Best week ever! Met my Grandkids in Chicago with much excitement. We all sensed we were going to be in for a special 5 days with Troy and Simone (my son and daughter-in-law). We weren’t disappointed. We did a lot and took lots of pictures so this blog will be a 2-parter.

We stayed at the incredible Park Hyatt Hotel right across the street from The Water Tower. We had the most magnificent room imaginable, and were welcomed so warmly. My grandkids thought they’d died and gone to heaven. It had stunning views of Lake Michigan, The Hancock building, Michigan Avenue and Water Tower Place. There was a kitchen with a Nespresso coffee machine and the fridge had fresh lemonade, jars of fresh fruit and melon balls, 5 flavors of homemade ice cream including Peanut butter malt which was the tastiest I’ve ever had. The bath tubs had windows that slide open so you could look into the bedroom and, in my room, I could sit in the tub and watch the big TV set in the bedroom. Gotta say the staff at the Park Hyatt could not have been more accommodating, and friendly. I swear, the best hotel experience ever!

Chicago’s Old Water Tower with Lake Michigan Sunday Boats in the background

Water Tower and Michigan Avenue bustling below

John Hancock Center once the tallest in the world outside New York City, now the sixth tallest in the world

A definite stop for my next visit. Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. Lake Michigan in the background.

The first day we did a walking tour. Now you must understand: I have made a film in Chicago and gone there for many shows including Oprah, but it was usually in winter time when Chicago gets frigid or else I just flew in and out. I’ve never had a chance to explore the city in summer. It’s a different place in summer. People are so eager to shed clothes and soak in the sunshine and heat. Lots of skin and smiles. Right outside the hotel, we walked past the old landmark Water Tower and stared up at the John Hancock Building.

The famous Drake Hotel Hancock Center Towering behind

We walked over to what is known as Oak Street beach one of Chicago’s many beaches on the shore of Lake Michigan. It was quite crowded and people were even swimming in the frigid lake waters. This is not a private beach and open to everyone. In fact throughout the week I noticed how much of the city can be enjoyed for free by its residents. From the Lincoln Park Zoo to the 18 miles of Lakefront bike paths. Parks, Pavillions, Music, Fireworks all for the pleasure of the people.

Oak Street Beach. One of many free public beaches.

En route to the beach we passed some interesting murals

For those of you who don’t know this, Lake Michigan is huge, stretching 118 miles across and 307 miles long, it is bordered by Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. You can’t see the other side from the Chicago shore, so you feel as if you were at the ocean. It is one of the 5 great lakes which are: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. Personal note: I broke my back at age 13 diving in Lake Ontario.

Continuing our walk we saw a lot of beautiful cathedrals including Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, and parts of the Northwestern University School of Law, which looks like a cathedral.

Fourth Presbyterian Church whom I’m told have a wonderful Christmas Eve program

Fourth Presbyterian Church

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  1. Great trip report, Jane! Nice to be healthy and getting around town with your kids and grand kids. So different from SoCal!

  2. You took some wonderful pictures of the central sights of my town. How cool that you got to see them this time. I’m so glad you had a good time, and that I saw the tweet pointing to this post so I could enjoy it.

    I’m glad you mentioned how big Lake Michigan is. I remember quite a few years ago, an actress, whose name escapes me now, asked in an interview with the Tribune what ocean she was looking at out her hotel window. She was shocked to hear it was a lake. I smile when I remember that.

  3. Simply stunning. Our Lufthansa crew hotel is not far, so I know those views from the hotel window. I love Chicago and will be there next week and can’t wait. It’s also twinned with the city I live in now, Hamburg, Germany which is also a city on the water and have various other similarities. When I used to jog, I loved jogging along Lake Shore Drive away from the city and at that point where you turn around to jog back home you see the wonderful skyline in front of you with the Drake Hotel below it. Simply breathtaking.
    Take care

  4. I love Chicago! I love that it is so manageable. If you have a good pair of shoes, you can walk to almost everything that you want to, or at least take a quick bus ride. It’s clean, plus I feel safe. Summer and right around Christmas time is the best time to visit. And the architecture and sites are fantastic. My niece’s favorite place is the Field Museum. She loves SUE the T-Rex and the Tsavo Lions. As for your hotel, I have walked by it many times, to get to Ghirardelli’s of course. Besides the ice cream, I love the horse and carriages by it too! I am curious, do people recognize you along the streets and on the beach?

  5. Magical, isn’t it? My office was directly across from the Drake. Had a view of the lake from the One Mag Mile bldg. Not sure how we ever got anything done during the summer Our “peak” season of drudgery was in the winter, so summers were good old 9-5 shifts (except when the Cubs had a day game and vendors came forth with tix). Twas Chicago where I got my first grown up BIKE! It’s quite a relic now. Only thing better than a view of Lake Michigan is biking around the shore of it! (Soooo proud – made it through the week-long ride in Colorado and up to the top of several mountain pass summits. Of course, in high altitude hallucinations, there you were cheering me on!) Knee (and b’hind) took a bit of a beating, but I got through it. Hell of a ride – 376 miles! Thanks for riding along!

  6. Sounds like a great time! I have to ask, as an extremely famous person, are you able to walk around with family without being recognized and bothered?

    • I’m recognized but usually not bothered unless I’m in the midst of something and don’t want to have someone take my attention away. Mostly people are nice and polite

  7. Jane~
    Thanks for the pictorial of the Northside of Chicago. The Fourth Presbyterian Church
    is amazing! It looks very French, as if you were in Europe!~
    I grew up in Kenosha, Wisc. just north over the border. I had many field trips to Chicago. My favorite is The Art Institute (Monets,etc..) , The Field Museum of Science & Industry & Buckingham Fountains.
    Food…You gotta have a Hot Beef, Chicago Hot dog & Ethnic foods like Polish, Yugoslavian, etc… So many to choose from besides pizza…
    🙂 Jody

  8. Hi Jane,

    Welcome to Chicago and so glad you are having the chance to enjoy our beautiful city. Just wanted to make sure you had a chance to stop and admire the Gerhard Richter painting in the lobby at the Park Hyatt. It is one of our city’s hidden gems!!
    Hopefully you have already seen it but just wanted to point it out since you are right there.

    All the best, Angelica.

  9. i felt like i was on vacation in chicago..

  10. Thank you very much for this beautiful pictorial of Chicago!

    I have been searching for a pictorial like this for a long, long time. I love this. You have captured the beauty and essence of Chicago.

    I can’t wait to see what you’ll have for us in Part 2!

  11. The murals look AMAZING!!! I wish we had stuff like that where I live! Mississippi is so…boring!!! I have big dreams, and dream #1 is to move to a beautiful big city! Chicago seems nice!! 🙂

  12. Ms. Fonda: Born and raised in Chicago and now living in Fort Worth, I so thoroughly enjoyed looking at your photos. There are many things I miss about the city including the places you’ve brought back to mind. I look forward to Part 2!

  13. Ms. Fonda — I have been an admirer of your life’s work for many years. “Nine to Five” remains one of my Top 10 all-time favorite movies. My family exercised together with your encouragement. And your autobiography, MY LIFE SO FAR, really spoke to my soul. We come from different backgrounds. I am neither wealthy, nor famous—but, I feel respected by you as an artist. The way in which you approach your roles (both onscreen and off) demonstrates a bravery and assurance—even in the face of relentless adversity/condemnation—that is remarkably beautiful. I am thirty-six years old, and just beginning a new stage in my life. After many years of enduring deep depression, anxiety, and addiction; I am now getting professional help. Each day presents an amazing challenge to overcome my demon—low self-esteem. It’s a slow process, but I look forward to hearing my OWN voice as it continues to drop down into my body. (Like you’ve mentioned yours did during the filming of “Klute”.) I like this new feeling of beginning a connection with myself. Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy and appreciate your allowing us to live a little vicariously through your blog. Thank you. P.S. I just constructed an acronym that I thought you might like: ASSURANCE (Ability to Succeed—Stated Unwaveringly and Repeatedly. Affirming, Never Condemning. Engaging with…Assurance.)

  14. Great town! I travel there often to visit family including a 94 year old cousin. She was one of the first African-American school superintendents in Chicago. She’s a regular theatre goer and just saw “The Iceman Cometh” with Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy (one of the finest actors on the planet IMHO) at the Goodman.


  15. “It is one of the 5 great lakes which are: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.”

    Did you use that old mnemonic device we learned in about 6th grade to name the Great Lakes? H-O-M-E-S

    I think anyone who’s not a native to the Midwest but who comes to love places like Chicago, or Madison, WI, where I live, has to have arrived first in warmer weather and then, once completely taken by the place’s charms, gives a first thought to what the winters must be like.

    And I swear, at the end of each of the 28 winters I’ve spent here, some of which have gone on for six long, wrapped-in-layers frigid months, at the end of each of them I have this moment where I think, “Whew! That’s done. I bet that’ll never happen again!”

    Peace. Love & Understanding to you~


  16. Hi again Jane~ Great update on the Southside Chicago! You will have to get a Hot Dog next time & a Hot Beef! 🙂 Thanks, Jody 😀

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