Chicago is the largest city in the Midwest United States and a quintessential large American city. Its location on Lake Michigan provides a delightful setting and its skyline is second to none. It is both a business and commerce center and a center for the Arts. The charm of its ethnic neighborhoods makes it a pleasure to visit in any season of the year. Here are my choices for Chicago’s top ten attractions.
1. Sears Tower – This is Chicago’s tallest building at 110 stories. It has been the tallest building in the United States since 1973 (it surpassed the World Trade Towers) and was the tallest building in the world until the construction of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Its observation deck provides spectacular, 360-degree views of the city and Lake Michigan.
2. Water Tower – This city landmark is one of only a few surviving buildings from before Chicago’s devastating fire of 1871. It is located along the city’s "magnificent mile (see below)," Michigan Avenue, and today houses Chicago’s Tourist Bureau Welcome Center. It was built in 1869 and stands 154 feet tall.
3. Field Museum of Natural History – This museum is famous as the location of "Sue," the most complete and best-preserved specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex in the world. Many other both permanent and temporary exhibits fascinate visitors, making it ,one of Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions.
4. Art Institute of Chicago – Located on the edge of Grant Park, this is one of America’s premier art museums. Its collections include extensive Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, including several Water Lilies, by Monet, and American paintings, such as Grant Wood’s American Gothic.
5. Lincoln Park – Lincoln Park is Chicago’s largest public park and contains landscaped gardens, a zoo, a conservatory, and a theater on the lake which is the scene of summer productions. There are also numerous statues and many opportunities for recreation within this all-purpose space.
6. Magnificent Mile – This section of Michigan Ave from the Chicago River to Oak Street is famous for its upscale shopping and its nightlife. Many of Chicago’s most revered buildings are also located along this stretch, including the Water Tower (see above), the Wrigley Building and John Hancock Center.
7. Navy Pier – Although originally built to service Chicago’s aquatic freight cargo and passenger steamship industries, Navy Pier has become much more important as a public gathering place. These days, exhibitions are held in its arenas, and there are many other entertainment venues, such as a ferris wheel, an Imax theater, etc.
8. Shedd Aquarium – This indoor aquarium was once the largest in the world. It is part of Museum Campus Chicago, which also includes the Field Museum (see above) and the Adler Planetarium. Highlights include a replica of a Caribbean coral reef and Wild Reef, a 750,000 gallon recreation of a reef off the coast of the Philippine Islands, which includes numerous sharks.
9. Millennium Park – This park was belatedly opened in 2004 and sits on the site of Chicago’s first baseball team (the Chicago White Stockings) field. One of the three artistic features of the park is Cloud Gate, known locally as "the bean," a steel sculpture meant to look like a drop of Mercury. Another is the Pritsker Pavilion, designed by Frank Gehry, home of the Grant Park Music Festival. The third is the Crown Fountain, two towers of transparent glass bricks which display over a thousand of Chicago’s citizens in an effort to showcase the city’s diversity.
10. Chicago Skyline – Chicago has one of the most beautiful and tallest skylines in the world. Juxtaposed with Lake Michigan, it is dramatic and particularly spectacular at night. Some of the most famous buildings include the Sears Tower (see above), the John Hancock Center, the Aon Center, and the Wrigley Building. Great views of the skyline can be found from the Museum Campus and from the Navy Pier (see above).
Other sights considered:
Robie House (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright)
John Hancock Center