Cultural Exploration Destinations North America

Who Needs New York City When You Have Chicago?

Chicago is the third most popular city to visit in the United States. Parked alongside Lake Michigan, the city is an international hub for finance, commerce, industry, technology, and so much more. With its waterfront restaurants and nightlife, it has attracted tourists and residents from all over the world. These ethnic groups flourished and had created districts such as Pilsen which is made of Mexican American, the Puerto Rican enclave of Paseo Boricua; Greektown, along South Halsted Street, or immediately west of downtown is Little Italy. Chicago ranked one of the most walkable large cities in the United States with its wide patch of grass between the streets and colorful flowerbeds along the sidewalks.

Our hotel, Omni Chicago Suites   was located right on the Magnificent Mile which is an upscale section of Michigan Avenue, with a mixture of upscale department stores, restaurants, luxury residential buildings, and hotels. If you love to shop, the Magnificent Mile will keep you busy as it is the dwelling to the world’s leading retail stores such as Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and countless more. 

Entertainment and the arts is what attracted us to Chicago. If you enjoy theatre, then take a seat at the Chicago Theatre, recognized as one of the National Historical Buildings. Not far from the Chicago Theatre is the Oriental Theatre which is home to famous Broadway productions such as Wicked and The Rent. If musicals are more your style I highly recommend going to the Apollo Theatre to see the “Million Dollar Quartet”. Other live-music attractions take place across the city of Chicago.  

As we walked the streets of Chicago we came across several outdoor art exhibits. The most famous and recognized piece, officially called Cloud Gate but tourist know it as the “Bean”. Cloud Gate is located in Millennium Park, sculptured by Indian-born British artist Sir Anish Kapoor. The design was inspired by liquid mercury. We walked under the 12-foot high arch to see our distorted reflections. 

Millennium Park was a great discovery on our trip as it is a 25-acre breathtaking green space with a collection of public art. While visiting, a Jazz Music Festival was taking place with many musical performances and lots of food & goods vendors. Millennium Park is Chicago’s playground with free events, art exhibits, and gardens.

Another favorite with tourist and families in Millennium Park is the Crown Fountain which stands 50-feet tall LED screens that display digital images of different Chicago residents’ faces. The faces give the illusion that they are spouting out the water from their giant lips. 

Jaume Plensa, creator of the Crown Fountain, also hosted a special exhibit of four monumental sculptures created in cast iron and resin called 1004 Portraits. These images are of young girls in Chicago. 

A spectacular show of color and water is the Buckingham Fountain at night located in Grant Park. We stopped at night to watch the light show through the dancing water.

Although we did not go into the Art Institute, but on display at front of the building are these strong bronze lions standing guard.

We visited the “Flamingo” sculpture in the Federal Plaza which is this bright red enormous sculpture that has a similar elongated neck like the Flamingo bird. 

If you want a little more greenery while in the city, I suggest walking through Lurie Garden.

The garden is located in Millennium Park which took into consideration the landscape of these once marshlands and created an urban environment with a variety of plants, animals and insects.

To learn the history of Chicago visit the Chicago History Museum.

The exhibit about the fire of Chicago is quite telling and hard to imagine what the people of that time experienced.

In addition to entertainment and arts, Chicago is home to many towering skyscraper buildings. One of the tallest buildings in the Western Hemisphere, The Ledge, formerly known as the Sears Tower, has a glass box that extends out approximately four feet at the Skydeck level. We purchased a package from Travelzoo that included dinner at the Skydeck Restaurant which is at the 103rd floor. The view of the city through the glass box does mess with your head though…

Another landmark that you will come across as you walk the streets of Chicago is the Chicago Water Tower. The tower, built in 1869, the second-oldest water tower in the United States. Today it is home to Chicago Office of Tourism. 

We also had time to check out few cathedrals and churches, the Holy Name Cathedral Parish and the Fourth Presbyterian Church.

Each with an interesting history as they overcame the many changes this beautiful city of Chicago endured over time.

The Navy Pier, another interesting public space full of recreation and social activities, is one of the top-visited civic landmarks in the United States. Here you will find the large Ferris-wheel as well as a 3-D theatre. 

Chicago is a melting pot of culture, art, entertainment, and business. Every day was full of sights and activities to keep us busy. Chicago has waterfront access to a lovely beach and park access, accessible public transportation, oodles of great restaurants, a variety of shops, and all very affordable compared to New York City. If New York City is on your list to visit but can’t afford, Chicago is the place to be!

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9 Comments

  1. I really do love going to Chicago and there are still a lot of “tourist” type of things that I need to do. I have been to Navy Pier though!!! 🙂

    -Lauren

  2. Visiting Chicago is on my list! You’ve shown lots of great ideas for sightseeing. Loved all the pics.

  3. I never knew Chicago had so many interesting attractions to visit! After reading your post, I definitely want to add a trip to Chicago to our family’s travel list. Would like to visit Millennium Park and Navy Pier especially.

  4. Your photos are amazing. So is Chicago! I loved the time I spent at Navy Pier! It was such a fun time!!

  5. I agree I would take Chicago over NYC any day! Chicago is so visitor friendly and diverse!

  6. I’ve always wanted to visit Chigaco so this is great! Thanks for the awesome tips, I’ll keep them in mind when I finally make a trip!

  7. I’d love to visit Chicago! I’ve pinned this post Incase I make it, everything sounds like so much fun!

  8. That’s what I say. I like Chicago more then NYC. Maybe it’s the Midwest mentality or because I don’t have to fly to get there. Chicago has so many great things to do.

  9. I wonder this all the time! I adore Chicago. Such a fun city to visit.

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