Chicago

Let's Travel - - CONTENTS - By Mark Wil­liam Shee­han

The well-loved “Windy City” of Chicago may be the third largest city in Amer­ica, but it is also the home town to some fan­tas­tic open spa­ces and places that lure both lo­cals and over­seas vis­i­tors in droves. It has earned its nick­name for two pos­si­ble rea­sons. The first be­ing the pow­er­ful and blus­tery Cana­dian-borne winds that blow into it from across Lake Michi­gan, that is re­ally more like an in­land ocean, and the sec­ond, be­ing an­chored to the no­tion that Chicago-ites do a lot of blus­tery boast­ing about how won­der­ful their town of Chicago re­ally is.

If you’re look­ing for things to do in Chicago, look no fur­ther! En­joy the great out­doors with an ar­chi­tec­tural sight­see­ing tour on the river boats; make a date with the an­i­mals at Lin­coln Park Zoo or take a scenic ride on the Fer­ris Wheel at Navy Pier. Try brows­ing through the spec­tac­u­lar ar­ray of down­town shop­ping malls or cozy up to a bar for some craft beers or cock­tails. In Chicago, din­ing is an ac­tiv­ity in it­self, with over 5,500 restaurants that lit­ter the culi­nary land­scape and boast Miche­lin star chefs and end­less ac­co­lades.

Any sea­son is ripe for arts and cul­ture as well. Im­merse yourself in the vi­brant theatre scene at Good­man, Step­pen­wolf or Broad­way. Ex­plore a va­ri­ety of the city’s art gal­leries and amaz­ing mu­se­ums, like the es­teemed Art In­sti­tute of Chicago or the beloved Shedd Aquar­ium. For sen­sa­tional live per­for­mances on stage choose from mu­sic, com­edy, dance or opera.

Here’s a few fine sta­tis­tics about Chicago: in 2012 more than 46 mil­lion people vis­ited the city en­joy­ing ac­cess to over 50 pro­duc­ing the­atres, nearly 300 gal­leries and over 5,500 restaurants in more than 100 well-es­tab­lished neigh­bour­hoods. Vis­i­tors can stroll part of the 26 miles (40 km) of well-laid-out lake­front walk­ways or re­lax on 29 free pub­lic bathing beaches stretch­ing at least 29 miles (46 km), cy­cle 19 miles (30 km) of me­an­der­ing lake­front bi­cy­cle paths or visit 550 pub­lic parks spread out over 7,300 acres within its city lim­its.

Chicago has ev­ery right to brag about its sky­line and ar­chi­tec­ture and if you want to see it all in a sin­gle bird’s eye view, you can. The 110-story Wil­lis Tower is the

high­est build­ing in Chicago ris­ing to 1,451 feet (442 m) and on a clear day you can see into four States from the 1,353 feet (411 m) Sky­deck: In­di­ana, Illi­nois, Michi­gan and Wis­con­sin. The 1,127 feet (342 m) ‘360° Chicago’ also of­fers ex­pan­sive views of the city and the lakeshore from its ob­ser­va­tion deck’s ex­tended glass boxes. Of the 10 tallest build­ings in the United States four are in Chicago.

Mob­sters’ and bad-boys were a crit­i­cal part of Chicago’s his­tory. To­day, Chicago tour com­pa­nies take vis­i­tors on a mob­sters’ tour of the windy city, high­light­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties of, among oth­ers, the mob-big-wig of them all, Al­fonse Gabriel Capone. The most in­fa­mous Chicago gang­ster, Al Capone was born to a poor Ital­ian im­mi­grant fam­ily in Brook­lyn, New York. He be­came the king-pin of bad boys, run­ning gam­bling, pros­ti­tu­tion, and boot­leg­ging rack­ets and ex­pand­ing his South Side Ital­ian turf by sim­ply killing-off ri­vals.

For a real sense of his­tory and great live mu­sic go and visit the art-deco in­spired Green Mill Cock­tail Lounge, a neigh­bour­hood bar that Capone of­ten fre­quented. On the floor be­hind the bar is a trap­door to the orig­i­nal es­cape tun­nels that gang­sters es­caped through dur­ing Pro­hi­bi­tion Era raids. Ex­perts say that Capone’s out­fit was worth up­wards of US$ 100 mil­lion in 1927. Capone’s most fa­mous ac­tion was the 1929 St. Valen­tine’s Day Mas­sacre, where he “sup­pos­edly” hired gang­sters to gun down seven mem­bers of the ri­val gang of Bugs Mo­ran. Capone be­gan his demise in 1931, when he was sent to Al­ca­traz Prison for, of all things, in­come tax eva­sion.

If ‘time is money’ when vis­it­ing Chicago’s mu­se­ums and at­trac­tions, you’ll need to grab a pass that will save both. City Pass of­fer a dis­count adult pass for US$ 94.00 for five fa­mous at­trac­tions and mu­se­ums: The Shedd Aquar­ium – the world’s largest, Sky­deck Chicago, The Field Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory, The Mu­seum of Sci­ence & In­dus­try or 360 Chicago, The Adler Plan­e­tar­ium or The Art In­sti­tute of Chicago – that’s a US$ 93.95 sav­ing off the reg­u­lar ad­mis­sion prices and on top of that it gains you a VIP en­try pass.

One of my favourite at­trac­tions is The Mu­seum of Sci­ence & In­dus­try. Here you’ll find an Om­n­i­max Theatre and the Idea Fac­tory, in­ter­ac­tive dis­plays, spe­cial events and ex­hibits such as Trea­sures of Walt Dis­ney or you can de­scend into a work­ing coal mine, board Amer­ica’s first diesel-elec­tric stream­lined pas­sen­ger train, marvel at a collection of WW1 and WW2 air­craft and a walk-through Boe­ing 727 air­plane or take a claus­tro­pho­bic walk in­side the only WW2 Ger­man sub­ma­rine in the United States – U-505.

In­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors to Chicago and the USA con­tinue to list shop­ping as their num­ber one ac­tiv­ity, and there’s no bet­ter place than Chicago to play with your plas­tic. On the wa­ter­front, Navy Pier of­fers more than 50 acres of parks, prom­e­nades, gar­dens, shops, restaurants and en­ter­tain­ment in a ren­o­vated ware­house. On North Or­leans Street are the Mer­chan­dise Mart, the world’s largest whole­sale cen­tre, and the Chicago Ap­parel Cen­ter.

Chicago’s commercial district, for­merly con­fined to the area known as The Loop, which was de­fined by a cir­cuit of el­e­vated trains, now pushes north of the Chicago River to Oak Street. Known as the “Mag­nif­i­cent Mile”, the shop­ping area is con­sid­ered the Rodeo Drive of the Mid­west. Here are lo­cated some of the world’s finest spe­cialty stores.

Wa­ter Tower Place on North Michi­gan is a seven-level mod­ern shop­ping em­po­rium with Chicago-based Mar­shall Field’s and Lord & Tay­lor or walk a block to Chicago Place, an eight-level mall an­chored by Saks Fifth Av­enue.

The fa­mous Mar­shall Field’s depart­ment stores call Chicago home, and it was the store’s very clever founder, Mar­shall Field, who coined the re­tail ex­pres­sion that rang his cash reg­is­ters when he told his staff to ‘Give the lady what she wants’! Ma­cys Depart­ment store is now nes­tled in the his­toric Mar­shall Field’s build­ing and wel­comes shop­pers with an In­ter­na­tional Vis­i­tor Sav­ings Card (not avail­able to lo­cals) that grants 10% dis­counts off reg­u­lar, sale and some clear­ance-priced mer­chan­dise. Just show your pass­port and then ‘shop un­til you drop.’

If you want an in­stant ice­breaker among lo­cals, talk about sports. Chicago fans rank among Amer­ica’s best for their sup­port of lo­cal teams, and if you just ask, you’ll be wel­comed as a trea­sured guest of the city. Sports rule in Chicago year-round with no fewer that 22 ma­jor sta­di­ums and venues such as the world-fa­mous Wrigley Field, home to base­ball’s Chicago Cubs, but it has also hosted foot­ball, ice hockey, skat­ing, soc­cer and rugby – al­though the All Blacks have sched­uled a game on 1st Novem­ber against the USA Ea­gles at Sol­dier Field, the NFL home of the Chicago Bears. Chicagoland Speed­way is home of the Nascar Sprint Cup Se­ries, the United Cen­ter is the in­door arena home of the Chicago Bulls bas­ket­ball team as well as ice hockey’s Chicago Black­hawks. Fi­nally US Cel­lu­lar Field is home of the fa­mous Chicago White Sox base­ball team.

On any given evening, some­thing mu­si­cally mag­i­cal takes place in the Windy City. Chicago is fa­mous for leg­endary blues and jazz, which can be heard nightly in venues through­out the city. If you want this kind of mu­sic ring­ing in your ears then there’s prob­a­bly some mu­sic joints within walk­ing dis­tance of your down­town ho­tel, just tap your concierge on the shoul­der and ask and you might find places such as Buddy Guy’s Leg­ends bar where live blues mu­sic is played seven days a week and it’s lo­cated right be­hind the im­pos­ing Hil­ton Ho­tel.

So there you have it…Chicago and all that jazz! There was a very good rea­son for world-fa­mous crooner Frank Si­na­tra to belt out his fa­mous tune, ‘My Kind of Town, Chicago is.’

Sol­dier Field

Chicago Theatre

Buddy Guy’s

Navy Pier

Chicago Sky­line and Beaches

Chicago Wa­ter Tower

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