Checking in at the third most populated city in the United States, Chicago, also known as Chicagoland, The Windy City, Chi-Town, The Second City, and The City of Broad Shoulders, serves as a wonderfully entertaining vacation spot. Chicago is located in northeastern Illinois on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan. Well-known sections of the city entail the central business district referred to as The Loop, and the North, South, and West sides. The North Side houses residents and includes many high-rises along the lakefront. The largest section of the city, The South Side, encompasses the University of Chicago and several of the facilities located at the Port of Chicago.
Top Attractions in Chicago
Lake Michigan Shore
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy 29 miles of lakefront skirted by an 18.5-mile recreational path along many beaches. Relax on the beach and soak up some summer sun, or take a jog, walk, rollerblade, or bike down the provided paths. Rentals are available at Navy Pier. Tip: Heavy traffic is typical between Navy Pier and North Avenue. Bike ride, walk, jog, or rollerblade south for open paths, and then experience skyline views on return.
Also referred to as “The Mag Mile,” tourists can experience a prestigious section of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, running from the Chicago River to Oak Street. The Magnificent Mile offers a marvelous shopping experience including multiple boutiques, shops, restaurants, and hotels proven to meet every visitor’s needs and desires. Michigan Avenue http://www.themagnificentmile.com
The Art Institute of Chicago
Open daily from 10:30AM to 5:00PM (Thursdays till 8PM) The Art Institute is the city of Chicago’s most prestigious art museum. Admission is free for children under 14 years of age; it is a perfect location for a fun-filled family outing. Introduce your children to the wonders and happiness of art by participating in hands-on activities in addition to viewing fantastic art. Tip: Be sure to visit the Thorne Miniature Rooms that contain 40 miniature dollhouse rooms done in different architectural styles of the past 300 years. 111 S. Michigan Avenue;www.artic.edu
Founded in 2004, this unique tourist attraction provides fusions of gardens, modern art, and architecture on and along a 24.5-acre downtown area. Definitely check out the video screen fountain. Also, view the reflective “Cloud Gate” sculpture by Anish Kapoor, more commonly known to locals as “The Bean.” Observe contemporary architecture and public sculpture at its finest. Michigan Avenue at Randolph Street;
The Field Museum
Founded in 1893, The Field Museum has spent over 120 years providing scientific knowledge through various exhibitions. This natural history museum showcases exhibits devoted to paleontology, world cultures, animal biology, and earth science. Additionally, traveling exhibitions engage audiences with topics such as King Tutankhamen. The main hall showcases the world’s most complete T-Rex, Sue. Tip: Looking to avoid huge crowds? Do not plan on visiting during public school holidays. Families frequent on these days. 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.;www.fieldmuseum.org
Also known as the Chicago Zoological Park, the Brookfield Zoo is located in the Chicago suburb of Brookfield, IL. It dates back to July 1, 1934, and houses approximately 450 species of animals. The zoo was the first in the United States to display giant pandas. There is a dolphin exhibit and also a rain forest simulation. Tip: Look out for the mysterious 38 poems artistically mounted about in the Great Bear Wilderness exhibit. The poems are carved into wood, sandblasted into rock, and even digitally printed on translucent Plexiglas. 8400 West 31st Street, Brookfield; www.CZS.org
Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise
This popular river cruise is a must do for tourists. The tour guides are certified and extremely knowledgeable; they refer to themselves as docents. On the excursion, be prepared to view 50 buildings along the Chicago River. It is a great opportunity to snuggle up next to a loved one, take a boat ride, and view some audacious sights and skyscrapers. Tip: If the plan is to attend on a weekend, be sure to book before noon; check out time at local hotels is when the crowds outpour. Michigan Avenue Bridge at Wacker Drive; www.architecture.org
Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio
Head out to the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio, and experience a piece of Chicago’s history. Wright’s private residence was used as his workplace from 1889-1909. Here, he turned his home into an architectural laboratory. Wright experimented with several different design concepts. There is a self-guided audio tour available. Visitors will also come across a neighborhood with richly designed homes. 951 Chicago Avenue; www.wrightplus.org
John G. Shedd Aquarium
The Shedd Aquarium is the largest indoor aquarium in the world! Containing more than 8,000 aquatic animals, visitors will dive in and learn from experts. Check out the 1,000-seat amphitheater for dolphin shows. Furthermore, there is an enormous shark exhibit housing more than two dozen sharks in a 400,000-gallon (1,514-liter) habitat. Tip: If traveling to the Shedd Aquarium during the summer months, arrive before 11 a.m. In doing so, long lines and massive crowds will be at a minimum. 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr.; www.sheddaquarium.org
Navy Pier provides several recreational activities for people of all ages. It is a wonderful destination for a family, or for couples who want to enjoy time with one another in a variety of ways. The pier hosts boat tours, and is the home for the Chicago Children’s Museum, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, amusement rides, beer garden, and much more. Here, miraculous views of city are priceless. Tip: Fees exist at several attractions. 600 E. Grand Avenue; www.navypier.com
Museum of Science and Industry
Looking for a hands-on, informative, family-friendly environment? Head to this vast science center, which includes an IMAX theater and other various interactive exhibits. There are always new things to do and see at the Museum of Science and Industry. Tip: Tickets are available for purchase online. 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive; www.msichicago.org
Also known as the “Friendly Confines” this historic 1914 baseball stadium is known as one of the last personal parks creating so many memories for its patrons. Here, the fans back their Chicago Cubs whether they win or lose. The ambiance provides an unbelievable experience for all fans. The stadium is located within the lively residential Wrigleyville neighborhood. Tip: Due to the high demand for game tickets, be sure to purchase tickets in advance. This can be done online. Additionally, it is definitely worth taking a behind-the-scenes tour. Visitors will see the locker rooms and press box. 1060 West Addison Street; http://cubs.mlb.com
Pick the time right!
Tourists visit Chicago in Spring and Summer
Ideally, tourists should consider visiting the Windy City during the summer or fall months. The summer months of June, July, and August provide countless special events and outdoor activities. During this time, be prepared for large crowds and hot, muggy weather. For those looking for a bit more of a cooler climate, autumn days are typically sunny, and the crowds are smaller at major tourist attractions. If this sounds more appealing, September, October, and November are the months to visit. Generally, snow does not fall until late November. For those who prefer the bitter cold and being indoors, winter is a great time to visit. Although the weather will be blustery, lines are minimal at most attractions and the hotel rates are significantly lower during the months of December, January, and February.
Statistically, O’Hare International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world. Known also as O’Hare Airport, O’Hare Field, Chicago International Airport, or even more simply stated, O’Hare, this second largest passenger-carrying hub is located 17 miles (27 kilometers) of the Chicago Loop. United Airlines and American Airlines operate heavily to and from O’Hare. Operated by the City of Chicago Department of Aviation, O’Hare has four numbered passenger terminals with nine lettered concourses including 182 gates. Access is available via I-90 and the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway. Access within the airport complex is available using O’Hare’s Airport Transit System, which operates 24 hours a day and connects all four terminals and parking lots. Travelers can also take the Blue Line, Metra, car, taxi, and bus.
Chicago is the home to another international airport, Chicago Midway International Airport. Located 10 miles southwest of downtown, Midway is less crowded, has fewer delays, and generally is cheaper to fly in/out. Southwest Airlines dominates this world’s busiest square mile. The Stevenson Expressway and Chicago Transit Authority’s Orange Line offer visitors access to downtown Chicago within 25 minutes.
Navigating throughout the city of Chicago is actually easier than it may seem. With the block number system of 100 addresses each, each street is assigned a number based on the distance from the zero point of the address system, which is the intersection of State Street and Madison Street. Generally speaking, avenues run north and south, and streets run east and west.
The best, easiest, and most convenient way to tour Chicago is by public transit. It is reasonably priced, efficient, and safe. Plan your trip online with the RTA trip planner, or receive assistance by calling 836-7000 in any local area code between 5AM and 1AM. As an official partner of Google Maps, the RTA can also be accessed through this highly used tool by providing routes with public transit.
Even if driving is preferable, no experience of Chicago is complete without an adventure on the Chicago Transit Authority, known as the CTA. Fares are paid with a card system called Ventra. Passengers can purchase tickets with cash, debit, or credit at kiosks in the lobby of every CTA station. Chicago’s CTA network costs $2.25 regardless of how many miles you are travelling. CTA train lines are divided by colors: Red, Green, Brown, Blue, Purple, Yellow, Orange and Pink. All lines lead to the Loop except the Yellow Line. The Red and Blue lines run 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.