Love food? Love art? Route yourself through Chicago O’Hare!

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Lately, I’ve done a lot of flying.  From Knoxville to Vegas to Michigan to Maryland.  A lot of flying.  I may even be identifying with George Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham in the 2009 hit movie Up in the Air — almost comfy in the confines of an airport.

Not only that, I really love grazing and shopping while waiting for yet another take-off.

Cityscape in Chicago's O'Hare

Cityscape in Chicago’s O’Hare

Today’s airports are different. Long gone are stark terminals lined with boring rows of seats and filled with the sounds of those blaring Charlie Brown-type announcements.   (Well, mostly.)

Airports today — at least the big ones — are havens for gourmet foods in take-home packages, upscale restaurants bearing the names of chefs we’ve seen on TV, and power-up centers for tech-hungry travelers.  Case in point:  Chicago’s O’Hare International.

Painted window by students in After School Matters

Painted window by students in After School Matters

I’m actually happy when I change planes in O’Hare (Crazy me.)

But long layovers mean more time to watch people sprinting (roller bags in tow) to their next departure point. And more time to admire the art.  And sample the food!

On display near Terminal 1.

On display near Terminal 1.

O’Hare International was named in honor of Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare, a Medal of Honor WWII fighter pilot whose Black Panthers fearlessly stormed the skies. In 1949, the field and airport known as Orchard Depot was renamed O’Hare International Airport.

In honor of Butch O'Hare

In honor of Butch O’Hare

But not even O’Hare could imagine what the terminals of this second busiest airport in the U. S. and the world would look like today.

"Songs of Chicago." Mural by teens in After School Matters.

“Songs of Chicago.” Mural by teens in After School Matters.

Passing through the domed glass corridor leading to Terminal 1, you can delight in the art of teens engaged in a program called After School Matters.  Teens paired with professional artists have created art — benches, murals, painted windows and walls, glass sculptures, etc. — that deserves a closer look.

One of the creatively painted benches lining the corridor leading to Terminal 1.

One of the creatively painted benches lining the corridor leading to Terminal 1.

But from there, the shopping begins in Terminal 1.  On this cold, cold Friday, lines at Starbucks meandered through the corridor. Patrons craving something hot to sip checked emails while waiting for lattes, talls, or the new Blonde Roast.

Heads down, texting and waiting, at Starbucks O'Hare

Heads down, texting and waiting, at Starbucks O’Hare

I passed by Vosges and kept my chocolate passion in check since it’s still January and you know how those resolutions are!  Begun in the kitchen of her Chicago apartment, owner and chocolatier Katrina Markoff relied on her training at El Bulli restaurant and her international travels to launch a “veritable chocolate revolution,” according to the website. I can give it this: simply divine packaging and product, if you can judge just by looking!

A clerk straightens the artisan chocolates at Vosges

A clerk straightens the artisan chocolates at Vosges

If an ordinary Montblanc writing instrument won’t satisfy your desires, check out the Writers Edition Carlo Collodi limited edition.  Honoring the creator of The Adventures of Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi, the pens are a tribute to the author’s creativity.  A dark brown cap bears pictures of animals like the loyal cricket and the shady fox while the cone resembles Pinnochio’s legendary growing nose. It can be yours for approximately $1000.00. So? It’s a limited edition, after all.

On display at Montblanc, the Carlo Collodi Limited Edition writing instruments

On display at Montblanc, the Carlo Collodi Limited Edition writing instruments

Diners at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant have front row seats where layover travelers can watch the on-the-move travelers go by.  Well, some of them watch, I guess. Mostly, though, people that day were focused on their smart phones, or that’s what it looked like to me.

We're a nation of email checkers, for sure!

We’re a nation of email checkers, for sure!

Garrett popcorn, to my delight, also had a presence at O’Hare.  They sell my favorite freshly popped corn by the bag or by the tin.  If you’ve never had Chicago Mix (a blend of CaramelCrisp® and CheeseCorn®), you’re missing out.  Order online if you have to, but there’s nothing like getting it fresh, even at 8:00 AM!!!! (http://www.garrettpopcorn.com/tin-builder/)

Chicago-themed tins ready to be filled with Garrett's popcorn

Chicago-themed tins ready to be filled with Garrett’s popcorn

My picture of the Field Museum Store doesn’t do it justice.  Loaded with little take-home gifts, especially for children, the store is neat and engaging, even if it is overshadowed by the ceiling-tall replica of a dinosaur skeleton. And if you weren’t traveling, you could go to the real museum to check the rest of ’em out!

Look behind to see the towering dinosaur skeleton behind the Field Museum Store.

Look behind to see the towering dinosaur skeleton behind the Field Museum Store.

Oakley was busy selling sunglasses the morning I was there — maybe to travelers needing eye protection at the ski resorts or in the Midwest where looking at snow can make you squint, for sure!

I spy someone peeping through the Oakley case!

I spy someone peeping through the Oakley case!

As if the Vosges chocolates and Garrett popcorn weren’t enough temptation, there was always Eli’s Cheesecake, recently famous for creating the celebration cheesecake for President Obama’s Inauguration!  What’s not to like about that?

You can get a boxed-up, ready to fly home cheesecake from Eli's!

You can get a boxed-up, ready to fly home cheesecake from Eli’s!

Ooooh! Salted Caramel Cheesecake!

Ooooh! Salted Caramel Cheesecake!

Rick Bayless’s Tortas Frontera lured travelers with the sight of freshly baked loaves of bread stacked up in the window and the smell of tortas — griddle-baked Mexican sandwiches filled with chipotle chicken!

Posted on the website is a quote from the Chicago Tribune: “Finally, a reason to get delayed at O’Hare”! I agree.

Loaves of bread invite shoppers into Tortas Frontera

Loaves of bread invite shoppers into Tortas Frontera

But movement and tech were as important as food and art that day.  Lined up at charging/working stations were travelers catching up and powering up. . .

Hardly an empty seat at the charging stations!

Hardly an empty seat at the charging stations!

while outside, taxis lined up to move people — wherever they needed to go.

Taxis don't sit long at O'Hare

Taxis don’t sit long at O’Hare

At the end of the terminal, however, it was hurry up and wait.  And talk.  And check that email one more time.

Read. Reply. Text. Repeat.

Read. Reply. Text. Repeat.

After all, that’s what travel is today!

See you in the terminals!

Chicago O’Hare International Airport, ORD

http://www.ohare-airport.org

About Oh, the Places We See

Met at University of Tennessee, been married for 47 years, and still passionate about travel whether we're volunteering with Habitat Global Village, combining work at Discovery with pleasure, or just seeing the world. Hope you'll join us as we try to see it all while we can!
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23 Responses to Love food? Love art? Route yourself through Chicago O’Hare!

  1. MSC says:

    Rusha, your endorsement of the popcorn alone tempts me to route my next connecting flight through Chicago O’Hare. But I’d also have a Lime Aqua Fresca at Tortas Frontera — the most refreshing beverage I’ve had IN MY LIFE. Seriously.

    Thanks. I love seeing the places you see!

  2. kz says:

    wow this is awesome.. makes me look at airports in a different light 🙂 great post!

    • Rusha Sams says:

      I actually love airports that have interesting food, art, murals, etc. When you spend a lot of time waiting, it can be a great place to visit! Thanks for reading & commenting!

  3. henrymowry says:

    Now you are making me think about keeping the camera out when I’m in the airports! You keep me thinking…but that’s what your inspiring blog makes people do. Happy to share this award with you! http://mowryjournal.com/2013/02/03/very-inspiring-blog-award/

  4. I’m always racing from flight to flight… thanks for slowing me up!!

    • Rusha Sams says:

      Some airports offer little, and that seems to be the ones in which I spend the most time! There’s never enough in the big airports for a leisurely stroll through the shops or a great meal. Such is life!

  5. ideflex says:

    Love airports everywhere – thanks for visiting!

  6. Travel Bug says:

    I read on another blog that there’s a great Mexican restaurant at O’Hare.The name escapes me right now, but its sounds even more like a place I’d like to transit through.

    I think the best airport for tourism is Amsterdam Schiphol. There’s a small wing of the Rijksmuseum inside the airport, and the airport itself is direcly connected to the rest of the Netherlands by train. If you have a long layover, it’s easy to organize a day trip to Amsterdam or the Hague from the airport.

    • Rusha Sams says:

      Great info! I’ve been to Amsterdam but it was quite a long time ago. Would love to see the Rijksmuseum right inside the airport! I’m liking what cities are doing to enhance our travel experience, for sure! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  7. I have nevr been to this airpot! Love the tour thru your “eyes”. Awesome 😉

  8. David says:

    The last time I passed through O’Hare was long, long ago (1985).
    My last walk through a terminal was like walking through a mall. I like to people-watch, so the old days of seeing rows and rows of waiting passengers are missed. 🙂

    • Rusha Sams says:

      You’re so right. And there are many other things I miss about flying in the “old days”! Like food on the plane, people dressed nicely, no shoving to cram carry-on bags in too-small overhead bins . . . Ahhh, travel! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  9. wanderoneday says:

    Oh, after 16 degree temperatures for days on end, your post makes me wish I were traveling now! I definitely have a photo of that antique airplane, taken because my dad is an aviation-buff. I’m also pretty sure I ate an entire bag of cheesecorn from Garrett while my flight back home was delayed, and delayed, and delayed…

    Side note, this was the subject of a final Jeopardy question a while back – which major city’s airports are both WWII themed? Chicago! The Midway airport was named after the battle of Midway, which was the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of WWII, according to Wikipedia.

    • Rusha Sams says:

      Thanks for the reply! It’s great to know that fellow travelers have noticed many of the same icons that I have. The plane is great for my history side, but the popcorn is great for my hunger side! Happy travels.

  10. Elizabeth Toth says:

    I love your Blog! How nice to see the airport through different eyes. So positive and fun! Thank you for the tour…I look forward to your next adventure!

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