My final hotel was relatively close walking distance to Lincoln Park, so after my morning ablutions and a stop for coffee, I headed out for a stroll through the park, on my way to the nature museum and the zoo. Everywhere I went in Chicago, I found random statues. Lincoln Park didn't disappoint me in this. I saw several there, including this gem:
The pose of the above statue was so dramatic that I absolutely had to find out who John Peter Altgeld was. Turns out, he was the 20th governor of Illinois (in the late 19th century), and a leading figure of the Progressive movement. As such, he pioneered child labor laws, hence the fact that he's protecting children in the statue. By the way, his last name means "old money" in German.
After meandering through the park, I made my way to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum just in time for it to open. I was disappointed to discover that the Butterfly Haven was closed for the week. However, because it was, the cost of admission was only $5 instead of $9, which I thought was incredibly fair. Also, when I went past the haven, I could still see through the windows, so I got to see some butterflies even if I didn't get to walk amongst them, which was nice.
I loved the Mysteries of the Marsh, where learned about the marshland that used to cover Illinois (it was mostly destroyed to make way for farmland) and where I also took this picture of one of my most favorite things in the word, dragonflies:
I also really, really loved the Wilderness Walk. I didn't take any pictures of it because it's not an experience you can convey with pictures. Basically, it's a series of small, free-standing rooms that you walk through. The motion activates the lights and sounds, so when you step inside, you see and hear Illinois nature. There are three or four of them, each one conveying a different habitat. It's very cool.
Additionally, I enjoyed the Heritage of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, an exhibit on the "mother" organization of the museum, where they have a lot of items from the early 20th century, including old nature footage, notes, and preserved specimens. I particularly liked this lovely display of insects:
Outside, there are nature trails and the pretty, serene North Pond, where I saw a couple of birds chilling on a log:
After leaving the nature museum, I went to the always-free Lincoln Park Zoo. I liked this zoo a lot, much better than LA's zoo, and that costs money. Here are a few of the animal shots I took. I didn't write down the names of any of the animals, so other than the giraffe and the meerkats, I'm not sure what they are:
I noticed this butterfly chilling on a trash can, so I stopped to snap a pic:
South of the zoo is the South Pond, which you can take a trail around. I did for part of the way:
There are excellent views of downtown Chicago from there:
After leaving the zoo, I caught the bus to downtown Chicago, where I ate lunch before taking the train out to the airport. A train snafu caused delays (sadly, a train struck someone on the tracks a few stops north of the one I was at), I arrived at O'Hare to massive security lines, and in my flustered state, I nearly boarded the wrong plane. Which is to say, I almost missed a flight for the first time in my life. But I made it, and landed safely back in LA, happy to be home.
I had an excellent time in Chicago. My negative observations about the city: car drivers there honk at pretty much everything at all times of the day and night & pedestrians act like jaywalking is a competitive sport. This gave the impression of rudeness. However, contrary to that impression, I found that people were, to a fault, extremely polite, and often overtly friendly. More than one stranger struck up a conversation with me.
Despite numerous visits throughout my childhood and late teen years, I was never very big on Chicago. This trip changed my mind. Perhaps I simply needed to get out more, and explore the world, to gain an appreciation for what an amazing city it is. I love Chicago. I can't wait to go back!