Libraries are the best place to go for everything including sight-seeing. You get off in the wrong spot in your new city, so rather than keep on keeping on or pulling out all your maps in the middle of the street and thereby telegraphing your newness in town, find a quiet spot to re-group. Go to the nearest library. Sit down for a spell or even go to the computer librarian and get a temporary ID to use both the Internet and word processing. The Internet nowadays is the great unifier. By checking out the Internet, you’re both exploring your surroundings and getting acclimated to at least one place for the day. integrated library system On my most recent trip to Chicago, when I decided to get off the “L” without any idea as to whether or not I was in the right place or not, I decided on the library having been a dear friend in the past could be a dear friend in a city in which I know or am even unknown to anyone or new place I was visiting. I kid a friend of mine, about always being in the library, and here I was on my first real visit to Chicago and my first stop, albeit a very good stop was at the library.
I was able to sit down for a bit of time to decide my next move. It is most helpful if you cannot check into your lodgings until 3 p.m. and you don’t want to drag your bags around with you all day until you can. Now of course, if I’d been thinking I would have realized I could have dropped off my baggage at my lodgings and gone on my merry way. I do believe that I still would have stopped at the library to figure out where I could go now that I was in Chicago. Yes, I did have a guide book and it is was most helpful, but having access to the Internet was quite wonderful, because presumably the Internet is more up to date, especially with restaurants and whether or not they are still open for business. The guidebook can only help one up until the publication date, but the Internet, one hopes is up to the minute correct. At least that is what I hope with things like museums.
A couple of things I found out while I was at the library that first day were the three must-have meals in Chicago: Deep-Dish Pizza, Gannett’s Chicago Mix Pop-Corn and a Chicago-style Hot Dog, no ketchup. I also found out that Thursdays is a free to the public at the Art Institute. I was in luck. I’d arrived on Thursday AND Matisse had just opened there. Matisse is one of my favorite artists. My initial hour was up and I was hungry, so I went in search of the Chicago’s Hot Dog. (In Chicago library system, you get two free hours per day free, with a renewal after the first hour for the second which is quite cool.) I realized I was downtown, but still was of course unfamiliar with how the streets were arranged, so basically I just walked and asked people about hot dogs. Actually during my 5-day visit I never ran into the Chicago-style Hot Dog, which was fine, since as a rule I try to stay away from hot dogs, but the library helped me fulfill my other three quests and that in itself was phenomenal. Yup! The library can be your friend even away from home. It was for me.