The Second City, Chi-town, oh yes, Chicago is “My Kind of Town” but it can be yours too. With 75 different officially recognized neighborhoods, Chicago may seem a bit hard to swallow. But don’t worry, our chicago travel guide will take you to all the primo spots to visit while you are there:
Where to go:
Navy Pier (www.navypier.com)
Built in 1916, Navy Pier is located on the shores of Lake Michigan and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. With 50 acres of rides, restaurants, shops, and gardens it’s impossible to not find anything to do there. With nearly nine million visitors a year it is definitely Chicago’s most popular tourist attraction. But it’s also a great hang out spot for locals looking for a nice lake breeze and a step away from the hectic city life. Home to an IMAX theater, a children’s museum (see more on that below), and breathtaking exhibit of stained glass windows dating from the Victorian era, Navy Pier is the perfect way to spend a day in Chi-town. And for nighttime excitement, don’t forget their spectacular fireworks shows. The days and hours on the shows vary so check ahead and prepare to be awed!
Millennium Park (www.millenniumpark.org)
Fascinating architecture, unbelievable sculptures, a grand performing arts center, and so much more await you at Millennium Park. Located in the square created between Michigan Avenue, Columbus Drive, Randolph Street, and Monroe Street, these 24.5 acres are modernist playground. Considered part of the Chicago Loop neighborhood (so name for the elevated trains that loop around the streets), Millennium Park with its gorgeous water features (check out the Crown Fountain) and spectacular nouveau landscaping it is second only to Navy Pier in the number of annual visitors. Featuring an ice skating rink, a famous 110 ton steel sculpture known as Cloud Gate, galleries, and the Park Grill restaurant, this is the place to go for anyone with a taste for art, culture, and unadulterated natural beauty.
Wrigley Field (www.cubs.com)
If you can’t get enough of the “Boys of Summer” then a visit to Wrigley Field is in your future. Home to the Chicago Cubs since 1916, the famous ivy covered walls of the outfield have been drawing in baseball fans for generations. Often called “The Friendly Confines”, Wrigley Field is a great family destination. They even offer The Wrigley Field Experience which permits groups to play on this historic field on non-game days. The second oldest baseball park in the world Wrigley has seen the likes of Babe Ruth and his famed “called shot”, Sammy Sosa’s 60th home run, and Pete Rose’s tying with Ty Cobb for the most hits in baseball. Tours are available, but call ahead because tickets go fast.
What to do:
Chicago Trolley Company (www.chicagotrolley.com)
Home to the tallest building in the nation, Chicago offers great bird’s eye views; however if you really want to see how this great city works, contact the Chicago Trolley Company. With classic San Francisco style trolleys and über-cool double-decker busses, this is probably the most fun way to take in all the sights, sounds, and excitement Chicago has to offer. With their “Hop on Hop Off” tour you get not only fun little take home gifts, but also the chance to see such Windy City standards as Union Station and the Chicago Theater and nearly all of the interesting spots listed here including Millennium Park, Willis Tower, and the Shedd Aquarium. Leaving every 15 to 20 minutes, the Chicago Trolley Company will get you anywhere you want to go.
Lockwood Restaurant (www.lockwoodrestaurant.com)
Located in the historic Palmer House Hilton, Lockwood Restaurant is located just steps away from Millennium Park and Navy Pier. Elegant and stylish, Lockwood is perfect for that romantic dinner or perhaps a special night out with some close friends. Prepare to be pampered with great service, fabulous food, and wine parings to delight even the most discriminating foodie. Overall, it’s a Continental Cuisine, but with sort of a French-Italian flair that makes this place unique and oh so decadent. The sommelier on site will help with any wine parings, and Lockwood has a relatively diverse list to go with both the mild and the bold flavors on their menu. Reservations are recommended. See full article on the Lockwood Restaurant.
Willis (Sears) Tower (www.willistower.com)
Regardless of what they call it, if you want spectacular views of Illinois, not to mention Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin the Willis Tower is the one and only place in Chicago to be. Built over three years from 1970 to 1973, Willis Tower is the tallest building in the United States; although at the time of completion it was the tallest in the world. The Skydeck is located on the 103rd floor 1,353 feet above ground level. Imagine seeing 50 miles away on a clear day the beauty of the Midwest plains, the grandeur of the Chicago skyline, or the majesty of Lake Michigan. The two glass observation balconies are known as The Skydeck Ledge. Extending out about four feet from the edge of the building, you can now not only look out at the beauty of Chicago but if you dare, you can look down! The Skydeck also offers museum quality exhibits affording you the chance to learn all about Chicago. See full article on the Willis-Sears Tower.
What to see:
Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum (www.adlerplanetarium.org)
Listed as a National Historic Landmark, the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum was the first planetarium built in the western hemisphere. Opened in 1930, it was designed by architect Ernest Grunsfeld and features oodles of fascinating artifacts, exhibits, and antique astronomical instruments. A few of the awesome things you will spot here are the world’s oldest sundial, meteorites, and Persian astrological relics dating from the 1100s. With a state of the art digital projector, the Adler Planetarium is a remarkable adventure into space without ever having to leave terra firma.
Chicago Children’s Museum (www.chicagochildrensmuseum.org)
Founded in 1982 and located at Navy Pier, the Chicago Children’s Museum is a fascinating journey for young and old alike. With three floors of hands on exhibits, it is the height of entertainment. Some of the highlights are the Big Backyard (a fanciful urban garden and playground), the Climbing Schooner (featuring tropical fish and a kid safe jungle gym), and WaterWays (lets kids get their hands wet learning about water). Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Chicago Children’s Museum offers year round activities for families looking for a good time and a clever educational experience.
John G. Shedd Aquarium (www.sheddaquarium.org)
The first inland aquarium with a permanent saltwater collection, the John G. Shedd Aquarium was opened in 1930 to much fan fair and excitement from local Chicagoans. Today, the aquarium is so much more than just fish. One of the largest indoor aquariums in the world, Shedd houses birds, reptiles, amphibians, and even insects. Permanent exhibits include Amazon Rising (representing a flooded Amazonian rainforest), Polar Play Zone (a great spot of the kiddies), and Waters of the World (over 80 uniquely different habitats featuring fascinating and rare animals). They also have “Granddad”. Granddad, an Australian lung fish, has been swimming in Shedd’s waters since 1933 and is the oldest fish in any aquarium in the world. With 1,500 species that cover the globe, the John G. Shedd Aquarium is a stop everyone will want to make.