Visiting Chicago - What to See and Do
(Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Few cities embody that classic All-American spirit like Chicago. Spread out along the shore of Lake Michigan, it dishes up some world-class urban sophistication without any of the pretension. North Avenue Beach and the lake shore come right up to the edge of the downtown skyscrapers, ensuring that a quick spot of exercise and beautiful scenery is never far away.
The aptly named Magnificent Mile is a glittering sprawl of high-end shopping that rivals anything in America. After dark there are top-flight theater groups at the Goodman Theater, with the Lyric Opera and Chicago Symphony Orchestra adding even more cultural entertainment attractions.
The food in the Windy City is fantastic, from its traditional Greektown fare to the filling deep-dish pizza pies. Be sure to ride the El train on its elevated loop around the skyscrapers of downtown, whether you need to go somewhere or not. There are superb views atop the Willis Tower (previously named the Sears Tower) as well. Admire the masterpieces on show at the Art Institute or wander around the free Lincoln Park Zoo. Chicago is never short of things to see and do.
Ten things you must do in Chicago
- Lake Michigan is an integral part of this city's ambience, so be sure to plan a sunny afternoon to walk along the lakeside hiking trails or rent a bike and pedal the paved path that runs for miles along the waterfront. There are even huge beaches right on the edge of the concrete of downtown, such as North Avenue Beach. Not bad for a major metropolis!.
- Ride the Brown Line elevated train that loops right through the guts of downtown Chicago. The El, as it is affectionately known, is a marvelous ride that crosses the river then wends its way within spitting distance of the downtown apartment windows and towering skyscrapers. The Loop will bring you right back where you started, offering an authentic sightseeing adventure.
- The city's zoo at Lincoln Park is one of the best animal attractions in America, and it is completely free to enter. The zoo is just one facet of the amazing Lincoln Park, worth popping in for a stroll around some of the exhibits like the Regenstein African Journey or the Sea Lion Pool. More botanical garden than urban zoo, this place is one of the best spots in the downtown core for a leisurely stroll.
- Art lovers have plenty of places to admire beautiful pieces of visual creativity in the city. The Art Institute is one of the premier venues thanks to its comprehensive collection of rare treasures. From ancient Greek vases to rooms full of Jackson Pollock's work, this is an art museum with something for everyone. The European Arms and Armor Hall is a particularly appealing area, and there are special wings devoted to exposing children to the wonders of art.
- Chicago has shopping that is just as engaging as Beverly Hills or New York City. Michigan Avenue is a good place to start, as it covers the spectrum from high-fashion names to affordable retailers. Wicker Park is the place to discover your new favorite fashion boutique, while Oak Street will help empty your bank account if you are a fashionista. Not everything is expensive, though. Just check out the historic Macy's downtown, inside the Loop.
- Sports fans have plenty to cheer about in the Windy City. Not one, but two professional baseball teams are here - the Cubs and the White Sox. There is also pro basketball with the Bulls, and NFL football featuring the Bears. Soccer is covered by the Chicago Fire, and of course there is an NHL ice hockey team as well - the Blackhawks. Tickets are not that hard to come by, although it is best to buy them as early as you can.
- Millennium Park is another great green space right in the heart of downtown, where you can escape the bustle of the city. Take a stroll, watch other people mill around and admire the many pieces of outdoor sculpture like the mind-boggling Cloud Gate. The Pritzker Music Pavilion is another popular attraction in the park, featuring outdoor concerts throughout the warmer months.
- Whether you are a science geek or not, the Museum of Science and Industry is a magical place. Its exhibits cover a lot of ground, from a recreated underground coal mine to a German U-Boat from WWII. Most of the exhibits are interactive, and many focus on technology. This place is a hit with kids, and can easily absorb an entire day.
- If you stay at one of the downtown hotels, you can benefit from being able to walk down to the beach on a whim. Chicago is blessed with the rarity of urban beaches right on the edge of the action. Hang around at Oak Street Beach or get some exercise at the most active North Avenue Beach. While swimming is unlikely due to the perennial cold water, the sand is always fun for a walk and some seriously nice views.
- Catch some cutting-edge comedy at Second City, a breeding ground for famously funny stand-up comedians. If the performing arts are your thing, enjoy a show with the city's excellent symphony orchestra or opera troupe. There is also superb theater here, evident in the players of the Goodman Theater and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.