Poet Carl Sandburg referred to Chicago as the “city of the big shoulders” and the phrase still rings true today. Chicago is a hearty town, a thriving urban center that flashes a welcoming Midwestern smile to visitors and neighbors alike. From visually breathtaking architectural feats that double as offices and residences, well-manicured parks, mouthwatering restaurants and boisterous nightlife, Chicago is truly a city to savor.
The Chicago spirit springs to life in the city’s distinct neighborhoods, each bursting with a unique flair and energy. A visit to the Windy City isn’t complete without a visit to a few of the charming patio cafés, unique independent shops, and exceptional museums and sights. With so much to offer, you’re going to want to make the most of your stay in Chicago. We’ve come up with a recipe for fun that is sure to delight people
of all ages.
A WALK IN THE PARK
Millennium Park, opened in 2004, remains one of Chicago’s top draws for visitors and locals alike. One visit and you’ll understand why. At nearly 25 acres, it’s a gathering space for concerts, home to open-air art galleries and gardens and a magnet for art and architecture buffs, with the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion and BP Bridge, Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” sculpture and Jaume Plensa’s 50-foot Crown Fountain. For the kids, the Millennium Park Ice Skating Rink is a fun seasonal treat that is open seasonally from November through March.
MORE THAN A MUSEUM
When you’re ready to head indoors, there’s only one place to go: the Museum of Science & Industry, a truly awesome tribute to science and technology through the ages. Located on Lake Shore Drive, the MSI Chicago has stood for more than 75 years as one of the city’s must-see institutions,
for children and adults.
CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) performs at Symphony Center and is recognized as one of the best orchestras in the world. In the summer, enthusiasts flock to outdoor concerts held at Grant and Millennium parks. The Joffrey Ballet and Chicago Festival Ballet perform in various venues around the city, including the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.
THE MUSIC NEVER STOPS
If jazz and blues are more your style, Chicago boasts some of the best clubs around. Whether it’s an after-hours dance club such as Kingston Mines, or a funky nightclub featuring live jazz such as Andy’s, B.L.U.E.S. or The Back Room, the authentic sounds will never disappoint.
HOLEY BREAKFAST PASTRIES!
At Doughnut Vault, you’re guaranteed a one-of-a-kind breakfast experience. It opens on Saturday morning at 9:30 and closes when the doughnuts are gone — which could be anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. Lines wind around the corner of the tiny sweet shop, which used to be a bank vault, so arrive early and enjoy the scene. You only have a few choices of flavors and there’s a limit of three per person. We recommend the chestnut and gingerbread, hands down.
THE RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT
The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise is a great way to see Chicago. It’s so good in fact, that even locals look for an excuse to take a river cruise. The tour sheds light on the history of Chicago and its prominent buildings and architects. You’ll learn fun facts about the Willis Tower (formerly Sears), Tribune Tower, The Wrigley Building and more. Because each docent plans his or her own tour, you can take the cruise over and over and always learn something new.
Admit it, the real reason you came to Chicago is for a slice of Chicago-style pizza. After all, no one does that thick, rich, buttery crust, piping hot sauce and thick slathering of cheese like the Windy City … and in the Windy City, nobody does it better than Lou Malnati’s. For 40 years, Malnati’s has been a Chicago staple. After one taste you’ll understand why.
STAGES OF LIFE
Whether you’re an improv impresario or an avant-garde aficionado, you’ll fit right in here. Chicago is one of the best cities in the world for theater. Need a laugh? Bask in the improv of Second City, the same venue where great comedians such as John Belushi, Gilda Radner, John Candy and Martin Short launched their careers. The Goodman offers a more pedigreed performance and for an unexpected find, see what’s playing at The Lookingglass Theatre, which was awarded the Regional Tony Award in 2011.
MY KIND OF (OLD) TOWN
Each area of Chicago has a distinct energy, stemming from a collusion of history, culture and spirit. Take Old Town, for example. This North-Side neighborhood is brimming with character. Stop into Old Town Oil, and sample olive oils and vinegars. Then head to The Spice House where barrels of the exotic will awaken your senses. Next meander over to the Fudge Pot. Owned by a third-generation candymaker, it’s easy to envision your own grandparents and even great-grandparents visiting an old-fashioned shop like this in their youth.
Since 1868, Lincoln Park Zoo has been a favorite Chicago attraction. It’s not only one of the nation’s oldest zoos; it’s also one of the last remaining free ones. Located amid Chicago’s gargantuan Lincoln Park, visitors can wander in and out at their leisure.
HOW SWEET IT IS
No visit to Lincoln Park would be complete without a stop at Sweet Mandy B’s, a local bakery that attracts residents from around Chicago. Owner Cindy Levine offers a mouthwatering array of treats, but the delightful shop is best known for the sinfully delicious cupcakes that keep customers lined up out the door.