Chicago, the “Windy City” as it is often called, lies along the shores of Lake Michigan. It is known for its vibrant arts scene, numerous cultural attractions, excellent shopping, and interesting architecture. The city enjoys a worldwide reputation as a focal point of 20th century architecture and art, with architects such as Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, and artists like Picasso, Mirõ, Dubuffet, and Chagall having left their mark. The city also has much to offer in the sporting sphere, too, with the Bears White Sox, Cubs, Blackhawks, and Bulls. Last, but not least, are the beautiful beaches.
Spanning 319 acres of lakefront property, Chicago’s “front yard” is filled with notable landmarks like the Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute and Museum Campus. In the summer, Grant Park’s sprawling terrain plays host to festivals like Lollapalooza, Blues Fest and the Taste of Chicago.
This tourist hot spot features shops, eateries, an IMAX cinema and a bevy of sightseeing boat tours. Pier Park is home to a 150-foot-high Ferris wheel, plus an old-fashioned swing ride and 18-hole mini-golf course—great for tourists or an afternoon of people-watching.
Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is a world class museum with hundreds of thousands of artworks. The diverse collection spans thousands of years and includes pieces from a variety of media including painting, prints, photography, sculpture, decorative arts, textiles, architectural drawings and more. The Institute is known for its collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings including Georges Seurat’s 1884 “A Sunday Afternoon on La Grand Jatte,” Renoir’s 1879 “Acrobats at the Circque Fernando” and numerous paintings by Claude Monet.
Millennium Park is located in downtown Chicago bordered by Michigan Avenue to the west, Columbus Drive to the east, Randolph Street to the North and Monroe Street to the South. The main features of Millennium Park include the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an outdoor concert venue; the interactive Crown Fountain; Lurie Garden; and the Cloud Gate sculpture on the AT&T Plaza.
Located in the same lakeshore Museum Campus as the Field Museum, the John G. Shedd Aquarium is home to more than 1,500 species of sea life, including 32,500 fish, as well as an array of birds, insects and amphibians. Completed in 1930, the aquarium gets more than two million visitors each year, making it one of the most-visited aquarium in the United States. Exhibits are organized in themed areas such as the “Caribbean Reef” and the award-winning “Amazon Rising.” The Oceanarium, which features dolphins and beluga whales, is one of the aquarium’s most popular exhibits.
Chicago Water Tower
Designed by architect William Boyington, the 47 meter (154 foot) tall turreted Chicago Water Tower once played a critical role in the city’s water system. In 1871, a fire that began in a barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O’Leary quickly spread and destroyed the city’s entire business district. One of the few surviving structures of the infamous Great Chicago Fire, the Chicago Water Tower is a symbol of the city’s resilience. Today, the beautiful limestone structure is home to the City Gallery, which exhibits works by local artists and photographers.
John Hancock Center
Standing 344 meters (1,127 feet) tall, the John Hancock Center is Chicago’s fourth-tallest building. Located on the shore of Lake Michigan, the skyscraper offers panoramic views of the entire city. Completed in 1968, the 100-story structure boasts a number of records, including the world’s highest indoor swimming pool and ice-skating rink. Visitors can take a 40-second elevator ride to the Observatory on the 94th floor, which features an open-air skywalk. On the 96th floor is a lounge where guests can sip a cocktail or beverage while enjoying the view.
No other feature better illustrates the character of Chicago than the waterway that runs through the city. In 1900, the city completed an incredible engineering project: reversing the flow of Chicago River. Through the installation of a series on canal locks, the water was directed to empty into the Mississippi River instead of Lake Michigan. Today, the mile-long pedestrian Riverwalk that runs along the south bank of the river as it winds through the downtown district offers visitors a lush green space where they can stroll and take in the sights of the city. River cruises are available that offer visitors historical insight about the city’s most-celebrated landmarks.
A section of Michigan Avenue that runs from Oak Street to the Chicago River, the Magnificent Mile is considered one the best shopping districts in the world. The street got its nickname from real estate magnate Arthur Rubloff in the 1940s. The “Mag Mile,” as its sometimes called, also provides access to many of the numerous landmarks and tourist attractions in Chicago, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Wrigley Building and the Chicago Water Tower.
While some may argue that the skyscraper, renamed Willis Tower in 2009, has lost a bit of its swagger since it lost its status as the world’s tallest building, the Sears Tower remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in Chicago. Completed in 1973, the 108-story structure features some of the fastest elevators in the world, covering as much as 1,600 feet per minute. A 70-second ride takes visitors to the 103rd-floor Skydeck where they can feel the building sway beneath them on a windy day. The Skydeck offers of sweeping views of Lake Michigan and glimpses of the states of Michigan and Wisconsin beyond.
The first major league pitch was thrown at Wrigley Field in 1914, making the home of the Chicago Cubs the second oldest major league ballpark in the United States, just a couple of years behind Boston’s Fenway Park. Despite the Cubs being dubbed the “lovable losers”, games at Wrigley Field continuously sell out year after year. Why? The ambiance and history of the ballpark — it’s something that really must be experienced.
Museum of Science and Industry
At the north end of Jackson Park is the Museum of Science and Industry, founded in 1933, and arguably the most impressive museum in Chicago. It is devoted to the application of natural laws in technological and industrial development. The museum is thought to be the first in the U.S. to incorporate the idea of “hands-on” exhibits. Visitors are encouraged to interact with hundreds of exhibits. The MSI features permanent and changing exhibits, as well as an OMNIMAX theater