With its’ location in the heart of America, the Windy City is an easy jaunt for most travelers. A major airline hub and home to O’Hare, one of the world’s busiest airports, numerous nonstop flights daily are available from most major US cities. The fares for these flights are also generally easy on the wallet making Chicago a great choice for a weekend escape. Booked with only a few weeks notice Delta, American Airlines and United all offer flights from New York for under $200. Once you’ve arrived the easiest way to head into the city is by taxi which will cost around $40 depending on your final destination. If the cost of a taxi is a little rough on your wallet, the CTA Blue Line runs between the Loop and O’Hare every 15 minutes 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
Many visitors to the city never make it past the attractions of downtown, making it a convenient neighborhood to call home for your trip. If downtown Chicago seems like the place you want to be, the Elysian is the hotel for you. A five star luxury hotel that still manages to venture into the hip side of things, rooms at the Elysian are not cheap at around $475 a night. Understandably, the Elysian can not be for everyone (myself included). theWit and PUBLIC Chicago are more modestly priced properties (between $130-200 per night). The contemporary hotels provide hip digs, relaxed luxury and the convenience of location. Guests at theWit have access to a superb rooftop during the summer months, and though a DoubleTree by Hilton space, the space retains a boutique feel. Want to ride bikes along the lake? Well you’re in luck if you are staying at the PUBLIC- the hotel keeps bikes for its guests to enjoy.
Chicago is easy to appreciate: its picturesque skyline calls across the waters of Lake Michigan, a first impression that soon reveals world-class museums of art and science, miles of sandy beaches, huge parks and public art, and perhaps the finest downtown collection of modern architecture in the world. The hundreds of attractions Chicago claims are impossible to squeeze into a weekend trip. This past weekend, Nicole and I decided to take a trip out west and visit some old friends. Luckily for you, my weekend excursion has allowed me to navigate through the ideal two days below.
No trip to Chicago is complete without a walk through the Loop, the central business district and home to much of the city’s finest architecture. To really learn about the skyscrapers that dominate the skyline take Chicago Architecture Foundation‘s “Historic Skyscrapers” tour, which begins daily at 10AM and is just $16 . Though we didn’t make it to any, the Art Institute is perhaps your best choice if you can squeeze one museum in. Across from the Chicago Architecture Foundation, it is easy to pop into while wandering downtown. As the city’s most prestigious cultural institution the museum houses a magnitude of quality work, the must see’s of which include the Impressionist collection and the galleries of European and American contemporary art. Admission to the museum is $18 with the doors open 10:30AM- 5PM everyday but Thursday when the museum entertains guests til 8PM.
After a quick trip to the Art Institute your day of downtown Chicago continues. Just north of the Art Institute is one of the city’s most popular gathering spots. Check out the massive video-screen faces on the Crown Fountain, then take a walk around (and under) Anish Kapoor’s bean-shaped sculpture Cloud Gate otherwise known as “the bean”. The Pritzker Music Pavilion, designed by Frank Gehry, features the architect’s signature ribbons of silver steel; Gehry also designed the adjoining serpentine bridge.
Around the corner from Michigan Ave and the Magnificent Mile it is a clear choice to round out the day with a little of Chicago’s finest shopping. The 14-block stretch of Michigan Avenue from the river to Oak Street is shopping central, a dense concentration of high-rise malls, designer boutiques, and practically every mass-market clothing brand. Even if you’re not a shopper, it’s worth a stroll; busy at almost all hours, it’s great for people-watching.
Chicago has something to offer for everyone. Whether the solo traveler, young singles, a family or non of the above the city is not one that will bore.
Some local favorites if you have the time:
- Alinea Believe the hype and book well in advance. Chicago’s most exciting restaurant demands an adventurous spirit and a serious commitment of time and money. If you have four hours and $210 to spare, the tasting menu showcases Grant Achatz’s stunning cutting-edge food. Certainly a treat, Alinea will not disappoint. 1723 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park, 312.867.0110, Wed- Sun dinner only
- Calumet Fisheries Chicagoans in the know say this little shack-sized restaurant on the west bank of the Calumet River serves some of the best seafood in Chicago. Fish and shellfish here are smoked over a natural wood fire after marinating overnight. Go for salmon and shrimp, both local favorites. 3259 E 95th St, South Deering, Mon- Wed & Sun 10AM- 9:30PM, Thurs- Sat 9AM- 9:30 PM
- Take in some blues With blues music pioneers like Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red, and Memphis Minnie blazing the blues trail through the city, Chicago has become synonymous with the music genre. Hear the Chicago-style for yourself at various venues across the city. Those attracting the top in local and national talent include B.L.U.E.S., Buddy Guy’s Legends and Lee’s Unleaded.
- Troll for treasures On the last Sunday of the month in season more than 200 stalls line Randolph Street selling furniture, jewelry, books, and more at the Chicago Antique Market. There’s also an Indie Designer Fashion Market, showcasing one-of-a-kind wearables by up-and-coming local designers
Have your own Chicago tips to share? Leave a comment and let us know!