult” establishment… let’s just say, if my girlfriends & I had had our kids with us, we probably wouldn’t have stopped in there (read: LOTS OF BOOZE) 🙂

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