It has been an annual tradition for the XIIIs to travel for a week to another location to learn about its historical background and culture. In the past, they have gone to New Orleans, San Francisco, and the deep South. However, for the first time in a five years, our group traveled to Chicago.
The first day in Chicago was hectic yet exhilarating. We departed from LaGuardia Airport at 6:00 in the morning. After a quick two-hour plane ride, the XIIIs landed in O’Hare airport. The sheer size of the airport was overwhelming with the few hours of sleep we had, and it was difficult to take it all in. We made our way to the L train on the blue line, a 40-minute ride to the hotel. After getting off the train and walking through snow and slush, we arrived at the Marriott. Unfortunately, the day that we had the least amount of sleep was the day that we had the most to do.
After a quick bus ride, the group arrived at the Chicago History Museum, an institute that showcases Chicago’s most historically renowned achievements, events, and locations.
Following a short but relaxing lunch, we looked at the Museum’s exhibits where we learned more about the Stockyards, the world’s fair, the L trains history, and much more. When we were finished with our time exploring the museum, the group had a divine dinner at a sushi restaurant near our next stop, Second City. First, the XIIIs went on a tour of the world famous comedy center. The building was enormous. There were classes for learning and practicing improv, stages, studios, and work spaces. When the tour was finished, the XIIIs had a little improv practice for themselves. They the XIIIs saw a hilarious comedy performance by some of the actors in Second City, consisting of popular skits from different little shows compiled into one extravagant performance. There were many political jokes in the show, yet some were made for kids our age, and all of them were hilarious, hilarious enough to make chaperone Tyrone Brown-Osborne, our school photographer teacher, fall out of his chair with laughter. After the satisfyingly entertaining finish, everyone took a half asleep bus trip back to the hotel, and at 11:00 and a twenty-two-hour day, there was no doubt that everyone fell right asleep. The second day was fortunately just as exciting as the first. While there were not quite as many things to do, the Museum of Science and Industry was the most fun Chicago institution that we visited in many of the group’s eyes. “I really enjoyed the Museum of Science & Industry and the Art Institute of Chicago.,” said Roly Levy. “They had that really cool flight simulator where it actually followed your movements in real life,” said Max Beyer. While in the museum, we learned more about World War II, the coal mines beneath the museum, physics, machinery, and the layout of Chicago. Most exciting of all, the XIIIs split into small groups and toured a captured Nazi submarine, the U-505. There, the small groups learned about what the sailors and captains had to deal with under the sea. Also, the tour guide helped recap every major event on that ship chronologically as we traveled through the 251 foot structure. We then left the museum and had a even better dinner than the last at Bill’s Burgers. The patties were succulent and seasoned just right, with the perfect amount of toppings, condiments, and bun. After a good meal, it was off to bed once more, a thrilling second day of discovery. The third was by far the most lazy and slovenly day on the trip for the XIIIs. We awoke to -23 degree temperatures with -55 degree wind chill factor; this was the coldest day in Chicago since 1983, and the second coldest day in the city’s history. Because of this, most Chicago institutions and all Chicago public schools were closed on that day, as it wasn’t safe to be going out in such freezing temperatures. We woke up in the morning and had our usual breakfast before taking a bus tour of the City. The tour guide we had was a great local resident to have as a guide. Her grandfather worked in the Stockyards, and she had grown up behind the yards. She seemed to know everything about the City. Over the course of two hours, we saw many neighborhoods in Chicago, ranging from Pilsen to the Chicago Picasso downtown, and we learned why it has no true title. The tour was organized really well, but it was difficult looking outside the bus as there was a thick layer of ice covering the interior of the windows. Students had to use hotel room keys to scrape off the ice to see outside, which was a struggle for some people. After our tour, we returned to the hotel, which is where we spent the rest of our fun day. Two hours from our return, we had our first and only deep dish pizza in Chicago, and the first deep dish pizza I had ever had. Unfortunately, many would agree that the deep dish that we ordered wasn’t the best pizza Chicago had to offer, but it wasn’t so bad that it held students back from grabbing multiple slices. And it was the only restaurant we could find that was willing to brave the arctic temperatures to deliver food. Realizing that it was too cold to do anything outside for the rest of the day, the group chilled in hotel rooms until dinner, ate, swam and worked out, and finally returned to our rooms. The XIIIs ate some very delicious tacos that night, made traditionally with side of chips, guacamole, and queso.After dinner we proceeded to swim in the hotel’s pool, which was really fun, as there were rocking races, jacuzzi jabber, and other aquatic activities. Then, all XIIIs returned to their rooms. It wasn’t the most action packed day, but it was truly relaxation at its finest. Thursday was a lot like Wednesday; Many plans were canceled because of the weather. However, we made new plans based on what was open, and, boy, did we make the most out of it. We booked tickets to see Willis Tower, the tallest building in Chicago, with a birds-eye view of the city from all sides of the building. Bryan Lau, when asked what he enjoyed most about Chicago, said, “The Willis Tower, because it was extremely fun to look at Chicago from its highest point. In addition to that, we could look down more than a hundred stories from an all-plexiglass box.” After going through security, picking up tickets, riding elevators, waiting in lines, and riding more elevators, we reached our destination at the top of Chicago’s skyline. It was an incredible view from the building. We could see the vast city, which was completely coated in snow. Frozen Lake Michigan, which looked like an infinite snowflake, was the most beautiful of all and definitely a crazy sight to see. While we were up in Willis Tower, many students purchased the pricey yet most delectable fudge imaginable. After we got down from the second tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, we were driven to our lunch location. The restaurant was renowned for their Chicago hot dogs, which were quite good, and the total vibe of the restaurant was refreshing. We returned to the hotel, where we stayed until 6:00, when we went to famous old Andy’s Jazz Club, where local jazz groups played their music for a crowd. The restaurant-Jazz combo was really fun and easy to enjoy with friends, chatter, food, and, most of all, music. After our jazz club extravaganza, we returned to the hotel, tired, and happy for the day we had, yet sad that tomorrow was the last in Chicago. Friday was expected to be a day where we would just sit back and wait for our flight. However, it turned out to be the opposite of that. What we had missed on previous days, we ended up seeing on Friday: the Shedd Aquarium, and the Art Institute of Chicago. After getting completely packed we went to the Shedd Aquarium. The place was giant: it holds over 32,000 animals and contains over five million gallons of water, which held a record at one time. We saw aquatic animals ranging from manta rays to tarantulas, crocodiles to starfish. After looking around the several floors of the building, we met outside the aquatic theater to watch a water show, consisting of dolphins, seal, and penguin tricks. The most impressive feat of the dolphins was jumping 15-20 feet in the air, and sometimes, they would make these huge splashes. It was really nice seeing the seal there, too, as it was a rescue who had been born blind. When he came to the aquarium, it was hard for him to adapt to not having sight, but his hearing really improved because of it, and he could tell clearly where sounds were coming from, which was impressive. He could also wave and run in circles. Then there were the penguins, the one species that are always undeniably cute to watch. They came out of this box and raced to the end of the walkway in front of us. The first penguin was a tiny baby who had to be guided, and its ungainly running and lack of focus made it possibly the cutest animal imaginable, which finished up a satisfying water performance. After the visit, the XIIIs traveled a few quick bus stops to the Art Institute, We were to pick and compare two paintings in the museum that shared the same time period. After we had done our work and finished our exploring in our two and a half hour time frame, we gathered and headed to the airport. We returned the way we had come by taking the blue line back down to the airport. I have never in my life slept more on transportation than on this trip. When we got to the airport, we quickly got our suitcases, got our tickets, ran through TSA, and made our way to our gate. At the airport, I had my second and final Chicago-style hot dog, and it was great. The hot dog tasted a lot better than ones in New York. We boarded our flight, and I spent my two hours aboard that plane watching television and relaxing. Back in New York, many were glad to see their parents in person for the first time all week. For future XIIIs, Chicago is a great choice for a city to travel to. The exploration of the Windy City was such a memorable experience because we were able to pack so much into the days when we could go out, and in the other days, we relaxed and bonded as a group. “While in the Windy City, I learned about the roots of Chicago such as the blues, the food, and the many significant events that shaped its history,” said Declan Larson. The trip not only taught us the historical background of one of the greatest cities in the world, but it taught us how to work together in an unfamiliar environment and enjoy ourselves while doing so.