By Mehdy Ghannad
We arrived in mid-afternoon to some exceptional weather not so typical of Chicago at this time of year. We took a shuttle from the airport to our hostel in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago. The crew hadn’t really spent a lot of time in Chicago before so this was going to be a new experience for all of us. We arrived at the Chicago Getaway Hostel and were greeted by a friendly staff and given a tour of the hostel.
I think common areas are key for facilitating interaction with other backpackers and the Getaway Hostel really paid attention to this. As we walked into the lobby we noticed a nice sitting area where backpackers were planning their activities for the day. There is a ton of information about the city in the form of flyers, pamphlets of tours, maps, activities, events, must see places and eats, and much more. They have a touch screen as well where you can check out some of their recommendations for nightlife, restaurants, and attractions and actually map it out to see the best way to get there.
We walked into the main dining area that has plenty of seating but is still cozy. There is a pool table, a Foosball table, a piano and guitars that guests can use. Just next to the gaming area is a patio with a barbecue and loads of space to hang with your new friends. Then we checked out their state of the art kitchen where travelers could cook up their own meals and store their food. We were all really impressed with how clean everything was and how friendly the staff was.
But it was an unusually warm and sunny day in Chicago given the time of year and we wanted to get a feel for the city so we headed out to explore Chicago. We hopped on the L-Train, the elevated metro system in Chicago. After a quick ride we decided to roam around the streets with no destination in mind. We crossed over a bridge that had a killer panoramic view of the skyline so we stopped for a minute to take it all in. The city is busy but tends to move slower compared to most large cities.
After hearing that Millennium Park was built on top of an old train station, we decided to check it out. It was a photographers playground. You are surrounded by tall buildings in this open area and every direction you look there is a great photo to be taken. The main attraction at the park is 'The Cloud' which is the actual name but everyone refers to this reflective structure as 'The Bean.' You can take photos of the downtown skyline through the reflective surface and be in the picture with the city. Make sure not to cover your face with your camera!
After tooling around the city a bit we headed back to catch the Pub Crawl that the hostel organized to meet a few of the backpackers and also give us a chance to explore the Lincoln Park Area where the hostel is. Along with twenty or so other hostelers we headed to our first stop. We headed to the first bar across the street from the Theater where Tom Dillinger, the infamous bank robber of the 1930’s, was shot. Just think Johnny Depp in Public Enemy. That guy. The bars were packed as the Bulls playoff game was going on and all Chicagoans were going nuts routing on their team.
Everything in the Lincoln Park area is easily walkable making this where one must stay when traveling to Chicago. All the great bars, boutique stores, restaurants are all within walking distance.We met with some backpackers from all over the world. Some from Australia and Spain, others from England and Germany. But a few colorful Americans from Tennessee grabbed our interest, as this was their first hostel experience. We had a few drinks with them and told them about the show and got them even more excited about backpacking and staying in hostels. We chatted it up with them for quite a while as we sipped on beers and watched basketball.
We were pretty tired from an early start and knew we had to be up early again the next morning. We ducked out after the second bar of the crawl and made our way back to the hostel to get some shuteye.