Two weeks ago I joined 6 other fabulous food and creative bloggers in Chicago, Illinois for 3 days of sight-seeing, relaxation, and lots and lots of learning during our Lift Blog Retreat! I’ll link to these fabulous ladies blogs below so you can check them out – you won’t be disappointed! We looked at several locations but decided on Chicago because it wouldn’t require us east coast girls to spend a full day traveling, and it had so much to offer! Read on to learn more about where we stayed and to find out the amazing sites and delicious food we ate. If you’re hitting up Chicago, I would recommend ANY of the following:

Girl's Weekend in Chicago, Illinois - Le Meridien Oakbrook Chicago Hotel

The amazingly gorgeous Le Meridien Chicago – Oakbrook: Located about 20 minutes from O’Hare International Airport, this hotel was the perfect meeting location for our group – it was near the city without being IN the city, located near a large shopping mall, and other easy to reach points of interest. It boasts two restaurants, a Club Lounge, spa suites and workout room. They also have a Mercedes that you can book to take you within a 5 mile radius – and yes, we had them bring us to Chic-Fil-A for lunch one day because I had never eaten there! We had a wonderful experience from the front desk clerks, to the servers. The rooms were spacious and the water pressure in the shower? DIVINE! Seriously, after our first morning we met up for the Continental Breakfast and the first thing out of our mouths was, “Was your shower amazing?!” I also want to mention the gorgeous wall when you walk into the lobby – it was a piece commissioned just for this hotel and is just stunning (hint: PERFECT place for a photo op!). The other item of note is the Le Meridein Bikes – in addition to being a beautiful tourquise, you can sign up for a bike tour. How fun is that?

Girl's Weekend in Chicago, Illinois - Le Meridien Oakbrook Chicago Hotel

After early check in at the Le Meridien on Thursday, we dropped of our bags and headed into Chicago proper where we could do a bit of sight-seeing, since the rest of our trip would be dedicated to our retreat.

Giordano's Personal Pan Pizza - Chicago, IL

We stopped for lunch at Giordano’s Pizzeria and ate some amazingly delicious deep dish pizza – seriously, if you haven’t had a Chicago Deep Dish, you need to add it to your bucket list. I’m kind of salivating over it right now.

The Bean, Millennium Park, Chicago

If you plan on visiting Chicago and want to hit up some of the top attractions, I definitely recommend the GoCityCard. During our walking tour of the city we checked out Millennium Park and the Bean, and then used our GoCityCard’s to visit Willis Tour, previously called Sears Tower, and the SkyDeck.

The Skydeck at Willis Tower, Chicago, Illinois #enjoyillinois

After a quick 60 second elevator ride to the top, we checked out the gorgeous views and took some time to do a few photo ops in The Ledge, where you can see all the way down the 1,353 feet to the ground!

Your GoCard can also get you into places such as the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Garret's Popcorn is a MUST try if you're in the Chicago area - they even have a shop in O'Hare.

Looking to do a little shopping on your trip? Think about hitting up the Magnificent Mile, which is an upscale section of Michigan Avenue. We stopped in to the Water Tower Place Mall, mostly because it had a Starbucks, but once we were inside we also quickly found the Garrett Popcorn store, which is another Chicago tradition you don’t want to miss! This stuff was delicious. In fact I loved it so much that I bought a bag at O’hare to bring home to my kids!

Earl's Kitchen + Bar in Lincoln Park, Chicago - Delicious food and drinks - great for a GNO!

For dinner we were lucky enough to join Earls Kitchen + Bar in Lincoln Park for a menu tasting, and boy, was I impressed. I’m a rather picky eater, so I was a little nervous about what options we would be served, but I promised myself that I would try everything that they put in front of me, besides seafood, and I am so happy I did. The food was amazing. I’m not a huge meat eater, but I loved the steak and the BBQ ribs. They also have an amazing rice and curry dish that I could eat every night for a week. My favorite alcoholic beverage was the Lemongrass Cosmo, though the Sangria was a close 2nd. The restaurant was beautifully decorated, including a signature piece done by a local artist. They had lots of outdoor dining space as well. We were seated indoors, but they have large glass rolling doors so it felt like we were outside. Earls currently has 7 locations within the US and I will certainly visit them again.

While in Lincoln Park, consider hitting up the Lincoln Zoo to check out the Baby Snow Monkeys and other animals.

7 Ladies tooling around Chicago in a Mazda CX-9 #drivemazda

We were lucky enough to be provided a Mazda CX-9 to tool around in during our visit, which was the perfect vehicle for the 7 of us. Big Red had all the bells and whistles, including an amazing navigation system that displayed a hologram on the windshield, ensuring our intrepid driver, Jessica, didn’t get us lost in the tunnels of Chicago!

I am Tote-ally Blogging About This DIY Tote Bag - #liftblogretreat Full of goodies from @pinprismacolor @shutterfly @consumercrafts @enjoyillinois

The rest of our weekend we spent brainstorming and sharing tips and tricks for improving our sites so that you, our readers, will benefit the most from our ideas and inspirations. In fact, it was during that day that I finally made the decision to rebrand from seven thirty three to Inspiration Made Simple. I hope that the name change will help me better focus on my goals and will allow me to better serve my creative side!

Special thanks to the following sponsors for helping make our retreat an amazing experience:

Le Meridien Oakbrook – Chicago
GoCityCard from the Illinois Board of Tourism
Earls Kitchen + Bar
Consumer Crafts

Check out these ladies fabulous blogs: 

My Suburban Kitchen
Made to be a Momma
Sugar Bee Crafts
Savory Experiments
Everyday Party Magazine
Housewives in the City