Chicago is the largest city in Illinois and is strategically located along the banks of Lake Michigan with the Chicago River flowing through downtown. It is recognized as a leading city for technology, telecommunications, commerce, finance, and industry. Its main airport, O’Hare International, is the second busiest airport in the world measured by aircraft traffic. Chicago is known as the “Windy City,” but another famous nickname is the “Heart of America.” With the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, several square miles were destroyed, but the spirit of the Chicago people prevailed and the city was re-built and has prospered ever since. Chicago has expanded north to Kenosha, Wisconsin, to the south end of Lake Michigan to northwestern Indiana and to Michigan’s state line.
What else is Chicago famous for? There are too many to name, but here are a few: Deep dish pizza, Chicago-styled hot dogs, Willis Tower, St. Patrick’s Day celebration, the Chicago White Socks, the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago Bears, and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Millennium Park should be one of the first places you visit. You’ll find free events and exhibits year round in this award winning park in the middle of downtown. This is the place where locals and tourists gather for concerts, cultural programs, and art. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is a highly sophisticated outdoor concert venue and is one of the park’s main features. Other features include: the Crown Fountain, Lurie Garden, and the Cloud Gate sculpture. The Park Grill is located here for your convenience and you’ll also find pedestrian bridges to take you to the Art Institute and Maggie Daley Park.
The Chicago River Cruise is exceptionally popular for all ages. It’s a great way to see Chicago with a tour guide to give you a little bit of Chicago’s history and to see some of Chicago’s most outstanding buildings. Some of the noteworthy buildings include: the Willis (Sears) Tower, Wrigley Building, the Aon Center, Old Post Office, and the 360 Chicago Observation Deck. The skyline is definitely worth seeing!!!
The Willis Tower is always one of the favorites to visit. The Skydeck is located on the 103rd and is the highest point of the city. Take a little time to view some of the exhibits displaying Chicago’s history before walking out on the Ledge. It’s a glass balcony approximately 1,353 feet high with amazing views of Wrigley Field and the Navy Pier.
The Museum of Science and Industry has so much to see, so plan to spend several hours touring this magnificent museum. There are over 2,000 exhibits with many being interactive. One of the oldest exhibits is the “Coal Mine” which re-creates a working deep-shaft mine. It uses the original equipment from Old Ben #17. There is also a replica of Stephenson’s Rocket, the first steam locomotive to go over 25 mph. Other exhibits you’ll want to see include: the model of the first Wright Brothers airplane, World War II warplanes, a Boeing 727 jet airplane, the Apollo 8 Spacecraft, a walk-through model of a human heart, and the “Art of the Bicycle.”
The Art Institute of Chicago is guarded by a pair of bronze lions. Among this sprawling institute of galleries and halls, you’ll find over 300,000 artworks. Displayed are exotic Japanese prints to fabulous Greek sculptures. There is an amazing collection of classic paintings and a wing designated for more contemporary designs.
The Garfield Park Conservatory has been described as “landscape art under glass” and is one of the largest in the world. The conservatory sits on approximately 1.6 acres with about 120,000 plants, representing approximately 600 species. Don’t miss the “prairie waterfall” in the Fern Room. The Desert House is filled with cacti and prickly succulents, while the Aroid House is filled with popular houseplants. During the summer, the park expands to 12 acres of outside gardens. A very popular occasion held at the conservatory is the annual kick-off event for Chicago’s Craft Beer week. It’s open 365 days of the year and is free to the public.
Navy Pier is located on the shoreline of Lake Michigan and is a 3,300 ft. pier. It consists of more than 50 acres of gardens, parks, restaurants, shops, and family attractions. Some of the outdoor attractions are: the Pepsi Wave Swinger, Remote Control Boats, Light Tower Ride, a Ferris Wheel, and a Carousel. This is an especially fun place for children as the pier also has a Children’s Museum and an IMAX theater.
The Lincoln Park Zoo is also free and fun for the entire family. It’s open 365 days of the year and offers several fun-filled attractions. One of the more popular attractions is the Lionel Train Adventure. The train runs on a track-less course through forests and a canyon for a scenic ride. There is also a Malott Family Penguin Encounter where you’ll experience penguins waddling at your feet. Of course you’ll be able to see the lions, tigers, bears, elephants, and many other popular animals.
Places to Eat
The Chicago Diner is a Vegetarian Restaurant and has won several awards. The original location is the Halsted location in Lakeview and has the old diner feel. Try one of their famous Radical Reuben sandwiches and one of their award-winning Vegan Milk Shakes.
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab is a delicious steakhouse with tasty seafood and Vegan options. It’s a bit expensive, but is a wonderful place for a celebration. Reservations are recommended.
IO Urban Roofscape located in the Godfrey Hotel and is known for their wonderful service and fantastic brunch. The setting is spectacular!
Girl and the Goat has a stellar reputation for being friendly with a variety of menu items. It can be difficult to get a reservation, but it’s worth waiting for!
Planning your visit to Chicago can be fun, but being in this wonderful city is the best of the best! Stay as long as you can to experience the hospitality and liveliness of this remarkable city. Bring your camera as this will be a vacation to remember to share with your family and friends.