Chicago adventures: Architectural boat tour + Hamilton!

Hi friends! How are you? Hope you’re having a lovely week. I’m still dragging after returning from Chicago, but am slowly getting my mojo back. I got very used to staying up until 2am Valdosta time and sleeping in. I felt like my phone was taunting me when the alarm went off this week, but it was WAY worth it; we had such an amazing time.

Chicago, you are so pretty.


Chicago bride

The crew at Hamilton

with Betsy

When we got into Chicago, we took the train downtown and checked into our hotel: the Ritz-Carlton Chicago. The Pilot said I tricked him because it’s located in the water tower building, which is a 6-story shopping center. (Apparently OPRAH USED TO LIVE IN THAT BUILDING.) These things don’t happen by accident haha. Betsy and I also chose this hotel because it was in such a great location: surrounded by shops, restaurants, and fun opportunities to explore.

The room was beautiful. It had a sitting area with a couch and a couple of chairs, two bathrooms, a comfy bed + magnificent views of the city.

Ritz Chicago view

Ritz Carlton Chicago room

Ritz Carlton Chicago

Ritz Chicago bathroom selfie

Ritz Chicago bathroom

When we walked into our room, we were surprised to see chocolate-covered strawberries and a little card for our 10th anniversary. It was an awesome touch.

chocolate strawberries

We met up with Betsy and Jeremy to walk around the area, and then got dressed for dinner at Alinea! (The full recap is here. It was one of the best meals of my life.)

In addition to all of the amazing food we ate, we also enjoyed a lot of unique Chicago experiences.

Here are some of the highlights:

Farmer’s market

Chicago farmer's market

While we were walking to meet Mara and her family for brunch, we wandered through a farmer’s market. I love getting the chance to explore local farmer’s markets when I travel, especially since it gives me an idea of the fresh produce in the area, the types of handmade and artisan creations they offer, and we can check out local artists and musicians. Something about walking around a farmer’s market with a fresh juice makes me really happy.

While we didn’t pick up anything to take home, and didn’t eat anything since we were on the way to eat brunch + every dessert on the Nico Osteria menu, we did pick up some cute pumpkin branches to take to Mara.

Pumpkin branches

The Surgical Sciences museum

Surgical sciences

(Dress is Saloni, shoes <— on sale, and handbag <— on sale)

This was completely accidental, and we meandered in on our way to Lincoln Park. It was fascinating to get a glimpse into the history of medicine and pharmaceuticals -we’ve come a long way, folks- and some of the old medical tools and instruments were very appropriate for Halloween-time. 

Bone crusher

The above picture is of a bone crusher that they used to use to break bones and reset them in proper alignment… minus anesthesia, natch. 

The Architectural boat tour

Chicago is an architectural wonder, especially since it rebuilt itself after the great fire that destroyed a vast majority of the city. While the fire was tragic and thousands of locals were left homeless, Chicago quickly rebuilt itself. The architects who came in saw the land as a clean slate. Chicago is one of the cities where the skyscraper originated, and you’ll see so many different styles and unique details on the structures.

My dad is an architect, so since I was young, I’ve always been intrigued by design and ornamentation of houses and buildings. When Betsy suggested the boat tour, and so many people had suggested it, we thought it would be a fun afternoon activity. We hopped onto a boat on the river, and on the 90-minute tour, we learned a lot about the history of Chicago and the different buildings. I would highly recommend it if you’re traveling to Chicago!

Chicago boat tour

My favorite story was about the old Post Office (where the Batman movie Dark Knight was filmed) and the fact that it’s been vacant for 20 years. Now, they have a permit to turn it into a residential complex and are quickly transforming it. For now, it looks pretty creepy, but I’m sure it will be fixed up and sparkling in no time. While we went up the river, we also found a lot of goals areas where we’d like to live. (If it didn’t snow so much and turn into a frozen tundra, I would want to live in Chicago.) Noteworthy: the boat had a full bar + free cookies. 


Hamilton Chicago review

As you guys know, I’ve been obsessed with Hamilton for at least two years. (I even dedicated a workout to my Hammy love. #truefan.) Despite playing it constantly, I’m still not sick of the soundtrack.. and Liv and P know some of the words. Maybe inappropriate. Who knows.

Tom and I outside Hamilton

(Dress is here)

For our 10th anniversary, the Pilot told me he’d take me to see it. We were originally thinking we’d go to NYC, but when we heard it was playing in Chicago, and Betsy and Jeremy had suggested a joint vacay, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity. Thankfully we were able to snag some tickets, and it felt very surreal when we were finally in the room where it happens. 

bubbles with Betsy at Hamilton Chicago

We grabbed glasses of champagne, and we took our seats.

Hamilton Chicago playbill

Even though I was extremely excited and had been looking forward to it for months, I was expecting to be the smallest bit underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong; I was sure I would LOVE it, but in my heart, nothing would compare to Lin-Manuel Miranda and the original cast. I thought maybe this particular cast would try to “copy” the sounds and styles of the original cast members. I was SO so wrong. Everyone brought their own unique style, nuances, and flavor to their characters. Their voices were INSANE, and I had the chills the entire time. I also cried pretty much the entire second act.

Hamilton stage Chicago

Miguel Cervantes was beyond incredible as Hamilton. We got to meet him after the show, and he was so kind and humble.

With Miguel Cervantes

Everyone was amazing, but King George was particularly hilarious (the audience was cracking up during his numbers) and Aaron Burr. He blew us all away. He had so much heart, and a strong, incredible voice. 

With Aaron Burr, sir.  

with aaron burr

(Gregory Treco. I failed on making a mad Aaron Burr face for the pic.)

It felt like such an honor to be able to witness that much talent and hard work in one room. Something else that surprised me: the dancing. Since I’d only listened to the soundtrack, it was hard for me to picture the ensemble and the dance numbers. The choreography was astounding. Some numbers were more like interpretive dance, but over the course of the show, it ranged from modern, to hip hop, to ballet, and classic Broadway jazz. There were so many pieces that went into place so perfectly, and it was by far, my favorite musical experience. I seriously had to hold it together while we were leaving because I was about to start sobbing like a weirdo. I was just so happy.

Best anniversary gift, and trip, ever. <3

Have you been to Chicago? What was your favorite part?

If you could live anywhere, where would you choose?



Shout out to reader friends Julie and Melissa who said hi and chatted for a bit at Nordstrom! I loved getting to meet you. <3 

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  1. Amber on September 28, 2017 at 6:56 am

    I am from a chicago, so glad you love my city!! I saw Hamilton last year and also cried like a big weirdo. My husband thought I was crazy!

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:32 pm

      i LOVE your city! if i didn’t hate snow i would try to live there 🙂 and glad i’m not the only one who cried so much during hamilton. so so good

  2. Kristi on September 28, 2017 at 8:12 am

    I’m so glad you had fun! My daughter and I went just this past spring to see Hamilton in Chicago and it was AMAZING! It was fun to see through your pictures again. We are planning another trip there next year and did not know about the museum of Surgical Sciences so I KNOW she will want to go to there (she was a biology major in undergrad). I feel like we could have done a boat tour two or three times and not gotten bored with it so we will do that again for sure. It was a fun city, nice people and so easy to navigate. I can’t wait to go back!!

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:31 pm

      so glad you had such an amazing time, too!
      and yes, the surgical sciences museum was fascinating; i’m sure she would love it
      chicago is such a great city. i definitely want to go back soon, too!

  3. Laura @ Laura Likes Design on September 28, 2017 at 8:25 am

    We live in Minneapolis, but I’ve never been to Chicago (other than the airport which of course immediately reminded me of the mad dash scenes from Home Alone) even though it’s only a few hours away! It’s definitely on our list!

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:29 pm

      you would love it!

  4. Katie on September 28, 2017 at 9:17 am

    So many things to say!! I lived in Chicago for a little over 6 years post-college, and I just love it so much. A few weeks ago, my husband and I snuck up (we are a short drive away now) to way belatedly celebrate my birthday by going to a fancy dinner and seeing Hamilton. I was so worried that I had over-hyped it in my mind, but NOPE! It was even more amazing than I’d imagined. One of my favorite characters was Thomas Jefferson. He just really nailed it and was so hilarious. If I had unlimited funds, I’d see the show every week!! So glad you finally got to be in the room where it happens, too 🙂 Happy Belated Anniversary!!

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:29 pm

      so amazing that you lived there!
      and i love that you saw the same cast. YES! jefferson was incredible <3

      • Kristi on September 29, 2017 at 7:45 am

        Was Chris Lee your Jefferson? We didn’t get to see him in the show but we DID see him at Chik-Fil-A the day before and he was gracious enough to pose for a photo with us!

        • Fitnessista on September 29, 2017 at 11:30 am

          yes! he was AMAZING. i love that you saw him at chick fil a 🙂

  5. Kristin on September 28, 2017 at 9:40 am

    I just bought tickets for me and my nine year old daughter…she knows EVERY word to every song and she is going to be excited beyond words when I give her the tickets at Christmas. I had the same worries about comparing this ensemble to NYCs and I am so happy to hear you loved it. I cried looking at your photos of the stage so I am in huge trouble #bringthetissues

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:28 pm

      omg, you’ll have the BEST time <3

  6. Dee on September 28, 2017 at 10:06 am

    “Happy tenth anniversary! As a test of your marital harmony, we are gifting you an odd number of strawberries. Ready, set, discord! PS The Wifi password can be found in the pocket for your key-card.” – The Ritz Carlton

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:27 pm

      this made me crack up
      for the record, i ate two strawberries and he had one haha

  7. Emily @ Pizza & Pull-ups on September 28, 2017 at 10:17 am

    What an amazing trip!!!! I love Chicago, the hubs family is from there and it is such an amazing city. Not sure I could survive their winter though.

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:26 pm

      right?! it seems a little intense for me

  8. Kayla on September 28, 2017 at 10:24 am

    I’m from NYC but I went to Chicago to see the cast there (I think it’s a different Burr and Angelica now though). Having seen the original cast and now a few different replacement casts, it still remains just as awesome. It’s a real testament to the show being THAT good that it carries itself, original cast or not. So happy you got to see it!

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:26 pm

      yes, so true! it’s like wicked.. even with so many different cast members, it’s just as impactful and magical 🙂

  9. Emily on September 28, 2017 at 10:32 am

    So glad you had a fun trip! We LOVE Chicago! My husband took our daughter to see Hamilton for her thirteenth birthday this summer. She is OBSESSED with Hamilton. Ok, we all are! 🙂 They got to meet Miguel Cervantes, too, and my daughter was ecstatic. He was so kind to her. It is truly an amazing show!

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:25 pm

      ahhh i loved reading this story! what an incredible bday gift 🙂

  10. Melissa on September 28, 2017 at 11:46 am

    It was so good meeting you Gina! Glad you had an awesome time in Chicago!

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:25 pm

      loved meeting you!! <3 we had a great time in your amazing city

  11. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West on September 28, 2017 at 11:47 am

    The boat tours weren’t open yet when we went back in March, but that’s something I would love to do. We went to the observation deck of the Sears Tower, and that was totally cool to stand out on the glass platform. As far as Hamilton — DYING to see it. It came to SF, and it was nearly impossible to get tickets. Oh well, one day! 🙂 Glad you had a good trip!

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:25 pm

      i would FREAK OUT on that glass platform hahah
      and you would love hamilton! one day it will happen 🙂

  12. Jill on September 28, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    I love Chicago as well! My BFF lives there, right off of Lakeshore, so I love to visit her. How did you get to meet some of the Hamilton cast? What a cool experience!

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:24 pm

      ahhh so you prob get to visit often! i LOVE it. outside if you go around the corner, the cast will usually pop out and say hey. i was not expecting them to hang out with everyone, take selfies and sign playbills though!

  13. Rebecca on September 28, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    I’m going to Chicago for the first time next week to run the marathon! I’m so excited, I keep telling myself that even if my race doesn’t go well that at least I’ll be able to see a really cool city on foot haha.

    I saw Hamilton last year in NYC, I kept thinking I would be underwhelmed since it was the second cast but NOPE! Fun fact: Javier was actually the original Alexander Hamilton at the Public theater, Lin didn’t take over until it opened on Broadway. I have heard that the Chicago cast is amazing! So cool that you got to meet some of the actors!

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:23 pm

      ohhh good luck in the marathon and have the best time!!
      that is an awesome fun fact, too. off to google stalk the original hamilton 🙂

  14. Mara on September 28, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    So, every morning on our way out, Kira points at the pumpkins and says, in the tiniest squeaky voice, “TIIIIINY PUMPKIN!”

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:23 pm

      omg, the cutest

  15. Priscilla on September 28, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    Ah, Chicago. How I miss thee! I lived in Chicago for about 6 years, but had to leave in 2012. I would definitely move back in a heart beat. Fantastic culture, music, restaurants, art, museums, sports, etc. Look like you had a blast.

    If I could live anywhere it would either be Chicago or London.

    PS: Favorite eatery = Kuma’s Corner or Pastoral

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:22 pm

      SO so amazing you lived there. it is such an awesome city <3
      we'll have to check those out!

  16. Jennifer on September 28, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    I think you’ve sold me on seeing Hamilton when I’m in Chicago for a conference at the end of October! I had been holding out for New York but who knows when that will happen? Now I just have to break it to my husband that I’m not only traveling to one of our favourite cities without him but also seeing an amazing show…

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:22 pm

      you will not regret it!! get tickets soon if you decide to go, though- they sell out <3

  17. Carrie on September 28, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    Hamilton!!! A legit life changing experience. I feel so lucky to have seen such an amazing piece of art! I loved hearing how much you liked the actors in the production you saw. I felt the same way and the actors I saw were completely different (I saw it in SF!). I still have chills when I think back on watching the performance.

    • Fitnessista on September 28, 2017 at 10:22 pm

      it seriously was life changing. i can’t wait to see it again one of these days!

  18. Vicki L. on September 28, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed your trip to Chicago! You lucked out and happened to be here while we were having our heat wave. I am soooooo jealous that you got to see Hamilton! I’ve been entering the daily lottery ever since it opened. Maybe one day I’ll luck out…

    • Fitnessista on September 29, 2017 at 11:30 am

      i hope you win!!! <3

    • Vicki L. on September 29, 2017 at 4:47 pm

      Thanks! For now, though, I’ll have to settle for listening to the soundtrack. It’s actually my playlist of choice for my half-marathons!

  19. Traci | The Petite Chef on September 29, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    I’ve been to Chicago once (for a work conference) and my favorite part was the deep dish pizza. SO good and a “when in Chicago” must-have treat! 🙂 Also, the cheese/caramel popcorn.

    I also loved how walkable the city was and liked how it was situated right around the river. The layout was pretty cool.

  20. Faye Holloway on September 29, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    Hi! I’m SO excited because I’m like you and have been dying to see Hamilton for ages. My husband is doing the marathon this weekend so it was the perfect opportunity to make a vacay of it. We’re going Friday night and then doing a late dinner after – I love after theatre dinner! Do you remember how long the show was so we can make reservations? I’ve also put Do-Rite donuts on the list per your suggestion 🙂

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