I take birthdays pretty seriously.  I like to bake big cakes, make big plans, do big things.  I like to remember birthdays as unique and special experiences that can’t be had every day – not just having dinner with some friends at a local restaurant, but doing something truly special.  Because there’s really only one day a year that’s all about you, and why wouldn’t you want to celebrate it in a big way?  For me, birthdays are less about the age, and more about the occasion.  And for Boyfriend’s 25th last week, we certainly did celebrate. 

Conveniently, Boyfriend had some time off available right around his birthday, and he had a specific vacation in mind – a vacation that would finally get him to Wrigley Field.  Needless to say, I had no complaints about Chicago; I’ve never been there, and had been itching to go myself.  So off we went to the Windy City, where we spent five days eating hot dogs and wandering around a new city.   

We spent some time on The Ledge at the top of the Sears Willis Tower, where Boyfriend looked specifically for every sports arena in the greater Chicago area, pointing out Soldier Field and the United Center like an excited kid on Christmas.  And while we couldn’t see Wrigley from the top, we got to see it right up close the next day, the way Boyfriend felt it should be seen.  We took the Red Line out to Wrigleyville, stood in the general admission line for close to an hour, and (literally) ran to the left field bleachers, where I spent a tense two hours trying to avoid home run balls hit our way during batting practice.  While the Cubs would go on to lose the game, Boyfriend was in heaven – it was a beautiful day, he was watching baseball, and we’d nabbed a stray ball during batting practice.  And after the game, we fell in love with Murphy’s Bleachers and the Goose Island Brew Pub, where we finished celebrating Boyfriend’s birthday (a few days early) with some delicious beers and snacks.  Another El ride, a chocolate milkshake, and several hot dogs later, we spent the rest of the evening relaxing…which is something we rarely do much of on vacation. 

Antsy and looking to burn off some milkshake calories, we spent the next day biking around the lake, near Chicago’s version of the beach, and riding through Navy Pier before the crowds got to it.  We stumbled upon a giant hot air balloon of sorts, as well as the set of the movie Transformers 3, and tried to keep my sun-burned self in the shade.   At night, we saw live blues at a club where the bouncer told me I looked too young to be there (ouch?), and the bartender informed Boyfriend that there was no Coors Light to be had.  We took photos of ourselves reflected in the Chicago bean, admired Buckingham Fountain, and sat at an impossibly small table at The Second City, where we laughed hysterically for two full hours.   

But our favorite thing about Chicago (besides, of course, the food, which we’ll get to later), was definitely the people.  Everyone we met, from our airport shuttle driver to the women sitting behind us at the Cubs game, was so genuinely excited for our first trip to Chicago and so eager to help us decide how to spend our time.  Strangers commented on Boyfriend’s “CANADA IS HOCKEY” t-shirt, reminding us that while Canada may be hockey, for this year at least, the Cup was Chicago.  We also had an oddly endearing conversation about Trenton, NJ and its pork roll with the Brewers at Half Acre, and very hot-dog-specific chat with a store clerk (moments before the store was scheduled to close, which, incidentally, is precisely when most clerks are the least chatty) that centered around our deep sadness at Hot Doug’s summer closure. 

And after days of eating, drinking, and watching sports, was it any wonder that, upon our return to windy, rainy New Jersey, Boyfriend stepped one foot off the plane, turned to me, and asked (in his best it’s-my-birthday-and-you-have-to-do-what-I-say voice) “um, can we go back to Chicago now?”