I don’t even know where to start with this blog! How do you fit a whole summer of experiences into one post?!
I started this blog on the flight home from LA thinking I would have it up the week after I came home, but I actually just wasn’t bothered to finish it! But no fear, I’ve powered on and here we are- nearly a month later! Obviously before I started writing this, I had a long look through all my photos from the summer, and I can honestly say that this summer was one of the best experiences of my life! I can’t stress enough how much I would recommend a J1 to anyone who is considering doing one in the next few years. Just book it and go! I was on the fence about it for a few weeks before I booked it wondering would it be worth it? What location would we choose? How to find a job etc? But it all works out eventually and you’ll have a ball. It is actually a stressful few months of planning when USIT or whatever visa company you go with are emailing you everyday looking for this, that and the other! On that topic, I don’t really know if I would recommend USIT, some of my friends and myself included had a few problems with them, but I don’t know if the other companies are any better, so go with an inexpensive one because you’re probably going to have some sort of hassle regardless!
So as I said, there’s so much to say that I could go on forever, but I decided to do a blog on the main things that we did while we were in Chicago and any other small details I think are worth adding in! And if anyone has any questions please drop me a message or email because I would love to help if I can! (I messaged at least 6 people before I decided on my J1!).
Chicago wasn’t actually our first choice for the J1 location but I am so glad we ended up there! You really have the best of both worlds with the vibrant city life and also the beach. It’s like a calmer version of New York and there’s so many cute areas just outside the city to explore aswell. Public transport is brilliant and we used to get 30 day CTA passes for $105 which covered us for the buses and trains.
- Sky Deck at Willis Tower.
A must-see in Chicago, it’s $24 for a single ticket and if you go up on a clear evening you’ll get to see the sunset and the city at night.
- Six Flags Great America.
We didn’t actually go to Six Flags until a few days before we left, but it was fantastic. It’s not really for the faint-hearted and most of the rollercoasters are HUGE, but we had such a fun day. And be sure to check out what offers they have on before you go, we saved $25 each on the tickets by bringing a can of coke because Coca Cola were sponsoring summer 2018 at Six Flags. It’s about 1 hour outside of the city so an Uber is probably the best way to get there if you have a few going. We drove, but then we had to pay $14 to park the jeep for the day so it all works out about the same.
- The Bean and Millenium Park.
The Bean (Cloud Gate) is probably one of the most recognisable landmarks in Chicago and it’s great to go and get some cool photos and enjoy the surroundings of the park. Millenium Park always has open-air concerts and movie screenings during the summer so be sure to pick up a brochure when you arrive and check out what’s on.
- Shopping and the Magnificent Mile.
Ok so this was my downfall for the summer- shopping! The magnificent mile– North Michigan Avenue was always busy and a great spot to shop if you’re in the spending mood. But State Street was also great for picking up bits and bobs in the likes of TJ Maxx, Forever 21 and Nordstrom Rack. You should have see me flying home with all the luggage!
- Kayaking on the Chicago River.
I would also recommend kayaking while you’re in Chicago. We decided to do this instead of a Riverboat Cruise because most of the boats were $55 and the kayaks were only $30! (Urban Kayaks) They were great craic but a bit dangerous at times because so many boats go up and down the river all the time! The riverwalk is also lovely for a stroll afterwards and there’s a few bars and cafes if you want to stop along the way!
- 4th of July.
We decided to do a Booze Cruise on the lake to celebrate the 4th of July- bad plan! I actually wouldn’t recommend it at all. It was $60 for a 2hr “cruise” and yes the views were great but I didn’t know if it was sea-sickness or the alcohol that was making me queezy so definitely stay on solid ground for the 4th if you plan on drinking!
We also went to a pre- 4th of July party in Ridgemoor Country Club the night before. We were very lucky to have passes for the country club all summer as the woman we were living with was an absolute legend and let us use her membership! But we got to watch the most amazing firework display from the golf course and we had a fantastic night so I think that was my highlight from the 4th of July.
- Taste of Chicago.
Taste of Chicago is a food festival that runs in the middle of July every year and it was cool to go and walk around but compared to the quality of food festivals in Ireland, I was a bit disappointed. There was no artisan types of food and it was mostly just variations of the same thing- cheesecakes and burgers! We’re spoiled for choice here in Kilkenny with Kilkenny being the top Foodie Destination in Ireland and we have Savour Kilkenny Food Festival coming up in a few weeks so it should be a great weekend!
Unfortunately I didn’t have tickets for Lollapolloza this year because we weren’t organised enough when they were going on sale and the closer it got to the festival, the more expensive the tickets were! I was working at it that week though, setting up the VIP area and it looked amazing. But even if you don’t have the money to buy tickets, you could go sit on the beach at Lakeshore Drive and you’ll hear everything!
Another few tips!
- Try to book a concert in Soldier Field while you’re in Chicago. We saw Beyoncé and Jay-Z and it was absolutely amazing. Obviously Queen B was fantastic but the setting of soldier field with the city lights in the background is fabulous! Keep an eye on Stub-Hub for cheap last minute tickets!
- In terms of housing, I was really lucky because I flew to Chicago three weeks after the girls so they had it all sorted when I arrived! But it can be very difficult to find suitable accommodation so I would try to have a back-up before you go just in case. We lived with a lovely woman in Jefferson Park and we had her whole basement to ourselves, we even had a gym! But I know a lot of people lived in much worse conditions than us, so start house-hunting asap!
- Visit the free attractions in the city. Lincoln Park Conservatory is right beside the Zoo which is also free!
- Rent the blue DIVY bikes at Navy pier and cycle the Lakeshore trail. It’s especially nice in the evening and you can see the lights of the city on your way back.
- If you’re trying to find a job, just apply to as many places as you can and someone is bound to get back to you! I had a lot of event experience so I got a job with an event company in Chicago and I really had an amazing summer working with them. I got to see so many cool locations and venues that I never would have been to only for the job.
So I think that’s the general gist of my summer in Chicago. I still need to do a blog on Vegas and travelling and I’m also working on a ‘Best Instgrammable Restaurants in Chicago’ blog because I had fabulous food in Chicago when I was out!
And as I said, please send me an email or message if you want to know more about Chicago or you have any J1 questions!
Have a lovely weekend!