Chicago-style: The words apply to more than just deep dish pizza and loaded hot dogs. A vibrant downtown, stunning architecture, internationally acclaimed cultural arts, legendary blues music, enthusiastic sports fans and even the Chicago weather all have a distinctive flair in the Windy City.
If there is one thing that defines Chicago, it’s the city’s world-class architecture. There are dozens of tours to see the many famous buildings, landmarks, public sculptures and lively ethnic neighborhoods. One of the most informative is the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s river tour, but you can also see the city by kayak, Segway, bus, trolley, horse-drawn buggy, on foot or even by fire truck. Travel Maestro tip: A unique program called Chicago Greeters is offered by the Chicago Office of Tourism. Knowledgeable local volunteers lead themed, neighborhood and downtown tours. A ten-day advance arrangement is necessary, but the tours are free!
Chicago also has a plethora of outstanding museums. Some of the must-see museums for curious minds include the John G. Shedd Aquarium, the esteemed Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium and the Museum of Science and Industry. Travel Maestro tip: The Chicago CityPass is an excellent value ($76 adults, $59 children) that will save you time and money in your museum visits. It’s a ticket booklet that gives access to five top attractions at a substantial savings and allows you to bypass ticket lines. The Go Chicago Card also offers discounted admission to over 30 attractions over a period of one to seven days for one moderate price.
Outdoor attractions are a year round draw in Chicago. The outstanding park system has a lot to enjoy from the beautiful Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park to the nation’s oldest zoo in Lincoln Park. Millennium Park sports a seasonal ice skating rink and one of the largest sculptures in the world, affectionately known as “the bean.” Navy Pier is a popular hub of entertainment featuring restaurants, amusement rides, and tour boats.
Chicago’s ethnic neighborhoods are yet another thing that makes it one of the world’s great cities. The architecture spans the stately Victorian mansions of Wicker Park to the 19th Century workers cottages of The Ukrainian Village but the cultural roots of the communities are what make Chicago so diverse. Pilsen shares Czech roots with Latino residents; Andersonville was settled by Swedish immigrants but is now a hot spot for hip restaurants and young families; Devon Avenue is a Jewish, Russian, Indian and Pakistani neighborhood with wonderful bakeries and silk shops; Bronzeville is an African American community with restored gray stone mansions and blues clubs. Chicago also has the largest Polish population outside of Poland!
Nightlife in Chicago sizzles with celebrated blues and jazz clubs, famous comedy clubs and nightclubs for every genre. Laid-back neighborhood joints and corner bars are everywhere.
Sports is a serious subject in Chicago. They have professional and collegiate teams in all the major sports and fans are VERY loyal to their teams – whether in a winning season or a losing one. Travel Maestro tip: Tickets are likely hard to obtain, particularly bleacher seats at the Cubs’ legendary Wrigley Field, so plan ahead if you want to see a game.
Shopping is another significant endeavor in Chicago. The famous Magnificent Mile is home to designer shops and upscale department stores, with the north end having the most exclusive boutiques. The historic downtown “Loop” has less expensive shopping with stores like Macy’s and Filene’s Basement. In SoHo-like Wicker Park, shoppers will find a variety of funky, trendy shops and the River North area has a concentration of art galleries.
Weather in Chicago can be hot and humid in the summer and very cold in the winter. It’s not unusual to have a 20 degree temperature change in a matter of hours in the spring and fall, so in addition to dressing for what you think the temperature will be, a jacket may come in handy. Fun fact: While the gusts off Lake Michigan can be quite powerful, Chicago’s nickname, the Windy City, actually originated from describing politicians blowing a lot of hot air!
Transportation in Chicago is not difficult. The Elevated Train System known as the “L” is one of the best ways to get around and see the city. You can purchase an “L” pass at a kiosk in any station. From either Midway or O’Hare Airport to downtown the “L” is the fastest and least expensive (35-40 minutes, $2.25 one way). Or if you have too much luggage to handle, use Continental Airport Express or taxi (45-60 minutes, $20-$40). If you are taking a cab to the suburbs, be sure to hire a suburban taxi company to avoid getting lost or overcharged. Navigating downtown is easiest on foot, but to go further use the “L.” Taxis can be hailed on the street or you can order one via text messaging. Travel Maestro tip: Chicago Carriage Cab Company offers radio-dispatched luxury cabs that cost the same as any city-regulated taxi.
Chicago is a city full of contrasts. Chicago-style means a blue-collar town full of high culture and gracious living, a historical district with a trendy scene, a Midwestern US city with international cultural roots. Chicago has a wealth of sites and activities for the visitor, whether traveling for business or vacation. If you would like to try Chicago-style, contact Covington Travel to make your arrangements.