Hi All!! I just got back from my son's graduation!! PIR 5-15-15!!! It’s been a bit of readjustment; having my son for a few days and then having to say good-bye. I needed some time to compose myself I suppose…But I wanted to give the new moms/dads my outlook on our weekend in Great Lakes. Sorry for the long post but here it goes.
We flew from MIA to O'Hare. Round trip tickets bought about a month in advance were about $550.00 for 3 people. We rented a car from the airport at O’Hare. My husband got it through Hotwire for about $180 for the 4 days. It was great to get around. But watch out. Traffic in downtown Chicago is crazy. Parking is EXTREMELY expensive and you should really get the I-pass. We got it from Enterprise for an extra $8.00 a day.
We stayed at the Residence Inn in Lake Forest, about 15 minutes from the base. We got a one bedroom suite. Breakfast was included and it was pretty good. Clean room, full kitchen. Service was great. Restaurant in the hotel as well. I would give them a 9.
We didn’t make it to the meet and greet. Wish I had. Everyone that went seemed to have a lovely time. The Sarge and his wife, from what I have read seem like wonderful people, that do this lovely get together for Navy Families. Such a lovely gesture!!!
We didn’t take any extra guests. However, I did see that they were people being allowed to watch the ceremony at the Chapel. So I suppose, if there is enough space this is allowed. My extended family were all able to watch the ceremony online with the link that I provide them. They were all very happy to be a part of it all. So that is great!!
Tips for PIR: Arrive early!!!! Not because the lines are long to get onto the base. We didn't experience any long lines. It is more to be able to get good seats. The only thing I wish... is that they would make sure just to allow the people who belong to each division to sit in the corresponding side. We ended up sitting in front of Division 181, when our son was in 180. All the seats were pretty much taken and we arrived around 7:00AM!!! Bring your patience, snacks if you get hungry, even though they do have a concession stand. Perhaps a pillow for your bottom. You do sit on those bleachers a long time. Personally, I think the ribbons are a bit much. My son said, “thank God you didn’t get them”. But if you are into them, by all means… I saw a few beautiful ones. Go figure, my son wasn’t impressed by the door sign either. I suppose it’s good if you stay at the Navy Lodge. Nevertheless, I am glad that my daughter helped me and we were able to create a door sign and received compliments from many of the other hotel guests.
We had lunch at Maggiano’s a restaurant in Westfield Hawthorn Mall (minutes from our hotel). I have eaten at other Maggiano’s and this one was just okay. We did receive a free dessert in honor of our sailor. The next day we had Lou Malnati’s from a chain of pizzerias. We had ours downtown. The deep dish pizza was amazing!
We like to try different things. Personally, I am in LOVE with Anthony Bourdain, so we tried Taqueria El Asadero, one of the places he mentions in his Layover Chicago show. A no-frills Mexican joint with the best Tacos that I have ever tasted!!! We also wanted to go to Girl & the Goat, but reservations are needed weeks in advance. So we didn't stand a chance.
Chicago is BEAUTIFUL!! The tulips all over the city give it a lovely charm. I’m originally from new York and I am impressed how clean this city is and how polite people are. The Navy Pier is okay. It’s under construction. We weren’t impressed. Millennium Park, The Bean, the Fountain faces are all amazing. We loved walking around and sightseeing. The river walk and the magnificent mile were splendid!! We ended up walking A LOT!! Just not to move the car again and park somewhere else.
My son stayed in Great Lakes for his A school, so we were able to have him the entire weekend. We would pick him on at 7:00am and drop him off 21:00. Getting back to the base isn’t as bad as they say it is. We never had to make a long line. The only thing is to make sure that EVERYONE in the car has ID.
Overall, the experience was wonderful. The saddest thing was saying good bye to my son Sunday night. However, seeing him so grown up and walking so tall and proud just made me appreciate him even more. When he walked away from me Sunday after we dropped him off at the base, I realized through my tears that this is what my son was always meant to do. And even though I miss him terribly. I could not be prouder of my son.
Thank you for all of the information. It will help me in my planning.
Wow. You brought tears to my eyes.
Thank you so much for posting your experience. My son (my youngest) is graduating July 17 and I have only heard from him once and missed one call. I don't know if his division got in trouble or what because he is a very family oriented guy. I will leave early so I can have a better seat. My son is going to A school in Pensacola , so doubt I will get to spend as much time with him. Thanks and take care..Janie
Extra guest? No.
The chapel? Iffy at best. RTC requests that guests not on the access list stay off base.
I suggest that you read the official RTC Family Guide.
If they are going to school in Great Lakes, they get a short time with you, but then have to go over to the TSC side to check into their barracks/school. Takes a few hours, then they have the evening with family.
If they are going to school elsewhere, they can leave with you right away.
Thank you so much for sharing this with us. This is very helpful information and I will definitely take your advice. The only thing that I hate is that I have to leave that Saturday because of the people that are coming with me. But I may work something out so I can spend some more time with my SR because he is in A school....