Chicago Shopping Spree

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

How do you define S H O P P I N G? Three teenage girls at the post-holiday sales on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile call it as a non-stop trek from one end of Michigan Avenue to the other, fueled by good food, and singing top hits as they walk! I trailed behind as the girls power-walked from one store to another, looking for bargains. This was fun. Really?

Some hints for parents lucky enough to chaperone a 24-hour teenage girl shopping marathon: wear comfortable shoes, set a budget, keep your plastic handy, keep laughing and pick a hotel located on Michigan Avenue. I chose the Westin because of its room rate. Winter brings some great hotel deals in Chicago. The hotel’s cheaper rooms are a bit tired, and the hotel is overrun with other bargain-lodging shoppers. Also, it has no indoor swimming pool or hot tub, which would have been a boon for foot-weary shoppers. But for the location and the money, it was a great choice. And Westin does have a heavenly bed.

The Westin is across from the Water Tower Place. For those not in the know, this mall has every important store known to womankind, or mankind for that matter. It’s anchored by Macy’s and then goes up eight levels. I gazed wistfully at the American Girl Store on the first floor— that would have been our only stop a few years ago. Now it’s Abercrombie and Forever 21 with a quick blast through Free the People and a dozen other stores.

A stop at Jamba Juice is a requirement for every Chicago visit. If you don’t know Jamba, you’ve missed the smoothie experience of your life. They feature fruit drinks of every flavor and calorie count. Above Jamba is North Face, another required stop for any teenager. Whether it’s a new backpack, or a down jacket, this outdoor store’s clothes are worn on every high school campus in America, I imagine.

Luckily for me, The Grand Café Lux was on the approved list for places to eat. Lunch helped to fortify all of us. The Grand Lux is kissing cousin to the Cheesecake Factory, and the food is similar in portion size. For a chain, the interior is spectacular, with hand-blown glass fixtures and intricate mosaics. We settled for a pasta dish, a spicy buffalo chicken sandwich and chicken Parmesan, the start of our Italian-themed eating events.

We couldn’t miss Urban Outfitters on State Street. On our way back, we had to stop at Nordstrom’s and the Shops at North Bridge—had to stop, I tell you. The shoe sale was calling my name. Back at our end of Michigan Avenue, the girls stopped in at TopShop, a British store, and Francesca’s, a new store to me.  Big success for all at Francesca’s Collection.

Dinner was at the venerable Italian Village, a collection of three restaurants. A bit pricey, but they had a table for us immediately. We wanted to catch the 10 p.m. IMAX movie at Navy Pier. I have to tell you that Navy Pier seems creepy after hours, but the IMAX is spectacular.

The next morning we did a quick power round at Water Tower before heading over to get a seat at 11 a.m. at one of the Giordano’s’s Famous Chicago Style Pizza restaurants. If you haven’t had their deep-dish pizza, you haven’t lived. Three to four inches of cheese and sauce in a rich crust. A big slice of heaven.

We got home a little poorer in cash, but richer in fun times, good memories and some killer fringed boots.