For years, my Mom has commuted to Chicago for work. Sounds insane because it is insane - there have been months at a time where she would fly to Chicago on Monday, stay until Thursday or Friday, spend the weekend at home and do it all again the next week.

Yet all these years, I never went to visit her. I've always had school or work or just generally been busy, plus I've already visited Chicago three times when I was younger so it was never on my priority list.

Fast forward to today - freshly out of school, working part-time while I search for grown-up job and have quite a bit of free time on my hands. So when my Mom mentioned her hotel room in Chicago had two beds in it, I jumped at the opportunity to have an adventure. It's been years since I've explored the city and I didn't remember it much, plus I had yet to take my new camera out for a spin and was keen to go on a bit of a photo-safari!

My mom informed me before I came that I would be spending the majority of the time by myself, as she's a very fancy-schmancy professional boss lady who would be working 90% of the time. Before this trip, I had never traveled on my own. I've always been with at least one other person, so I was interested to see what it was like to eat, drink, sleep, navigate & explore a city entirely solo. I've always been the type to thoroughly enjoy my alone time so the prospect excited me rather than frightened me, but I still had reservations as to how enjoyable it would actually be.

Spoiler alert: I loved it.

I arrived in the evening and took public transport to the hotel (note: do not attempt walking through a city with a roller suitcase. Even a small one. Not fun.) and arrived to a place far, far fancier than I had imagined:

The Hilton on Michigan Avenue. Gorgeous columns, old art, giant crystal chandeliers everywhere + a very cool history = an ideal hotel. I highly recommend - that being said, if my Mother hadn't been staying there through work there would be noooo way I would be able to afford this place!

After I put my things down my Mom came to greet me briefly, then I head off on an evening walk around the park before heading to bed early:

The next morning I got up super early, had breakfast at the hotel and went straight to the Art Institute, which I had heard was well worth a visit. I enjoyed it, but was honestly more enamored by the view from the outside of it: 

(It was a glorious autumnal day, sunny but chilly. My favvvvorite!)

(No filters or editing of any kind on these photos - the colors of the leaves and the sky were actually this vibrant.)

(My current desktop background. So pleased with myself!)

Next, I headed over to Cloud Gate a.k.a. THE BEAN - I've been wanting to see this bad boy forever (it wasn't there the last time I visited Chicago) and I must say, it didn't disappoint. It is frickin' COOL: 

(I get that it's called The Bean because it looks like a giant bean, but am I the only person who genuinely prefers the name Cloud Gate? Sounds so much more lovely!)

(Mandatory Bean Selfie)

Stop #3, lunch at Portillo's (a glorious Chicago institution where I had a seriously tasty hot dog and some delicious crinkle-cut fries - worth the 30 minute wait in line!) before heading over to the Driehaus Museum. 

(Found on my walk over to the museum - I want to live here please) 

(Gorgeous flowers & other greenery are everywhere around the city & I love it. San Francisco - TAKE NOTE!) 

The Driehaus Museum is best described via Wikipedia: 

"The Richard H. Driehaus Museum is a museum located at 40 East Erie Street on the Near North Sidein ChicagoIllinois, near the Magnificent Mile. The museum is housed within the historic Samuel M. Nickerson House, the 1883 residence of a wealthy Chicago banker.[2] Although the mansion has been restored, the Driehaus Museum does not re-create the Nickerson period but rather broadly interprets the prevailing design, architecture, and decorating tastes of Gilded Age America.[3]"

Basically, it's an old historical Chicago mansion that you can pay to look through. 

I love looking through people's houses. Creepy? Yes. Ashamed? No. 

Creeping through an old mansion with loads of fancy stuff in it? Sign me up. 

It is three stories tall and extremely over the top yet somehow not tacky. Hard to explain - but I loved it. It's filled with a ton of gorgeous stained glass, which I was obsessed with. I asked the people who worked there if it was haunted or had been rocked by any scandal and they said no - extremely disappointing, but still a lovely, inexpensive place to visit if you're weird like me and enjoy things like this! 

(Some of the insane stained glass inside the mansion) 

I finished my day by visiting the observatory at the John Hancock Center before dinner - I had previously been inside Willis Tower and I heard that John Hancock had a better view, so up I went to the top: 

In my opinion a FAR better view than than Willis Tower! But next time I would skip the observation deck and go to the lounge - it's free to visit as long as you purchase a drink! 

On my way to dinner I spotted something magical. Something I thought only existed on the Internet. Something that dropped my jaw to the floor. Readers, behold: 

A Nutella Cafe. 

Needless to say I LOST my shit when I saw this. I also ordered a delicious, highly-overpriced pastry. Worth it. 

The next day was my final day, and to be honest I didn't take too many photos of my adventures. I took myself out to breakfast and spent the rest of the time aimlessly exploring, shopping & eating pizza.

However one exciting thing I did get to capture is the "River Architecture Tour Cruise" I went on.  Chicago has a lot of iconic architecture with a rich history that I was keen to know about. Plus, I just love being on a boat. Wooo!

I have to say, the actual tour wasn't very exhilerating. The views from the boat, however, are a different story: 

We starting out on the river (above), then headed into Lake Michigan: 

Well worth the money, even just to relax, enjoy the view and have a drink on the boat. 

In the evening I finally got to see my Mom and have dinner with her and her co-workers before heading back on an early flight to San Francisco the next morning. A really quick trip but a memorable one. After this, my interest in solo travel has flown through the roof and I'm excited to see if I can get into any more mischief in 2015!