Summer Adventure Series (Third Edition)

Amber is back with her third installment of the Summer Adventure Series. Today she's recounting her tour of some of America's most famous cities... Amber in the Windy City!

My last month has been full of juxtapositions. In my travels across five Eastern cities, I found it impossible not to compare each location with the others, with home, and with my expectations.  From city to city, I compared subways, museums, and attitudes, picking pieces I liked most about each city or parts inferior to my Bay Area home.  Where would I love to live?  What was my favorite meal?  In which park would I be most happy plopping down with a picnic?

In the city-to-city line-up, I am not surprised that I loved New York City most. My five days exploring weren’t enough to see everything. With another few days, I could have crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and seen another Broadway show.  With a few years I could have settled happily in the East Village, become a serious theater patron and foodie, and passed Sunday afternoons in Central Park with the Times crossword.  The subway in New York was superior to any system I rode. The best meal I had the whole three weeks was at Sarabeth’s near Fifth Avenue. I was smitten in the city.

Central Park

My first runner-up was, more surprisingly, Chicago. I was taken off guard by the density of public art, the accessibility of the museums, the chill ethos, and the deliciousness of the food offerings.  Chicago seemed incredibly creative, from the ingenious of merlot-chocolate chip ice cream to the interactive faces fountain in Millennium Park. 

Boston satisfied every craving for Americana.  I did a dorky walking tour of the Liberty Trail with a guide in Colonial costume and watched amazing Fourth of July fireworks played in by the Boston Pops.  The Boston Common was a gorgeous park, second only to Central, and a baseball game at Fenway Park is truly an experience.  An Italian meal in the North End is unbeatable. But I just wasn’t as captured as I had expected to be by Boston.

Fenway Park

Philadelphia’s subway system was consistently frustrating, and while the historical sites were fun, the city itself didn’t boast much flare. I spent less than two days in Philly and by the end of the only full day, I went to a movie .

Oldest residential street in America ~ Philly

Washington D.C. was a blast primarily because it was full of girl-time with old friends. I know many twenty-somethings moving there to make a name, and they will easily keep entertained with the East Coast’s best Happy Hours, the endless free museums and events, and the politics on The Hill.  I determined that I would move there for a job, but not for the city itself, as I might for NYC.

The Lincoln Memorial

At least twice a day I’d find a point of comparison with home.  The age of the buildings and frequency of historical sites made the West Coast seem insignificant and fleeting.  Compared with home, all of the cities on the East fell short on friendly service.  I ate twice as much meat as I usually would in California. The public transportation isn’t nearly as great on the Bay, but the weather is milder. The homelessness that plagues San Francisco was much less apparent on the East, and I felt unsafe much less than I would have in many parts of my area.

The general safety and cleanliness of the cities exceeded my expectations.  I also underestimated how much I’d spend on food, so was a bit over-budget. The availability of free or low-cost activities such as museums and cultural centers was a welcome surprise. I became hooked on the sense of wonder I felt encountering sites like the Statue of Liberty and Fenway’s Green Monster. Travel is intoxicating in that it keeps you always slightly off-kilter, operating in a state of novelty and wonder, elevated above normal existence.

Thanks Amber! Check out her blog, Let Us Go Then, You and I, and stay tuned for her next post here on Magchunk, when she leaves the cities for the wilderness. Read all of her Summer Adventure Series here.