Ashley Blanton was my freshman year roommate, who, though she calls herself an Iowa-native, has a major part of her heart saved for Wisconsin where her family has lake access in Oconomowoc on Lac La Belle. That story is here. After transferring to University of Iowa, she soon met her future husband, and after graduation the couple settled in Chicago where they now reside. Ashley is a water baby, so it’s no surprise that living and running by the water’s edge has not only encouraged her great love of the city, but also so many others that she visits for work. Her story below...
Why I love this lake? "Find a body of water and run by it." I made that my mantra a few years ago when my travel picked up for work, taking me near and far, across the pond and beyond. With the ever-changing daily schedules, the one thing I can count on is running. And nothing soothes me more than running along water.
I've been fortunate enough to have run the beaches of Maui, between the concrete jungle and the Hudson river in New York, along the shores in Barcelona, around the Atlantis paths in the Bahamas, and of course on my annual Fourth of July 8.5 mile run around Lac La Belle in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. However, nothing beats my (newest) hometown run on the Lakefront trail overlooking the beautiful city of Chicago and the waters of Lake Michigan.
I started "really" running a couple of years out of college. I still remember the day I ran a mile and a half along the water to watch my husband play beach volleyball and felt this incredible sense of peace. I could not help but think about how I missed this beauty and freedom that comes with running alongside Lake Michigan. As my runs became longer, yearning for more peaceful time and eventually falling in love with the feeling of running, I began revolving my running time around the sunrise. That pink and orange sky stretched along the horizon is a vision that will never get old. Nor will the small light house off of North Avenue Beach. Whenever my sister is in town, I can't wait to go on a jog together along the coast, stopping at the lighthouse for the obligatory photo of the Chicago skyline. You just can't help it, it's too beautiful to not take a new photo each time.
And now, of course, some of the best times I have are when I'm with my swimming obsessed, lick-you-to-death black lab, Zoey. The first weekend my husband, Justin, and I had her home we walked her less than a mile north on the Lake Shore path to the dog beach. It's nestled inside of the Belmont Harbor and is the perfect setting to let the pups run in the sun, fetch some tennis balls in the water and enjoy the good life. It's one of her favorite places and she'll eagerly pull you if you decide to go left out of the tunnel (meaning dog beach) versus right when it's time to go on a run together. Which one would you choose!? 😉
Life without Lake Michigan, the Lake Shore Drive Path, the little lighthouse, and radiating Chicago skyline would certainly be boring and so much different. I feel so fortunate and truly lucky to have found my favorite body of water that I can run by every single day.
Favorite lake activities/foods/traditions? Aside from running along the Lakefront Trail, there’s a plethora of activities year-round near the waterfront. Whether it’s joining a beach volleyball intramural team in the summer, participating in the polar plunge in the winter, or simply enjoying breathtaking views of the notable Chicago Skyline from the waterfront trail, there are endless possibilities. Some of my favorites are going to one of the many dog beaches (Belmont Harbor and Montrose Beach are awesome), biking north along the trail up to our friends’ house in Wilmette, doing sunrise yoga on North Avenue Beach, and taking walks after work along the path to catch up with my sister-in-law and exercise our pups. I can’t imagine staying inside all evening when the sun is still shining and the water is calling my name.
Local joints to check out? We love to stick local to our neighborhood, Lakeview, for the most part, so here are a few favorites:
Sitting on the Dry Hop patio with my husband and Zoey on a sunny afternoon while sipping a Grapefruit Stiegl for me or a freshly brewed local Stout for him. They even bring out water and treats for Zoey!
Wilde: This amazing Irish restaurant on Broadway with a small patio and huge interior full or traditional Irish décor, a large bar and tons of seating. Their brunch is amazing – can’t go wrong with the Brioche custard French toast with vanilla cream and warm maple syrup or their rotating draft beer list.
Bobtail Ice Cream: Homemade Ice Cream two blocks from home? Sold! Their Cubbie Crunch is amazing as is their Peanut Butter Chip. It’s no Kiltie (homemade custard like in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin) but it’s become a summer tradition every single Sunday to help with the Sunday scaries ☺
What do you do when it rains?
Watch Zoey play in the (mud) puddles in the park… she can’t miss out on splashing around!
Hit one of the local breweries up for a fresh pint (Half Acre and Dry Hop are two of our favorites)
Brunch at Summer House on Halsted. The décor makes you feel like you’re in California despite the crummy weather.
A few logistics...
Closest major city & airport? We’re already in a major city, so the main airports are ORD or MDW. Both are accessible via the El Train, which is the fastest, most convenient way of transport to the airport from the city. No one wants to sit in that traffic for hours before or after a flight!
Distance to nearest grocery store? Mariano’s is two blocks from our condo with Walmart and Trader Joe’s each another block away. Access to food is never in short supply in the city! We LOVE Mariano’s