Day 1 - Up in the clouds
America’s third-largest city is the birthplace of the modern day skyscraper. In 1885 the Home Insurance Building was erected and stood 180 feet tall. While it was demolished 46 years later in 1931, it paved the way for many more to be built in the city. So when you first get to the ‘Windy City’ there is nothing more enjoyable than strolling the streets and gazing up at the city’s highest buildings.
The world’s third tallest building, the Sears Tower, can be found here. Four more of its skyscrapers are also of the world’s thirty tallest buildings. These include the John Hancock Center and the AT&T Corporate Center.
For really breathtaking views of the city and over Lake Michigan, both of the afore mentioned buildings have observatory decks. The best of these is the Skydeck at the Sears Tower which is the tallest observatory deck in the world.
The world’s tallest building is situated in an area of the city known as The Loop. It is called this due to the high tracks for the (elevated) transit trains which circle the area. The Museum of Broadcast Communications, possibly the city’s best free attraction is also here.
The Loop as a whole is one of the best parts of the city when it comes to nightlife. All around the streets are bars and nightclubs, along with Chicago's best selection of restaurants.
Day 2 - Go to the beach that’s nowhere near the sea!
Chicago is on the shores of Lake Michigan, one of North America's ‘Great Lakes’. Even though it is nowhere near the sea, this means you can still go to the beach. Over 20 miles of Chicago runs along the lake, with various beaches along the shores. Some of the most popular include North Avenue Beach and Oak Street Beach.
Its location on the lake means there is also loads of wide open areas to relax in when you wish to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Two of the most popular are Lincoln Park on the city’s northside and Grant Park. Altogether, there are over 500 parks, playgrounds and parks in Chicago.
Grant Park’s centrepiece is Buckingham Fountain, one of the largest in the world and also one of Chicago’s best-known landmarks. Built in 1927, there are some beautiful sculptures all around it along with 4 pairs of bronze horses, each pair representing one of the four states which border the lake.
Possibly the best thing about the fountain is the daily light show which takes place on the hour between 10am and 10pm. During the show, water shoots over 120 feet into the air and it really is spectacular. For obvious reasons, it is far more impressive at night.
Day 3 - Navy Pier
Built in 1916, Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s most popular attractions with tourists. The pier, which is over 3,000 feet in length, is packed with parks, restaurants and even a big wheel and carousel. Even though it is so commercialised, it is a good place to go for a few hours. In particular, the views from the big wheel over the lake and the rest of the city are excellent. Other major drawcards on the pier are the IMAX Theatre, the indoor garden and in the winter, the skating rink.
If you want to steer clear of this tourist trap, you may want to visit some of the city’s best museums instead. Found within the Loop is the Art Institute of Chicago. Free on Tuesdays, the museum is full of works from European, American and Japanese artists. Along with that there is also a vast collection of photos of some of the world’s most celebrated photographers and European Arts and Sculpture. It is good to note that entrance to this museum is free on Tuesdays.
South of Grant Park is an area known as Museum Campus. Here, within a couple of hundred yards of each other, are two of the city’s best museums along with another top attraction. Coming from The Loop, the first museum you will come across is the Field Museum of Natural History. This huge museum has, among other attractions, the world’s largest, most complete T-Rex in the world, and she’s called Sue!
Heading down Solidarity Drive is Shedd Aquarium. Opened in 1929, it is one of the world’s oldest public aquariums and home to over 8,000 marine species. And just down Solidarity Drive is Adler Planetarium and Museum, which has many high tech exhibitions. The planetarium is also free in on Tuesdays.
Ask many people what is the first thing they think of when hearing the word Chicago (apart from the musical) and many will say one of the city’s famous sports clubs. Thanks to famous sportsmen like Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls, who play in United Center, is arguably the best known basketball team in the world. The city’s other famous teams are the Chicago Bears who play American football and one of Chicago’s baseball teams – the Cubs who play at Wrigley Field and the White Sox at Comiskey Park. Going to a game can be a far more pleasant way to spend an evening than going to a bar a club.