As the city that invented them, skyscrapers are a big part of Chicago’s heritage. The best early examples and preserved Art Deco masterpieces from the 1920s blend in beautifully with some of the world’s tallest and innovative structures to make up the more than 100 skyscrapers that currently form Chicago’s skyline. With new ones opening all the time, the city’s reputation for architecture is only set to grow.
The only potential problem with coming to Chicago for some of the world’s best museums is picking which ones to visit. Whether you decide to see the world’s largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex at The Field Museum, the Western Hemisphere’s largest science museum at the Museum of Science and Industry, or learn more about the city itself at the Chicago History Museum, there’s no wrong choice.
Whatever your taste, there’s a vast amount of art to enjoy in the city’s museums, galleries, and public spaces. Without even leaving the Art Institute of Chicago, you can see Monet’s Water Lilies, Grant Wood’s American Gothic, and Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, as featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. If you prefer contemporary art, there are dozens of independent galleries and studios to visit, showcasing some of the best local and international talent working today.
Experiencing genuine stuffed deep-dish pizza alone is reason enough to visit Chicago, but there is plenty of great food on offer. Alongside many great restaurants and bars, other local specialties include dripping Italian beef sandwiches loaded with sweet peppers and giardiniera, Chicago-style hot dogs, and popcorn, with the city’s favorite a mix of caramel and cheese corn. Just don’t call it Chicago mix—a company in St. Paul, Minnesota copyrighted that combination.
One of the reasons Chicago’s food scene is so great is the diversity of its people and neighborhoods. Historically, Chicago has had a truly multicultural makeup as home to large communities of Latinos, Italians, Irish, and Poles. Today, there are flourishing areas all over the city where you can experience different art, culture, and life, from Chinatown to Ukrainian Village and Pilsen to Greektown.
As the local band the Smashing Pumpkins once sang, Chicago is the city by the lake. Being situated next to one of the world’s largest lakes makes Chicago feel like it has a coastline, and in many ways, it does. Lakeside parks, trails, and sandy beaches are a hive of activity in summer, with people of all ages enjoying picnics, competing in volleyball tournaments, and taking boats out onto the beautiful blue waters.
The people are one of the main reasons visitors love the “second city.” They welcome all tourists with their famed friendly, hardworking and down to earth attitude and are happy to share the pride and passion they have for the city without giving too much thought for how it ranks against those on the East and West Coast. Passersby are pleasant and helpful, and servers are genuinely interested in improving your visit, making for a lovely time whatever you choose to do.
As home to the Cubs, Sox, Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks, some of most recognizable teams in the U.S., sports are always a big deal in the Windy City. The teams are well supported, long-standing and relatively successful without ever being dominant, making them pretty likable overall. Chicagoans are passionate and vociferous about their teams, and experiencing that atmosphere is a must for any visitor, whether it’s at a stadium or one of the many sports bars.
Chicago has quite the musical history, being home to a number of influential styles of music. The Chicago blues of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Willie Dixon remains hugely popular, as does “Chicago-style” Dixieland jazz. Jazz and blues clubs dot the city’s landscape, and the Chicago Jazz Festival and the Chicago Blues Festival take place every summer. House music also emerged in Chicago in the 1980s, taking its name from a nightclub called The Warehouse.
Since the 1830s, Chicago’s official motto has been “Urbs in horto,” a Latin phrase meaning “City in a Garden.” Nearly 10% of the city is parkland, with notable parks including Lincoln Park, the largest in the city with seven miles (11 kilometers) of shoreline and home to the popular free zoo and conservatory, and Grant Park in the Loop, which hosts the city’s biggest food and music festivals every summer.
Chicago’s brewery and bar scene is as large and diverse as the city itself, and it continues to grow all the time. The big-hitting breweries include Goose Island, Revolution, and Lagunitas, all offering tours and taprooms to check out, though bars and shops all over the city also serve their beer. Other great local breweries include Half Acre, Pipeworks, and Marz, which you can also try in bars such as Maria’s Packaged Goods, Fountainhead, and Map Room.
During the 1940s, North Michigan Avenue, one of the city’s most prestigious commercial stretches, was given the name the Magnificent Mile, and today, it lives up to that moniker by offering some of the world’s leading department stores and luxury brands amongst some of the city’s favorite skyscrapers. On top of that, neighborhoods including Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, and Old Town have many independent boutiques selling all levels of fashion at every price range.