Chicago is the main metropolis in America's heartland -- a bustling city with three million inhabitants and a landscape defined by tall glittering skyscrapers and the relaxing waters of Lake Michigan. Chicago is one of the best-known cities in the United States, formerly known for being a gangster's paradise and synonymous with iconic mobsters such as Bonny and Clyde and mafia boss Al Capone. Nowadays, the Windy City has reformed into a world-class centre for commerce and business, with first-rate theatres, art galleries and a diverse range of architecture. The city has a proud heritage as a survivor, having been destroyed in the Great Fire in 1871 and rebuilt alongside the huge influx of immigrants from across the globe in the early 20th century. The diverse inhabitants have infused the city's culture with their own, lending it a unique ambience that makes you feel immediately at home. There's no shortage of things to do in the city, from taking a stroll along the Navy Pier to enjoying the numerous amusements and live entertainment, shopping until you drop at the Magnificent Mile or hiring a car to visit the River North. You can watch a play in the Theatre District or pop the question at the John Hancock observatory. If you're looking forward to letting your hair down on holiday, head to the Rush and Division district to enjoy the best nightlife venues. If wine-bar hopping and sipping delicious cocktails is more your cup of tea, you'll love mingling with the trendy crowd at Wicker Park and Bucktown. Lovers of culture and art will enjoy a day trip to see the huge collection of modern European and American art at The Art Institute of Chicago. One of the stand-out features of the city's culture is its unique style of bluesy music as well as a strong focus on sportsmanship and active living. There are 30 top-class museums here to explore and the city also boasts an impressive rollcall of events throughout the year, including the Blues Festival and the Underground Film Festival.
Things to Do
Situated on Lake Michigan's 26-mile expanse of beach, the Wind City sees blues and jazz meet experimental modern art and eclectic culture, with attractions ranging from The Skydeck Ledge to the bustling Navy Pier.
Thanks to its neat architecture and eclectic, welcoming atmosphere, it's hard to believe that Chicago was once home to some of the nation's most notorious gangsters during the 1920s and 1930s. Whether you're a history buff or just want to learn more about the city's rich heritage, you can visit some of the gangsters' most favoured hangouts here, such as Butch McGuire's (formerly a speakeasy during the famous Prohibition era), Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co, Fox's Restaurant and Pub and the Green Door Tavern.
One of the most fun things to do in Chicago is see one of the city's famous sports teams in action. The city's inhabitants are renowned for their super enthusiasm for sports and sportsmanship, so while all of the teams have their ups and downs, their loyal fans are always behind them. Some of the best-known teams in the city are the Chicago Bears, who you can see play at the newly-refurbished Soldier Field. Other popular teams include the Blackhawks at the United Center and the Chicago Bulls, who are the proud owners of the most popular mascot in the league, Benny the Bull.
Take a road trip
The United States has a long-standing passion for motoring, making a road trip one of the quintessential ways to explore the country. Consider hiring a classic car to drive Route 66, a historic stretch of road known as 'the Mother Road' that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles and that features all the icons of American culture like drive-in theatres and classic roadside diners.
Blues music has origins in street music, when it was performed in quaint blues clubs on the city's south side. Nowadays, Chicago honours its blues roots with a variety of annual blues music events such as the Blues Festival.
For the best views of the city, head to the Skydeck, which has clear observation areas from the 103rd floor. This building is the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, standing at 1,353 feet, and offers views of four states. This modern attraction offers spectacular city-wide views, so you can take in the city's best architecture, experience a series of interactive exhibits and walk out onto the iconic Ledge: a glass balcony that extends four feet outside the 103rd floor of the tower.
Calendar of Events
Chicago boasts a wide variety of events throughout the year, with a huge range of parades, sports events and festivals to choose from. The city hosts dozens of famous annual events each and every year, including arts and crafts festivals, music and food festivals.
- Gold Coast Art Fair. This well-established event has been running for more than 50 years and attracts more than 400 exhibitors each year in July. This event has been dubbed the "Granddaddy of American Art Festivals" and features live demonstrations from artists, speed-painting sessions and the chance to snap up pieces by some of the nation's best up-and-coming artists.
- Taste of Chicago Festival in Grant Park. This annual food-based event takes place from the end of June to early July and gives you the opportunity to sample the best of the city's food scene. The festival is the nation's foremost outdoor food festival, complementing delicious food and drink with music and a range of fun-filled activities for all the family. The event takes place at the city's stunning Grant Park, so you can enjoy breath-taking lakefront views as you sample the delicacies.
- Chicago Winter Delights Festival. As you'd expect from a place named the Windy City, the weather is blustery and can be particularly chilly during the winter months. Held each January and February, the Winter Delights Festival celebrates the best of Chicago in the winter. This is a family-friendly event with music, dancing, theatre performances and cultural exhibitions, so there's always plenty to do in the Windy City, even during the coldest time of year.
- Chicago Blues Festival. Taking place every June, the Blues Festival boasts three days of outdoor musical performances by both up-and-coming artists and world-renowned blues musicians alike.