Conde Nast named Chicago the “Best Big City in America” and I couldn’t agree more. There’s something for everyone in this Second City that is apparently second no longer. In honor of the occasion, here are my seven favorite places in Chicago.
The Chicago River
The view of the city from the Chicago River can’t be beat. And remember, reversing it was an engineering marvel. There are lots of ways to explore by river, including lots of kayaking opportunities, water taxis or a walk along the new river walk, but my favorite way is aboard an architecture cruise. They last between 75 – 90 minutes and are full of information about the city’s history, construction and architectural marvels while you glide down the river on a boat like the one in the photo below.
The city’s West Side doesn’t get a lot of tourist traffic, but that just means fewer crowds at the Garfield Park Conservatory. I would call it a hidden gem, but as one of the nation’s largest conservatories, though, it’s not exactly hidden. It truly is an urban oasis. You can feel like you’ve traveled to prehistoric time, to the desert and to the rain forest in about 15 minutes. On weekends, it’s fun to see wedding parties taking photos. Don’t forget to go outside and see this gorgeous lily pad!
This building takes my breath away every time I enter. There’s not one but two gorgeous stained-glass domes. (One is the world’s largest Tiffany stained-glass dome.) The building was completed in 1897 as home to the Chicago Public Library and evidence of its time as a literary landmark throughout the building delights me. It’s fun just to wander just to appreciate the building itself but there are also exhibits and special events, which turn this into a cultural palace.
This is conveniently located right across the street from the Cultural Center. When I first moved to Chicago, Millennium Park didn’t exist. Open since July 2004, it’s now hard to imagine the city without it. The Bean is a can’t miss sight, to be sure, but be sure to wander around the whole park to discover hidden nooks in the Lurie Garden, art exhibits and the Pritzker Pavilion. It’s fun no matter the time of year.
If you keep going east of Millennium Park, you’ll come to Maggie Daley Park. You don’t have to go far to discover this playground for all ages that’s unlike any playground you’ve seen before. Kids have a ball here but this place also blows the mind of adults just with its size and scale. There are fun places to explore and wander, and kids love it. The view from one of the play structures below proves that Chicago really does love kids. There’s rock wall climbing and a skating ribbon that hosts rollerblading in the summer, ice skating in the winter. Rinks are so yesterday, you know.
The Chicago Tribune Building
The limestone exterior of the Chicago Tribune Building features pieces of rock from other famous buildings around the world, from the Great Wall of China to the Parthenon to the Taj Mahal. There are also artifacts from all 50 states. If the sidewalk isn’t completely mobbed, I love to stop and look – I always discover a new one.
Belugas, penguins and dolphins, oh my! The Shedd is full of fantastic fish and also one of the best places to get a view of the stunning Chicago skyline. And the beautiful Beaux Arts building alone is worth exploring. You can read more about our most recent visit here.
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