Photo Essay: My 30th Birthday Trip to Chicago

by Ekua on September 17, 2012 in captured on memory card,Illinois

Turning 30 feels like an event that should be celebrated in special way, with the joy of familiarity and the allure of something new. Chicago, a city I’d previously visited very briefly six years ago, offered both of those things. I could spend time with my sister who had moved there earlier this year while commemorating entering a new decade in a new(ish) place with a lot to discover.

As I arrived at O’Hare Airport and made my way from the terminals to the train station, the sweet melodies of a jazz trumpeter filled the walkway leading me in right direction and welcoming me to Chicago. My sister met me at the station, and over the next few days, she and her crew of Chicago friends helped make sure that my 30th birthday long weekend was a festive and memorable one:

The Cloud Gate in Chicago

After a gathering on the evening I arrived, one of our first stops the following morning was Millennium Park where we saw the Bean, and I learned that it’s officially called the Cloud Gate.

A side view of the Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago

Jay Pritzker Pavillion in Millenium Park, Chicago

A few steps away at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, we caught a rehearsal for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. This structure was clearly designed by Frank Gehry. I can’t say I like the look of this, but the sound was awesome.

The Cloud Gate and skyscrapers in Chicago

 I had to get one last picture of the Bean with the tall buildings in the background.

Still Life Painting by Louise Moillon at the Art Institute of Chicago

After Millennium Park, we dropped into the nearby Art Institute of Chicago which houses quite a few famous paintings and some unique permanent exhibits such as a collection of dollhouse-size recreations of European and American rooms from the late 13th century to mid-1900s. Pictured above is Still Life with a Basket of Fruit and a Bunch of Asparagus by Louise Moillon, 1630.

Water Taxi in Chicago

We took a scenic ride down the Chicago River via water taxi to Chinatown.

Arriving in Chicago's Chinatown

There’s not a whole lot to Chicago’s Chinatown, but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride over.

Waiting for the L Train in Chicago

While waiting for the train after leaving Chinatown, I liked the way the station and the train tracks framed the skyline.

Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline

On my birthday, I woke up to a beautiful day and my sister and I took advantage of this by going for a walk along Lake Michigan.

border: 1px solid gray;

Later in the evening, one of my sister’s friends graciously hosted us on the rooftop of his building and we had a delicious potluck with amazing views.

The Chicago skyline at sunset time

Raising a glass to 30!

It’s good to be related to people who can cook and bake. My sister made this awesome Funfetti-inspired cake from scratch!

Better than the box kind, for sure. After dinner, we went out for some Chicago nightlife and it rained on us unexpectedly. I decided to take those couple hours of rain as a good birthday sign.

The Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago

My sister and I had brunch the next morning and then visited the Lincoln Park Conservatory which was full of interesting plants such as this one.

The Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago

The Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago

The Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago

At the Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago

Lincoln Park in Chicago

Enjoying perfect weather at Lincoln Park.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Marsha September 18, 2012 at 1:59 am

Hey, Ekua! Happy belated birthday! Chicago’s been on my list of places to revisit too. I last visited over a decade ago with some school chums and I’d really love to explore it on my own…and take pictures of the Bean, of course. Looks like you had a fun time!


Ekua September 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Thanks! The first time I visited Chicago was for a wedding and we got a very brief overview of the tourist attractions after the wedding was over. This time I did a few more touristy things but got much more of a local perspective which was nice.


Katy September 18, 2012 at 11:25 am

Happy belated birthday 🙂 I just left Chicago a few weeks ago and fell in love with it. It’s such a perfect mix of city bustle and quiet nature spots with the warmest welcome I’ve had yet from random strangers!

Love the turquoise cake, too. Looks yum,


Ekua September 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Thanks! The parks and the lake were great and easy to access from where we were which was nice. And definitely some welcoming people! I crave another bite of cake each time I look at that slice 😉


Dani & Jess September 18, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Happy belated birthday, Ekua! Glad to hear that you had an awesome birthday in Jess’ home town – what a great trip!


Ekua September 20, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Thanks! Chicago definitely showed me a good time 😛


Sunee September 20, 2012 at 3:12 am

Another happy belated birthday! Looks like you had a lovely weekend and that cake! Yum!


Ekua September 20, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Thank you 🙂


hannahinhanoi September 26, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Happy belated birthday! Great pictures of Chicago. I grew up on the South Side and all my relatives live just to the north of the city. The Art Institute of Chicago (especially the miniature rooms) is one of my favorite museums. I just love how massive the city feels. So much to do and see and so many people.


Ekua September 27, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Thanks! I think LA has Chicago beat for 2nd biggest, but Chicago really has that city feel!


Terri September 27, 2012 at 11:31 am

Happy Birthday! I haven’t spent much time in Chicago, but I do want to go back.


Ekua September 27, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Thanks 🙂


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: