Chicago

Chicago by CC user monika_thorpe on Flickr

Introduction

Perched on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan and historically serving as a major urban hub for agriculture and industry in the American Midwest, Chicago’s location and historic importance has led to it becoming one of America’s alpha world cities, ranking third in the nation in population, trailing only Los Angeles and New York City.

Attracting immigrants from every corner of the world over the years has given it a cosmopolitan pedigree that few metropolises in this nation can match, and given the influence of all these cultures, the food, art and neighborhoods here has taken on a life and character of their own.

This is reason enough to visit Chicago, but the urban architectural landscape provides another, as this city is where the skyscraper was born. Urbanites will adore its neoclassical and art deco beauties, all of whom are sprinkled in between the latest postmodern steel, glass and concrete masterpieces that go up in this megalopolis on maddening pace.

Finally, those that follow sports will have a ball in Chicago, as its hockey, baseball (2 teams), basketball, football and soccer clubs draw a level of fanaticism and devotion that few other cities match nationwide.

No matter what you decide to do in the Windy City, you are virtually certain to come away from this place planning out your return trip in your head as you fly or drive away from this happening urban landscape.

Field Museum of Natural History by CC user free-zee on Flickr

Cultural Experiences

Chicago is home to many world class museums, making it hard to decide which ones to see first. If you are a lover of the visual arts, the Art Institute of Chicago is an absolute must. Located in Grant Park, this gallery contains pieces of art from over 5,000 years of history from around the world, from prints made in ancient Japan to postmodern sculptures made by the hottest minds in art.

Being home to a significant population of African Americans, their collection on visual works made by this section of the U.S. population is vast and extensive, so be sure to check out this part of the museum while you explore its halls.

Those that possess a more scientific mind will find their time better spent at the Field Museum of Natural History. Being one of the largest museums in this genre in the world, this institution will impress visitors from the second they pass through the impressive facade, as its collection of dinosaur skeletons, rare fossils, meteors, gems, and more is only rivalled by a handful of other museums from around the world, making it a mandatory stop for those interested in the natural history of our planet.

Deep Dish Chicago Pizza by CC user tenaciousme on Flickr

Those that consider the performing arts their personal calling will thoroughly enjoy the Chicago Cultural Center. Even if live music, theater, and dance aren’t exactly your cup of tea, the spectacular stained glass dome and ornate interior architecture found within will thrill anybody with an itchy camera trigger finger.

Don’t identify with cultural activities at all? There’s one element of this cities’ cultural DNA that will resonate with you even if the former options don’t, and that’s Chicago’s mouthwatering cuisine.

Bring a growling stomach to a pizzeria here, as you’ll need all the spare capacity you can muster to devour the saucy and intensely flavorful Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. Those that are bored with the standard hot dog will love the massive array of toppings on a Chicago Hot Dog (beef wiener, mustard, tomatoes, dill pickle, chili peppers, onions, and relish), while those looking for an incredible sandwich will want to tuck into an Italian Beef, which features thin roast beef and sweet peppers wedged between fresh baked bread, as well as side bowl of beef broth for dipping.

Navy Pier by CC user the-o on Flickr

Other Attractions

While most if Chi Town’s skyscrapers are impressive and have loads of character, Willis Tower looms above them all. From 1973 to 1998, it was the tallest building in the world, and it remains the highest office building in the Western Hemisphere to this day.

The Skydeck at the 103rd floor yields a commanding view of the rest of downtown, the expansive fresh water sea that is Lake Michigan, and the seemingly limitless prairie that stretches out into the western horizon, so get tonnes of pictures while you are here.

All the sight seeing through museums and other sights over several days will take its toll, so take time to entertain yourself and have fun at the Navy Pier. This entertainment venue contains several rides (including a giant Ferris Wheel), restaurants, and boat tours, the latter of which is an excellent option for those looking for unparalleled views of the Chicago skyline in the evening hours.

Millennium Park by CC user dhilung on Flickr

While Millennium Park wasn’t finished in time for New Year’s Eve 1999 as originally intended, it still ended up turning into one of Chicago’s most beloved gathering places. Built atop a giant parking garage and a transit station, it counts as one of the world’s biggest rooftop gardens.

Despite what you might think as a result of this fact, Millennium Park is huge, possessing enough space for outdoor concerts in the summer, along with having space for several public art installations such as the infamous Cloud Gate (aka as The Bean).

Finally, those with kids will enjoy a rainy day visit to Shedd Aquarium, one of America’s oldest aquariums. Housed inside a gorgeous architectural structure, Shedd was the one of the first inland saltwater aquariums in the world, and in the present day, galleries featuring marine environments from all over the world can be found here, making it worth an afternoon when Chicago weather is not at its best.

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