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Chicago Travel Guide - Hotels, Restaurants, Museums, Cheap Accommodation, Jazz, Nightlife, Shopping & more

Before you hop on a plane to begin your Chicago vacation, please take a moment to learn a little bit about the history of this beautiful city and find out why more than 32 million people choose to take a Chicago trip each year.

Since its humble beginnings in 1835, when it was a nothing more than a group of cabins on the Chicago River, Chicago has boomed with activity and has earned the name "The City That Works." By 1890 it had become the second largest city in the nation, although it never caught up with New York City. Then in 1871 what started as a small fire in a stable far to the west of the city center, became a blazing inferno that destroyed the whole inner city. This tragedy resulted in a golden opportunity for Chicagoans; the chance to rebuild their city from the ground up. The result is a better street layout and safer sanitary conditions for its citizens (also aided by the flow reversal of the Chicago River, which took waste downriver to the Mississippi River instead of out into Lake Michigan, the city's water source).

Chicago is famous for food and its jazz and blues clubs, and for good reason. If music isn't your thing, you can wine and dine in the greatest of Chicago restaurants where you will find everything from the some of best ribs in the U.S. to exotic food -- Chicago does it right. And let's not forget about Chicago hotels, which are among some of the grandest in the world. Take one look at the historic Drake Hotel at Michigan Avenue and world famous Lake Shore Drive and you will see why!

Perhaps the greatest feature of Chicago is its beautiful architecture. While not as big as New York, downtown Chicago is unmatched in its sheer beauty because of the uniqueness in style of each building. Standing in the heart of Chicago is a memorable experience: standing on a bridge over the Chicago River, the Wrigley Building on one side and the great towers of downtown on the other; swarmed by the masses shopping along Michigan Ave. The Magnificent Mile -- it'll take your breath away. The Chicago Architecture Foundation conducts tours of Chicago's buildings. The "Architectural Tour of the Historic Skyscrapers," which is a walking tour, will take you inside some of these buildings that otherwise you would not see. These tours are a must when in Chicago. The Foundation store is located on Michigan Ave. from where these tours begin. 224 South Michigan Avenue, www.architecture.org.

Some of Chicago's most obvious attractions include the Sears Tower (formerly the tallest skyscraper in the world), the Hancock Building (home of The Signature Room, a restaurant and bar at the top of the building), and Navy Pier. Navy Pier features all kinds of unique Chicago activities. You can can enjoy a dinner cruise or water tour of Chicago, a stained-glass museum, the incredibly fun Children's Museum for the toys, as well as tons of shopping, Chicago seafood restaurants and bar & grills, and plenty or art to keep your attention. While you're at Navy Pier, get some cinnamon-roasted almonds and fresh-squeezed lemonade -- highly recommended!. Other major attractions include: the Shedd Aquarium, the Art Institute, Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum. You can also enjoy the Magnificent Mile, a line of high-end shopping destinations right on Michigan Avenue. And, don't forget to take a stroll along the waterfront where you can catch a glimpse of the famous Buckingham Fountain. Also, new to the Chicago scene, is Millennium Park, home of a fantastic bandshell, breath-taking gardens, playful fountains, a relaxing promenade, the "Bean," and a myriad of shop and eateries, as well as other attractions.

Chicago is in the running for hosting the Olympics in 2016. If that isn't proof of how great a city Chicago is, I don't know what is. If you are on a Chicago vacation, you have to go visit the different ethic neighborhoods such as Chinatown, Little Italy, and Hyde Park. In each one, you'll find specific stores and shops for everything you want and need. Don't miss the Farmers Market on the Daley Plaza during the summer and fall months to buy fresh veggies and fruit. If you are in town during June, don't miss The Taste of Chicago, the city's largest outdoor picnic.

If you come to visit, make sure to skip out on the taxis and walk around a bit. You will find tons of fascinating little gems tucked away in every corner of this lively city, you just have to look for them! Continue reading to find out more about the top ten things to do in Chicago.

Chicago Neighborhoods:

Whether you are relocating or local, this Chicago Neighborhood Guide will help you find your way to everything Chicago has to offer: Chicago's Lake Michigan coastline delivers more than 18 miles of lakeshore bicycling, walking and skating paths and the Chicago area boasts over 9,000 restaurants. And don't forget, the Chicago shopping scene along the Magnificent Mile is world-class. Learn all there is to know about your favorite Chicago Sport team and find out what Chicago bars will have the game on TV, or see what shows are coming to the city's theaters.

You'll also discover info on Chicago real estate and Chicago relocation, in case you're planning on moving to the Windy City. Check out the housing options and resources in each of the Chicago neighborhoods. Look up places you might want to live and view a Chicago map for all the area amenities - everything from Chicago hospitals to Chicago transportation.
To learn about more Chicago Neighborhoods visit http://www.dreamtown.com/neighborhoods/chicago-neighborhoods.html.

To take a virtual photo tour of the Chicago Neighborhoods visit http://www.ChicagoImageGate.com

Top Ten Things to Do in Chicago

Magnificent Mile - Chicago's Magnificent Mile is world famous for upscale shopping, world class dining venues with panoramic views of the city, hip and sophisticated hotels, and celebrity sightings -- of course. Along the Magnificent Mile (or Mag Mile) you will find high-end designers such as Gucci, Hugo Boss, Armani, Escada, and Bottega Veneta as well as less expensive retailers such as H&M . The Apple Store, Nike, Levi's, Polo, Nordstrom's, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale's are also located on the Mag Mile. Architectural gems such as the Old Water Tower, the John Hancock Center, the Tribune Tower, The Drake Hotel, and the Wrigley Building can be found along the mile.

Alinea and Charlie Trotter's - The reason Alinea and Charlie Trotter's and are listed together is that the two famous Chicago restaurants made the The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants 2008 list. Alinea ranked #21 and Charlie Trotter's ranked #38. Charlie Trotter's has made the list every year since 2002, when it was ranked at #11. Charlie Trotter's is located in Lincoln Park at 816 W. Armitage Avenue, Ph: 773-248-6228, www.charlietrotters.com. Alinea, also in Lincoln Park, is located at 1723 N. Halsted Street, Ph: 312-867-0110, www.alinea-restaurant.com.

Millennium Park - This 24.5 acre park owned by the City of Chicago includes work by a collection of artists, designers, landscapers and architects including: Kathryn Gustafson, Frank Gehry, Juame Plensa, and Anish Kapoor. It is also home to the 300-seat Park Grill, situated right next to a 16,000 square foot ice-skating rink that converts to a 150-seat star-lit dining area featuring outdoor concerts and fashion shows. Other highlights include: a music pavilion, theater, garden, and Ameritech Plaza, fountain. The Symphony Center has enough space for 120 musicians and 150 singers and it can seat 4,000 guests, while the lawn area can accommodate more than 11,000 people. The music and dance theater features a 1,500-seat auditorium.

The Drake Hotel - The Drake Hotel needs no introduction. This historic hotel has hosted heads of states, the Royal Family, and dignitaries. It is the preferred hotel for the rich and famous and "discerning travelers." It is a permanent part of Chicago's skyline and a landmark known as "where the Magnificent Mile begins." This grand hotel has 535 guestrooms, including 74 luxurious suites. If you can't afford to stay here, at least have dinner at the world famous Coq d'Or restaurant or stop in for afternoon tea at the Palm Court. 140 East Walton Place, 312-787-2200, www.thedrakehotel.com.

Navy Pier - Navy Pier is the place where locals and people from the surrounding areas and beyond come to play. In fact, the number of visitors to Navy Pier is estimated at somewhere around 8 million. In addition to dozens of opportunities to take a cruise around Lake Michigan, a speed boat ride, or a number of architectural cruises, the Pier has a massive Ferris wheel, a game center, and a food court, several bar & grill restaurants, seafood restaurants, souvenir shops, and more. Navy Pier is located at 600 East Grand Avenue and is easily accessed by bus, taxi, subway, and a free trolley from various points throughout the downtown area.
www.transitchicago.com

Sears Tower - Sears Tower stands at 1,450 feet tall and 110 stories high making it the tallest building in North America and the third tallest building in the world. Inside, the building has 3.8 million square feet of space and skydeck that has to be experienced to be believed -- it is the one of the world's highest observatories. The Sears Tower Skydeck is located at 233 S. Wacker Drive, Ph: 312-875-9696 or 312-875-9447, www.theskydeck.com. The Skydeck is open 365 days a year from 10:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. April-September and until 8:00 p.m. October-March.

North Avenue Beach - North Avenue Beach is the most popular beach in Chicago. During the summer months, the beach hosts championship volleyball games and other events, it has an outdoor workout area, rollerblade rink, a popular bar & grill called "Castaways," and it is located along one of the most famous bike paths in the city -- the Lake Shore Drive bike path. North Avenue Beach is located at 1600 N. Lake Shore Drive, Info.: 773-327-2706.

The Art Institute - The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the most prestigious art museums and art schools in the world. The museum is home to more than 300,000 works of art and the school has more than 3,000 students. The art museum features everything from African, American, ancient, Asian, contemporary, and European, to Modern and Indian artwork, sculptures, photography, prints, and more. The Art Institute is located at 111 S. Michigan Avenue, Ph: 312-443-3600, www.artic.edu.

Shedd Aquarium - Not only has John G. Shedd Aquarium been a leader in the zoo and aquarium profession for more than 75 years, the building is a national historic landmark. The aquarium features several massive exhibits including: Wild Reef -- Sharks at Shedd, Oceanarium, Waters of the World, Caribbean Reef, and Amazon Rising. Shedd has regularly scheduled special exhibits. John G. Shedd Aquarium is located at 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Ph: 312-939-2438, www.sheddaquarium.org.

The Field Museum - One of the top natural history museums in the world, the Field Museum is home to more than 20 million specimens and a whopping 25,000-volume natural history library. Permanent exhibits offer a trip back in time to Ancient Egypt and temporary exhibits have included famous traveling exhibits such as the Auschwitz Album and King Tut, to name a few. The Field Museum is located at 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Ph: 312-665-7683, www.fieldmuseum.org.

All Chicago attractions listed here can be reached by car, bus, subway or taxi. www.transitchicago.com

World66 Contributors

Text credits:
December 21, 2006 change by waterfalls (2 points)
April 13, 2009 change by annc
May 16, 2006 change by giorgio
June 05, 2008 change by mcburton
January 12, 2006 change by dralwik

Photo credits:
Go Chicago Card, Melicivi, Jason Soza, J. Stephen Conn, Michelle Dykstra, Lwitko, Joseph Hollick, Jean-Paul Gardeniers

Source: World66.com
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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