Travel to Chicago?
This, the third largest city in the USA is the
original 'skyscraper' city with no shortage of attractive buildings, a lakeshore (Lake Michigan) lined with beaches and parks, fine museums, sensational dining and a vibrant live music scene (especially blues and jazz). Chicago's inhabitants are generally relaxed, friendly and pomp-free.
• Crime is in decline but care should still be taken in certain areas, such as the Loop, at night.
• The weather runs to extremes in Chicago, freezing in winter and baking in summer, so it's difficult to pick the best time to visit.
• Chicago, while an easy place to have a good time, offers virtually no iconic, must-see attractions.
Harold Washington Library in Downtown Chicag
Best: April, May, September, October.
Worst: Dec-Feb (extremely cold, well below zero); June-August (extremely hot and humid).
Lowest recorded temperature: -33C (-27F); Highest: 41C (105F).
Photo by David Bjorgen
Navy Pier, a massive, 1km long pier built in 1916 is Chicago's #1 tourist attraction these days, as it's a very pleasant walking zone loaded with parks, promenades, entertainments - such as an IMAX theatre, children's museum, kid's rides, fireworks in summertime, cycle and Segway rentals and more - as well as being the base for many marine sightseeing tours and themed cruises. More Navy Pier.
The Downtown 'Loop': the
center of the city is the main tourist target; it has an elevated railway ('The L') running round it, hence
Get a massive, 50 mile view from the famous Sears Tower Skydeck, and check out the displays at the Chicago Cultural
The money men also allow tourists in to see the magnificently decorated
Chicago Board of Trade Building.
Try also the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Museum of Broadcast
Central Lakeside Parks: east of the loop are two parks, Grant Park with the impressive Buckingham
Fountain, and the new Millennium Park, containing the superb Art
Institute of Chicago.
Further south is the Museum Campus with the Shedd Aquarium, Adler
Planetarium and Astronomy museum, and the Field Museum of Natural
Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park
Walks: The two best Chicago walking itineraries are:
The Magnificent Mile, a one-day hike taking in the best buildings, shops, art, lake and recreation areas.
- Loop Art Tour, a 3/4 hour stroll around Chicago's best public art
Beaches: Lake Michigan's water is monitored and usually clean, bug-free and warm by late summer, sand is in generous supply and lifeguards take their job seriously.
Fashionistas like to prance and pose on Oak Street or North Avenue beaches; Rogers Park is the place for space; Hyde Park arguably the most attractive and Rainbow Beach on the south shore less busy than the rest.
Kayaking on the Chicago River, photo by Jeremy Atherton
city has hundreds of excellent, competitively priced restaurants to suit all tastes - Indian food in Devon Avenue, Korean in Lawrence Ave, Persian in Kedzie Ave, varied Asian at Argyle/Broadway in Uptown, Greek in Greektown, along with Middle-Eastern, German, Japanese, Swedish and of course Chinese in Chinatown - and a reputation for quality, variety and reasonable
prices, though the city also specialises in great fast food such as pizzas, beef sandwiches and - some say - the world's best hot dogs (no ketchup permitted!).
Chicago is famously loaded with varied, lively clubs and bars, often offering live music - blues and jazz in particular.
Our Lady of the Sorrows, photo by Jeremy Atherton
Festivals and Events:
March, St Patrick's Day Parade.
1st w/e, Blues Festival.
June, 2nd w/e, Gospel Festival.
June, last w/e, Country Music Festival.
4th July, Independence Day.
July, last w/e, Latin Music Festival.
September, first w/e, Jazz Festival
Avoid driving in the city center as it's busy, confusing and very difficult or expensive to park. The good news is that taxis are common and reasonably priced while the Chicago Transit Authority operates an efficient bus and metro/subway system throughout. The subway is actually mostly elevated (i.e. not underground)
and for that reason it is nicknamed 'The L'.
Cycling is encouraged by CTA, bike racks - sometimes covered - are in place at most stations and bikes may be carried on buses (which are equipped with bike racks) and trains (apart from during the rush hour periods). Chicago and the shore of Lake Michigan are generously provided with cycle lanes but road regulations are strictly enforced, even on cyclists. The Lakefront Trail is 18 miles long. Bike rentals are readily available, for example from Millennium Park bike station. More bike information.
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