Tag Archive | State Street

8 Hours in Chicago


Our highly anticipated trip to Chicago turned out to be a really great day filled with memories. We did it in a different way than in the past, we took the train in for half of the journey.  The closest Metra train station to Madison is in Harvard, IL  so we went there.  It is 1  1/2 hours away.

 The depot opens about 1/2 hour before the train leaves, you can get coffee and pastries too. This is the map of all of the Metra lines going into Chicago.

I have not ridden Metra since the 1980’s and Al never had. In Harvard, you take the Yellow line.  We took the 5:47 AM train, the first one on a weekday morning.  If you don’t get your tickets online, be prepared to pay cash for your fare on the train, the Conductor can make change. It costs $2 to park for the day in their lot, there is a kiosk to pay for that across from the depot.

We waited for the train, the setting moon lighting the scene.

On the train by 5:35 AM.  The inside of the train car, clean and comfortable.


We were entering the city around 7 AM and the Willis Tower came into view through the train car window. We were getting excited!

We arrived at the Ogilvie Transportation Center on time, what a big station! It was visible from the Willis Tower, the large black building on the left.

This was the first time we had ever seen a bustling weekday morning in Chicago. People burst out of the trains, hurrying to their jobs. One thing I noticed, the most common color of people’s coats was black.  We lingered in the station a few minutes to buy our return tickets, we had to be back on the train by 3:30 which departs at 3:45.

Al Kutil


This building is mostly glass and beautiful for a train station. It was built in 1984, designed by Helmut Jahn.  There is also shopping and restaurants here, especially great if you are on a layover to catch a connecting train or bus.  Almost blending in high in the glass atrium is an Elgin Clock keeping the passengers on time.

Al Kutil

A  side view of the clock on the left side.

It was time to make our way toward the exit, we were on a tight schedule! Here is a view of the crowd heading to the ground level on Madison St.

And here we are outside!

This building is HUGE, but not as big as where we were headed next, the Willis Tower a couple of blocks away. Across the street is Union Station.  It was funny seeing 5 cabs scurrying like mice after the light turned green.

We crossed the bridge and turned right, walking alongside the Chicago River. This plaque was on the bridge.

Sunrise was glinting off the building on the right, thousands of commuters hurrying to their towers for a day of work.

Much to our surprise, we saw a combination barge-tugboat Spartan, Spartan II from Ludington, Michigan traveling alongside us on the Chicago River. What a surprise! It was delivering a medium to keep dust to a minimum during construction projects. It turns out there are currently 47 new skyscrapers being built at this time!

Al Kutil

We continued toward the Willis Tower, it looked majestic in the morning sun, had to stop and look a minute.

See those projections on the outside of the building facing east? These are the Ledge™ boxes on the  Skydeck on the 103rd floor. A closer view.

We saw two food trucks across the street from the tower. BBQ Boss and Beavers  Doughnuts. See all Chicago food trucks here.

It was now 8:13 AM. The entrance Skydeck Chicago opens the doors to get in line at 9:30, we went in to wait and rest a bit.  The entryway is designed to protect people from ice falling off the building.

Photography is prohibited beyond the entrance (except the Skydeck) due to the many private businesses within the building. here is what little we could get. That’s Al on the left getting the businesses.

We waited from 8:30 to 9:30 on the lower level, several shops and small restaurants there. Sure we could have looked around town a bit in that hour but we didn’t want to get back late and then have a long like to contend with. We were right in front of the line. Promptly at 10:00 they opened. You have to put your belongings through a security scanner and walk through one first, then you can get your tickets.  We did that, then into the elevator line. We were on the first elevator up!  Since the express elevator was down for maintenance (knew that since watching Tripadvisor posts) we actually got out partway up and got into another elevator. We made it up to the Skydeck by  10:12 AM. We stayed up there until  12:30. Quite a few changes in the skyline since 2003 when we were last here. The Ledge™ was a lot of fun too! This was the picture they took with their camera installed in the ledge. You can get your pictures for $30 in the gift shop after you conclude your visit. A great memento for sure!

Another picture of the view looking northwest. It was a beautiful clear morning!

Video of our time there. You can also see it in the video on top of the page showing our entire day. Read the blog post just on the tower here.

We were out just after 12:30, three hours left of our day. We headed toward State Street. On the way, we came across the Flamingo sculpture. It has been in Federal Plaza since 1974. We also saw it from the tower. I am glad we saw this since it may be in danger of being removed.

We see The Berghoff restaurant on 17 West Adams St. Serving authentic German cuisine since 1898, it is a Chicago favorite!  Founder Herman Berghoff sold beer at the world’s fair in Chicago in 1893 and it led to the restaurant 5 years later.

We made it to State Street by 1:41 PM. We had not eaten yet and had little time so we stopped at Subway on State for a quick lunch.

We ate in 1/2 hour, by 2:10 we were back out. I could hear music just up ahead. We headed north and found out the source. A group of street musicians called Chicago Traffic Jam Band was jamming at the street corner. What a bonus to capture some authentic Chicago sound! They can also be hired to play at your venue!

See and hear them for yourself!

We stayed about 5 minutes but had to keep moving.

2:25 PM

We reach the famous Marshall Fields building, now Macy’s though to Chicagoans it will always be Marshall Fields.  At least the famous green corner clock is still there and the time is accurate. We didn’t have time to look inside, perhaps next time. I used to go to the soda fountain there when I was a kid, great memories!

And of course, the Chicago Theatre. I went to a great show there in 1993 with my Dad called, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by Tom Stoppard. Here is what a similar view looked like then, Dad is on the left. Thanks for taking me to the show!

There were three plaques on the building, denoting it to be a landmark.

Across from the theatre is a Channel 7 webcam, here is the view it has.

Near here on 24 West Randolph St. is the Oriental Theater. You could call this section of Chicago their Broadway. And you see Broadway shows here as well.

Just past the Chicago Theatre is the “L” train on a track elevated above street level. It is part of the CTA, or Chicago Transit Authority. Our train actually went under their track (see video).

We got as far as Wabash and East Washington. The train went overhead there! This is the historic Jeweler’s Row District. Much fine bling to be had here!

3:06 PM

It was getting late and we had to get back to our train! We turned east while on West Washington and went by one of the sites of the Blues Brothers movie film, the Richard J. Daley Center.

See the scene below.

We go under the tracks we soon will  be riding on.  You can enter the Ogilvie Transportation Center under here.

3:30 PM

We are back! We got on the Union Pacific Northwest Metra back to Harvard with 15 minutes to spare!  We left at 3:45 PM sharp.  I got video with my phone pressed against the window to capture the views.

It was an enjoyable ride of almost two hours, passing through Woodstock. We crossed on the historic stone bridge as seen on the walking tour for the movie Groundhog Day. I was shooting video with my phone and caught the crossing on the way back. The first picture was taken last year.

Back in Harvard by 5:24. We had a wonderful day and hope to do it again!

To sum it all up, this was our walking route, courtesy of Google maps.

State Street – Madison’s Great Street!

30 Years of Observation and Fun!

In the 30 years I have lived in Madison, I never get tired of State Street and think it is the heart of downtown, especially in the summer. All times of the year are interesting though. The street has undergone many changes over time like anywhere else.  No cars are allowed on this street, only busses and bikes.  I have enjoyed eating and shopping at many of the places on this special street. Let’s start at the top..from the Observation deck of our state Capitol.


100 Block

State Street Observation Deck  Capitol in Madison

State Street 100 Block

Myles Teddywedgers in Madison

Myles Teddywedgers has been a favorite in Madison since it opened in 1976. If you have a hankerin’ for a Cornish Pasty and you can’t get to Mineral Point or Dodgeville, this is the place to get one! They are very good! On the other side is Ian’s Pizza, famous for their Macaroni and Cheese pizza.

Ian's Pizza

A little further down at 115 State Street is Buck and Badger, a Wisconsin-themed Northwoods atmosphere restaurant. A real fun place!

Buck and Badger on State Street


200 Block

 We begin the 200 block with the Overture Center for the Arts, Madison’s premier center for Broadway performances as well as local companies.  It was a gift by Jerry Frautchi and Pleasant Rowland to Madison. Madison does partially subsidize it’s expenses however.  On the site was originally the Civic Center, the space was greatly expanded with the building of the center. It re-opened in 2004. Looks pretty at night.

Overture Center and Associated Bank Madison State Street


Overture Center at night


The kept the front of the old Civic Center intact.

Civic Center front State Street

Paul’s Club across the street on the right has been an institution on State Street since 1962. It has an oak tree inside, an unusual feature.

Paul's Club State Street

Nick’s Restaurant has a long history also, since 1959.

Nick's Restaurant on State

The Orpheum Theater and it’s red sign has been a fixture in Madison since 1926.

OrpheumOrpheum plaque


We arrive at the end of this block, looking back toward the Capitol is a Noodles and Co. and the other end of the Overture Center. This picture was taken during Maxwell Street Days in the summer. This is a classic view of State Street.

200 Block State Street in Madison

300 Block

This block is home of the iconic Triangle Market and Tutto Pasta. This is part of Madison’s special “Six Points” intersection. It’s a convergence of State, Johnson and Henry St. Behind us is the scene above.

300 Block State Street July 2014

A closer look at the Triangle Market. Be sure to get your free tour the first time you stop in 🙂

Triangle Market in Madison on State StreetTriangle market Free Tour


I have enjoyed lunch many times at Pizza Di Roma.  Next door is the  Takura Japanese Restaurant and Mackesey’s Irish Pub.

State Street 300 Pizza Di Roma

On the right is a new place, Crandall’s Peruvian Bistro. The Crandall family has served great food to Madison for 67 years and this is a new venture for them. Good luck! Also an old favorite, Parthenon Gyros. I have enjoyed going there the last 30 years.

Crandall's Peruvian Bistro State St. Madison

Parthenon Gyros State Street Madison


 You can get new clothing at Jazzman,  great used and new clothes at Ragstock across the street.

Jazzman clothes State Street Madison



Ragstock in Madison

 We reach the end of the 300 block.  More great places yet to see!

400 Block

We begin the 400 block with Jamba Juice and Badger Liquor, “The Happiest Corner in Madison” since 1972. Jamba Juice has been on this corner since about 1990.

End of 300 Block of State Street in Madison

Next are Tellus Mater Inc (since 1959), Which Wich? sandwich shop (2003) and The Sacred Feather Hat Store (1975).

Tellus Mater Inc., Which Wich? and Sacred Feather stores State Street


Princess of India Imports is another popular long-time clothing store on this block.

Princess of India Imports


Right next to this store is Elizabeth Link Peace Park, renovated in 2010.

Elizabeth Link Peace Park on State Street


There is a lot in downtown Madison that can be overwhelming to a visitor.  That’s covered too, the downtown visitor information center has many booklets and maps to help you get oriented.

Visitors Center on State Street


Now at the end of this block, there is a Subway (462 & 731 State), Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream or Cold Stone Creamery on the other side. As you can see, there is construction going on up ahead.

500 & 600 Blocks

State Street 500 Block


This building on the right has several businesses in it. American Apparel and Mimosa.


Mimosa Book Store State Street


Stop and Shop Grocery


The other grocery store on State, Stop and Shop. More views of the block, a large building going up right now. After picture next summer.

Businesses on 500 block of State Street Madison


This will be more retail space and also possible living space also.

Future Retail Space on 500 block of State Street Madison

Further down is Steep and Brew Coffee, one of the early coffee shops in Madison.

Steep and Brew on State Street

Roast Public House for food made with local ingredients, plus a bar.

Roast Public House on State


Also Potbelly Sandwich Works for more sandwich choices.

Potbelly Sandwich Works on State Street


Urban Outfitters, another mainstay on this block.

Urban Outfitters on State Street in Madison


State Street Brats, a very popular place to go to watch a Badger football game. We have enjoyed going there.

State Street Brats on State


We near the end of the 600 block of State Street and we see our final businesses before seeing Library Mall and the UW Campus.

Six Hundred Block on State Street Madison

I have enjoyed going to Paul’s Books since I came to Madison in 1984. They have been here since 1954. The same exact window display too. you might find the out-of-print book you have been looking for here!  You can sell books to them too!

Paul's Books on State Street

This story of State Street ends on a sad note. This is the College Barbershop, one of the oldest businesses on State, since the 1920’s.  The landlord of the building ordered it be closed for good by the end of August in 2014. The landlord wants to renovate the building, a sad loss for Madison.

College Barber Shop on State closed Sept 2014

Our journey is done, be sure to take a stroll down State Street next time you visit Madison.



Downtown Madison Celebrates Christmas


Foggy Madison Capitol 2006

The holidays were in full swing in downtown Madison, and we wanted to be a part of it. Our first stop was the Monona Terrace for the Winter Farmers Market. Winter doesn’t stop Madison from having its weekly market, they just go inside 🙂

Dane County Winter Farmers Market

After getting a treat here we headed to the State Capitol for a Christmas concert by Sandy La Clair Musical Productions.  They played all the holiday favorites and the kids attending even played instruments. This little girl was adorable playing the triangle.

Sandy La Clair Christmas concert

The centerpiece of the show is the Christmas tree in the center of the Rotunda.

Wisconsin Capitol Xmas Tree 2012

After the show we took a walk down State Street to have lunch at State Street Brats.

State Street Brats in Madison

After lunch we were done for the day.  During this time of year,  a free trolley goes up and down State Street to make shopping easier.

Madison WI Holiday Trolley

We sure had a great day downtown celebrating the holiday season. Come join in the fun!

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