I recently returned from a 9 night Royal Caribbean, Odyssey Of The Seas cruise that sailed over the New Years Eve holiday. I have for years wanted to celebrate ringing in the new year at sea. I have b...Read more
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Chicago is the largest city in the Midwest, known for its soaring skyscrapers, sandy lake beaches, public parks and museums. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago is a world-class city offering plenty of iconic attractions, diverse neighborhoods and a great variety of entertainment options including baseball, music concerts and theater.
This massive city is home to nearly 3 million people and is a major urban center with neighborhoods and cities stretching into an extensive metropolis. Chicago was first incorporated as a town in 1833. The city experienced a rushed growth, but was all but destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The tragedy provided a new chance for the city to reevaluate its plan for growth. The city quickly began to rebuild and this is where many of Chicago's most legendary architectural feats were born. Today, Chicago is seen as an example of excellent urban planning in the creation of the city as well as its notable architecture.
Chicago is a city of many names including The Windy City, The City of Big Shoulders and The City of Neighborhoods. When planning your trip to Chicago, travelers will surely want to discover the great diversity of the city that is found in its plethora of neighborhoods. The signature skyscrapers and office buildings can be found in The Loop. A visit to Michigan Avenue in the heart of the city is an absolute must, as it's the main area for shopping in Chicago with many stores, restaurants and museums. Wicker Park/Bucktown is a great neighborhood to find off-the-beaten-path shopping and restaurants as well as edgy nightlife spots and a hip vibe. Since Chicago is home to such diverse cultures, there are great pockets of the city to discover other cultures including Chinatown and Greektown.
Chicago locals love this city and it shows. When the weather is nice, head to beach of Lake Michigan, a popular place to enjoy the water while still being in the heart of the city. The city is so large and so diverse that it has much to offer for every kind of traveler. Sports buffs will want to go to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field where they'll be immersed in the local sports culture of Chicago. Foodies generally hit up Hubbard and State Streets where there are great restaurants around every corner. The city is also known for its lively music scene. Indie-rock fans should visit the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood for good music venues.
From June to August, temperatures range from 70-90° F; from September to November, temperatures range from 40-60° F; from December to March, temperatures range from 15-35° F and in April and May, temperatures range from 40-65° F
Chicago-style: The adjective seems to attach itself to everything in Chicago—from the vibrant downtown, stunning architecture and political machines to deep-dish pizza, hot dogs, the arts and blues music. Chicago residents do things with their own distinctive flair, creating innovations that resound far beyond the city's borders.
The result is a world-class city with an internationally acclaimed symphony, champion sports teams such as the Bears and Cubs, a host of renowned museums such as the Field Museum, great hotels and miles/kilometers of gorgeous beaches and lakefront paths that many use for bicycling, rollerblading and jogging. Most first-time visitors are surprised by the city's cleanliness and the profusion of plants and flowers.
It's no simple matter to make a precise definition of Chicago. The third-largest city in the U.S. is many things at once—a blue-collar town that's full of high culture and gracious living, and a town of historical importance that's in no way stuck in the past. It's a classic Midwestern city with international importance and a multitude of vibrant ethnic neighborhoods, including the largest Polish population anywhere in the world outside of Poland, and the only officially recognized Puerto Rican neighborhood in the U.S. (Humboldt Park).
Ultimately, Chicago's refusal to conform to any single style, even one that bears its name, is what truly defines this city.
Sights—There are plenty of great places to watch a sunset (or sunrise) and see the magnificent skyline of the Windy City, including the Willis (Sears) Tower Skydeck or 360 Chicago; the Historic Water Tower; Millennium Park; a Chicago Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, White Sox or Cubs game; Navy Pier; a Chicago Architecture Foundation river tour.
Museums—The Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art; the Field Museum; the John G. Shedd Aquarium; Chicago History Museum; International Museum of Surgical Science; DuSable Museum of African American History.
Memorable Meals—A true Chicago-style hot dog at Superdawg Drive-In or Gold Coast Dogs; a slice of Chicago-style deep-dish pizza at Giordano's, Gino's East, Pizzeria Uno or Lou Malnati's Pizzeria; posh Michigan Avenue eateries such as Shanghai Terrace that offer seating with a well-heeled view; trendy dining at the edgy bistros along West Randolph Street.
Late Night—Improvisational sets at the Second City theater or the comedy-cult favorite iO Theater; catching the headliner at Zanies stand-up comedy club; catching a live band at the House of Blues or Metro; tapping into Chicago blues or a live jazz show at one of the city's legendary live-music clubs.
Walks—A leisurely stroll along Michigan Avenue (the "Magnificent Mile") from the river to the Drake Hotel; a walk through Grant Park to Buckingham Fountain; strolling through the spectacular grounds and across the Frank Gehry-designed bridge of Millennium Park.
Especially for Kids—The high-tech Adler Planetarium; the Museum of Science and Industry, with "please touch" signs scattered throughout; the Chicago Children's Museum, featuring a two-story rope tunnel; Lincoln Park Zoo; the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum; American Girl Place.
To know Chicago, you first must visualize its most imposing characteristic—Lake Michigan—which runs along the city's eastern edge for 29 mi/47 km, providing free beaches, gorgeous views, running and bike trails, and year-round outdoor enjoyment. The lake so dominates the city that it alone is thought of as "east": Although you'll hear references to the South Side, West Side and North Side, the residents of the East Side would be coho salmon, whitefish and smelt.
The city is laid out in a grid system, with relatively few diagonal streets. But with no alphabetical order to those streets, it's important to learn the numbering system if you want to find your way around. The intersection of Madison and State streets is the zero point for all addresses. (Madison divides the city into north and south, and State Street divides it east-west.) Many street signs include a locator relative to this intersection. For instance, Addison Street (home to the Cubs' Wrigley Field) is 3600 North, meaning it's about 36 blocks north of Madison. An address that reads 3650 N. Clark St. will be just north of Addison Street, on Clark.
State and Madison meet within the core of downtown, an area known as "the Loop" (named for the elevated commuter railroad encircling the area). The Loop is bordered by the Chicago River on the north, Wabash Avenue on the east, Van Buren Avenue on the south and Wells Street on the west. Just north of the Loop is the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue between the Chicago River and Oak Street), home to stylish boutiques and some of the city's most exclusive hotels and restaurants.
In 1779, fur trader Jean Baptiste Point du Sable founded Chicago in a place Native Americans referred to as "stinky onion." Its location at the base of Lake Michigan made it a key transportation point. In 1803, the U.S. government built Fort Dearborn as a base for westward expansion. The 100-mi/160-km Illinois and Michigan Canal, which linked Chicago to the Mississippi River, was completed in 1848, and Chicago's first rail lines were laid just a few years later. The city subsequently became the nation's hub for both freight and passenger trains, as well as a major shipping port.
Even the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 could not stop the city's relentless economic expansion. Chicago converted the devastation into an opportunity to plan a better city. In 1893, the World's Columbian Exposition showed just how far the city had come in 20 years of rebuilding. The fair's 26 million visitors sparked the design and building of the elevated "L" trains that still shuttle millions of riders through Chicago's Loop, or financial district.
Fueled by a growing immigrant and African American population, the city became an industrial and agricultural processing center in the late 1800s and early 1900s. However, as industrial and agricultural industries went into decline in the latter half of the 20th century, Chicago transformed itself into a global financial and communications hub.
Chicago's "vote early and vote often" era of machine politics reached its peak under the reign of Mayor Richard J. Daley, who ruled the city from 1955 to his death in 1976. Although his iron-fisted grip rankled some (including demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic National Convention), he also cemented Chicago's reputation as "the city that works." It was under his direction that the Sears Tower, O'Hare Airport and McCormick Center were all built.
The city continues to attract billions of dollars in private investments. The windfall has led to better schools, cleaner parks, safer streets and a condominium-building boom. Residents who retreated to the suburbs years ago have rediscovered the appeal of living in this stimulating city's heart.
The 156-mi/251-km Chicago River originally flowed toward Lake Michigan, where it dumped sewage into the city's main source of drinking water. More than 80,000 people died from the contaminated water before 1900, when clever engineers of the Sanitary District of Chicago saved the day by reversing the flow of the river.
Forget Hollywood; Chicago has plenty of its own claims to film fame. Besides providing the backdrop for several hit TV shows (Chicago Fire, ER, Shameless and The Steve Harvey Show), the Windy City has set the stage for key scenes in such movies as The Blues Brothers (Daley Center and Plaza), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (Glenbrook North High School, Wrigley Field, the Art Institute and Lake Shore Drive), The Dark Knight (Lower Wacker Drive), Barbershop (East 79th and Exchange) and The Fugitive (Daley Center, Cook County Hospital and the Hilton on South Michigan Avenue).
Although many people blame Chicago's weather for the "Windy City" nickname, Boston, Milwaukee, Dallas and San Francisco all have higher annual average wind speeds. The origin of the name is best attributed to the "hot air" released from early Chicago politicians who were promoting and bragging about the city, especially prior to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.
Grant Park is often called "Chicago's backyard," hosting top summer festivals, but it wouldn't have come into existence if the Great Chicago Fire hadn't destroyed nearly all of Chicago's buildings in 1871. Grant Park was created out of a landfill amassed from the fire.
Chicago lays claim to several superlatives, including the nation's largest convention facility (McCormick Place), the world's largest Tiffany dome (in the Chicago Cultural Center) and the largest public library (Harold Washington Library Center). Its 110-story Willis (formerly Sears) Tower is the second-tallest building in the U.S. and among the tallest in the world.
U.S. President Barack Obama once called Chicago his home, and the Hawaii native began his political career in the city, where he was elected to the state senate in 1997. But it's his wife, Michelle, who is the lifelong resident, born and raised on the South Side. The Obamas maintain a home in the Hyde Park neighborhood.
Chicago and Cincinnati were rival cities in the late 1800s. The rivalry was so intense, in fact, that in a bid to compete against the Cincinnati Red Stockings, which was one of the most popular pro baseball teams of the era, Chicago created a baseball organization known as the White Stockings. That same Major League Baseball team continues to operate today as the Chicago White Sox.
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