For my part, I flew in Wednesday afternoon and met Melinda as the conference wound to a close. The weather was spotty for the entire weekend while I was there but was at its best Wednesday evening. The walk from the Orange line station to the hotel (Sheraton) was surprisingly nice given I was toting luggage and fearing sub-50F weather. In general, in fact, Chicago's streets were surprisingly walkable: wide sidewalks, good lighting, and enough other people walking the streets that it wasn't spooky. But, mind you, we were staying just off Michigan at the Chicago river and never strayed far from the lake shore. I hear that more than a mile or so from the lake the neighborhoods aren't so great.
Okay, rather than one long post, let me summarize the trip. Wednesday: deep dish pizza dinner at the original Pizzeria Uno then a walk out the by-then closed Navy Pier. Thursday: good morning pumpkin latte at Argo Tea then an hour or so at the Smith Museum of Stained Glass. Met Melinda's great uncle and aunt for lunch then a few hours at the Art Institute of Chicago where we saw, among other things, Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Grant Wood's American Gothic, Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, Ivan Albright's deeply disturbed Picture of Dorian Gray that was used in the original movie, and a large collection of glass paperweights (we even bought a book about them). Dinner in Chinatown, still with the aunt and uncle, then back to the hotel for the night and to say good-bye to the relatives. Friday: slept in (due to the weather) and, despite the weather, had lunch at the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center. The meal was tasty and reasonably priced ($18 entrees) and the wind swept the clouds away off and on enough for us to see at least a mile or so out the window; enough to see the lake the streets below, and the streets expanding out from the building a good ways. By 2p we taxied to the Field Museum and saw countless stuffed animals, Sue the T-rex, and a pretty well done exhibit on the evolution of life on the planet. The place closed at 5p and we were ushered through the most recent 2 billion years of life, unfortunately. Friday night dinner at Grand Lux Cafe, which someone on Yelp accurately described as very much like Cheesecake Factory. Lots of food for the price and not too long of a wait for two people. Flew home Saturday morning and back in time for most of the weekend in the Bay Area.