In summer, Chicago’s progressive and historic downtown really hits on all cylinders. I know it’s a cliché tagline but, truly, there is ‘something for anyone’ that craves the buzz, bright lights and flair of a central metropolitan area. Who knows, you may even stumble upon a surprise you had never anticipated. What I find great about this city that has endured disease inflicting pollution, notorious gang wars and a catastrophic fire is that those at its heart, rise up, rectify it’s deficiencies and don’t bring it back to way it was, but strive to make it better than it ever had been before.
Take Millennium Park for instance. Once owned by the Central Illinois Railroad, this area has been transformed into a park of natural beauty, modern art and brilliant architecture. It was set originally to celebrate the World’s entrance into the third millenium and since then has awed visitors and Chicagoans alike. My favorite sights from this park include the image warping Cloud Gate aka ‘The Bean’, the ultra modern Crown Fountain and the progressively styled J. Pritzker Pavilion.
We happened upon the Chicago Jazz Festival, one of three free music festivals that liven the campus during summer. We lounged at Park Grill, enjoying some inspiring jazz along with the bustle of Michigan Avenue and the Chicago skyline. Later on, we took in an exhilarating concert at the J. Pritzker Pavilion.
Speaking of outdoor dining areas, there are plenty along the Chicago River Walk. This pedestrian area is set along a canyon of skyscrapers that rise over the Chicago River. You can get a bite to eat, tour an old bridge house, rent a boat or kayak, catch a boat taxi to Navy Pier or just relax with a drink in your hand and watch the ships pass along the channel.
Of course, as I’ve just mentioned, there is the famous Navy Pier. This conglomeration of shops, restaurants, theatres, rides and more is worth a look. Here, you can hop aboard a tall ship or survey the river on an architectural tour. There is also a climate controlled room that plays home to tropical vegetation. Great places to dine include Maragaritaville and Harry Carey’s.
I’ve mentioned so many dining opportunities thus far, I’ll go one step further. Two staples on any Chicagoland visitor’s to-do list should be to try a Chicago style hot-dog and enjoy a Deep Dish Pizza. Great places like Portillo’s and Devil Dawgs are favorites of mine for heaven on a bun. Lou Malnati’s, a no frills restaurant that simply serves delectable handmade pizza’s, is an excellent choice for deep dish-although you’ll probably have to wait awhile to be seated. Other Pizzerias abound in the city.
What if you’re into shopping? Well, Michigan Avenue ‘The Magnificent Mile’, with its myriad of trendy retail stores, is what you’ve dreamed about. Along with the shopping, a plethora of hotels, the Art Institute of Chicago, Millenium Park Campus, the Michigan Street Bridge, the Water Tower and other points of interest lie along this vibrant stroll.
Here’s a little history for you. I mentioned a catastrophic fire that blazed through Chicago. Only fourteen years later the world’s first skyscraper was erected in the city, known as the Home Insurance Building. That building no longer stands. Yet, the Willis Tower(originally known as the Sears Tower), once being the tallest building in the world, still hovers over the impressive Chicago skyline 103 stories above the earth.
The Willis Tower’s top floor is an observation deck complete with a gift shop. Along with the observation deck comes what is known as the ledge. The ledge is a glass case, suspended over the ground below, that makes for great photo opportunities. I admit I was a little intimidated as I stepped onto the plate of glass, the only thing between me and a sidewalk over one thousand feet down.
If you love Museums, there are some world class institutions to check out in the city. Should you visit Museum campus, you could find interesting aquatic beings at Shedd’s Aquarium, discover Egyptian mummies and dinosaur skeletons at the Field Museum and walk through a German U boat at the Museum of Science and Industry.
Of course, as I’ve mentioned, the Art Institute of Chicago is on Michigan Avenue. This world class art museum features paintings from artists like Monet, Da Vinci and Van Gogh. Not to mention, it displays art from many civilizations and cultures, from Asian and Indian to Greek, Egyptian and Roman.
Of course, what I’ve mentioned is only a taste of this hub of humanity. There’s a ton more, such as sporting venues like the Iconic Wrigley field and Soldier field, Opera houses and blues spots like Buddy Guy’s Legends and the House of Blues. Whatever your choice, it will probably be a winner. I know, this summer has ended. Yet, it’s never too early to plan a visit next year. What would your dream spot be in this humming metropolis?