I spent the Fourth of July in Chicago, watching fireworks through the gaps in between the skyscrapers.

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My friends and I drove up to the city for a four-day extravaganza of sightseeing and lots of walking. These are my diehard friends, the ones with whom I ventured to Arkansas and spent the night in Missouri on a float trip. We’re experts at traveling together. Blaring “Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens, we set off in the early hours of Independence Day.

The city was packed. Like, even more so than usual. It somehow didn’t occur to us that, just like we had a few days off work and were able to make this trip, so did everyone else. We bolted through crowds of tourists gaping up at the skyscrapers and we scampered past Chicago natives, our little group intimidated by the coolness with which they navigated the city.

We were somewhere in the middle, obvious newbies as we consulted our GPS while we walked, but still able to successfully utilize the L. (We only got on the wrong train once, thank you very much.)

With four days in Chicago, what do you do? Well, unless you’re willing to pay for Ubers and taxis, you do a lot of walking. Over those four days, we totaled about 25,000 steps each day. My feet still hurt as I write this.

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We spent our time walking all over the city, clutching sweating cups of iced coffee and people-watching. A few hours slipped away in the Art Institute of Chicago, where I did my best impression of Cameron in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” I stared at some of the most famous paintings in the world, masterpieces mere feet away from my nose.

I easily could’ve spent all four days there, but we had more things to do and see. We trekked over to Millennium Park and took pictures in the reflective surface of the Bean. We sat by Crown Fountain as dusk fell, watching kids play in the water and staring up at the buildings that towered over us.

And the meals! Delicious. We scarfed down greasy cheeseburgers in a hole-in-the-wall tavern and split a bottle of wine over pasta in Little Italy. Like all tourists, we had to try the deep dish pizza, with strings of cheese dripping from the crust. The best was a karaoke bar at 1 a.m. in Lincoln Park, screaming ABBA songs along with the crowd.

On the last night in Chicago, we were exhausted. I stood with my aching feet in Lake Michigan. The freezing black water lapped against my ankles. Above us, the lights in the skyscrapers flickered in and out as people walked through the rooms. Fireworks popped in the distance, leftover Fourth of July celebrations. It was the perfect ending to the trip.

As great as it is to go somewhere, it’s even better to come home. Slowly but surely, the scenery began to look more familiar as we left the city and ventured into the suburbs, then eventually back to the land of cornfields. The buildings overhead were replaced with windmills and blue open sky.

Will I go back to Chicago? Absolutely. But it’s sure nice to return to our little corner of Illinois. You remember this scene from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," right? Or is it just that I've seen the movie about 100 times?

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