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The Windy City

One of the perks of being a member of a high school marching band is the trips we take to various places in the country. Destinations such as Disney World and Virginia Beach have been fun, memorable experiences, but no other band trip could ever compete with our voyage my junior year to Chicago, Illinois. As I sat on the bus for seven hours, thoughts of 1920s gangsters and Barack Obama floated around my mind. I soon realized, though, that Chicago is not at all what I imagined; it was more. A skyline that rivals New York City just appeared out of thin air and Lake Michigan, off to the right, reflected every illuminated office building light. Little did I know, this city of under three million would become one of my favorite travel destinations ever.
Day one of my journey was strictly exploration. The chaperones let us roam the Navy Pier, a carnival consisting of international treats and one gigantic, white Ferris wheel. A variety of smells wafted in the air, ranging from salty pretzels and homemade Italian sauce. The view from on top of the Ferris wheel was surreal—it was silent and all I could see was blue from the sparkling lake and sky. Next, we migrated west toward the “Magnificent Mile,” known for its shopping. I felt small while looking up at all the peeking skyscrapers, but I would soon find comfort in a store, particularly the Nike outlet. Chicago’s downtown scene had an old feel to it, but at the same time, it was a rich, lavish city filled with designer clothing stores.
Day two of my voyage focused on knowledge. I visited the Art Institute of Chicago and experienced masterpieces from the Renaissance, contemporary times, and even back to the days of Cleopatra. The art museum was a labyrinth of beautiful, forbidden walls and each corridor was endless. Natural light filled the entire building and each exhibit had its own mood. Later on in the day, I took part in what is called “The Gangster Tour,” where our tour bus traveled through the old, run-down streets of Chicago where Al Capone and John Dillinger once did their dirty business. Non-stop facts of jazz and prohibition entered my mind throughout the entire tour and ignited my interest in the roaring twenties. The history that this city has to offer is immense and could not be taught in one day, unfortunately.
The third and final day of my expedition was an adrenaline rush of adventure. We went to Six Flags Great America, a place where real life terrors met with humorous cartoon characters. The bright colors of the roller coaster tracks overlapped with one another and created a spiral of metal. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach as I waited in zigzagging lines, but were eventually set free after the first two-hundred foot drop. Screams of laughter and horror echoed across the American-themed Park. By the end of the day, my cheeks were sun-burned red and my feet ached with newly developed blisters, but the rush of plunging toward the ground and smelling cotton candy made up for the pain. We had one more stop before heading back to the hotels, and that was the Sears Tower: the tallest building in the United States. The building welcomed us with a collage of different languages saying “Welcome.” Soon, we were all on our way up the 108 story building via elevator. My ears popped as we quickly approached the sky deck. The view was incredible. There was a 360 degree view of Chicago: to the north was the mighty Lake Michigan, south was Grant Park, and of course to the east was Oprah’s penthouse. The view went as far as the eye could see and the city slowly lit up as the sun set to the west.
As the sun rose the next morning and the bus crossed the Chicago River, I looked back on my first impression of Chicago: the skyline. The buildings reflected the sun’s light and created a glare against my glasses. It saddened me that I was leaving my new favorite city, but I just remembered that I would soon come back again to experience the wind through my hair, the aromas dancing in my nose, and the chill down my spine when I visit the great city known as Chicago.




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