America’s third-largest city may not feature on as many travellers’ bucket lists as New York and Los Angeles, but Chicago is a dynamic location, a true city experience.
This jazz and blues mecca has live music galore, dozens of museums and galleries, spectacular skyscrapers and art deco architecture, and food from all over the world representing a melting pot of cultures.
With 500 parks and gardens and 42 kilometres of Lake Michigan shoreline, the Windy City also offers natural as well as man-made beauty.
For a hair-raising, bird’s-eye view of the Windy City (and four states), you can step out on The Ledge, a glass-floored platform sticking out from the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower, America’s second-tallest building.
Cultural highlights include the Art Institute of Chicago (home to the world’s largest collection of French impressionist paintings) and the Museum of Science & Industry.
Taking in a jazz or blues club is a must, as are the fairground rides on Navy Pier, a baseball game at Wrigley Field (home of the Cubs) and a visit to the free Lincoln Park Zoo. Millennium Park is a great place for families to hang out for a few hours and soak up Chicago life.
Enjoy a day out at...
- Lake Michigan& its many beaches
- Grant Park, for inner-city relaxation
- The historic Lincoln Park Zoo
Eat and Drink
With a reputation as one of America’s best food cities, Chicago has its own Michelin Guide, such is the wealth of fine dining. But you needn’t spend a fortune for great food. An ethically diverse population spread across 77 neighbourhoods offers an amazing array. Try Greek Town, Chinatown, Little Italy or any number of other ethnic food hotspots.
You might also want to find a pizza joint and sample some Chicago-style pizza while you’re here. If you really want a thin crust you’ll be able to find it, but it’s deep-dish pizza, almost like a pie, that is the city staple. Chicago ribs and the Chicago (hot) dog also put a local slant on classic American dishes.
Fill up Chicago-style on...
- Classic deep-dish pizza
- Dripping Italian beef sandwiches
- A traditional Chicago hot dog
From loft hostels to historic art deco hotels to gleaming skyscrapers overlooking the Chicago River, there’s a huge range of accommodation for visitors to the Windy City. If you’re looking to be in the heart of the action, there’s plenty to choose from in the Loop, Chicago’s CBD.
Keen shoppers might base themselves on the Magnificent Mile, so they don’t have to carry their bags of goodies too far back to their room, while anyone looking for a quieter place to lay their hat could try the hotels in Lincoln Park or the traditional charm of the village of Lombard.
The Magnificent Mile, a roughly mile-long stretch of North Michigan Avenue between Oak Street and the Chicago River, is the city’s most famous shopping strip, home to a dense array of malls, department stores such as Bloomingdale’s, jewellers including Tiffany’s, and countless other stores, big and small.
The Loop is home to the famous Macy’s on State Street, a department store that’s also a city landmark, based in a historic nine-floor building that’s fascinating in its own right. You’ll find designer stores on Oak Street, artworks in the galleries at River North, and alternative and vintage fashion at Belmont Avenue, Lakeview.
Head out to the suburbs and go…
- Bar hopping in Lincoln Park
- Record shopping in Wicker Park
- Baseball watching in Lakeview
Chicago Like a Local
Chicagoans reckon they’ve got the best live music scene in the country. You can find everything from rock and roots to classical and hip-hop, but jazz and blues are the most famous Chicago genres. One of the birthplaces of jazz (Louis Armstrong was among many to make his name here), Chicago is home to numerous clubs showcasing traditional and modern styles.
Try classic jazz venues such as the Green Mill (previously frequented by Al Capone) on Broadway, Uptown, or new venues such as Constellation on the northwest side. For the blues, try Blue Chicago or Buddy Guy’s Legends, both downtown. Comedy is big too: stand-up can be found everywhere from comic shops to dedicated comedy clubs.
See the city like a local by...
- Strolling down the Magnificent Mile
- Riding the “L” – or elevated railway
- Enjoying an Architecture River Cruise