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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrChicago is the largest city in the Midwestern United States. Also known as the Windy City and the Second City, Chicago is the third most populous city in the country after New York City and Los Angeles. This thriving center of commerce, technology, industry, finance, and transportation is located on the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes.
Chicago is also the most popular tourist destination in the Midwest due to the abundance of cultural activities, sports events, and landmarks that visitors can explore. It is home to some of the world's tallest buildings, such as the Willis Tower and the John Hancock Center, exceptional comedy clubs and music festivals, and impressive cultural institutions such as The Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, and Adler Planetarium. In the summertime, visitors fill the city's parks, such as Millennium Park and Lincoln Park, as well as its sandy beaches. Whether you plan to visit for one day or ten, you'll be hard pressed to run out of exciting things to see and do in Chicago.
History of ChicagoIllinois has always been steeped in Native American culture, and the northern region surrounding Chicago is no exception. In 1795, the area that is now Chicago was offered by native tribes to the United States government in a treaty. After many different battles in which the town acted as a fort, the town finally saw peace in 1833. It was then that the town was founded, and the original population was only 200 residents. Within just a few years, the population expanded quickly. One of the biggest reasons for the expansion of Chicago was its location. It acted as a great mid-point between the West and the East, and its location between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River made it easy to reach by boat as well.
The population and infrastructure of Chicago continued to swell, making it one of the largest cities in the United States by the late 1800s, but the Great Chicago Fire destroyed many homes in 1871. However, the city recovered quickly and became the area with the most railroads by the 1900s, making it even easier to get to. Now, Chicago still acts as a major transportation hub, but is home to many large businesses in the Midwest, allowing it to maintain its status as the “New York of the Midwest”.
SightseeingThere is no shortage of things to see and do in Chicago, which is home to dozens of historical buildings and landmarks, impressive skyscrapers, and fascinating architectural sites.
Willis TowerThe city's most famous landmark is undoubtedly the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, which was once the tallest building in the world. This immense office building is currently the second tallest building in the United States at 442 meter tall. Its observation deck, which provides visitors with spectacular views of the entire city of Chicago and nearby Lake Michigan, is one of the city's most popular tourist attractions.
John Hancock CenterChicago's second most famous skyscraper is the John Hancock Center, which was the second tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1970. This 1,127-foot tall building features an open-air observation deck on its 94th floor that visitors access by using the fastest elevators in the United States. While the Willis Tower is certainly the more famous and taller skyscraper, some claim that the views that the John Hancock Center provides are superior.
Navy PierThe top tourist attraction in Chicago is Navy Pier, a 3,300-foot long pier which features attractions such as a Ferris wheel, the Chicago Children's Museum, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and public artwork. It is also popular because it is used as the departure point for numerous city sightseeing tours as well as water taxis that take passengers to various spots throughout the city via Lake Michigan and the Chicago River .
Trump International Hotel and TowerA new addition to the Chicago skyline is the Trump International Hotel and Tower, which is currently the fourth tallest building in the United States. It is primarily used as a hotel and residence.
Marina CityThe Marina City building complex by the Chicago River is one of Chicago's most distinctive architectural sites, known for its two corncob-shaped towers that are home to numerous private residences.
Tribune TowerThis beautiful neo-Gothic building constructed in the 1920s is one of the city's most iconic buildings. It is the home of the Chicago Tribune newspaper and various other media outlets. If you look closely at its exterior wall as you walk past, you can see stones that are from famous sites around the world, including Notre-Dame de Paris, the Taj Mahal, and the Great Wall of China.
Wrigley BuildingAcross the street from the Tribune Tower, you'll see the Wrigley Building. It was built as the headquarters of the Wrigley Company , which is known for its chewing gum. Its beautiful design combines elements of French Renaissance architecture with inspiration from the Giralda tower of Seville Cathedral.
Merchandise MartWhen the art deco commercial building known as the Merchandise Mart first opened, it was the largest building in the world. It is known for its numerous wholesale showrooms, but also holds many retail shops, offices, a hotel, and is used as a campus of the Illinois Institute of Art .
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and StudioOne of the city's most popular architectural sites is the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, which was built by famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1889 and used by his family for many years.
MuseumsGiven Chicago's immense size, it should come as no surprise that it is home to dozens of important museums and cultural institutions that focus on topics such as art, science, astronomy, and natural history.
The Field MuseumThe Field Museum is a popular natural history museum located on Chicago's Museum Campus. Its most famous display is undoubtedly Sue, the most complete and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex fossil in existence, though it has dozens of other fascinating exhibitions that are sure to fascinate and entertain visitors of all ages.
Museum of Science and IndustryThe Museum of Science and Industry is the largest science museum in the entire Western Hemisphere, and is known for its captivating interactive exhibits such as its full-size replica coal mine. Other popular exhibits include the Apollo 8 spacecraft which was used by NASA to orbit the Moon in 1968 and the U-505 German submarine captured during WWII.
Art Institute of ChicagoChicago's premier art museum is the Art Institute of Chicago, which is especially known for its impressive collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and American artwork. Famous artists whose works you can find within its walls include Seurat, Monet, Renoir, van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Hopper. One of its most famous American works is American Gothic by Grant Wood.
Adler PlanetariumAdler Planetarium is a world-renowned astronomy museum and the oldest planetarium in the United States. It is known for its breathtaking planetarium shows and fascinating exhibits, as well as its public observatory.
Shedd AquariumAnother popular attraction located on Chicago's Museum Campus is Shedd Aquarium, which is known for its award-winning exhibits featuring marine life such as fish, dolphins, whales, and sea lions.
Museum of Contemporary Art ChicagoThis art museum contains one of the largest and most impressive contemporary art collections in the United States. It showcases artwork from celebrated artists such as Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, and Jeff Koons within its galleries filled with paintings, sculptures, video installations, and other contemporary art forms.
DuSable Museum of African American HistoryIf you're interested in history, you won't want to miss this museum, which was the first museum dedicated to African American history, art, and culture. Its fascinating exhibits focus on a variety of topics, such notable African Americans throughout history and slavery in the United States.
Parks & BeachesThere's plenty to do in Chicago if you love the great outdoors. It's home to dozens of parks, numerous beaches, two zoos, and other nature attractions like botanical gardens and observatories.
Grant ParkGrant Park is home to many of Chicago's most famous attractions, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, and the Museum Campus. It is frequently used for public events and festivals such as Lollapalooza and the Taste of Chicago, and also offers a variety of recreational facilities and natural spaces such as garden where you can enjoy some fresh air while in the heart of the city.
Millennium ParkOne of Chicago's newest and most popular attractions, Millennium Park is a recently renovated area of Grant Park. It is known for public artwork such as the Cloud Gate sculpture and the Crown Fountain, as well as Buckingham Fountain and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a bandshell constructed by famous architect Frank Gehry.
Lincoln ParkChicago's largest park is Lincoln Park, which is located on the banks of Lake Michigan and is home to several popular Chicago attractions, including the free Lincoln Park Zoo and Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Chicago History Museum, and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, which is known for its beautiful butterfly exhibit. The park also contains recreational facilities for various sports, an extensive network of trails, and many beaches.
Washington ParkAnother large city park is Washington Park, which is the home of the DuSable Museum of African American History and the famous sculpture Fountain of Time by American sculptor Lorado Taft. It also provides multiple playgrounds, a nature area, an arboretum, an aquatic center, and facilities for nearly every sport you can think of.
BeachesDue to its extensive shoreline along Lake Michigan, Chicago is home to many beach that are popular attractions in the hot summer months. Its most popular beaches are located in Lincoln Park and Burnham Park, where visitors can sunbathe on the sandy beaches, go swimming in Lake Michigan, play sports like beach volleyball, and take boats out on the lake.
Brookfield ZooIf the free Lincoln Park Zoo doesn't have enough animals for you, another popular animal attraction in Chicago is the Brookfield Zoo, which is known for its use of natural features like ditches and moats to separate animals instead of cages.
Chicago Botanic GardenThis is a great place to explore on a sunny day if you're interested in plants and flowers, especially since admission is free. It features over 20 beautiful display gardens that you can wander around all day long.
EntertainmentChicago is known throughout the United States for its great entertainment venues, which include talented theater and ballet companies as well as comedy clubs.
The Second CityIf you're looking for something to do in the evening, consider taking in a comedy show at The Second City Theatre. This famous improvisational comedy troupe has been the starting point for a seemingly endless list of famous comedians and actors, including Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Bonnie Hunt, and Alan Arkin.
iO ChicagoYou can also enjoy improvisational comedy at the iO Theater, a more recently established improv theater that offers shows almost every night. It also has a long list of notable alumni, including Amy Poehler, Vince Vaughn, Tim Meadows, and Seth Meyers.
Chicago Shakespeare TheaterIf your tastes are more refined, you can always visit the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, which offers Shakespeare plays as well as other plays and musicals throughout the year.
Joffrey BalletThe Joffrey Ballet is one of the most famous touring dance companies in the world. They perform modern dance pieces as well as classical ballets in Chicago as well as numerous cities throughout the United States.
Steppenwolf Theatre CompanyIf you love theatre, then you'll want to try to catch a performance by the award-winning Steppenwolf Theatre Company, which is known for its high-quality performances.
Chicago Symphony OrchestraClassical music aficionados should try to attend a performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which is one of the most famous American orchestras.
DistrictsChicago has many different districts within the city limits. It isn’t a surprise for a city that large to be broken up into these different sections. The most notable is the Downtown area, which is the home to all of the largest skyscrapers and shopping areas. There are also residents here that work within the skyscrapers, so it is a high-class area where shopping and eating can cost quite a bit of money.
The north side of town is also upscale and it hosts most of the nightlife in Chicago. It is also home to Lincoln Park and Wrigleyville. The south side features some of the roots of Chicago, including jazz halls that make the city come alive. If you are traveling to the west side, you will see a bit of a dip in the scale when it comes to the establishments, but it isn't actually as rough as it seems. Every district has their own flavor, so you will want to know exactly what it is you want to do in Chicago before you make the trip.
ShoppingPeople from all over the Midwest often visit Chicago due to its seemingly endless array of shopping opportunities. While the city features dozens of shopping areas, these are the most iconic and popular places to shop.
The Magnificent MileThe Magnificent Mile is a section of Michigan Avenue that is known for its many upscale shops and skyscrapers such as the John Hancock Center. It is home to dozens of department stores like Macy's, restaurants, and luxury retailers.
Water Tower PlaceThere are multiple shopping malls located along the Magnificent Mile, but Water Tower Place is undoubtedly the most famous. Its most popular shops include Macy's and the American Girl flagship store, which is especially popular with young girls.
Woodfield MallLocated in the suburb of Schaumberg, Woodfield Mall is one of the largest shopping malls in the United States, with nearly 300 stores, including J.C. Penney, Macy's, Nordstrom, and Sears.
FoodIf you go to Chicago, you better come hungry. There are few towns that love their food as much as Chicago. There are two different types of foods you need to know. The first is Deep Dish Pizza. It’s unlike any other type of pizza and has layers upon layers of cheese, sauce, and other toppings. The second food that Chicagoans love is the hot dog. These hot dogs typically come with mustard, onions, relish, peppers, tomatoes, and a pickle on a poppy seed bun. Just don’t ask for ketchup.
HotelsSome of the hotels in Chicago are considered to be landmarks in the city. One of the most notable ones is the Hotel Burnham. Built in 1895 and restored in 1999, it has withstood the test of time and achieved landmark status in 1975. Another one of the popular hotels is the Drake Hotel on East Walton Place. This hotel opened up in 1920 and overlooks Lake Michigan on the Magnificent Mile.
SuburbsThe Chicago Metropolitan Area is so large that it expands into both Indiana and Wisconsin (as well as Illinois). There are over 9.5 million inhabitants in this area that has been dubbed “Chicagoland”, which makes it the third largest metro area in the country. The five most populous suburbs of Chicago are Aurora, Elgin; Joliet and Naperville (Illinois), Kenosha; and Wisconsin. Other notable suburbs include Cicero, Evanston, Skokie, and Hoffman Estates (Illinois) as well as Gary and Hammond in Indiana. People who live in these cities will often make the trip to Chicago each day for work, since it is the business capital of the Midwest.
SportsChicago is most certainly a sports town. There are many different professional teams that call Chicago home, and most of them have no trouble packing the stadiums during their home games. The professional teams there are the Cubs and White Sox (Major League Baseball), Bears (National Football League), Bulls (National Basketball Association), Blackhawks (National Hockey League), and Fire (Major League Soccer).
EventsEach summer, visitors flock to Chicago from all over the world to enjoy its many festivals and events. Here are some of its most popular annual events.
LollapaloozaLollapalooza is a popular music festival held in Grant Park each summer that features alternative rock, as well as other genres of music such as hip hop, punk rock, and heavy metal. The three-day festival has even become so popular that it has spawned international versions in countries like Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. Famous artists that have performed at Lollapalooza in the past include The Killers, Muse, Arcade Fire, and Kings of Leon.
Taste of ChicagoIf you love food, you won't want to miss the annual Taste of Chicago festival which is held in Grant Park each July. In addition to providing a wide selection of local favorites and foreign cuisines at the world's largest food festival, it features live musical performances by popular musicians.
Grant Park Music FestivalThis free classical music concert series featuring the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra takes place for ten weeks each summer in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.
Chicago Blues FestivalChicago is known throughout the United States for its long blues tradition, which is celebrated each June at the Chicago Blues Festival. For three days, visitors can enjoy amazing blues performances at the Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park
Chicago Jazz FestivalIf you love jazz, then you'll want to head to Chicago during Labor Day weekend for the free four-day Chicago Jazz Festival. It is held each year in Millennium Park and features jazz musicians from all over the world.
TransportationWhether you prefer to get around by land, water, or air, you should have no problem getting around the city of Chicago.
By air: Chicago is home to two international airports, O'Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport. O'Hare is one of the world's busiest airports and is a major hub for both American Airlines and United Airlines. If you're planning to fly to Chicago from outside of the United States, it is likely that you'll fly into O'Hare. However, if you can choose between the two airports, it's probably best to choose Midway, since it is closer to downtown Chicago, is much less crowded, and you probably won't have to deal with the frequent delays that are always present at O'Hare.
By train: Chicago is generally considered to be the rail hub of the United States due to its central location. You can reach Chicago by train by taking Amtrak services to Union Station from cities such as San Francisco and New York City.
By bus: Several large bus companies provide services between Chicago and most other major American cities. Two of the most popular options are Greyhound and Megabus.
Public transportation: The easiest way to get around Chicago is by using its extensive public transportation system. CTA buses and trains, including the elevated train system known as the 'L', are both affordable and efficient ways to travel throughout the city. If you're planning to visit the suburbs, you can also use the Metra commuter rail service.
When it's nice outside, you might want to take advantage of transportation options like water taxis and bikes. If you don't have a bike with you, you can rent one through Divvy, Chicago's bike-sharing service. Water taxis are also popular in the summertime, especially if you want to enjoy the sights of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River during your visit. There are multiple water taxi companies to choose from with stops near sites like Navy Pier, Michigan Avenue, and the Museum Campus. Rides usually cost under $ 10 USD .
Whether you are a sports fan, a music fan, a theater fan, or just a fan of seeing some of the best buildings in the world, Chicago has plenty to offer. It is easy to get to and you can spend either a day or a lifetime in the city without getting bored. If you are thinking of making a trip, it’s best to do it in the summer or the spring as Chicago can get quite cold. Even if you do make the trip in winter, you will still be able to enjoy your visit.
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Author: koreydbeckett. Last updated: Jun 15, 2015