If you don’t know how much I love Chicago by now…well, then you must be living under, well, the Michigan Avenue Bridge. I used to cover feature stories on the city when I was a TV producer for ABC7 . I also gave free tours with the City of Chicago’s free Chicago Greeter program. And when I travel the world, I often feel like an unofficial ambassador to Chicago. I love my city!
Chicago River Contest
So one day, during one of my random internet trawling sessions, I came across a contest, put on by the Friends of the Chicago River, to win a “Night at the Museum,” a once-in-a-lifetime 24-hour stay in one of the Michigan Avenue Bridgehouses – you know those cool towers at opposite ends of the bridge that we walk by all the time without barely noticing? Not only could the McCormick Bridgehouse Museum be my home for the day, but it came with plenty of perks related to life on the river: lunch and dinner on the river, a Wendella boat tour, kayaking on the river, special room service delivery, sleeping on the river…and, my favorite part, being able to help raise the Michigan Avenue Bridge to allow boats to go through. Plus no one had ever slept there before – well, at least officially. I jumped at the chance and sent in my essay. And, this wouldn’t be much of a story if I’d lost…lo and behold…I won!
Watch the Video!
If the video doesn’t show up for you, click here to watch it on the You Tube.
The tables were turned and I was even interviewed by a few local television stations, including NBC5 and my former workplace, ABC7 Chicago.
Watch NBC5’s Story on me and the museum here:
If video doesn’t show, watch it here.
The Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum
The Museum itself opened just a few years ago and many locals still don’t even know it’s here.
Did you know that there are about 37 movable bridges spanning the Chicago River? That’s more than any other city in the world. If you are in town and looking for a unique perspective try a tour with Chicago Loop Bridges and take a walk down by the river or, of course, the Chicago Architecture Boat Tour is a great way to learn about the great architecture seen from a ‘fish-eye view’ of the river.
The river itself is the main reason that such a great city grew up around it. It links the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. The other most well-known fact about our little river is that, in a civil engineering feat, the flow of the river was reversed to actually flow away from Lake Michigan to help alleviate further polluting of our drinking water which comes from the lake.
24 Hours on the Chicago River
My three girlfriends and I got the opportunity for a fun escape in our hometown and learned a lot about the river at the same time. We started the sunny afternoon with a lovely al fresco lunch, fittingly, at the Bridgehouse Tavern.
Next up was the Wendella Boat tour of the river. If you plan to visit Chicago, this is a great way to see and learn about some of our amazing architecture and a great perspective from which to do it.
I truly do believe Chicago has one of the prettiest skylines in the world. Sure…NYC city is huge, but ours is nicer. There, I said it.
We chowed down at Hotel 71’s Hoyt’s restaurant on Wacker drive with a view of the river, but also saved room for dessert because later they graciously brought room service to our bridgehouse museum suite across the street. It was pretty fun to be staying at one of the premiere addresses in Chicago for the night. I wonder what rent would cost for this sweet, loft apartment right on the river?? Surprisingly, it was a quiet night’s sleep in our ‘penthouse’ or maybe it was the wine that helped lull us to sleep.
The next day we got in the river itself with Urban Kayaks and paddled up through the Loop learning even more about the city’s great thoroughfare.
Then…truly the piece de resistance…we got to do what few ever witness, we joined the big boys, and literally helped raise the Michigan Avenue Bridge. Tag team crews from the Chicago Department of Transportation leapfrog from bridge to bridge opening and closing them to allow the sailboats to pass underneath. You have to watch the video for this!
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Now I get it! I realized that an old maritime law gave boats priority over vehicular traffic and I've sat and waited with great envy while a sailboat passed under a bridge while I sat at the crossing sweltering waiting for the leisure class to make their way to the lake. Now I know why. The beefcake bridge operators are chick magnets bringing hotties into the control tower to raise the bridges. This fact has eroded any resentment I've ever had for sitting at a bridge crossing. There's logic to it. Instead of looking at the boats full of partying, sailor suit wearing wannabes, now when I'm sitting at the traffic signal my eyes go directly to the bridge control tower and I tell that beefcake "you go boy".
The Bridge Ops with CDOT were great Kevin. Really nice and they work hard and take their job seriously. It was a pleasure to meet them.
Fantastic post and video too!! I would have loved this experience!! Did you have the whole museum to yourselves??? I sure hope so.
Thx Jeff! It was so much fun! We did have the whole museum to ourselves! They hadn't opened it for the season yet and at night when we slept in it…it was just me, my friends, and one security guard!
They could not have gotten a better person to do this. How fortunate for them and how fun for you!
I knew the river had been reversed, but I don't know how or why. Got to take a river tour!
Thx Katrina! It was super fun. I loved it…especially sleeping there and raising the bridge. That was cool to see.
The river was reversed b/c the industries that used to be along it were totally polluting the water and in turn polluting the city's drinking water which came from the lake.
Loved reading about your very cool experiences and watching the videos! I got a little jealous, actually — in a good way. I'll have to check out the museum next time I'm there. Maybe I'll ask if I can spend the night and raise the bridge. 🙂
Tell them you know me Cathy and they'll be sure to give you a special tour! 😉
Scott - QuirkyTravel
I'm not familiar with this museum. Thanks for the tip!
Go check it out Scott…it's pretty cool! Especially the downstairs where you can see the bridge gears!
Loved this Lisa! Now I really want to come back for a visit!
Thanks Sherry! It was a great 'trip' in my own city. Love waxing poetic about Chicago! 🙂
So fantastic! I'm a little jealous. The first time since we've talked about your travels. 🙂 Great video, too.
Thanks Monica! Considering you are out seeing the world now too…you've got nada to be jealous about! Happy travels!
Mary - GGT
I've passed by that bridge tower tons of times! So glad you won the contest and had this unique experience. I find that sometimes I often overlook the cool things in my hometown.
This is a+mazing! Can’t believe you did this! I don’t think I love Chicago nearly as much as you do. I think it’s because I want to get out so badly!
Whenever I hear Chicago, the first thing that comes into my mind is great pizza. Didn’t expect that Chicago is such a beauty. Hoping that I could get there someday and experience living in Michigan Avenue Bridgehouses. That sounds alot of fun! Enjoy traveling!
You should definitely visit Chicago. It’s gorgeous!!