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Chicago

01/31/2009 04:00PM ● Published by Super Admin

A former co-worker raved about his home city, every day, all day. He speed-walked around the office in his tattered Cubs hat, feet donned in socks and Crocs, explaining to anyone that would listen why Chicago was the greatest city. My foreknowledge of the city was limited to Michael Jordan and the Bulls, what was formerly the tallest building in the world, and that its winters were crucially and extremely frigid. Intrigued by his fervent love of his birthplace, I implored about why it deserved such acclaim. He was adamant about changing my opinion and broadening my view, so while discussing Chi-town, as he adoringly called it, he said, “You just have to go.” So go I did...twice. I’ve since made it an annual must-visit destination.

The Second City, the Windy City, is known by many names and once you visit, you will name it one of your favorite cities. Although you would need over two weeks to experience half of what Chicago has to offer, this Midwestern icon is well-worth a week-long vacation. A camera and a city map are essential travel accessories. The best time to visit is during the summer months, when the weather is mild! Booking a hotel in advance, and choosing the right location is key. To be in the middle of the action, downtown Chicago is where you want to be. Downtown offers a variety of hotels, from modest and affordable to lavish and expensive. The ideal lodging area for a first-time visitor is near the Magnificent Mile – named for downtown’s mid-century rejuvenation; many think it is due to the wonderful shopping found on this stretch.
 
Along the famous mile sits prestigious architecture with immaculate skyline views…and shopping. Four shopping centers filled with gargantuan retailers, boutiques and acclaimed designers are planted along the mile. From mammoth high-end department stores to discount retailers, the city blocks are not discriminatory to the consumer’s wallet. If high fashion and higher price is your style, opt for the shops on Oak Street. There, storefronts featuring fine clothing, accessories, shoes, art, jewelry, and home furnishings are displayed. Luxury hotels with premium accommodations also encompass Oak Street.

Chicago’s obvious tourist destinations, the Sears Tower, Shedd Aquarium, and Navy Pier are wonderful – and you should definitely visit them, but I have a few other can’t-miss sites and activities for you:

A Cubs game. If you are lucky enough to be in the city during baseball season, it is mandatory that you watch America’s pastime at Wrigley field. More dedicated and sold-out fans do not exist in any sport. The experience will be truly unique. Wrigley Field is famed to have the some of the best food among major league baseball stadiums. If it is the off-season, or just an off day, visitors can take advantage of two-hour guided tours.

The Second City. The likes of Bill Murray, Mike Myers, and Tina Fey are just a few of the many comedic entertainers that call Second City their alma mater. This improv theater is complete with talented and quick-witted performers and a full appetizer and drink menu. Be sure to get a seat up front, as it is always fun, and sometimes humiliating, to be part of the act. Prepare for two hours of hysteria.

The Museums. Art and culture are thriving in the Windy City. A trip to Chicago is not complete unless you’ve visited at least two of the over 50 museums. For the family, I recommend the Field Museum and Museum of Science and Industry. Both include exhibits where everyone in the family will find something to awe over.

A City Boat Tour. Enjoy an architectural and educational tour on the blue-green waters of the Chicago River and take in the best views of the country’s greatest architecture, while learning historical facts and folklore about Chicago. Keep your camera handy, as the best views of the city can photographed from the water.

Night Life
Chicago offers an abundance of theatre and music. Reserve seats at the Broadway musical Wicked, or attend another show at one of the many theatres in the theatre district. Several of the famed parks in the city provide free music and outdoor family activities. With numerous clubs, wine bars, pubs, and entertainment venues, prepare to spend some late evenings in this vibrant scene with other vacationers, as well as with the local urbanites.

Good Eats
As difficult as it was, I have narrowed my list to five foods you must devour while in Chicago. Once you partake in the joy that is Chicago cuisine, you will understand.

A Chicago-style hotdog – If you’ve never had one, you will either love it or hate it. It’s a beautiful mix of colors that at first sight may look like a strange palette but the combination of a Vienna beef hotdog, tomatoes, mustard, peppers, onions, pickles, and celery salt on a poppy seed bun create a flavor explosion almost as notable as the Windy City’s Fourth of July fireworks.

Sushi Samba Rio – Artfully prepared and premium quality Japanese cuisine delivered beneath a beaded chandelier that glows hues of pink to blue to green to purple. You will undoubtedly notice a slew of beautiful 20-somethings having drinks with friends, donned head-to-toe in designer apparel.   
Gino’s East – Authentic Chicago-style pizza. This deep dish, upside down pie is filled with your choice of fresh toppings and masterfully cooked to bubbling-cheese perfection.

Garrett Popcorn – Prepare to stand in line. The wait is well worth it, and this gourmet popcorn that comes in an assortment of flavors makes for a great edible souvenir to bring to family and friends – if you can last without eating it.

Zapatista’s – Fajitas for two. This downtown restaurant is located near Grant Park south of the Magnificent Mile. This authentic Mexican dish arrives bubbling in a lava rock bowl filled to the brim with shrimp and steak and veggies.

There is something for every palate in Chicago. Whether you are craving ethnic or American cuisine, you will find it all within a two-mile radius.

Once you return home, you’ll crave the food that made you rest so well in your hotel room. Not to worry, Lou Malnati’s Tastes of Chicago is a mail-order site in which you can have authentic Chicago foods delivered monthly, or simply order as your taste buds desire. LouMalnatis.com

Besides the excellent shopping, food, attractions and architecture, my favorite thing about Chicago is its diversity. The city has so many layers and quaint nooks that each time I visit, I find something new to love.

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