Chicago, the “Windy City” as it is often called, is located along the shores of Lake Michigan. It is known for its dynamic art scene, numerous cultural attractions, excellent shopping and interesting architecture.
The city enjoys a global reputation as a focal point of 20th century architecture and art, with architects such as Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, and artists such as Picasso, Mirõ, Dubuffet and Chagall leaving their brand. The city also has a lot to offer in sports, with the Chicago Bears in American football, the Chicago White Sox and Cubs in baseball and the Chicago Bulls in basketball. Last, but not least, the beautiful beaches.
1. Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is a world class museum with hundreds of thousands of works of art. The diverse collection spans thousands of years and includes pieces from various 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, notably Un dimanche après-midi by Georges Seurat in 1884 on La Grande Jatte, Les Acrobates de Renoir in 1879 at Cirque Fernando and many paintings by Claude Monet.
The main building, designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge in the fine art style, was constructed for the Colombian World Exposition of 1893. Several other buildings have been added over the years and today the complex measures 400 000 square feet.
2. Millennium Park
Millennium Park is part of the largest Grant Park, 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. Its centerpiece is a 110-ton sculpture called Cloud Gate, which has a polished stainless steel surface, similar to a mirror, inspired by liquid mercury. It reflects the environment, including the buildings, the sky and the tourists who cross its central arc. Another prominent attraction in Millennium Park is Crown Fountain, a fascinating modern interpretation of the ancient gargoyle that gives the appearance of water flowing from the mouth of projected images of the citizens of Chicago. Other popular things to do here include seeing a performance at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an open-air concert hall, and visiting Lurie Garden, which is open to the public free of charge year-round.
3. Navy Pier
The Navy Pier opened in 1916 as an entertainment and shipping area, but is now one of Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions. Today, the Navy Pier consists of 50 acres of gardens, attractions, shops, restaurants, concert halls and parks. There is a 150-foot ferris wheel and a historic carousel at Navy Pier Park. Visitors can also watch a movie at the 3D Imax Theater, watch actors perform the classics at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater or visit Crystal Gardens, an six-story one-acre indoor botanical garden. The Chicago Children’s Museum is also located here. The Pier hosts festivities throughout the year, including the Chicago Festival in August. Cruise ships depart from here for various sightseeing excursions.
4. 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 would be the first in the United States to incorporate the idea of “practical” exhibitions. Visitors are encouraged to interact with hundreds of exhibits. The MSI offers permanent and changing exhibitions, as well as an OMNIMAX theater.
5. Buckingham Fountain
Built in 1927 with a family donation, the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain is one of the largest in the world. Designed in the Art Deco style emblematic of the time, the central fountain is surrounded by four seahorses which represent the four states bordering Lake Michigan. From 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., the fountain explodes every hour, drawing 15,000 gallons of water through nearly 200 nozzles every minute to create an impressive display. After dusk, the water show is accompanied by lights, a must see if you are in the neighborhood in the evening. The fountain is the focal point of Grant Park, Chicago’s vast public space that contains many attractions and smaller parks like Millennium Park, comparable to Central Park, one of New York’s main attractions.
One of the park’s main attractions is the Museum Campus, which houses the Field Museum of Natural History, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium. Grant Park is also home to several gardens and recreational facilities and hosts events, including music and food festivals.
6. 360 Chicago
Located in the John Hancock Center office building, 360 Chicago is a viewing platform on the 94th floor of the John Hancock building, easily recognizable by its dark metallic exterior and braced steel design that runs through the exterior of the building. The large glass-walled viewing deck offers views of the Chicago skyline and beyond. More adventurous tourists will love the new feature of the bridge, “Tilt”, which offers visitors a unique view more than 1,000 feet above the Magnificent Mile, as they are tilted outward at an angle to look directly toward the down from the glass enclosure. The rest of the building contains a variety of shops, offices and apartments, as well as a multimedia exhibit on the first floor that includes information about the city of Chicago and the construction of the John Hancock building.
7. Michigan Avenue and the Magnificent Mile
Michigan Avenue is probably one of the most attractive boulevards in America. The city’s famous Magnificent Mile is a section of Michigan Avenue north of the Chicago River, with many galleries, boutiques and luxury boutiques. Some of the attractions here include the John Hancock Center, the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower. Michigan Avenue divides between the north and south designations on Madison Street. This area is also known for its theaters, which host plays, musicals and comedies.
8. Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field, which houses the Chicago Cubs, was built in 1914 and is the second oldest Major League baseball park in the United States, just behind Fenway Park in Boston. The park has had legendary moments in baseball history, including the 1917 safe-hitting duel between the Cubs Jim Vaughn and the Reds’ Fred Toney, and Babe Ruth “shot” in the third game of the 1932 World Series. Tours of the stadium are in season, when you can visit the press area and the field, as well as the canoes if there is no match that day.
9. Lincoln Park
Lincoln Park is a six-mile stretch of green space along the shores of Lake Michigan, and Chicago’s largest park. This popular park is home to the charming Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the country. The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Chicago History Museum are also located here. For those who just want to enjoy the outdoor space, there are playgrounds, bike paths, jogging tracks and beaches. Visitors can see a number of important statues and public art in the park, including the standing statue of Augustus Saint Gaudens of Lincoln (1887).
10. Chicago Riverwalk and Lakefront Trail
The Chicago River runs through the heart of the city, parallel to the shore of the lake, and is known for its incredible number of movable bridges. In just two miles, there are 18 bridges, each with the ability to pass large boats. The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum offers tourists a close-up look at the mechanisms of one of the city’s most famous bridges, where you can actually watch the gears running as they move. The Riverwalk is home to many restaurants and hosts special events throughout the year, and you can also find several excursions and river cruises that depart from the Riverwalk.
The fully paved Lakefront Trail offers magnificent views of the city skyline and Lake Michigan, stretching 18 miles from 71st Street on the south side to Ardmore Street on the north side. It is open to pedestrians and human-powered wheels, and is bordered by parks, gardens and recreational areas, as well as beaches. Most of the city’s main attractions are located along the trail, including Navy Pier, Lincoln Park and Soldier Field.