In every truly great city of the world, there is always a world of things to do. And when it comes to Chicago, visitors should expect diversions on a global scale. Eminently walkable, one could literally find new discoveries turning just about any corner while exploring this wonderful city. Wonderful neighborhoods exhibit their own distinctive feel. Grand buildings loom overhead while charming parks beckon urban dwellers into retreat. Old districts attract creative cliques while lakeside strolls offer reflection across the rippling waters. Whether you want to indulge in the excitement of fast living or slow things down to savor all manner of experiences, Chicago will meet your pace.
Prepare to Eat
One thing that residents are seriously proud of in the Windy City is the preponderance of eateries wafting tempting aromas through the air. A great variety of kitchens are constantly concocting delectable victuals of all manner, marking Chicago as one of America’s premier foodie destinations. You can start small with local favorites like deep-dish pizza, hot dogs “dragged through the garden” (which means lots of condiments) and the signature “Italian beef” sandwich — you won’t taste anything like it anywhere else. But don’t think for a moment that it’s all about fast food selections.
The city’s restaurants range from authentic cultural offerings to the finest of dining. The Chinatown district is among the best in the nation, whether you’re looking for delightful dim sum or sparking up the spiciest Szechuan dishes you can handle. Steakhouses in Chicago are almost a matter of religion. Serious beef lovers will find dueling dealers serving up sizzling sirloins all around the River North neighborhood. And don’t forget the massive Polish influence firmly rooted here. Seeking out the best pierogi in town is one of the core quests any dedicated eater will only be too happy to take up.
If you’re one of those people who love to come home with a purchase or two — or a lot more — then Chicago has a whole lot to offer. Shopping culture is big business in this town, with some of the most robust areas catering to luxury goods and quirky mom and pop operations. Easily the most famous area to run your credit card in the Windy City is the Magnificent Mile. Here, just about every global brand from running shoes to jewelry and high-end department stores makes their retail mark. The festive atmosphere is buoyed by street performers, amazing architecture and perhaps the best people-watching around.
Looking for a more toned-down European feel? Take a jaunt around the Lincoln Square/Ravenswood corridor. Charming cobblestone streets lead up to quaint storefronts hosting off-center establishments like sausage shops and apothecaries. Warmer and more mellow than the Magnificent Mile, you’re more likely to find something more esoteric to take home with you here. If you want to get even more laid-back — and maybe a little unique — check out the Andersonville area. This is home to antique shops, quirky stops like comic book stores and confectioners and even some offerings reflecting the Swedish immigrants who originally defined this corner of Chicago.
Eye of the Beholder
If you’ve ever seen the ’80s movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, you may have found it odd that a bunch of teenagers playing hooky would end up spending time in an art museum. But you shouldn’t. Chicagoans are very proud of the wealth of art treasures housed in the many museums here. Probably the best place to start is the Art Institute of Chicago (the one that Ferris and his pals visited). Stunning exhibits here include works of Picasso, Hopper and Monet along with ancient treasures from Mexico, Africa, India and more. No matter what kind of artwork touches your soul, you are almost certain to encounter it here.
More interested in the modern scene? Check out the Museum of Contemporary Art. Here you will find a home for some of the greatest luminaries of the creative waves spanning the last century or so. Expect eye-popping Warhols, Koons, Johns and more. Your mind will be blown, that much we can guarantee! Camera buffs are encouraged to head on over to the Museum of Contemporary Photography. Brilliant shutterbugs like Ansel Adams and Irving Penn have developed here along with surprising current artists snapping their shots. For those who like to go really big, try the Chicago Architecture Center. Here you will learn all about the birth of the skyscraper — a genuine Second City invention!