A Perfect Day in ChicagoEdit This
Alright, you arrived in Chicago and there is the risk that you will be wandering aimlessly around downtown. The enormity of the city may scare you at first, but soon you will notice that there are certain landmarks that you will always come back to and quickly recognize. When you don't have too much time in the city and still want to get a full flavor, let me describe here what would count as a perfect day in Chicago.
You will have found some form of accomodation in downtown Chicago (Hostelling International is a good location/resource) and first you want to discover a little bit of the old Chicago that was not destroyed by the fire of 1871 and of course get breakfast!
Take the Metra train (any!) from Randolph Street Station to 55-56-57 Street stop (this is one stop with this peculiar name; if you have the express train, get off at 59th Street). You will have arrived at the historic quarter called Hyde Park on the South Side of the city. Besides boasting the presence of University of Chicago with its many Nobel Prize winners, it has the perfect place for breakfast: Go to Medici on 57th, approximately five blocks West of the Metra track and get "Eggs Espresso". This will certainly coat your stomach for an intensive day in the city! Hyde Park has a lot to see, but you will have to make a choice. If you have some kids to take around, the Science and Industry Museum (The largest in the world, on two blocks East of the Metra Track on 57th Street; Thursdays free entrance) is a perfect place to let them run around for a while. The Museum itself is housed in one of the only remaining buildings of the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Very impressive. If you want to have some more grown-up fun, you can visit one of Frank Lloyd Wright's (American architect, 1867-1959) most beautiful creations, The Robie House, two blocks away from Medici on the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and 58th Street (6 blocks West of Metra Track on 58th Street; Tours weekdays 10am 11am 1pm 3pm, weekends more, $8 per person).
After the tour or visit to the Science and Industry Museum, get back to downtown. Take either the Metra train or take the Bus #6 (Jeffrey Express) 3 blocks East of the Metra track on Hyde Park Blvd.
You cannot visit Chicago without strolling through the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue (8 blocks South of the river, Tuesday free entrance) for a while. The Museum has one of the world's best Impressionist collection and it is worthwhile marvelling at Chagall's huge blue windows that he painted especially for the Museum in the '70s at the end of his long artistic career.
Maybe at two o'clock the Chicago Cubs will be playing a home game in Wrigleyville. The baseball team may not be one of the best, but their stadium is one of the oldest in the country and very intimate. You can generally get tickets just before the game starts.
Otherwise you could head out to the Lincoln Park Zoo (located at 2200 North Cannon Drive, at Lake Shore Drive and Fullerton Parkway) also on the North Side. Public transportation can take you there within a few blocks. (Call CTA for details: 312/836-7000) The entrance is free and the zoo is always a lot of fun.
While you are on the North Side make sure to get some lunch in some of the great restaurants on N. Clark St. stretching from just North of downtown to 40 block further North. You'll be sure to find something that you like and can afford.
If it is a rainy day (there is some precipitation in this Windy City), you may want to stay inside. And isn't this the city with tall buildings? Indeed. The tallest is the Sears Tower, but personally I believe you can get a nicer view from the John Hancock Building (Open 7 days a week, until midnight; $8.50 adults). It is right near the Old Water Tower on Michigan Avenue. And anyway it is hard to miss, right?
When the evening falls in the city you don't want to lock yourself in your hotel room; and there is no need for that. Downtown Chicago is relatively safe and there is a lot to do. With kids you probably want to head out to Navy Pier, an entertainment area that is open all year round every day of the week. It has a big Ferris Wheel, a bric-a-brac market, a big Imax theatre and much more (East from downtown on Ontario Ave. stretching out into Lake Michigan; Entrance free; open year round until 10pm).
Without kids you are free to enjoy one of Chicago's main exports: live jazz and blues. There are many clubs around downtown. Buddy Guys Legends (754 S. Wabash, 800N, 100W, 312-427 0333, usual cover $6) is one of the big blues clubs. A personal favorite is Andy's with live jazz every evening, usually starting early and finishing late (11 E. Hubbard St., 12-642-6805, usual cover $6). You can dine relaxed while listening to live jazz!
After the last jazz note has left the trumpet you are probably ready to go to bed after a very satisfying day in Chicago.
December 16, 2005 change by szkatulski