The Windy City, a metropolis of more than 10 Million people, is one of my favourite places for a city break!
Chicago is strategically located because it is close to a natural portage linking the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River. A portage is an area where water flows in one direction on one side and a different direction on the other (“portage” is another name for a “continental divide”). Travellers carrying their light boats over the portage could move quickly from one place to another. In the case of Chicago, the link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi river allowed for vast cargos to be shipped to and from the Midwestern areas to the East Coast of the USA, allowing expansion and opening up the economy of the growing country.
Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a man of French and African descent recognized the importance of the area and founded Chicago on the site in the 1780s. Today, the Illinois and Michigan Canal, a 154 kilometre (96 mile) construction, travels across the portage and allows large cargo ships a quick route for transporting about anything! Because of this geological feature, Chicago became a natural marketplace. Today, 20% of the world’s commodities and financial derivatives trade through the Chicago Board of Trade!
Chicago offers a myriad of fun and exciting attractions; too many to list in this short blog. Still, here are some of my favourite “must-sees” in this exciting place:
Navy Pier is great for family fun!
- Navy Pier is an entertainment area located on the shores of Lake Michigan and includes theme parks, restaurants, shops and exhibition spaces.
- The Magnificent Mile is the main shopping area of Chicago lined with high-end stores and boutiques. You can find everything on the “Mag Mile”!
- The Loop is the downtown area containing most of the city’s skyscrapers but is also a vibrant neighbourhood full of restaurants, parks and exciting venues. It is home to the Willis Tower (formerly called the “Sears Tower”) once the world’s tallest.
- The Art Institute of Chicago is a fantastic art museum and exhibition facility.
- The Museum of Science and Industry displays artefacts that show the development of our modern world.
- The Lincoln Park Zoo is a world-class facility that houses an incredible collection and is linked to the Lincoln Park Conservatory with exotic plants from around the world.
Here’s a pro-tip: Chicago has incredible parks packed with artwork. Works by Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Juan Miro, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg, Anish Kapoor and many, many others grace this cityscape. Because Chicago is easy to walk during good weather, the artwork is a great reason to walk the city!
The El allows easy access to the entire city!
Here’s another pro-tip: Chicago’s streets are mostly laid out in a grid pattern because so much of the city was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871. This means that the city is easy for visitors to explore by car.
Chicago offers a plethora of hotels that meet any price and comfort range required. In fact, for being such a large place, hotels are inexpensive. You should choose a hotel that is close to the attractions that interest you the most. For example, I like the Sofitel Chicago when I want to shop on the Magnificent Mile. The Sophy Hyde Park is convenient for that neighbourhood that used to be the home of Barrack Obama, and the London House Chicago is my home when I’m meeting in the Loop.
Soul food is a delight to the senses!
When you are looking for nightlife, Chicago offers some popular and exciting venues. It is the home of jazz, blues, soul, hip-hop, gospel and house styles of music. When I visit the city, I can often be found at Scofflaw, a gin bar in Logan Square. Hopleaf offers an incredible craft beers selection with sixty on tap and an encyclopaedia of options in cans and bottles. The Green Mill is the atmospheric home of jazz in Chicago. It was once the hangout of the notorious gangster, Al Capone, and has been renovated to that period with a high standard.
The Green Mill: Al Capone’s favourite and one of mine too!
A trip to Chicago would not be complete, however, without a stop at one or more of its sports stadiums to catch a game. Chicago has world-class teams in sports including: two baseball teams, the White Sox and the Cubs; the Bears American football team, the Bulls basketball team, the Blackhawks ice hockey team, and the Fire FC soccer team. Their team jerseys can be found all over the world and attest to the popularity of sports in the Windy City!
Wrigley Field is home to Chicago Cubs Baseball