I’ve been living in Chicago for a year and a half, and it’s a big, busy city, with a lot to see and do, but I don’t seem to be a big city person. I appreciate the parks and museums, and was glad to have a long break between my summer classes every day, so I could walk to Millennium Park or Navy Pier. My favorite parks are the most natural looking, seeming to sprout from the city as complete bits of prairie. The best example of that style in Chicago is the Lurie Garden, near Millennium Park. It starts as a bright cheery tulip garden in early spring, and gradually transforms into a late summer prairie as it moves through summer, ending with seeding bushes through the fall. The entrance to Navy Pier has a small but sweet rain garden, and there’s a charming bird sanctuary at Montrose Beach, up by the college I’ve been attending.
My fiance, Thomas, loves traveling, geography, and looking up interesting places to visit someday, so most of the planning and photos are his. We’ve been feeling a bit cooped up this year, since both of us have spent several years traveling and teaching or studying abroad and everything’s so much more accessible overseas, but this year we did still manage to get some trips in, even if they didn’t include ancient castles or unknown languages.
Winter: Wisconsin Dells
I hadn’t heard of Wisconsin Dells before moving to Chicago, but it turns out it’s a popular tourist destination on account of entertaining kitsch and winter indoor waterparks. A bit too kitschy for my tastes, but it is sort of fun to have a winter destination with some summer water slides. An hour or so drive away is House on the Rock, an enormous, rambling structure with distinct sections: the house where the original owner lived, a four story tall whale statue, music room, carousel room, and indoor village, among other exhibitions. It’s quirky and unexpected, my favorite part of visiting the Dells.
Spring: Southern Illinois Swamp
I hadn’t realized there were cyprus swamps in Illinois, but it turns out there are. I went camping in spring and again in summer, and would recommend spring the most, because of how many bugs there are later on. Heron Pond is the most popular stop, with a fairly easy half mile walk to a boardwalk, where we were able to see a water snake. There were a lot of little frogs everywhere we could get up close to, some turtles, and some shy white egrets that flew away whenever we got a glance of them.
Summer: San Diego
We got to go meet up with my family, who live in Arizona, in San Diego, which was lovely. We stayed near Balboa Park most of the trip, and spent time at the zoo and exploring the park, which is pretty huge. Thomas proposed to me on the beach by the sea lions at night.
Fall: Upper Peninsula Michigan
We went with Thomas’ parents to Upper Peninsula Michigan in October to see the fall colors. It’s a large area, so we spent a lot of time in the car finding streams and waterfalls, of which there are too many to see in a single trip. We drove around the Keweenaw Peninsula for an entire day, but it was mostly raining and foggy, so we didn’t get too many pictures that day.