I’m a massive Pokemon Go fan and in the summer Niantic hold a number of events for Pokemon Go players around the world.
The biggest of these events is Go Fest which is held in the USA at different parks in Chicago.
It’s been a pipe dream of my friends and I to attend one of these events as we’ve been to a number of the smaller Safari Zone events in Europe.
This year Niantic introduced a new lottery based ticketing system which compared to their old first come first system meant we were able to get tickets.
The only problem I would say as a player travelling from another country to attend is that it doesn’t leave much in the way of time to book flights and accommodation but we managed in the end.
We stayed in Oak Park which is just outside of Chicago. It’s a nice area to stay in and only 30 mins away from Downtown Chicago.
Our trip to Go Fest
We got in on the Wednesday with our play day in the park being Saturday but luckily that didn’t prevent us getting to the park as unlike previous years the park was open to all with the game only showing spawns to players on their respective days.
This system worked well for us as we were able to scope out the best routes, anticipate potential connectivity dead-spots and learn more about what was on offer.
Day One – Flying in
After getting off my very good economy American Airlines flight I headed to my AirBnB to drop my bags off, shower and head over to a YouTuber raid train happening in Grant Park.
I was meeting my friends who had different flights to myself at the raid train so we could go back to our AirBnB together.
Unfortunately they were running late as O2 who they assumed would give them decent data connection after they paid extra for it crapped out on them so they had to go to the T-Mobile shop to get an American SIM card.
We hit up a few raids anyways and my friend managed to get a perfect Cresselia and another got a shiny Onix so they were happy but we were all tired after travelling so called it an early night.
Day Two – It’s Always Sunny in Chicago
We went to the park to see what the event was like and scope the place out but not before I dragged my friends to Dunkin Donuts so they could experience the Sausage, Egg and Cheese Croissant (something I had when I went to Las Vegas last year).
After walking around for a couple of hours around the lake front and Navy Pier we went to Giordana’s for some authentic Chicago pizza.
The size of the pizza is ridiculous, we ordered a medium which is meant to be for 3 people and barely finished half of it!
After scoffing our little fraction of the pizza we met up with the Silph Road crew at their hotel as my friend and myself volunteer for them.
It was good to put faces to names and to meet new people, we had a good laugh and had a few beers before heading back to Oak Park to try out the local ‘Ale House’.
Unfortunately for me, I found out the hard way to remember to stay hydrated and that a Chicago ‘rainy day’ is nothing like a Leeds rainy day so I ended up a little worse for wear.
Day Three – Playing Tourist
We headed into town early on the Friday to see the sights and make the most of the good weather as it was expected to rain properly the next day.
We first walked into the park to hit up the Niantic merchandise stand which unlike the Pokemon stand required no proof of ticket to buy from.
I snagged a hat and water bottle (hydration played a big part of the trip) and we made our way over to the Sky Deck at Willis Tower to see Chicago from the top and take some really scary selfies in the window boxes they have there.
After the trek around town we headed to Panda Express for the 2nd time and watched The US Office on Netflix before preparing for the big day.
Day Four – Gotta Catch ‘Em All (Weather Permitting)
Saturday was our day playing Pokemon Go in Grant Park from 11 to 7.
We had about 2 hours in the park before the park was evacuated due to a thunderstorm warning from the local authority which made my friends remark on how my habit of being screwed over by these events (for instance in Dortmund last year I was locked out of the game until 5pm due to server issues) had impacted them and I owed them money.
Before the evacuation I was able to get in the Pokemon merchandise line and picked myself up a Pikachu cape (which featured heavily in our antics throughout the day) as well as completing my Jirachi quests.
We waited out the postponed event time in Kasey’s pub which served a really good porter and was quite quiet for a Saturday evening (might be the difference in drinking cultures).
After we were let back into the park I managed to finally get what I came for – a shiny Gastly! I’ve spent the past few months doing about 200 research tasks attempting to get one and typically the fifth encounter after I departed from my friends to continue my search was a shiny one!
I managed to get a few shinies I didn’t have during my time in the park as I spent my time in the areas those Pokemon spawned in to ensure I got them but after a while Niantic sent out a message about to compensate for the lost time they would allow players to experience the same Pokemon spawns in their location anywhere in the world the next Saturday.
This message was actually a welcome relief as it meant I could stop grinding for the shiny Pokemon I was missing and instead enjoy the other things in the park such as the PvP tournament (which I won and got a weighty medal from) and the snapshots (important for getting a gold medal in the game).
After the event ended we headed north a couple of block from Grant Park to Lucky Strike as The Silph Road we’re hosting an after party and the first PvP championship.
It was a great party and I got to meet loads of people within the community as well as high ranking PvP players and other community leads.
Due to the venue closing we found ourselves being kicked out to the pavement outside Lucky Strike where the tournament had to be completed.
It was a good laugh even with being forced outside and was definitely an experience. As one person said – it felt like the ‘Street Countdown’ scene in IT Crowd which is great as it makes it super geeky.
Day Five – Colin Shark Doo Doo Doodoo Doodoo
After sleeping off any hangovers and tiredness from the night before we headed into town to see how Grant Park looked after all the rain and then went to the Shedd Aquarium to see what it had to offer.
I pretty much immediately found the best thing in my trip which was a plush shark hat that I wore throughout our trip to the Aquarium.
I got loads of stares and a few comments about how awesome it was while my mates kept forgetting I was wearing it and burst into laughter.
The Aquarium itself is really good and well worth a visit, they have a lot of touch experiences and loads of really unique and interesting fish.
One downside to the trip the Aquarium was the fact that the beluga whale tank seemed small for the three we saw and they just seemed to be swimming in circles rubbing their backs against the glass.
I hate seeing animals in that situation similar to how my trip to Berlin at university was ruined by seeing Elephants reaching for leaves on barren trees outside their enclosure while a 7 foot drop prevented them from getting them.
After the Aquarium trip we went back to Downtown to eat and headed home. As we were in our Uber we saw that Niantic did a mass raid test at the park which was a shame to miss.
Day Six – Heading Home
I’m writing this blog from the airport as I wait to board my Aer Lingus flight home.
Things aren’t looking good so far as we’re delayed by 40 minutes and there’s the potential for me to miss my connecting flight but I’m sure I’ll make it back eventually.
Was it all worth it?
Completely worth it!
We had a great time, experienced so many new things, met some amazing people and got some exclusive stuff to make the players back home super envious.
With the event extension happening when I get back too it will be even better as those at home can see what it’s like to attend an event.
Niantic and The Silph Road really knocked it out of the ball park with the events and if I can I’ll definitely go again next year.