The sun dips. Skyscraper lights flicker on, ricocheting around the steely towers. Then Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony fills the twilight air. People on blankets spread as far the eye can see.
They chat, clink beer bottles and hoist burly slices of pizza – a Chicago-style picnic, blending high culture and earthy pleasures. That’s how it’s done here, whether at a free concert by the Grant Park Orchestra or at the Art Institute, where the revered lion sculptures don hockey helmets for the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup win.
Chicago often gets ‘discovered’ for its cultural cool, perhaps never more so than when a local guy named Barack Obama got elected President of the United States. The spotlight swung to the nation’s third-largest city. ‘Wow,’ visitors said. ‘Look at that high-flying architecture. That blue, sailboat-dotted water stretching over the horizon. That whimsical public art studding the street corners.’
The accolades continued: ‘Hey, there’s a globe-spanning foodie culture. And loads of Beard-award-winning chefs. And the continent’s top restaurant, Alinea, cooks in the Windy City.’
Then the deal sealer: ‘Megabashes like Lollapalooza, Blues Fest and Pitchfork rock downtown almost every weekend in summer, while smaller concerts happen every night at Millennium Park for free!’
Chicagoans shook their heads and smiled, too polite to point out that yes, that’s Chicago, and it has been here – right at the nation’s core – all along.
Best places to stay in Chicago
Chicago city guide - 6th Edition
Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, is currently being rediscovered for its architecture, foodie culture, many festivals, and access to beautiful blue water.
Chicago's top 10 peculiar (and free) museums
Several of the Windy City's big-name museums recently raised their ticket prices. Puh-leez...
Best theatre & entertainment in Chicago
Best places to eat in Chicago
Chicago city guide - 7th Edition
Steely skyscrapers, top chefs, rocking festivals - the Windy City will blow you away with its low-key cultured awesomeness.
Chicago’s best homegrown junk food
Chicago sits on the shores of Lake Michigan, vibrant and glimmering, the jewel of the Midwest. Known the world over for its gorgeous architecture, impressive museums, legendary sports teams, barely tolerable winters, and cutting-edge cuisine, The Windy City is also home to some of the best junk food this nation has to offer...
Chicago - Plan your trip (Chapter)
Your journey to Chicago starts here. You'll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go, how much to budget, plus info on Chicago's nightlife and entertainment scenes.
Chicago CityPASS is the best deal in the Windy City, giving you discounted admission to five of the city's premier attractions. The Chicago CityPASS ensures you'll get the most out of your vacation - yet it is so compact it will fit into your back pocket.
Chicago City Hop-on Hop-off Tour
See all the sights of Chicago at your own pace! On a Chicago City Hop-on Hop-off Tour you can get off the bus at any scheduled stop to visit Chicago's most popular attractions, then pick up the tour where you left off or get on at any other regular stop on the route.
On the Road: following Kerouac across the US
The USA is a big country, and whenever anyone’s tried to define it – be they a Charles Dickens, a Mark Twain or a Stephen Fry – they’ve hit the road. So did the Beat Generation in the 1940s. They’d skip class to dig jazz and debate their place in Cold War America...
Chicago - The Loop (Chapter)
The Loop is Chicago's center of action, named for the elevated train tracks that lasso its streets. The Art Institute, Willis Tower, Theater District and Millennium Park are top draws among the skyscrapers.