Downtown Chicago is home to some of the most popular tourist attractions in America. It’s also big and hoping to cover them all in two days was an ambitious plan. We found our answer in the two-hour Signature bus tour of The Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Bus Company also known as The Hop-on-Hop-Off Tour.
Standing on the corner of Wacker Drive, holding newly acquired pamphlets from the Visitor Information Centre, we had a decision to make on that mildly cold September morning. Hopping off the tour bus at the exact same spot later that day, we knew we had chosen well.
Tickets for this tour can be bought online on http://www.coachusa.com/chicagotrolley/. Like everything else we did on that trip, we bought ours on the spot. Wearing red company logo-bearing jackets, ticket sellers are stationed all around Wacker drive and they are hard to miss. Buying online, one can save four dollars each on adult tickets and two dollars on kids. We paid full price, $35.00 and $17.00 respectively.
Finding a spot on the open upper deck was easy. ‘Ah! The perks of visiting in the waning end of the season,’ grinned Rachael, our tour guide. Her live commentary helped keep our spirits up throughout, even when rain decided to play spoil sport midway through the tour.
Michigan Avenue Bridge was the first out of the fourteen stops. Nestled under this, next to part of Lake Michigan is the Chicago Riverwalk. Water taxis can be hailed from here for cruise tours on the lake and to enjoy the stunning views of the Chicago skyline. The Chicago Theatre, home to some of the best stage and screen performances since 1921 was stop number two.
‘Oprah gave these away on her show!’ Rachael shouted into her microphone and gave us the need-I-say-more look. Re-enforcing the legend of Garret Caramel popcorn, we were told that there were coupons for a free bag behind our tickets. She had us at Oprah.
The Art Institute of Chicago is the second largest art museum in the United States. The stately building, also housing the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is flanked at its entrance by two imposing lion structures. An art lover’s heaven, it warrants uninterrupted time dedication. Short on time, we were happy just to take pictures.
Millennium Park with its cloud bean structure, Grant Park with The Buckingham Fountain and The Chicago Hilton occupied our interest and our eyes for the next half an hour.
‘That’s where Sue lives!’, announced Rachael, pointing at the Field Museum of Natural History, the next stop. Entering Museum campus we were told that it housed the popular Shedd Aquarium as well as the Adler Planetarium. Coming back to Sue, she is the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus currently known and holds a privileged spot in the centre of the lobby in the Field Museum.
The highlight of the tour ride was the drive past Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is one out of the five great lakes of North America and catching a glimpse of the blue water from the bus that day there was no question why. It was a stunning view.
Stops of Navy Pier, Sheraton Hotel, Water Tower and John Hancock Observatory followed.
Going past Hard Rock Café the tour came to an end at Sears Tower popularly known as Sky Deck Chicago.
‘I think we have captured Chicago in spirit,’ I said to Baroon as we got off the bus. That pretty much summed it up.
For those people who have more time on their hands, the tickets of the Signature Tour are valid for three days. Since there is an option of hopping off and then hopping back on at any of the stops, it is worthwhile to choose a destination of choice and spend a few hours there before getting back on the bus.
For people like us, who might be visiting for a short span, The Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Bus Company Tour is a great way of sitting back and getting a feel of Downtown Chicago. Just enough to make you want to go back for more someday.
The Blue Line Chicago Transit Authority Train runs between O’ Hare International Airport and Chicago Downtown. See link
Tour bus Information and online tickets:
Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza
29 E Ohio St Chicago, Illinois 60611
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