Explore Chicago

Explore Chicago

The Windy City, the City of Big Shoulders and the Second City are just some of the nicknames that have been given to the city of Chicago. For although not the capital of Illinois, it is the state’s largest city with a personality to match.

Maybe that’s why some of the city’s more famous residents chose to make Chicago home. Take Al Capone for instance. The USA’s most famous gangster flouted the laws of the 1920s Prohibition Era among the city’s speakeasies. More recently and certainly more straight and narrow, there’s the 44th and current president of the USA, Barack Obama, who also made his pre-White House home here.

As you take in the 360 degree views from 1000 feet above the city at the John Hancock Center, you can see the city’s appeal. There’s the mesh of skyscrapers, rivers and canals, then the impressive Magnificent Mile and the golden beaches that fringe the shores of Lake Michigan.

Summer sees those sandy stretches come alive with people looking to cool off, although the water can be a little too chilly for some until well into the season.

This time of year also sees the city’s green spaces come alive. For example, Millennium Park, bang in the city centre, is home to a number of impressive structures including the Cloud Gate, British artist Anish Kapoor’s first public outdoor work, and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion where music concerts are held al fresco.

Art is alive and kicking right across town. The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute of Chicago are well worth a look, as is the annual Chicago Expo art fair which is going from strength to strength each year. Then there are the smaller art galleries scattered around a number of neighbourhoods that are well worth hunting down.

Or if music is more your flavour, then head for the jazz bars sprinkled around town such as the famous Green Mile, or Andys. For a dose of comedy, head for the Second City – the club that launched the careers of big names such as James Belushi and Bill Murray among others. And, of course, for sport there’s the iconic Wrigley Stadium.

History too is everywhere. Take a Prohibition tour to discover the city’s lawless past. Or architecture tours along the Chicago River offer a fascinating glimpse at its past, present and future. Or join the historic Route 66 which starts in Chicago before carving its way through the country on its mammoth journey to the west coast.

But when the freezing winter temperatures inevitably set in, they provide the perfect conditions for indulging on comfort food such as the city’s renowned deep dish pizza. But the city’s culinary flare is not confined to hot dogs or dishes oozing in oh-so-yummy cheese. There is a vibrant restaurant scene with 24 Michelin-recognised establishments in 2014.

Places to Visit in Chicago

  • Magnificent Mile
  • Millennium Park
  • Chicago Parks District
  • Wrigleyville
  • Streeterville

Unique Things to See and Do in Chicago

  • Catch a game at the historic Wrigley Stadium
  • Indulge in a deep dish pizza or Chicago-style hot dog
  • Take to the waters of Lake Michigan
  • Enjoy the spectacular views from the John Hancock Center
  • Take a prohibition tour to learn more about the city’s gangster past

Capone: the Chicago Years

Originally from Brooklyn, Al Capone made the move from New York to Chicago in 1919 after hospitalizing a rival gang member. The newcomer helped manage the bootlegging business of new boss John Torrio, working his way up through the ranks to become Torrio’s right-hand man and a full partner.

As a result, when Torrio was shot by rival gang members and decided to abandon Chicago, Capone took the reins, expanding operations significantly between 1925 and 1930.  By the end of 1930 the empire incorporated speakeasies, bookies, gambling dens, brothels, horse and race tracks, nightclubs, distilleries and breweries and was reportedly worth around $100 million per year.

But, in an effort to clean up his political image, corrupt Chicago mayor William “Big Bill” Hale Thompson, Jr decided to run Capone out of town, prompting the gangster to eventually relocate to Florida in 1928.

Getting around Chicago

With an easy-to-navigate downtown grid, Chicago is made for walking. But taxis are also plentiful and there is an extensive rail and bus network operated by the Chicago Transit Authority.

Otherwise, water taxis zip to some of the key tourist sights, or you can participate in the Divvy bike-sharing scheme with bike lanes and rack parking available across town.

L Trains are considered one of the most efficient and affordable methods of transportation operating above the ground, on street level and underground to serve 144 stations across town

Then there are the high-speed Metra rail services which connect the city’s outer suburbs with downtown.

Did you know…?

The first Ferris wheel made its debut in Chicago at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Now, a 15-storey replica of the original can be found at Navy Pier.

Did you ALSO know…?

The world’s first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building, was built in Chicago in  1885.

Best time of year to travel to Chicago

Chicago’s winters bring below freezing temperatures and snow, with warmth starting to climb back up during April and May. Summertime is warm with temperatures averaging up to 33 degrees Celsius and the highest rainfall occurring during June.

So whether snowy adventures or summery days at the beach are your thing, Chicago can deliver.

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