By Kandia Johnson
If you’ve got business in what may be this country’s most multimonikered city—Chi-town, also known as the City of Broad Shoulders, the Windy City, Second City, and That Toddlin’ Town—be sure to make time to play as well as work: Chicago’s beguiling leisure choices outnumber its nicknames by a thousand to one.
The city’s humming downtown, centered around the commercial riverfront nexus known as The Loop, is packed with attractions. Landmark buildings shoot upward—the 40-mile view from the Willis Tower’s 103rd-floor Skydeck is a must-see—as do monumental outdoor sculptures by luminary artists. In a few blocks’ span you can clamber on a Picasso, recline against a Calder, or stroll beneath the arch of the mammoth, silvery bean—otherwise known as Cloud Gate—that Indian-born British sculptor Anish Kapoor designed for Millennium Park, a glorious addition in 2004 to the city’s band of recreation areas fronting Lake Michigan. If you have some time, be sure to take in an Architecture Boat Tour. Recognized by TripAdvisor as one of the top ten tours in the United States, the 90-minute cruise is a great way to experience the downtown area and learn about its historic architecture.
Chicago also boasts an impressive museum scene. The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest museums in the country and is home to numerous iconic works of art, including Grant Wood’s American Gothic. For natural history buffs, The Field Museum is not to be missed. Be sure to say hi to Sue, the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever discovered.
One of the best things you can do in Chicago? Just walk! In addition to the parks that span the shores of Lake Michigan, there’s the Chicago Riverwalk, where you can stroll along the Chicago River, watch boats cruise through, grab a drink, and enjoy a unique view of the city. The Riverwalk is also currently undergoing a nine-block expansion that was completed in late 2016.
When debating the best food cities in the country, Chicago is always in the mix, so you better come hungry. To start your day, try the red velvet pancakes or the French toast tower at The Bongo Room. Or you can head down to Hyde Park on the South Side to Valois diner. The restaurant is a favorite of President Obama, so much so that it has a dedicated board listing his go-to menu items. For international flavor, try the Mediterranean delicacies at Greek Islands located in Greektown or RoSal’s in Little Italy. Stephanie Izard, the first female winner of Top Chef, has three restaurants in Chicago. Girl & the Goat in the West Loop neighborhood is probably the best known, but the recently opened Duck Duck Goat, featuring Chinese-inspired cuisine, has been drawing rave reviews.
Once you’re sated, take in some of the Chicago nightlife. Jazz is a cornerstone of Chicago’s culture, and at the classy Pops for Champagne you can peruse the extensive wine and Champagne list while taking in live music. Heading further north, you can get your music served straight up at the Prohibition-era Green Mill Jazz Club.
Given its abundance of entertainment, restaurants, tremendous views, vibrant street life, history, and culture, it’s easy to see why Chicago had earned a reputation as one of the great cities of the world. DW