It was December 2016 and Christmas break had just begun. I was feeling the freedom that comes from finishing a stressful, insanely busy semester, and on a whim, I decided to open up the ticket page for the musical “Hamilton.”
During my summer in Nashville, I had heard all about the hit rap musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton, and I quickly became a fan of this genius work of storytelling. But my college budget combined with the show’s popularity meant that seeing it live wasn’t really an option.
Or so I thought.
At the top of the ticket page, I entered in some random dates for Chicago in June, again on a whim. To my surprise, I found some reasonably priced tickets, even if they were at the top corner of the theater. And again on a whim, I clicked “purchase tickets.”
Fast forward to June 5 and I found myself squished into my car with four other friends on our way to Chicago. The plans fell into place perfectly, and not only was I going to get to see “Hamilton,” but I was going to see my friend from Germany, Laura, for the first time in five years.
On the drive there, we made a quick stop in Marceline, Mo., which is Walt Disney’s childhood home. When I was in eighth grade, I did a big project on Walt Disney, so for me, visiting the place that first inspired Walt was almost as exciting as visiting Disney World.
We were spending the week with friends who lived about an hour south of the city, and we arrived just in time for the delicious supper they prepared for us. We spent the evening catching up, and they gave us several tips for exploring Chicago.
One of those tips was to use a parking app that allowed us to reserve a spot in advance. The next morning, we headed into the city and I was excited out of my mind to finally see Laura. Unfortunately, the parking spot we reserved was located among the city’s confusing underground streets, and we spent a stressful 30 minutes—which felt like 30 hours—just trying to find the parking garage.
Finally, we found our spot. A few minutes later we rounded the corner by the Nutella Café and I hugged my dear friend for the first time in five years. It was such a special moment, and the rest of the day was full of special memories and lots and lots of walking.
We visited Navy Pier, ate some amazing deep-dish pizza, took touristy photos in the Bean statue and caught up with each other without the grainy Skype videos between us.
After dropping Laura off at the train station, the rest of us took a boat tour through the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, where we caught a gorgeous view of the skyline at sunset. I had only been there one day, but the city—especially that skyline—had already captured a piece of my heart.
The next day was the day I had been looking forward to since December 2016, and it did not disappoint. “Hamilton” was absolutely incredible. I’m not exaggerating when I say I had goosebumps during the entire show.
The talent on the stage in front of me and the talent of the people who wrote and composed the show was almost more than my little brain could comprehend. I even only had one good eye to watch the show—of all the days to get a swollen eye—so I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like to watch with two working eyes.
We spent our final day in Chicago by exploring the Lincoln Park neighborhood and taking a stroll around the zoo before relaxing at one of Chicago’s beaches.
In the end, that week in Chicago was just what I needed to wrap up my (sort of) senior year of college and recharge for the French adventure that awaited me. What started as an impulsive purchase of some musical tickets turned into a week full of laughter, mishaps and lasting memories.
Bailey Kaufman is an alum of Hillsboro High School and Tabor College. She has been writing “Horizons” since August 2012. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.