Oh I do LOVE Chicago. If the winters weren’t so arctic and the weather a little more reliable, I’d live there for a bit for sure. A yeah, if I had a visa….. It’s got everything a city needs: great eating spots, the full spectrum of nightlife from pubs to bars to festivals, mega sports fans full of ridiculous passion, neck-aching architecture, an as-good-as-the-beach lakefront, green space and water, art and culture, and now it’s own High Line hoorah. And it just feels a little more real than New York. Could you ask for much more of a city?!
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3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
BUCKTOWN | is a brilliant suburb that I was lucky enough to get to stay in because Aussie friends Luke and Helena were living out there, doing there thing. Six Corners pretty much marks the centre, and branching out from there you’ll find hipster coffee shops like Wormhole and Filter; dive bars a plenty; and great places to eat even on a limited budget, like Antique Taco. Also check out: famous Portillo’s at 100 West Ontario Street, for Chicago hot dogs and dipped Italian beef.
GLENCOE BEACH | Luke took us on a DIY Chicago movie tour north of the city, which is a great way to see further a field. Turns out Chicago is a little hotspot of classic move scenes: there are gorgeous mansions along Sheridan Road, including the Home Alone house; Cameron’s woodland house from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; and a beautiful spot at Glencoe Beach, where the overlook is also featured in the latter film. Also check out: for another iconic stop, there’s the original Playboy Mansion bought by Hugh Hefner in 1959.
CLOUD GATE | aka The Bean! I love this guy. It’s so addictively photographable. Cloud Gate is a glorious sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor, that sits smack bang in the centre of AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park, or ‘The Loop’ area. Also check out: seeing as you’re central, you’re going to stumble across some amazing architecture such as Marina City; Wrigley Building; Tribune Tower; Willis aka Sears Tower; and the 100 storey high John Hancock Centre.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
HAWKS | Chicago is a sports MAD city! Sport is massively important to people, and a huge social event. When I was there we watched a Hawks ice hockey game at a roof top BBQ, but don’t think it’s just hockey. Chicago is one of only four US cities to have teams from the five major American professional team sports i.e. baseball – famous Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs; American football – the Bears; basketball – the Bulls; hockey – the Blackhawks; and football – perhaps lesser known Chicago Fire. Pick your team and hear them roar!
MONTROSE BEACH | you’ll totally forget – almost to the point of disbelief – that you’re on a Lake Michigan and not gazing out at the ocean. Lake Shore Drive in Chicago stretches for several miles, but this is a particularly nice patch with golden sand and plenty of picnic spots.
CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY | Chicago makes me think of this cracking game, as it’s where I first played it. If you haven’t given it a whirl, recruit a bunch of friends and get things going Chicago style with $2 PBRs and a shot of whiskey. Shudder. Also check out: The Boiler Room, The Whistler, and The Charleston – all decent bars in Bucktown.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
A SHUT HIGH LINE | when I visited in 2013 supposedly – like New York – Chicago was planning it’s very own High Line. Amazing. Except when I went exploring to try and find the abandoned rail track, aka the Bloomingdale Trail, and have an early nosey I was completely trumped! Very frustrating. I’m sure it will be wonderful and is apparently open as of June 2015! What better excuse to visit again.
J PARKER | I love a tall building and a great view, but I don’t love some of the wanky tourist traps that often own them. J Parker for me epitomised a bar for the masses – no character, no imagination, over-priced, but views? Tick. It wasn’t dreadful; it just could be a mainstream bar anywhere in the modern world.
WINTER | happily I didn’t get to experience the severity of a Mid West winter, but I hear they’re savage! Chicago is regularly covered in snow with winter temperatures below freezing, and record lows of more than -30oC. Blimey. Chicago even has an underground city, or Pedway, with a length of more than 40 downtown blocks for its inhabitants to use when it gets unbearable.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE
PATRICK’S DAY | like sport, is a BIG deal in Chicago. So big that the Chicago River is dyed green and a huge parade takes place in Downtown every year – 2016 will be 61st anniversary. Sewer workers used to use green dye to check for sewer discharges and had the idea to turn the river green for Saint Patrick’s Day back in 1962.
AND KNOW THIS: Historic Route 66, established in 1926, starts in Chicago. If you’re looking for the very beginning, the Federal Highway Administration directs you to the intersection of Lake Shore Drive and Jackson Boulevard.
–> –> –> Next stop The Badger State | Wisconsin –> –> –> (post coming soon)