It’s a Zoo in the Suburbs (Chicago 6)

Day 3 in Chicago!

Early Morning

The morning view from the apartment excited me. Even though it was a summer day, it looked foggy as if were fall. 7am felt like it was a gentle midmorning though. The window overlooked one of the main streets that runs from Downtown to the suburbs. Across is a large park that would have been covered in snow in the winter.

We weren’t too far from the Downtown area and from the second floor, we could see over the park and the dewy morning. That morning, I opened a can of clam chowder that we bought the night before at a Target while walking to the pier for our boat ride. It was a delicious breakfast.

The Suburbs

I explored today on my own since my friend had taken ill. I took the bus going further inland and for the first time in Chicago, the transportation was much slower. The bus schedules were less predictable and had a 30min to an hour gap instead of the standard 15 minutes.

The further the bus went, the less diverse the city became and there was an African American enclave. In one instance, I was waiting a while for the bus and ate my banana (that we also bought at the Target). I made another transfer and this time, instead of waiting, I walked to the next stop and as I walked, the bus was strolling down, of course. Luckily, the driver was able to figure that I was walking to the next stop, which by that time, was quite close.

It was a great relief to be on the bus and it went all the way to the entrance, where a couple of people also got off.

More Big Animals: Chicago Zoological Park

If the giant fish, giant “eels,” and giant “flies” weren’t enough, then here were more giant animals here. It was interesting to see the suburbs on the way to Brookfield Zoo. The zoo entrance had large murals of a wolf (amazing and intense), polar bear, peacock, lion, and dolphin (very cute). This zoo was so big…

I explored the Fragile Desert where there were really socially-aware meerkats. The best parts about going to the zoo was seeing the animals interacting up close in the environment that was created for them and learning about the environment and animals again. For example, how would you survive in the desert?

Nearby was the Big Cats and the Clouded Leopard Rain Forest exhibit with a nice statue of an aggressive-looking lion. Some of the big cats were sleeping in broad daylight. The leopard were also calmly relaxing in its cave. The rain forest was one of my favorites because it included tanks for animals such as the mossy frog (complete with a foot of water in that grassy, wet man-made habitat. Like the desert exhibit, it was indoors and had this cave-like feeling. Inside, there was a fenced-off area with rocks and a pond for the animals, one of them, a snake.

At Pinniped Point, there were barking seals, which I watched as they were being fed. There was also an adorable walrus sculpture. Down by the Seven Seas Dolphin Area was were they held dolphin shows if you bought tickets to them and there was the Seven Seas (Gift) shop that had galore of souvenirs.

Each park is different because of it design, what they wanted to educate the visitors, and the animals they had. There were three bears on a tree in one of the sculptures outside. There were more lion statues at the sets to an amazing, giant peacock in the middle of a plaza. Even outside of the typical zoo animals, I found the squirrels that they had because it was a thirteen-lined ground squirrel with the leopard coat instead of the usual tree squirrels.

Most spectacular of all was the Roosevelt Fountain-a large fountain. It had a garden around it where the birds like geese were allowed to walk around the zoo. Near the monkey exhibit, there was also a smaller fountain with a bald eagle with wings spread wide open. Along the Africa path, there was also a couple of statues like the three elephants and what resembles a Victoria Crowned pigeon on a tall tree stump. Another very interesting one was the elegant bull statue next to the Hoofed Animals exhibit.

Another quick must-see might be the Swan Lake area. The hike to Dragonfly Marsh was a little confusing, but it was interesting to see such a large lake in the park and there were pond areas.

Personally, I also enjoyed The Swamp exhibit. This point, after being chased by bees again because of my food and getting a bit ill from the sun, the covered building exhibit offered some shade. Outside was sweltering and inside, it was humid. There was a mimicry of a swamp with tall trees and even a wooden bridge to walk over and it featured Illinois and playful river otters.

I saw parrots, more reefs, and in one of the exhibits water rolled from the ceiling down into a tank, splashing us. I was able to find Dory in that exhibit in the colorful reef. Then, there was a replica of a cliff where seabirds flew around.

Each time I went into a new exhibit, I felt like an explorer in a new terrain. The Primates exhibit was extremely large and entertaining. While it didn’t have waterfalls or swamp, humid weather, this giant building housed many different types of monkeys. There were large trees and small ponds and plenty of rooms for the monkeys to climb and swing. It is like a two-story or more building. There was one part with African monkeys and another with Asia’s. Inside, there was a whole bridge that we could cross to see the monkeys, and we can walk up the “cliffs” to get closer views.

This zoo had buffalos and many other big animals, including a big brown bear bathing in blue-green water and a half submerged alligator peaking at you. There were zebras, camels, and okapis. As I was finishing these exhibits, I sipped on a large root beer float, trying to recover from the heat.

That morning, I had woke up late and took more than two hours (it would have taken two hours) to get to Brookfield Zoo. It was definitely very far into the suburbs and takes some planning. After about four hours at the park, it was already in the afternoon. I had wanted to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio, but it would have to wait. After more than two hours again and a detour to the Triton College, I was at the apartment. Today was definitely a slower day.

Wandering in the Night

We took the bus to the downtown area that evening, passing by the Chicago History Museum, and walking by the church while listening to the loud buzz of cicada. In person, the cathedral looked even more grand and at night it was lit up by a lamp and the street light, giving it a yellow russet tint.

The entrance to the 360 Chicago was a little tricky to find at first because we had to go inside the John Hancock Center. So what was the difference between 360, the John Hancock Observatory and the SkyDeck in the renowned Sears/Willis Tower? The SkyDeck draws 1.3 million visitors each year-how’s that for popular?

Fireworks on the 360

The 360 was just as spectacular and we chose Saturday because we knew that there would be fireworks at the pier that night. The 360 skyscraper had a clear view of Navy Pier and though we couldn’t hear the firework show, the view was one of a kind. People gathered near the glass walls to watched.

Imagine working late into the nights in one of these buildings in the higher floors and peering outside of your windows. It was fun to see. However, we weren’t as high as the SkyDeck and couldn’t take photos the spectacular photos over there or see the river, but this was also something on its own.

Wandering in Magnificent Miles

We saw the water tower in person and all of those fancy stores with large, artistic ads. One of the most surprising was that they had horse-drawn carriage nearby in the park. I couldn’t believe that this fancy limestone building used to be just an old water pump. The 47 meter tower used to higher than all of its surrounding buildings. The architect William W. Boyington must have thought a lot about this water tower and of course, it survived the Chicago fire and is now the symbol of resilience.

After this rocky day, wandering in the heat, and experience slow transportation in the suburbs, I was glad to be in the city again and to refreshed by the night and firework show.

To be continued…

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