Chicago, New York and Miami by Chidera Dimude (Travel Consultant)

First Stop – CHICAGO

Chicago was amazing!  I arrived at 5pm on a Thursday and I took the train ($5) from the airport into the city. I walked a short distance to my destination which wasn’t a pain at all since I had a light suitcase.

One more thing, Jet Lag is not your friend o. It almost ruined the first few days of my trip but Oluwa was in charge. Nothing was gonna ruin this trip. I adjusted eventually and I was so ready to take in all of Chicago.

Travel Tip – Budget for one day jetlag if your travel time is more than 15 hours and your destination is in a different time zone. You can’t fight it, so it is best to accept it and quickly adjust your body clock.

I stayed with a friend in the city center so I saved on accommodation and transportation. This was a great decision because her apartment was close to everything.  I had no itinerary for this city because my friend had made all the plans and I wanted to see Chicago through her eyes. The one thing I knew I wanted to do while I was in this city was see a stage play. I just had to go to the theatre.

I spent the first day walking around the city. We had lunch at a tea room called The Allis at Soho house ($45) and in the evening, we went to see Aladdin on broadway at the Palace Theatre ($110). There were a lot of shows to choose from, but it all depends on price and availability of seats on the day. Aladdin was a good show but it had an American twist (I prefer the original).

chicago

Chicago is like New York City. There are lots of high rise buildings with a lot of fun activities concentrated in one area (Beach, shopping, theatre, bars, concerts in the park). There are also walking and boat tours for tourists interested in exploring the architecture of the city.

The next day was my birthday and my friend made it a day to remember. We had lunch at Giodano Pizza Place ($30). As you can see from the pictures, I was super excited.

Giodano Pizza Place

After lunch, we visited the Chicago Millennium Park where the popular Chicago Bean is located (as seen in movies like the Vow).

We also got the chance to meet the founder of the NARS makeup line (similar to MAC) at Macy’s and got a free makeover. Who doesn’t like a free makeover?

Next stop…the Navy Pier. This is the sea side section of Chicago with a lot of restaurants and a beach! This city has a lot of fun places to visit.

In the evening, we went to see the Chicago skyline (Magnificent) and hung out at a rooftop bar. Like most modern cities, a trip is not complete without visiting a bar/club. It’s a perfect way to experience the nightlife in any city.

Travel Tips:

Uber and Lyft are popular and affordable means of transportation in Chicago.

Chicago has harsh winters, so the best time to visit Chicago is end of June- September. The weather is nice and that’s when the cool kids come out to play.

Next stop – NEW YORK!

New York was amazing as usual. We got a return bus ticket to Manhattan from Providence in Rhode Island ($45). We used the Peter Pan bus.

Travel Tip: There are other affordable bus options to pick from like the Megabus and Greyhound.

It was a day’s trip so we planned to cover the basic (free) tourist sites in New York (Iconic sites): Brooklyn Bridge, Hudson River, Times square, Empire state building, Madison Avenue and Central Park.

Travel Tip:

You can get a New York day pass – 1, 2 or 3 days pass ($100 – $200). This allows you to visit up to 90 tourist attractions (15 major ones) including empire state building and Statue of Liberty. It is totally worth it and you can also jump to the front of the queue.

We bought an NYC MetroCard which was useful in getting to all the iconic sights (quick, cheap and reliable). There is a lot of traffic in New York so don’t bother with taxis.

We had lunch at Barilla restaurant – an Italian fast food restaurant (on average a good meal cost $15) and we did a bit of window shopping in Herald’s Square.

After lunch, we visited Central Park which is opposite Trump Towers. There is a metro stop right beside the park. It was nice to just relax and eat junk food after the long walks. My friend also got a caricature drawing as a souvenir ($15). The park is popular for joggers, cyclers and people taking selfies (haha).

 

Third stop – MIAMI

Miami – all the awesomeness in the world put together in one city!

From the moment we arrived I became restless! I wanted to do everything at once.

We got in on a Monday and headed to a Trinidadian restaurant called the L C Roti Shop for homemade roti (Chicken and Goat) with Caribbean beer ($15).  It had a 4-star rating on Yelp and it is totally worth it.

Day 1 – South beach!

There is a wide range of accommodation to choose from on south beach (cheap hostels, apartments and hotels) so close to the beach. Prices range from $20 – $1000 a night.  Airbnb, Tripadvisor and Booking.com are my favourite places (in that order) to find accommodation.

On south beach, we chilled, swam for a bit and made plans with my travel buddies for our next adventure. We spent two hours on the beach and then headed back to Ocean drive for Happy Hour. Most restaurants and bars have happy hour in Miami (you can get up to half or a quarter off meals and drinks).

Travel Tip: No need for beach seats – just bring a towel or blanket (it saves you $10). Always keep your sunscreen handy, even black people get sunburns too.. For the ladies, you might need to learn to use a tampon before a beach holiday (just in case).

Doraku Sushi came highly recommended on tripadvisor (my travel bible) but it was a bit pricey even with the discounts. The Sushi was really good with a wide range of variety.

It was Memorial day weekend (a bank holiday weekend) in Miami, so most of the clubs had entrance fees (some up to $100) but we were lucky enough to get into Clevelander for $10. This is an open bar that turns into a club. It was a lot of fun, with lots of affordable drinks and good music (including some Nigerian music). We stayed till 2 am and headed home. South beach operates 24/7 so it was hard to differentiate between night and day.

Day 2 – Parasailing ($85) and if you want to take pictures it’s an extra $30 (not necessary).

This was definitely a surreal experience.  We went as a group of 3, lifted off from the boat with a parachute and floated in the air for 10 minutes. The view from the top was beautiful. It felt secure and I almost forgot I was only supported by a parachute and a harness.

There are a lot of parasailing companies but it is cheaper to travel a bit further for the experience. I used Boat Tours & Water Sports in Miami. Parasailing on south beach would typically cost more.

We had lunch at Shake Shack, a growing fast food chain for high quality burgers, fries and shakes ($20).

 Day 3 – We decided to be tourists. We got on a tour bus which stopped at a few sights around Miami city.

Brickell – Business/Financial district (good nightlife also good for shopping)

Wynwood – Art district, art museums/parks, reggae bars and shooting range (awesome nightlife)

Little Havana – Cuban settlement, good food, cigar shops, salsa bars.

South beach – For people who just want to have fun!!!

The bus tour cost $35 and they pick you from your accommodation on south beach. The tour takes 2 hours and you get to stop over in Little Havana and look around.

The bus dropped us on Ocean drive and we had lunch at a nice Cuban restaurant on Ocean drive south beach, there are a lot of Cuban restaurants to choose from. Average cost was $15 for Rice, black beans, plantain, chicken and a drink. Cuban food is quite similar to Nigerian food (except for their special black beans).

Travel Tip: Before choosing a restaurant, bar, club or chill zone, always check out the ratings on TripAdvisor or other travel websites.

Day 4 – Shopping & more enjoyment!

We decided to do a bit of shopping before our money finished on enjoyment. My advice is….Go to ROSS first, it is definitely the best place to shop. To me, it is like Disneyland for clothes – a place where clothing dreams come alive. We also visited Aventura Mall (one of the biggest in Miami) with all the popular high end to low end shops. Surprisingly, this took the whole day. Time goes fast when you are shopping!

We visited Wynwood that evening. We planned to go to Wood Tavern which is one of the most popular bars/clubs in Miami. Unfortunately, if you don’t get there on time, you can’t get in, which was exactly what happened to us. Ladies night is on Wednesdays but since we didn’t get there on time, we went to Bric instead (another hip outdoor club).

Travel Tip: You can easily access Cuba and other Caribbean countries from Miami for as little as $100 (for a 1 day return to the Bahamas) on a cruise ship.  However getting visa as a Nigerian can be longggggg. PLAN AHEAD! 

So clearly, Miami was my favorite stop during my US Trip. The wedding in Rhode Island also went well, it was 2 day visit and I got to spend time with family.

Nevertheless, vacations are what you make of it. Always remember to plan ahead so you know all the good places and don’t get stuck in a boring place because you didn’t plan. There might be a few spontaneous moments that seem out of your reach/budget/plan, take advantage of it. Those moments usually make the best memories. Also, the USA is a tipping/tax nation. You are expected to give the waiter 5-10% as a tip (service fee) on top your bill. So please plan for this. You also have to pay tax on everything you buy.

Finally, travel with open minded and adventurous people who will brighten your trip! Happy Traveling 🙂

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