The metropolis in the middle of the American Midwest is known for many things, the skyscrapers, the museums, the theatre, the shopping, the warmth of the people, and of course, the food. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. The big tourist attractions are in the downtown, or the “Loop,” but there is so much else to offer!
Whatever your taste, in Chicago food is a very serious deal. If you’re looking for a specific kind of authentic cuisine, check out the neighborhoods. Greektown, Devon Ave, Chinatown and Chatham’s soul food and barbecue are just the tip of the iceberg. Other areas are more eclectic: Lincoln Square and Albany Park have unrivaled Middle Eastern, German, and Korean food, while Uptown offers nearly the whole Southwest Asian continent. If you’re interested in celebrity chefs and unique creations, Lincoln Park and Wicker Park have plenty of award-winners. River North has several good upscale restaurants. Of course there are the famous staples, the Chicago hot dog, all beef hold the ketchup, and the Italian beef sandwich, sweet or hot peppers, dipped or not.
Like a fine wine with a great meal, the other cultural attractions found in each of the corresponding neighborhood are amongst the best in the world. From Theatre, to Comedy to live music, you have your pick in Chicago. In Old Town is the famous Second City, birthplace of Saturday Night live and a lot of the famous comedians of film today has regular shows. Steppenwolf, in Lincoln Park, is another landmark theater, founded in 1976, with heavyweights like Joan Allen, John Malkovich, and Gary Sinise.
The Loop holds the Art Institute of Chicago with its impressive collection of modern and classical art, and the Chicago theatres where shows destined for Broadway like The Producers, often make their debut. Museum Campus in the Near South holds the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum of Natural History and the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton Sue, and the Shedd Aquarium. Lincoln Park features the fun and free Lincoln Park Zoo open every day of the week.
Another great way to explore the warm, sociable people and atmosphere of Chicago is its many bars. While many tourists converge upon the nightclubs of Rush and Division St, you can find bars and pubs in every part of the city. Wicker Park, neighboring Logan Square and Bucktown have a world-class stock of quality dive bars and local craft breweries. Gay-friendly Boystown is everybody friendly offering many LGBT bars and nightclubs around Halstead street.
The North Side’s blues clubs favor tradition in their music, and are usually the most accessible to visitors, but offer a slightly watered down experience from the funkier, more authentic blues bars on the South and Far West Sides, where most of Chicago’s blues musicians live and hang. There are scores of worthy blues joints all around the city (many of which are a lot easier to visit via public transport). A visit to one of these off-the-beaten-path blues dives is considerably more adventurous than a visit to the touristy House of Blues, but the experiences born of such adventures have been known to reward visitors with a life-long passion for the blues. Although playing second fiddle to the blues in the city’s collective consciousness, jazz thrives in Chicago, too. You may want to time your visit to coincide with Blues Fest in June, and Jazz Fest over Labor Day Weekend. Both take place in Grant Park (Loop)
Whatever you’re looking for, you can buy it in Chicago, on a budget or in luxury. The most famous shopping street in Chicago is a stretch of Michigan Avenue known as The Magnificent Mile, in the Near North area with its many designer boutiques anchored by large department stores like 900 N Michigan and Water Tower Place. However, for a more unique shopping experience, check out the eclectic stores in Lincoln Square, or the cutting-edge shops in Bucktown and Wicker Park. If you are the type that loves to browse through independent bookstores, Hyde Park has a stunning assortment of dusty used bookstores selling beat-up-paperbacks to rare 17th century originals. Goods from around the world are available at the import stores in Chicago’s many ethnic neighborhoods.