There is so much to experience in Chicago, it’s difficult to know
where to begin. You may want to start with an overview of the city. First,
see the expanse of the Chicagoland area from 1,000 feet above at the John
Hancock Observatory or the Sears Tower Skydeck.
Sears Tower Skydeck
The view from the Skydeck on the 103rd floor of the Sears Tower is amazing!
On a clear day, you can see 40-50 miles -- the city of Chicago and it
beautiful architecture, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin.
For your enjoyment on the way up, the elevators are equipped with 50-inch
flat screen monitors that make you feel like you're blasting off through
the top of the Sears Tower and into space - with views of the earth compliments
of NASA and the Space Shuttle Endeavor.
The Skydeck also features interactive, museum-quality exhibits highlighting
Chicago's history and historic characters.
John Hancock Center
The John Hancock Center is one of Chicago's most well-known buildings.
It is the 12th tallest building in the world with 100 floors, including
apartments, offices, shops, a hotel, an ice rink, restaurants, its own
post office, and radio and television facilities. The observation deck
is a top attraction for visitors. The famous Signature Room restaurant
is located on the 95th & 96th floors. The John Hancock Center was
completed in 1969 and features a tapered design for structural and space
Art Institute of Chicago
One of the world's premier museums, the Institute has a collection that
spans 5000 years of art - its impressionist and postimpressionist collection
is second only to France's. Excellent maps are available free at the information
booths. The bronze lions flanking the steps are Chicago icons.
Chicago Cultural Center
A few blocks north of the Art Institute is the Chicago Cultural Center,
which often sponsors free music concerts. Galleries, exhibitions, beautiful
interior design and a permanent museum all make this cultural centre an
interesting place to roam.
Chicago Historical Society
The Lincolns, Capones, Daleys and other notables are here, but the focus
of this well-funded museum (located in the lower end of Lincoln Park,
south of the zoo) is on the average person. The role of the commoner in
the American Revolution sets the tone for the humanistic exhibits.
One, titled Fort Dearborn and Frontier Chicago, shows how settlers and
Indians changed each other's lives. The Pioneer Court gives hands-on demonstrations
in the intricacies of making candles, weaving blankets and knitting clothes.
None of the work was easy.
Much of the 2nd floor is devoted to Chicago's development and history.
The roles of immigration and industry are addressed, as are the problems
of slums and the lives of the rich. Special exhibitions are the museum's
strong point, covering such diverse topics as how bungalows allowed almost
every family to afford a home, and how WWII affected the average family.
Field Museum of Natural History
Mummies, native American artefacts, stuffed animals and dinosaurs are
part of the 20 million pieces in the collections of the Field Museum of
Natural History. The Field's most dramatic acquisition came in 1997, when
it obtained a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton named Sue. It's the best-preserved
skeleton of the fierce meat-eater yet found.
Highlights include an ambitious walk-through exhibit that attempts to
capture the scope of Africa by taking visitors from bustling city streets
to expansive Saharan sand dunes; a re-created multilevel Egyptian burial
chamber housing 23 mummies; and a Dinosaur Hall filled with skeletons,
some of which have had their ages measured in the tens of millions of
This grandly named stretch of Michigan Avenue runs from the Chicago River
north to Lincoln Park. 'Mag Mile,' as it's widely known, is a shopper's
paradise: you can find everything from the swankiest upscale boutiques
to chainstores. Its most famous landmark is the Tribune Tower, a 1925
gothic masterpiece that's home to the Pulitzer-prize winning Chicago Tribune.
Eccentric owner Col Robert McCormick had his overworked reporters send
rocks from famous buildings and monuments around the world and then embedded
them around the base of the building. The Magnificent Mile lies northeast
of the Loop.
Chicago's most popular neighbourhood is alive day and night with people
in-line skating, walking dogs, pushing strollers and driving in circles
for hours looking for a place to park. It's also home to the Biograph
Theater, where gangster John Dillinger was gunned down by the FBI in 1934.
Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum
The Adler Planetarium is located on Lake Shore Drive at Chicago's Museum
Campus. Opened in 1930 as the first planetarium in the western hemisphere,
the Adler fuels the imagination of its visitors with all new exhibits,
state-of-the-art computer technology and the world's first StarRider Theater,
while showcasing a renowned collection of historical astronomy artifacts.
It started as a wharf, morphed into a University, and ended up as a dead
800-pound gorilla: huge, difficult to dispose of and a little on the nose.
In the late 1980s the pier got a serious facelift, and is now more than
half a mile of tourist-bait in the form of amusement parks, meeting centres
and food courts.
Built in the 1920's, Soldier Field is a monument to the times and great
sports palaces typical of the "Golden Age of Sports" and is
one of few such stadiums still standing. Plans for the stadium began in
1919, when Holibird and Roche won an architectural competition to build
the stadium as a memorial to American soldiers who died in wars.
Seventh inning stretch and the crowd belts out a beer-soaked version of
'Take me out to the Ballgame.' There's only one place in the world you
could be - Wrigley Field. Home to the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field draws
tourists year-round who pose under the classic neon sign over the main
entrance to the baseball shrine. This ivy-covered stadium, one of the
oldest in America, is described by some as being as 'big as a pillbox'.
The world's largest assortment of finned, gilled and other aquatic creatures
swim within the marble-clad confines of the Shedd Aquarium. The original
1929 building houses 200 tanks. The attached multilevel Oceanarium is
a spectacular space where huge mammal pools seem to blend into the lake
outside the floor-to-ceiling windows. The centrally located tank is home
to 500 tropical fish from placid nurse sharks to less neighbourly moray
eels. Also on hand are beluga whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, harbour
seals, sea otters and penguins.
From 1957 to 1967, Chess Records occupied a humble building on South Michigan
Avenue, which became a temple of blues and a spawning ground of rock and
roll. The Chess brothers, two Polish Jews, ran the recording studio that
saw - and heard - the likes of Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Howlin' Wolf
and Willie Dixon. Chuck Berry recorded four top-10 singles here, and the
Rolling Stones named a song '2120 S Michigan Ave' after a recording session
in 1964. Today, the building is owned by Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation,
a non-profit organization set up by the late musician to promote blues
and preserve its legacy.
Hyde Park is an enclave within the city. Much of its existence is owed
to the University of Chicago, a school where graduate students outnumber
undergrads and 22 Nobel prizes for economics have sat on the trophy shelf
since the award was first presented in 1969. The bookish residents give
the place a pleasant, insulated, small-town air, which is remarkable considering
the blighted neighbourhoods to the west and south.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
From Chicago on a clear day you can see Gary, a miserable steel-making
town 30 miles (48km) southeast along the Lake Michigan shore. Beyond this
industrial blight are the Indiana Dunes, over 20mi (32km) of sandy beaches
and dunes formed by the prevailing winds on Lake Michigan.
Oak Park is an affluent suburb of Chicago that has been preserved as a
National Historic District. That's because Ernest Hemingway was born and
raised here, and a young architect named Frank Lloyd Wright came here
in 1889 to set up a practice and experiment with building styles.
An excellent small museum devoted to 5000 years of Jewish faith and culture,
the Spertus Museum juxtaposes aspects of Jewish life and religion. The
Zell Holocaust Memorial has oral histories from survivors as well as the
names of relatives of deceased Chicagoans. In the basement 'ArtiFact Center',
kids can conduct their own archeaological dig.
Brookfield Zoo, located in Brookfield, Illinois, just west of Chicago,
is open every day of the year. The Zoo is located on 216 acres of beautifully
landscaped grounds, featuring over 2,000 animals. The Zoo first opened
in 1934 and became world renowned for its use of natural barriers, such
as moats, rather than cages. Brookfield Zoo featured the first Giant Panda
exhibit in the United States. The exhibits, such as the Australia House,
Baboon Island, Wolf Woods, Reptile House, Pachyderm House and more, are
sure to please.